Skip to main content Start of content

House Publications

The Debates are the report—transcribed, edited, and corrected—of what is said in the House. The Journals are the official record of the decisions and other transactions of the House. The Order Paper and Notice Paper contains the listing of all items that may be brought forward on a particular sitting day, and notices for upcoming items.

For an advanced search, use Publication Search tool.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the accessibility of this publication, please contact us at accessible@parl.gc.ca.

Previous day publication Next day publication
Skip to Document Navigation Skip to Document Content

41st PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 034

CONTENTS

Tuesday, December 10, 2013




House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 147 
l
NUMBER 034 
l
2nd SESSION 
l
41st PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[Translation]

Canadian Human Rights Act

    He said: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to introduce a private member's bill that would extend the time limit for filing a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission from one year to two years.
    In addition, my bill clarifies the circumstances in which the commission can consider a complaint regarding an incident that happened outside that limitation period.
    The Canadian Human Rights Act is modelled on the simple, indisputable principle that all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated, consistent with their duties and obligations as members of society, without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, family status or disability.
    That is a well-established principle in Canadian society, and so much the better. However, there is always room for improvement. We need to remain vigilant in defending those rights.
    My bill is a modest attempt at improving the current law by giving Canadians who are suffering the consequences of a human rights violation a bit more time to have their voices heard.

[English]

    I close by noting that today the United Nations celebrates the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

[Translation]

National Capital Act

    She said: Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to introduce a new version of my bill concerning Gatineau Park, which I originally introduced in November 2012. I wish to thank the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé for seconding this new version.
    The version I am presenting here today includes the changes to the National Capital Act that resulted from the passing of the government's Bill C-60 a little earlier this year.
    Apart from that, this bill is identical to the one I introduced in 2012. It gives Gatineau Park special status in the National Capital Act by establishing the park's boundaries in the act, giving those boundaries parliamentary protection and prohibiting the sale of public lands located within the park.
    Once again, I invite all of my colleagues from all parties in this House to support my bill at second reading.

    (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

[English]

Petitions

Criminal Code 

    Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions with hundreds of signatures, brought to Parliament this morning. The petitioners request that Parliament amend the Criminal Code to decriminalize the selling of sexual services, criminalize the purchasing of sexual services and provide support to those who desire to leave prostitution.
    As members know, our government has focused strongly on the victims of human trafficking, so these are very timely petitions.

Victims of Crime  

    Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise to present a petition in support of victims of crime.
    The signatories, from Toronto, state that a positive legacy must emerge from the loss of so many, including Kempton Howard, an inspiring young man who was dedicated to helping others in my community of Toronto—Danforth. He played a leadership role in working with youth and was murdered in Toronto on December 13, 2003. The 10th anniversary will be only days from now.
    The petitioners ask, among a number of things, for a new approach to supporting victims of crime and are calling on the federal government, among other things, to create a meaningful country-wide system of public support for the loved ones of murder victims, as well as the victims of crime themselves.

Dental Mercury  

    Mr. Speaker, I have four petitions regarding mercury, one of the most toxic substances. Mercury used in dentistry may contaminate the environment by the disposal of solid waste products and contaminate air from dental clinics. Burial, cremation and human waste may also contribute mercury to the environment.
    The petitioners request that the government recognize that the World Health Organization recommends the phasing out of dental amalgam and recognize the work of the intergovernmental negotiating committee. The petitioners request the government assume leadership in recommending the phase-out of dental mercury and the phase-in of non-mercury alternatives within Canada.

  (1010)  

Shark Finning  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition from thousands of Canadians across the country, calling on the government to say that measures must be taken to stop the global practice of shark finning and to ensure the responsible conservation and management of sharks. They ask the Government of Canada to immediately legislate a ban on the importation of shark fin to Canada.

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, as you know, many Canadians are concerned about the link between the environment and human health, so I have two petitions. The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to appoint a royal commission on environment and health, with a mandate to examine and make recommendations regarding all aspects of the environmental and health impacts of industrial activity in Canada and the application of the precautionary principle to the regulation of both industrial processes and the production, distribution and availability of consumer goods in Canada.

Victims of Crime  

    Mr. Speaker, I join my colleague from Toronto—Danforth in rising today to submit a petition to the House in support of victims of crime.
    Despite police warnings and international treaty obligations, the Conservatives are refusing to enforce simple rules that would help track and curb gun trafficking. Therefore, among other things, they also ask the government to ensure stable, reliable, long-term funding for programs that help divert youth away from the guns and crime and help keep our streets and communities safe.
    Mr. Speaker, I join my colleague from Toronto—Danforth in submitting a petition on the issue of victims of crime.
    In my riding of Parkdale—High Park, there have been instances of gangs and crime. A number of citizens of Toronto have signed a petition calling for a meaningful country-wide system of public support for loved ones of murder victims and victims of crime, but also a long overdue, comprehensive anti-smuggling strategy to deal with the issue of guns and drugs coming across our borders.

Parks Canada  

    Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to stand today and present a petition on behalf of the people of Cape Breton and the broader community, those who have had access to the Bras d'Or lakes, year after year, and the great sailing and marine opportunities in the Bras d'Or lakes. The cuts at Parks Canada have reduced the number of hours that people are allowed access through the St. Peters Canal, which has created a great burden and really limited access to the lakes. There are hundreds of signatures from people around Nova Scotia, Cape Breton and outside the province who, for years, have used it, and I present this petition on their behalf.

Victims of Crime  

    Mr. Speaker, I stand today to deposit a petition in support of victims of crime. I join my colleague from the city of Toronto in saying that a positive legacy must emerge from the loss of so many young people in Toronto and all other cities across the country.
    I deposit today a petition that is called “Kempton's legacy petition”, where the signatories are calling for a meaningful country-wide system of public support for the loved ones of murder victims. They want to ensure stable, long-term, reliable funding for programs that help divert youth away from gangs and criminality. The petitioners are also calling for the reversal of the reckless cuts that the Conservative government has made to the CBSA.

[Translation]

Air Transportation  

    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to present a petition this morning signed by over 800 people from across the Island of Montreal, including people in my riding, in Saint-Laurent and in Ahuntsic.
    The petitioners are calling on the government to review the flight paths of planes, set a curfew between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. and create positions on the Aéroports de Montréal board of directors to represent community groups.
    The Montreal airport needs to understand the impact it is having on the local population, and although Montrealers understand the economic importance of the airport, I believe there is a way to achieve a healthy co-existence.

[English]

House of Commons  

    Mr. Speaker, today I am tabling a petition signed by many constituents of Winnipeg North who are concerned about the government increasing the size of Parliament, increasing the number of members from 308 to 338, with the support of the NDP.
    The petitioners are questioning whether or not this is the correct priority, and stating that there are many other things we should be spending tax dollars on.

  (1015)  

Victims of Crime  

    Mr. Speaker, I, too, present a petition signed on behalf of many constituents who are seeking to remember Kempton Howard by making sure that the government creates a country-wide system of public support for the loved ones of murder victims, as well as ensuring stable, long-term funding to keep youth away from gangs and crimes, and to reverse the reckless cuts to the Canada Border Services Agency that allows so many guns and drugs to enter our country.

The Environment  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning with two petitions. The first is entirely from residents of Saanich—Gulf Islands, and from all the islands, Galiano, Pender, Mayne, Saturna, Salt Spring, as well as from the peninsula.
    The petitioners are calling on this House to take note of the fact that fracking chemicals, used in the fracking industry, are not even known to Environment Canada. The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development found that we do not even know what, of the many thousands of chemicals used and injected underground, they are actually are and how we could cope with them as an environmental risk.
    The petitioners call for a federal moratorium on fracking across Canada.
    The second petition is from residents in the lower mainland, mostly in Vancouver. The petitioners are calling for a permanent legislative ban on supertankers along the coast of British Columbia. Such a ban was respected since the early 1970s, at all levels, and we ask for it to be permanent.

Victims of Crime  

    Mr. Speaker, like my neighbour the member for Toronto—Danforth, I too am proud to table Kempton's legacy petition in the House.
    I share in the hope that from this petition might emerge a positive legacy from the deaths of too many youth in my city of Toronto, like Kempton Howard. Kempton's legacy petition calls in part on the Government of Canada to ensure stable, reliable, long-term funding for programs that help divert youth away from gangs and crimes, and help keep our streets and communities safe.
    Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition in memory of Kempton Howard and other murdered young men, calling for better youth employment programs and a stop to the smuggling of guns into Toronto.

Child Health  

    Mr. Speaker, I also have a petition from many Torontonians in support of my children's health and nutrition initiative, which would provide a daily nutritious meal of locally grown food to all school-aged children in Canada under the age of 18.
    The petitioners note that this will combat childhood obesity, teach children about eating, and also support the local economy and a sustainable environment.

Public Transit  

    Mr. Speaker, the third petition is calling on the Government of Canada to provide long-term predictable and non-partisan funding for public transit now, as they note that the GTA economy is suffering because of traffic gridlock. It is costing $6 billion a year in lost productivity.
    The petitioners note that we still do not have a national transit strategy.

Income Tax Deductions for Tradespeople  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by many Canadians. It is on the issue of tradespeople travelling to other parts of the country, trying to find work.
    It is certainly something that happens a lot in the Atlantic provinces. The petition supports Bill C-201, introduced by my colleague, the member for Hamilton Mountain. It allows tradesperons and indentured apprentices to deduct travel and accommodation expenses from their taxable income so they can secure and maintain employment at a construction site that is more than 80 kilometres from their home, a very important issue. I am happy to affix my signature and table said petition.
    I see the member for Scarborough—Rouge River rising. Normally it is the practice when a member has already been recognized that we seek the unanimous consent of the House to see if she can present another petition.
    Does the House give its consent?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns

    Mr. Speaker, if Questions Nos. 108, 114 and 119 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.
    Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Text]

Question No. 108--
Hon. Wayne Easter:
     With regard to the Enforcement and Disclosures Directorate of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), for the years 2003 to 2013, inclusive, by year: (a) what is the budget of the Directorate; (b) how many people work at the Directorate; and (c) what training does CRA staff receive in the prosecution of cases against overseas tax evaders?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 114--
Hon. Mark Eyking:
     With regard to human trafficking in Canada and the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking (NAPCHT): (a) how many charges have been laid under human trafficking specific offences in the Criminal Code since 2005 and what were they; (b) how many convictions have there been of human trafficking specific offences in the Criminal Code since 2005 and, in each case, (i) what was the person convicted of, (ii) what was the sentence, (iii) for a person being convicted of one or more offence, what other offences (if any) in the Criminal Code was the person charged with and convicted of, (iv) what was the sentence for each conviction for offences in the Criminal Code; (c) was there consultation done with stakeholders, non-governmental organizations or other interest groups in the development of the government’s NAPCHT and, if yes, (i) with which stakeholders, non-governmental organizations or other interest groups, (ii) did the stakeholders, non-governmental organizations or other interest groups make recommendations to the government, (iii) what were these recommendations, broken down by each stakeholder, non-governmental organization or other interest group, (iv) which recommendations did the government incorporate into the NAPCHT, (v) which recommendations did the government not incorporate into the NAPCHT and why were they not incorporated; (d) what metrics will the government use to evaluate the effectiveness of the NAPCHT and who developed these metrics; (e) what are the metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of the Human Trafficking Taskforce led by Public Safety Canada and who developed these metrics; (f) are there reporting mechanisms in place to report on the effectiveness of the NAPCHT and, if yes, (i) what are these reporting mechanisms, (ii) when is the first report expected, (iii) how often will reports be made, (iv) will these reports be made available to the public and, if not, why not; (g) are there reporting mechanisms in place to report on the effectiveness of the Human Trafficking Taskforce led by Public Safety Canada and, if yes, (i) what are these reporting mechanisms, (ii) when is the first report expected, (iii) how often will reports be expected, (iv) will these reports be made available to the public and, if not, why not; (h) what are the costs of this plan, broken down by year and expense; (i) how much has been allocated for the last five years and under what authority or authorities; (j) in what way(s) does the plan address the needs of victims of trafficking; (k) what specific funding is dedicated to the victims of trafficking and how is it accessed; (l) what sentencing models were considered in the creation of human trafficking offences; (m) which of the models in (l) is most effective and how is effectiveness measured and/or defined?
    (Return tabled)
Question No. 119--
Mr. David McGuinty:
     With regard to “tax fairness” measures and changes to tax regulations announced in Budget 2011, in which the government claimed that these changes “will yield $240 million in savings in 2011-2012, rising to about $1.0 billion by 2013-2014”: (a) what savings has the Canada Revenue Agency realized, by year, as a result of the implementation of these measures; and (b) which measures yielded these results?
    (Return tabled)

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.
    The Speaker: Is it agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Request for Emergency Debate

Agriculture and Agri-Food  

[S. O. 52]
    The Chair has notice of a request for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood.

  (1020)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that a request for an emergency debate on the mortality of bees might not be something that the House would usually engage itself in, but I want to bring this forward as an emergency debate because Health Canada and others have all noted over the last two years an increasing mortality rate of bees, which is unusually high.
    Why is that important to Canadians? It is because one third of our food sources are pollenated by insects, primarily by bees. There is not much greater emergency than not eating. There is a variety of reasons put forward by experts as to why this is happening, but for the last two years it has been happening and it has been a massive kill.
    The reason I am asking for an emergency debate now is that this is effectively the last time that we will be able to engage in debate for the next six weeks. Over the next period of time, the farmers will be buying their seeds. They will also be buying pesticides, so if we have a debate in late January, early February, there is not much that Health Canada or the Government of Canada could do because the seedings will be prepared, the pesticides prepared, the farmers will be prepared. Therefore, we will have another crop rotation through 2014, the effect of which is to postpone the ability of the Government of Canada or anyone else for that matter, to do anything about it until 2015.
    The cumulative effect of this increased kill rate on bees is quite significant to our food chain, Mr. Speaker, and I would ask you to give serious thought to this being the last opportunity that we in the House have to discuss this issue. I am not proposing solutions. I think this is a complex issue. I think Health Canada at this point is on top of it, but at some point, and I would hope sooner rather than later, we may have to take actions such as the European Union has taken and such as the United States is considering to deal with this issue.
    That is the basis for an emergency debate tonight, sir, and I hope you will favourably look upon it.

Speaker's Ruling  

[Speaker's Ruling]
    I thank the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood for raising this matter. While I have no doubt the importance of it to a great many people, I do not think it rises to meet the threshold for an emergency debate.

Message from the Senate

    I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following bill, to which the concurrence of the House is desired: Bill S-3, an act to amend the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act.

Privilege

Letter to the Hon. Member for Terrebonne—Blainville  

[Privilege]
    The Chair understands the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons will be rising to add comments to the question of privilege raised earlier this week.
    You are quite correct, Mr. Speaker. I do rise today to respond to the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville.
    The essential facts are that the hon. member sent out a householder, which prompted a critical letter to her, which was sent by one of her constituents.
    In her presentation, the hon. member cited page 111 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, which advises that the recourse for any member who feels defamed is to go through the courts. She then quoted from page 96 of O'Brien and Bosc, which refers to limits on the freedom of speech protections extended to members.
    Let me offer another quotation from page 111 of O'Brien and Bosc:
    A Member may also be obstructed or interfered with in the performance of his or her parliamentary functions by non-physical means. In ruling on such matters, the Speaker examines the effect the incident or event had on the Member’s ability to fulfil his or her parliamentary responsibilities.
    In her presentation, the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville did not refer to any proceeding in Parliament in respect of which she was obstructed or intimidated.
    The very next sentence in O'Brien and Bosc is, therefore, extremely instructive:
    If, in the Speaker’s view, the Member was not obstructed in the performance of his or her parliamentary duties and functions, then a prima facie breach of privilege cannot be found.
    Given the nature of the complaint, which is that of a letter from a constituent to a member of Parliament, let me quote from some relevant precedence.
    Madam Speaker Sauvé, on March 1, 1982, at page 15474 of the Debates ruled that:
    Parliamentary privilege is based on the need to protect members from any action tending to obstruct, or intimidate them or impair their effectiveness in the discharge of their duties. It is not designed to protect them from criticism, however strong, even when the language used might be excessive.
    In a later ruling, on October 12, 1983, at page 27945 of the Debates, Madam Speaker Sauvé observed that:
    If Members engage in public debate outside the House, they enjoy no special protection.
    Finally, given that the constituent in question is a member of the other place, it is relevant to refer to page 278 of Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice, 24th edition:
    Since the two Houses are wholly independent of each other, neither House can punish any breach of privilege or contempt offered to it by a Member or officer of the other.
    That passage was favourably cited by Mr. Speaker Parent, on November 16, 1999, at page 1288 of the Debates.
    In conclusion, it is clearly established that members of Parliament cannot claim privilege to protect them from external criticism, even when it is in response to their own efforts to communicate with their constituents. Being criticized for one's position is just part of the job for any individual who seeks elected office.
    I can assure the member opposite, the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville, that every member in this Parliament, in fact I would argue every member of any parliament in the world, has from time to time been criticized for the positions that he, she or their party takes. Sometimes that criticism may be extremely harsh. Sometimes that criticism may be hurtful. Quite frankly, sometimes that criticism may be unfair.
    However, the point is that when we enter the political arena, when we seek elected office, we put ourselves up to the level of criticism experienced by the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville. In other words, that is part of the public and political discourse in the political world in which we operate.
    I have no doubt the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville was offended and was probably hurt by the comments from the member of the other place. However, if all members in this place raised points of privilege any time they received an unwelcome communication from one of their constituents, I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, we would not get much done in this place. In fact, probably every day there would be a member, or members, rising to make such complaints and raise such points of privilege.

  (1025)  

    One can simply imagine that our days would be filled with nothing but points of privilege based on angry constituents' letters. Although we may not like them, it is part of our job to accept them, and they are certainly not, in my view, a point of privilege.
    In short, I would say that a prima facie case of privilege is neither made out in this case nor would it be reasonable, given what could occur after that point.
    Mr. Speaker, I had to step out of the House temporarily for a conversation, but I will look at the comments from my friend across the way.
    This is an important issue for New Democrats and I would imagine it is an important issue for all members of Parliament. It is territory we have not been in before where members from the Senate, as has been suggested, take a coordinated attack on sitting members of Parliament and the legitimacy that each member of Parliament has to take their place here. This is a significant thing for all of us. If this is the pattern that our colleagues in the Senate wish to take, questioning the legitimacy and integrity of members of Parliament and their ability to perform their work on behalf of those who elected them to this place, then it is something I would imagine concerns all parliamentarians regardless of political orientation.
    In this case, the senator in question talked about a coordinated effort, going to the Speaker of the Senate, your equivalent, Mr. Speaker, to talk about how to perform this attack on a sitting member of Parliament. This should raise even further concern for all of us, again, regardless of political orientation.
    It seems to me that this is an issue that the government should take seriously and not take a partisan stance. It should take a stance on the legitimacy of the House of Commons to do our work, as opposed to those in the other place, in the Senate, who arrived there only by the grace and favour of a prime minister.
    I will read the blues of my friend's comments across the way and will seek, if there is an opportunity today or tomorrow, to address some of the points made by my friend.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

First Nations Elections Act

    The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-9, An Act respecting the election and term of office of chiefs and councillors of certain First Nations and the composition of council of those First Nations, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

  (1030)  

[English]

Speaker's Ruling  

    There are three motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-9, an act respecting the election and term of office of chiefs and councillors of certain first nations and the composition of council of those first nations. While it is not usual for the Chair to provide reasons for the selection of report stage motions, in this case the Chair would like to provide a brief explanation.
    As is the case with several standing committees considering bills, members who are not members of a caucus represented on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development were invited to participate in the committee's clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-9. However, due to an administrative error, these members were not informed of the deadline to submit amendments for the committee's clause-by-clause consideration of the bill.

[Translation]

    As members know, consistent with the note to Standing Order 76.1(5), the Chair would not normally select motions that could have been presented in committee; however, in light of the circumstances in this case, the Chair has decided to select these motions.
    That being said, while the Chair certainly appreciates some of the challenges presented to members who are not part of a recognized caucus to follow the work of numerous committees, the Chair would nevertheless strongly urge all members to continue to ensure they are prepared to avail themselves of all opportunities presented to them with respect to committee proceedings on bills.
    Accordingly, Motions Nos. 1 to 3 have been selected for debate at report stage. They will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the table.

[English]

Motions in amendment  

    , seconded by the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska, moved:
Motion No. 1
    That Bill C-9, in Clause 3, be amended by replacing line 1 on page 3 with the following:
“(b) the Minister, having obtained the opinion of a representative sample of electors of that First Nation, is satisfied that the majority of electors of that First Nation believe that a protracted”
Motion No. 2
    That Bill C-9, in Clause 3, be amended by adding after line 9 on page 3 the following:
“(1.1) For greater certainty, the Minister may not add to the schedule the name of a First Nation that governs its elections according to the custom of the band, unless such an addition has been approved in accordance with prevailing customary practices.”
Motion No. 3
    That Bill C-9 be amended by adding after line 31 on page 12 the following new clause:
“REPORT
    41.1 Within one year after the coming into force of this Act and every three years thereafter, the Minister must prepare a report on the implementation of this Act and its effects on elections of band councils and elections on reserves.”
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your earlier explanation as to why it is that the amendments are coming forward at report stage. I appreciate your consideration of the fact that due to a clerical error at committee, we did not receive notice to bring amendments forward at committee.
    I must say that I am pleased. I have found that the so-called invitations to committees circumvent rights. I am able, at this point, to speak at report stage to what is a very significant flaw in this bill.
    As everyone in the House knows, Bill C-9 initially came to us through the Senate as Bill S-6. It is a first nations elections act. Except for everything I am attempting to amend this morning, it is a good bill. It provides more precision in first nations elections. The bulk of the bill is a result of recommendations that came from first nations themselves, specifically from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs, which represents the Mi'kmaq, Maliseet, and Passamaquoddy first nations of Atlantic Canada.
    Before I move to my amendments, the intent of the good parts of the bill was to provide greater precision, to create set terms, and to provide for those first nations that had already opted in to elections under the terms of the Indian Act. That is worth underlining. The recommendations that came from the first nations themselves were to apply only to those first nations that had themselves already opted in to elections under the Canada Elections Act and not to those many first nations that elect their councils through traditional customs and methods other than under the Indian Act.
    In any case, I will set aside the parts of the bill that are acceptable and will focus only on the amendments you have just read before the House of Commons. They both go to correct the mistakes that are found in clause 3 of the bill.
    Parenthetically, I want to note that today is international Human Rights Day. Today is the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Vienna Declaration, which brought respect for human rights to the entire community of nations. Why is it relevant that we are looking at a first nations elections act? What about that is relevant to the fact that ironically, today is Human Rights Day?
    The problem with this bill and the sections I hope to correct is also found in other bills that have come forward from this administration, such as the bill, not yet tabled, on first nations education. It is also found in bills that have been tabled, such as the NWT devolution in Bill C-15 and this bill, Bill C-9. What they all have in common is a failure to respect the constitutionally enshrined right of first nations to be consulted about changes that impact them directly.
    In Bill C-15, in addition to the NWT devolution, which everyone supports, there are substantial changes to the Mackenzie Valley regulatory systems that are part of first nations agreements and treaties, without consultation with or the consent of first nations. This brings to mind that these changes are actually questionable constitutionally under section 35 of the Constitution, as interpreted in many Supreme Court decisions. From the Haida case and the Delgamuukw case to the Marshall case, it is clear that first nations in this country are protected under section 35 of the Constitution. Further, the federal government has a fiduciary responsibility, a constitutionally enshrined obligation, to consult with first nations.
    In this case, we have something that is, in my view, outrageous. Under paragraphs 3(1)(b) and (c), there are two ways in which the minister may impose upon first nations, based on his or her own discretion, a different system for elections within the first nation. What could be more critical in touching on the rights of first nations than changing the way a first nation conducts its own internal elections?
    These two paragraphs that are objectionable state that the minister may add the name of the first nations to the schedule of first nations that must conduct their elections as under the act. In other words, the bulk of the act is for first nations themselves to opt in and request to be seen under these sections of a new Indian Act procedure found in Bill C-9.

  (1035)  

    These are the two exceptions that are outrageous. Paragraphs 3(1)(b) and (c) state that the minister may add the name of a first nation to the schedule if:
(b) the Minister is satisfied that a protracted leadership dispute has significantly compromised governance of the First Nation; or
(c) the Governor in Council has set aside an election of the Chief and councillors of that First Nation under section 79 of the Indian Act on a report of the Minister that there was corrupt practice in connection with that election.
    As the Canadian Bar Association aboriginal law subsection has pointed out, the bill does not provide any guidance as to what the corrupt practice might be or what threshold the minister has for making this change.
     It is offensive in a couple of ways. One is that it appears to apply to not only those nations that have already opted in to the current version of the Indian Act in their internal elections. It would apply to those first nations that have explicitly not wanted to operate under the Indian Act and that operate under their tradition and custom. Again, what could be more directly a denial of rights?
    The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples says very clearly, in article 3:
    Indigenous people have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right, they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
    Article 4 states:
    Indigenous people, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal or local affairs...
    These changes in paragraphs 3(1)(b) and (c) strike directly at the heart of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and further offend the Canadian Constitution section 35.
    I would have wished that these sections had been corrected inside the committee, but I hope that today we may give them fair consideration.
    What is being proposed in amendment 2, line 9, on page 3 is a proviso to protect those first nations that have been operating under their own customs. The amendment states:
    For greater certainty, the Minister may not add to the schedule the name of a First Nation that governs its elections according to the custom of the band, unless such an addition has been approved in accordance with prevailing customary practices.
    In other words, self-determination is protected within those first nations that have already decided that they will not opt in under the Indian Act. They will preserve that ability, which is enshrined in our Constitution and enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and is therefore further protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which today has its 20th anniversary.
    I appeal to my colleagues in the House to assess this amendment. It would preserve the right of first nations that are operating their elections under traditional custom to maintain those rights.
    The second amendment would deal with this quite discretionary notion of protracted leadership disputes. We have seen instances when the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, or DIAND, as it was in the past, decides that, for instance, the ministry does not like the way things are going, to use an example, in the first nations of the Algonquin of Barriere Lake. The dispute is real, and the minister ends up taking sides. That is hardly respect for a first nations' right to self-determination and self-government.
    In this amendment, I propose that the minister may not take that step unless, having obtained the opinion of a representative sample of electors of that first nation, those within the first nation are satisfied that they need to have the minister take this step. Otherwise, we have made a mockery in Bill C-9 of first nations rights under our constitution.
    We will again do so if we fail to change Bill C-15 for the first nations within the Northwest Territories and some that are affected in neighbouring areas of the Yukon, where the first nations in that area have competing land claims issues. The leadership of the Tlicho as well as the Dene and other nations are appealing to have the bill split apart so that we can proceed with NWT devolution without offending first nations rights.
    There is a pattern here with this administration of, bit by bit, chipping away at some fundamental rights in this country that are constitutionally enshrined and further protected by international law.
    With the amendments I am proposing, we could pass Bill C-9 in good conscience. We would know that we had contributed to good governance, fairer elections, and clearer terms. However, to pass it as it is would be an insult to first nations, and this House would be violating our own constitution.

  (1040)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands on her speech.
    I agree with what she says about accountability, good governance and transparency with regard to this bill. Of course, these are ideas and concepts that we can all agree on. We do not have a problem with the bill so much as the illegitimate way in which the government imposed it on first nations.
    I would like to ask my colleague if the governments that usually like precedents so much could not have followed the example of the Government of Quebec in 2002. That was when Premier Bernard Landry of the Parti Québécois signed the peace of the braves with the Cree. Before the government imposed a bill or did anything, there were proper negotiations with the first nations to ensure that the legislation truly came from both nations.
    The Conservative government could have followed that example and sat down and legitimately negotiated, nation to nation, with the first nations in order to reach an agreement on this bill. Then we would not be here today talking about the government's paternalistic way of imposing its views and options on the first nations with regard to good governance.

  (1045)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague very much, especially because he helped me this morning by seconding my amendments.
    The federal government is clearly imposing its own solutions on the first nations in complete violation of the aboriginal rights entrenched in Canada's Constitution. The importance, the very unique situation and the rights of Canada's first nations must be respected.
    It is true that the other governments have made an honest effort to negotiate on a nation-to-nation basis in the past. That is how to work together respectfully.
    I find it truly appalling that we are here this morning, faced with a bill concerning elections for Canada's first nations without consideration or respect for their fundamental rights.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her speech. I should talk about the magnificent riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands, even though it is not as magnificent as mine.
    She spoke about International Human Rights Day. I was at the international conference on human rights in Vienna, in order to make the entire world recognize that aboriginal peoples are also peoples, just like all the other peoples on the planet. We have fought that battle for a long time.
    However, I would like to come back to an issue that I find to be important in this debate on relations with Canada's first peoples.
    It is an important issue because, at present, we are celebrating the life of the extraordinary Nelson Mandela, who defeated a system that made no sense.
    Does my colleague not have the impression that with the Indian Act we are dealing with almost the same system as apartheid in South Africa?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou. I am absolutely astonished to learn that he was at the Vienna conference in the earliest days of recognition of respect for international human rights.
    It is indeed very ironic that this bill concerning our aboriginal peoples is based to an extent on the apartheid system in South Africa. It is precisely as he said. This is a serious issue for aboriginal peoples, the first peoples in Canada, and for the Government of Canada. We must find another way to work together.
    It is clear that we have to reform the Indian Act. The best way of crafting this bill is not obvious, but any changes made to Canada's legislation on aboriginal peoples must prioritize what the first peoples want and need.
    It is unacceptable to propose such a solution as Bill C-9, which was imposed on first nations. Relations are based on respect between the two nations. Relations between the federal government and first nations must be based on respect.

  (1050)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to also take a few minutes to speak to Bill C-9, An Act respecting the election and term of office of chiefs and councillors of certain First Nations and the composition of council of those First Nations. Like my colleague, the leader of the Green Party, we were not asked to submit amendments to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. That is why the Speaker has given us permission to discuss these amendments at this point, the report stage.
    Bill C-9 provides an alternative to the regime in the Indian Act governing the election of chiefs and councillors in certain first nations. As I said earlier when I questioned the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, the Bloc Québécois of course fully supports the transparency, accountability and better governance that Bill C-9 provides for.
    The problem does not lie in the bill itself or in the improvements that I just mentioned. The problem is the way in which the government imposed its solutions and opinions on first nations. That is what I am going to try to demonstrate, and I am also going to introduce my amendment in the next few minutes.
    The Bloc Québécois agrees with the provisions in the bill limiting terms of office for chiefs and councillors to a maximum of four years, stating that the election of a chief or councillor may be contested before a competent court, and setting out offences and penalties. However, we oppose the fact that the Conservative government did not consult the first nations before going ahead with these major changes to the Indian Act. These are unilateral changes. As usual, the government acted paternalistically. When I say the government, I am talking about successive federal governments. The government paternalistically imposes unilateral changes on the first nations when it should know that we must talk, nation to nation, when working with aboriginal peoples.
    Everyone agrees that there must be more transparency, not only during elections but also during each elected official's term of office. The government can give us examples of times when band councils or other councils, chiefs, leaders and councillors—as we see in any population—failed to govern appropriately. That is not the issue. First, as the Green Party member said earlier, this bill originated in the Senate. However, before introducing this bill, the government should have done what the Government of Quebec did in 2002, which I will talk about in a moment. The government should have sat down and talked, nation to nation, in order to come to an agreement and propose changes. The government would have no doubt received the unanimous support of the House for the bill had the bill first been approved by first nations.
    However, we cannot do anything without considering the first nations rights affected by this bill, the direct impact this bill will have on the structures in the communities themselves and how that can affect the communities. The first nations are not opposed to the changes proposed by the federal government. They want to be consulted and be involved in the decisions that will have a direct impact on them. That is a dialogue as opposed to a monologue.
    We are asking the Conservative government to sit down and have a dialogue, negotiate, come to an agreement with the first nations. We do not want it to have a dialogue of the deaf or a monologue in which it tells the first nations what is good for them. This goes back to what I was saying earlier when I described the attitudes of federal governments since the very beginning. They have shown a paternalistic attitude towards the first nations.
    I used the example of the peace of the braves, and I want to come back to that. This was a historic agreement signed in 2002 by the Cree and the Government of Quebec, led at the time by Bernard Landry, the leader of the Parti Québécois. The peace of the braves is a good example. There were some economic improvements for many peoples, but there are still many problems. I am not saying it is a good example because everything was fixed. It is a good example of how negotiation can lead to a formal agreement, so that the people and communities involved agree with the changes being proposed and carried out. The Quebec National Assembly recognized the first nations as nations, and the peace of the braves is an agreement between nations, as Bernard Landry pointed out when he was interviewed by a journalist who was reporting on what had become of the peace of the braves several years later.

  (1055)  

    I would like to remind the hon. members that Quebec made a commitment to involve the Cree in northern development and give them $4.5 billion over 50 years. In exchange, the Cree put an end to certain land claims. A few months later, Quebec signed the Sanarrutik agreement with the Inuit, which is designed to accelerate economic and community growth in Quebec's far north.
    The peace of the braves and the agreement signed between Ottawa and the Cree of Eeyou Istchee in 2008 brought prosperity to Quebec's Cree. The 16,000 aboriginal people of James Bay now have some of the highest levels of disposable personal income in Quebec, according to a 2011 article in La Presse.
    However, as I said, things are far from perfect. There are still health problems and a housing shortage. There is still an unequal distribution of wealth, despite the fact that some people are better off. Right now, 92% of Cree youth interrupt their schooling before earning their diploma or some sort of certification. As I said, the agreement was not a cure-all, but it is a good example of negotiation. That is the point I wanted to make about the peace of the braves.
    I do not understand why governments that, generally speaking, like precedents so much could not have used that 2002 agreement as a precedent to create a bill that is endorsed by the affected first nations.
    Now, I want to talk about the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, which long ago developed a consultation protocol that the government is supposed to follow when drafting bills or taking action that affects first nations in Quebec and Labrador.
    This protocol includes the duty to consult and accommodate first nations before taking actions that could have a negative impact on their interests. Such actions include the modification or adoption of legislation, policy-making, planning processes, the modification or adoption of resource allocation regimes and the approval of specific projects or resource allocations. A consultation and accommodation report must be prepared.
    The protocol also includes the duty to conduct consultation and accommodation follow-up. What is more, as provided in the consultation plan, provision must be made for the establishment, funding and operation of mechanisms for follow-up, mitigation measures and compliance monitoring with respect to the contemplated action.
    The first nations have therefore already set out a procedure that should be followed by the other levels of government, including the federal government. It is really unfortunate that the government decided to bypass the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador's consultation protocol. We hope that the implementation of this bill is not harmful to first nations communities.
    Members of the House agree that the Assembly of First Nations' protocol was not followed and that the bill will be passed because the government has a majority. That is why the Bloc Québécois is proposing to amend the bill in order to, at the very least, respect the second part of the protocol, which involves assessing the bill's impact on first nations communities. We are therefore proposing the following amendment to clause 41.1:
    Within one year after the coming into force of this Act and every three years thereafter, the Minister must prepare a report on the implementation of this Act and its effects on elections of band councils and elections on reserves.
    I would like to once again speak about precedents. People might ask why we are proposing this when such a measure has never been implemented before. However, this type of measure has been implemented before in Bill C-21, which pertained to the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and affected first nations. At the time, the government had a minority. The opposition required that the changes be reviewed every five years and the bill was passed by a majority vote. A precedent therefore exists.
    In closing, we would have also liked to introduce funding and mitigation measures, but unfortunately, they would have been deemed inadmissible. However, we would like to take this opportunity to urge the government to implement those sorts of measures.

  (1100)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his speech. I also appreciate the fact that he talked about the peace of the braves model, since I personally took part in those negotiations. I am glad that model is being used as an example, not only for the rest of the country, but for the rest of the world.
    My question has to do with that model. I know that the relationship between aboriginal peoples and this government is completely broken.
    Last year, after the January meeting, we were promised a new era of improved relations between this government and first nations. That is not the case today.
    I wonder if the hon. member can tell us what is stopping Quebec from using the peace of the braves agreement as a model in its dealings with the other aboriginal peoples in the province, for example.
    Why not move in the same direction with the Innu, who still do not have an agreement, with the Atikamekw, who still do not have an agreement, and with the Algonquins, who still do not have an agreement like the peace of the braves or the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement?
    What is stopping Quebec from doing the same thing with those nations?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question. Indeed, we would certainly never try to give him a lesson on these kinds of negotiations.
    My colleague's question is really one for the Government of Quebec to answer. He is well positioned to go and meet with Quebec's Minister of Aboriginal Affairs or even the Quebec premier and speak with them about solutions that he has probably already come up with.
    In the case of the Government of Quebec, first nations have been recognized as peoples since René Lévesque. I think these negotiations need to take place.
    We would say the same thing to the federal government, the Quebec government and the governments of all the provinces and territories.
    To answer the hon. member's question, or the allusion he made about the federal government keeping its hands in its pockets and not keeping its promises, I would say that the Conservative government is unfortunately shopping for votes.
    The government selects clients to please in order to ensure that come election time, there are enough people in the ridings to elect Conservative members.
    I think the first nations are not a clientele worth pursuing to the Conservative government. This is a government that uses marketing and determines how to operate based on the votes it can get. I get the impression that the Conservative government has made a purely political calculation and thinks that it does not need aboriginal peoples in order to win the election.
    Mr. Speaker, I understand what my colleague means about the Conservatives' current political strategy, that it is based solely on marketing.
    However, I find it hard to imagine that a federal government would ignore its constitutional obligations to hold serious and essential consultations on Bill C-9. No effort was made to hold such consultations.
    Why does my colleague think that the Conservative government does not feel it is necessary to comply with the Constitution Act?
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for the question. It is always hard to put ourselves in the government's shoes, when we do not think or operate the same way. We can only imagine or assume what they were thinking.
    This government has no regard for the Constitution or even democracy and has not had any since being elected in 2006. Things became even worse when it won a majority in 2011.
    As I was saying, aboriginal, first nations “clients” are not worth sitting down with properly, in accordance with the Constitution, as my colleague said.
    With or without the Constitution, the government must sit down with the first nations to make the necessary changes with respect to transparency, good governance and accountability, but also to ensure that this is a real agreement signed between the two peoples. That is what should have been done.
    Why did the Conservatives not do that? We are constantly asking them that. They have done the same thing in many other cases, such as the appointment of Supreme Court justices. There is a whole slew of cases where there is no respect for the Constitution, the Quebec people, first nations or Canadians in general. They might negotiate a little more, but only when there is something in it for them and it can win them votes. Otherwise, it is my way or no way.

  (1105)  

[English]

    Is the House ready for the question?
    Some hon. members: Question.
    The Deputy Speaker: The question is on Motion No. 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    An hon. member: On division.
    The Deputy Speaker: I declare Motion No. 1 defeated. I therefore declare Motion No. 2 defeated.

    (Motions Nos. 1 and 2 negatived)

[Translation]

    The Deputy Speaker: The question is on Motion No. 3. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    Some hon. members: On division.
    The Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion defeated.

    (Motion No. 3 negatived)

  (1110)  

[English]

Hon. John Duncan (for the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development)  
     moved that the bill be concurred in at report stage without amendment.
    Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed of the motion will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    An hon. member: On division.
    The Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

    (Motion agreed to)

    The Deputy Speaker: Pursuant to order made on Monday, December 9, 2013, the House will now proceed to the third reading stage of this bill.
Hon. John Duncan (for the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development)  
     moved that Bill C-9, An Act respecting the election and term of office of chiefs and councillors of certain First Nations and the composition of council of those First Nations, be read the third time and passed.
    As with everything we do as a government, this bill is about delivering results for Canadians and addressing the priorities of Canadians. That most certainly includes the priorities of first nations citizens of this country, who are currently living under the outdated and discriminatory Indian Act.
    As the matters this bill addresses are a priority for first nations, this bill is about empowering first nations across Canada to take charge of their own destinies. In fact, it may easily be said that this is not a government bill, but a first nations bill. The government did not go to first nations with a proposal; first nations came to the government with one. They said, “Here is a serious problem and here is how the government can help us solve it.” Bill C-9 before us today is not the result of the government consulting with first nations; it is the result of first nations consulting with first nations.
    I should add that our government was proud to provide the support and coordination that helped first nations engage with each other on a national basis. As the hon. member for St. Paul's stated at a recent meeting of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development:
    We think this is an excellent example of bottom-up legislation.
    I could not agree more with the Liberal member.
    In that regard, I must recognize the initiative and determination of two first nations organizations that have played a pivotal role in bringing us to this day and giving us the opportunity to provide a legislative framework that is indisputably better than what first nations have been saddled with for decades. This is not simply duplicate legislation to the Indian Act, but an effective, accountable, and responsible option for first nations communities.
    It was over five years ago that the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, led by then Grand Chief Ron Evans, and the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs, with the support of our government, began the efforts that ultimately resulted in the bill that is before us today. They saw the need for electoral reform. They had good ideas for improvement. They consulted with the leaders of their local communities and with the people who live in those communities.
    Half a country apart, they found a remarkable similarity of opinion emerging from these consultations. The quality and scope of these consultations and the close parallels to be drawn between their recommendations encouraged the government to ask the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs to lead a national consultation process. The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs covered the west and the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs handled the east.
    The consultations included not only chiefs and band councils; from the beginning, they recognized the importance of including individual grassroots band members across Canada. Both organizations gave the consultations a prominent place on their websites. They published their recommendations and explained what they meant and what they intended to achieve. A simple feedback form enabled and encouraged individuals to provide their thoughts and opinions on the initiatives being proposed. I would point out that this feedback carried considerable weight with the government in developing this bill.
    As a result, in supporting Bill C-9, we have the opportunity to endorse not only its contents, but the truly inclusive and collaborative process that led to its creation, an example of how first nations people, their leaders, their representative organizations, and the federal government can work collaboratively to find solutions and achieve a common goal.
    It is difficult to imagine a more laudable goal than ensuring that all first nations citizens have the opportunity to participate in free and fair elections. However, the fact is that for many first nations governed by the outdated and archaic Indian Act, the most basic premise of democratic government does not exist. The failures of the Indian Act with respect to elections are well known and long-standing, dating back to the early 1950s. Even before the development of the bill before us today, more than 75 first nations communities decided to take matters into their own hands and move out of the Indian Act to design and implement their own community election codes.

  (1115)  

    Adoption of the proposed electoral system described in the bill is voluntary. The bill is intended to provide an option for first nations that may not have the capacity to develop their own community election code or that simply want a turnkey and accountable election code that they can opt into.
     Let us consider some of the shortcomings the bill would address.
    The Indian Act, for example, specifies the chief and band councillors are elected on a two-year term. This is hardly conducive to the design and execution of the long-term strategies needed to achieve key priorities. It also means that first nation communities are in almost constant election mode. By the time a first nation council has been elected, sworn in, got a handle on its responsibilities and started the actual process of governing, it is time to start campaigning for the next election.
    Bill C-9 would enable first nation communities to fix that by implementing four-year terms for elected officials, bringing them into line with what is the norm for most other jurisdictions in Canada and allow time to not only learn the job but time to actually do the job.
    In addition, the bill would enable different first nations to hold their elections on the same day, a common election day. This innovative idea came directly from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and it is a good one. With terms of office beginning and ending at the same time, common election days would make it easier for groups of first nations to collaborate and present a common front in business development endeavours and other shared priorities.
    Longer terms in office and the potential to set common election dates are important improvements, but any elected official's term is too long if the legitimacy of the electoral process is in question. This is perhaps the most damaging impact of the electoral system provided under the Indian Act.
    The sort of checks and balances that allow most Canadians to take for granted the results of an election as an accurate reflection of the will of the people are virtually non-existent in the Indian Act. We have all heard of cases of vote buying and other irregularities, irregularities that even if they do not effect the legitimacy of an election can cause it to be perceived as such.
    There is little in the Indian Act to discourage these practices. They can be carried on with little or no consequences. This not only undermines confidence in government, but leads to paralyzing appeals of election results.
    Under the Indian Act, anyone who does not like the way in which an election has turned out can simply appeal the results by providing a sworn affidavit to the minister regardless of the merits or validity of their arguments.
    In addition, the appeal system under the Indian Act is slow and administratively cumbersome. Many months can go by before a decision is rendered. In the majority of cases the appeals are dismissed, but in the meantime with its legitimacy in question, a first nations government comes to a virtual standstill. Projects and initiatives that can benefit a community may be stalled. To add insult to injury, the Indian Act includes the paternalistic provision that all appeals are decided by the minister.
    Similar to the provisions of the Canada Elections Act, Bill C-9 contains provisions that would minimize the likelihood of corrupt election practices by setting out specific offences and specific penalties for those convicted of committing those offences. Instead of appealing to the minister, an elector would file an appeal in federal or provincial court. These appeals would be addressed by the courts, just as they are for federal, provincial and municipal elections. This provision would minimize the potential for frivolous appeals and at the same time remove the minister from the process.
    Local law enforcements could lay charges for corrupt activity in connection with first nations elections and they would have the backing of the courts to impose fines and jail sentences on those convicted.
    Again, these are the kinds of protections, which most Canadians take for granted, that help to ensure the electoral processes are accountable, consistent and effective and that help to provide for political stability that is so essential to economic growth, job creation and higher standards of living.
    The first nations elections act would also encourage greater citizen engagement in the political process by eliminating anomalies and other peculiarities that the Indian Act's lack of clarity has allowed to happen.
    The nomination process is perhaps the most glaring example. Under the Indian Act, the same person can run for chief and for council in the same election. Not only can the same person run for both positions, the same person can be elected to and serve in both positions. That would change under Bill C-9.

  (1120)  

    In addition, the Indian Act provides little guidance on other aspects of the nomination process. If he or she wishes, one person can nominate dozens or more candidates for any position. It is not unheard of for a first nations voter to be handed a ballot with more than 100 candidates listed on it, sometimes without the knowledge of those candidates. This hardly encourages citizens' engagement. That too would change under Bill C-9.
    The first nations elections act would enable first nations to implement a more stringent nomination process. First nations could impose a fee of up to $250 to discourage the nomination of candidates who were not interested and were simply running as a lark.
     Under Bill C-9, first nations would also have the authority to require all candidates nominated to accept their nomination in writing so the names of people with no desire or interest would not appear on the ballot. Other provisions in the bill would enable the development of regulations to address frequently expressed concerns about the potential for abuse in the distribution of mail-in ballots.
    In conclusion, I would point out that neither this provision nor anything else in the bill goes beyond what is the norm for most Canadians. Through the consultations led by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs, we have learned that first nations citizens want to have the option to divest themselves of the Indian Act provisions and to a new consistent and accountable system similar to that which is enjoyed by all other Canadians.
    I would emphasize again that adopting the first nations elections act would not be mandatory for first nations. Bill C-9 is intended to provide an option for those first nations that are having difficulty with the status quo. They may want a more robust electoral system than what is proposed under the Indian Act, but may not have the capacity to design their own. They may have a community electoral system in place that is not working as well as they had hoped. This is an option and it would be flexible. Many of the provisions themselves would be optional, the nomination fee, for example, so it could be tailored to the specific circumstances of individual communities. It is an option that first nations themselves have asked us to provide.
    I am confident all members of the House understand and support the belief that a strong, robust electoral system that assures elections are free and fair encourages citizen engagement and promotes good governance. I would urge all members to compare the option the bill would provide to first nations with the electoral system currently provided for in the Indian Act. The problems allowed by the Indian Act's lack of clarity could be exceptionally damaging.
    Let me give the words used by Mr. John Paul, executive director of the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs in a recent appearance before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. He said:
—the Indian Act election process is very ruthless. It is not a nice process. It is not pretty, and it's very vicious in terms of how it gets played out in a community. It negatively impacts a lot of people in the community.
    Too many first nations have been struggling under the kind of electoral system described by Mr. Paul. It is why Mr. Paul and first nations leaders and individuals across the country came to the government with a plan to give those first nations a better option, the option that Bill C-9 would provide. The bill is the result of a true grassroots movement and it reflects broad and legitimate consensus among the people who want this option. I would argue that our task is as clear as it is simple. We need only to step out of the way.

  (1125)  

    Mr. Speaker, when I give my speech, I will touch on a number of problems with the bill. However, I have a specific question for the parliamentary secretary with regard to the consultation process.
    He is absolutely correct that the Assembly of National Chiefs and the Atlantic Policy Congress did carry out a consultation process, but in the briefing that was provided to committee members, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs had a frame that it carried out the consultation under. It was the fact that it was looking at new election legislation affording a common election date and longer terms of office.
    The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs initially supported going forward, but then when the draft legislation was presented, it contained additional clauses that would impact directly on first nations autonomy. Those included a continuance of the minister's ability to intervene with an election process, the fact that first nations were forced to the courts and a regulatory process that was not inclusive of first nations involvement.
    My question for the parliamentary secretary is this. Why did the Conservatives not take that draft legislation back to first nations and then gather input on what they were proposing?
    Mr. Speaker, the key part of this, which I spoke about numerous times during my speech, is the opt in nature of the legislation. There is nothing in the bill that compels first nations to adopt this mode of election for their first nation. If they prefer to operate under the Indian Act system, that is their right. If they have a custom election code, that is their right.
    If first nations do not like what they see in the bill, they are free to continue on the same course they have currently. There is nothing to compel first nations to adopt this new elections act, although we hope many will choose that option.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the parliamentary secretary and he made numerous references to the outdated, the archaic to the discriminatory Indian Act and I agree entirely with him.
    Could we hope that the government is mustering the courage to scrap the Indian Act and to start over with something that is much more responsible from a government point of view and that brings us into 21st century?
    Mr. Speaker, certainly this government is taking steps where we can to provide options for first nations to get out from under the Indian Act. When we look at things like the First Nations Land Management Act, which removes the land related provisions for first nations who want to opt in, the legislation allows first nations to opt out of the Indian Act election system.
    The hon. member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River proposed Bill C-428, which removes several sections of the Indian Act. As the Prime Minister said during the Crown-First Nations Gathering, simply blowing up the Indian Act would leave too big a hole. We need to work with first nations to systematically dismantle the Indian Act and that is what we are doing here. We are taking the election provisions and giving first nations the option to get out from underneath the paternalistic Indian Act.
    Mr. Speaker, most of us in the House live in communities where economic prosperity in some respects is taken a bit for granted. Any government has a responsibility to help put together a legislative framework to attract economic prosperity in communities. Bill C-9 is one of those vehicles in which we need to look at in order to help do that.
    One of the issues we need to look at, which the parliamentary secretary talked extensively about, is the elections act and reformation of it. Could the parliamentary secretary highlight quickly the main benefits he feels are in Bill C-9.
    Mr. Speaker, as we have seen, the two-year terms under the Indian Act election system right now simply do not provide enough time for a first nations chief in councils to propose any consistency in their community to allow them enough time to implement a plan perhaps on which they campaigned. The election cycle is too short.
    However, the highlights of the legislation, the benefits for communities that choose to opt in, will include reforming the electoral system, which is too often open to abuse, close loopholes in the nomination process so only folks who want to be on the ballot are actually on it and provide the tools and mechanisms to discourage the abuse of the mail-in ballot system.
    Right now there are too many loopholes in the Indian Act system. There is too much potential for abuse, and certainly we have seen cases of that abuse. This legislation for those first nations that opt into it would certainly close those loopholes and provide more certainty for those first nations.

  (1130)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened to the parliamentary secretary's speech carefully to hear when he would explain why in a bill, where I agree with him overall, it was about first nations opting in. Overall, it originally came from the Atlantic Policy Congress and the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs of Manitoba. However, without consultation with those first nations, or any other first nations in Canada, we have these two provisions, which I note that my hon. friend from Vancouver Island North, when he was the minister responsible, said that he would not use these provisions.
    Why on earth does the bill contain 3(1)(b) and (c), which states that the minister may at his or her own volition, without consultation, force a first nation to operate under this scheme if it believes the minister comes to the conclusion there is a protractive leadership dispute or if cabinet has set aside an election claiming corrupt practice which is not defined.
    These are imposition terms that even apply to first nations currently operating under customary practice. I would agree with every word the parliamentary secretary spoke, except that he omitted explaining sections 3(1)(b) and (c).
    If I had had more time, Mr. Speaker, I would have been happy to talk about that.
    The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development currently has the power, under the Indian Act, to take a first nation that is operating under custom code elections and put it back into the paternalistic Indian Act system. This is not a new provision. He has that power, currently, to move a first nation from the custom code into the Indian Act system if there is a protracted leadership dispute.
    The member is right. The former minister from Vancouver Island North is correct. This is rarely used. This provision to move a first nation from a custom code back to the Indian Act system has been used three times. This is not a new provision. It is used extremely rarely, only when all other options are off the table and when there has been a protracted leadership dispute.
    This is not a new power, and it is used with extreme reluctance, but when the grassroots people of a first nation are not being served because of a protracted leadership dispute, the minister, under the current system, will act.
     This provision would allow him to move a first nation from a custom code into this new, improved act instead of putting it back into the flawed Indian Act system. Bill C-9 would allow for that transparency, that robust electoral process, instead of putting the first nation back into the paternalistic and flawed Indian Act.
    Mr. Speaker, Bill C-9 is a good step in the direction of good government on reserve, as the member has already indicated.
    We have all heard of electoral abuses during some band elections and their effects on the stability of the affected communities. We are all committed to working to empower first nations communities to become self-governing and to ensure that they experience the economic growth and increased job opportunities that most Canadians have come to expect.
    With that in mind, an opt-in framework is more suitable than a mandatory one-size-fits-all approach to band government. Would the member please comment as to why?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for London North Centre, who is a leading person in this government on the issue of the status of women, ensuring women's equality and that women are protected on reserve. I know that is why she was such a strong proponent of our changes to the matrimonial real property rights of first nations women living on reserve.
    An opt-in approach is obviously preferred because for too long, too many governments have imposed their systems on first nations. This bill takes a different approach. It says that only those first nations that wish to participate in this system would opt in. It would be a decision made by the band council.
    This collaborative approach is the approach that we would like to see going forward in working with first nations, because when first nations buy in and take the initiative, as they would under Bill C-9, we all benefit.

  (1135)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak on behalf of New Democrats. We will be opposing the bill.
    Before I go into the reasons, I want to start with the parliamentary secretary's last comments about the opt-in provisions, because they are really an important piece of the bill. The member continues to emphasize this is an opt-in piece of legislation, but he does not speak to the fact that the minister still has the power to force a first nation, whether it is currently under the Indian Act or under custom code election, into the new elections act proposed under Bill C-9. If the government was truly interested in moving away from a paternalistic approach, it would have moved toward something like a first nations election commission that would have removed that responsibility totally from the minister's hands.
    The government is not moving away from a paternalistic approach. It is continuing with it, and that is evident in a number of clauses in this piece of legislation. I am going to touch on those.
    I want to give a bit of historical perspective.
    Where we would agree with the government is that the current Indian Act is a paternalistic system. I want to refer to a Senate report dealing with first nations elections, which gives a bit of a historical perspective, and I want to read it into the record. It says:
    The Indian Act's restrictive electoral system and imposition of federal control was widely resisted among Indian bands. Despite Indian opposition to the Indian Act system of elective government, attempts to suppress traditional forms of government continued. For example, in 1880, West Coast potlatches, an important means of affirming leadership and social order, were banned, and, in the 1920s, the Canadian government jailed the traditional leaders of the Haudenosaunee and installed an Indian Act council.
    The 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples illustrated the difficulties experienced by Aboriginal peoples with respect to the imposition of the Indian Act elective system. The Report concluded that: “for the past 100 years the [Indian] Act has effectively displaced, obscured or forced underground the traditional political structures and associated checks and balances that Aboriginal people developed over the centuries to suit their societies and circumstances”. Thus, the Indian Act electoral regime is rooted in a colonial mentality, and amendments to the Act, from the perspective of First Nations, do not erase colonial control over band elections.
    I would argue that this particular piece of legislation, despite the fact that it contains some things that first nations wanted included, continues on that colonial mentality route.
    In a legislative summary document, there is more that has been indicated in terms of history. I just want to put on the record other proposals that could have been much more effective. The summary document indicates that:
    A key attempt at policy reform was the 1998-2001 Assembly of First Nations/Indian and Northern Affairs Joint Initiative on Policy Development.... The Joint Initiative arose in response to the 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and was intended to provide policy options on key themes: elections, membership, additions to reserves and environment. With respect to elections, a key proposal was to develop community leadership selection systems and remove the application of the Indian Act as a preliminary measure to re-establishing traditional forms of leadership selection. To accomplish this, the following steps were suggested: community-level development of custom codes; community development of local dispute resolution procedures; the establishment of regional First Nations capacity and advisory bodies....
     Then it went on to talk about opt-out provisions and so on.
    This very good report from 1998-2001, a very in-depth process, was completely disregarded when it came to developing this piece of legislation.
    In my question to the parliamentary secretary, I did touch on the stakeholder engagement process, but I want to touch on this aspect again, because it is a key sticking point. Canada did indicate, after a great deal of pressure, its commitment to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. At the time the Canadian government finally caved and agreed to support it, it indicated it would take next steps. To date, we have not seen those next steps. However, one of the clauses in the UN declaration calls for “free, prior and informed consent”. What we heard in testimony at the committee was divisions among first nations about whether this piece of legislation was the way to go. Again, the opt-in clause makes it possible for a first nation that does not demonstrate free, prior and informed consent to this piece of legislation to be forced under this legislation.

  (1140)  

    When it comes to stakeholder engagement, the briefing document says with regard to the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs:
     With funds provided by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (the Department) between January and March 2010, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) held community engagement sessions in the province's Indian Act First Nations to obtain views and comments on the development of new election legislation affording a common election date and a longer term of office.
    Those are the two key points in that consultation process: a common election date and longer terms of office. Of course, the proposed legislation contains much more than that, so the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has withdrawn its support for the piece of legislation that is before the House.
    The Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs was also provided an opportunity. It has continued to support this particular piece of legislation despite some concerns about some of the clauses in it. It wants to go forward with it.
    However, I would come back to the matter of free, prior and informed consent.
    I want to turn to the Assembly of First Nations, which I think made a very good intervention. Its representative said:
    The AFN supports enacting the full decision-making authority by First Nations governments empowered by their citizens. In choosing and designing mechanisms for the fulfillment of this authority, care needs to be taken that new barriers or new oversight mechanisms are not being created, further vesting control in the office of Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
    Of course, as I pointed out, in paragraphs 3(1)(b) and 3(1)(c), that continued ability of the minister to interfere and intervene is still there. There were other mechanisms that could have been brought forward, which I will also touch on in a minute.
    I want to turn to the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the appearance of Grand Chief Derek Nepinak before the committee. He raised specific concerns that other first nations have also raised regarding the legislation before us. He said:
    Bill C-9 does not accurately reflect the discussions and decisions made by first nations leadership in Manitoba as it:
purports to grant the authority to the Minister to subjugate a First Nation to the act without the consent of the people. ...
    This authority defeats the objectives of the AMC recommendations ab initio that First Nations retain their right to opt-in.
    This clause would allow the Minister to subjugate those bands that have previously opted out of the Indian Act to custom election procedures.
     This clause would allow the Minister to subjugate bands to the Indian Act who have never been subject to the Act, in violation of their inherent and constitutionally protected rights.
     “Protracted leadership dispute” is not a defined term and leaves broad discretion to the Minister.
    The AMC did not make any such recommendation.
     Once placed in the schedule considerable obstacles and costs limit the ability of a First Nation from being removed from the schedule of “participating First Nations.”
    On that point, I will refer back to clause 3(1)(a), which would allow a band to opt in to the legislation by making a request through a band council resolution. By simple band council resolution, the band could have a first nation participate and opt in. However, if a first nation finds that this piece of legislation does not work for it and wants to opt out, under paragraphs 42(1)(a), 42(1)(b), and 42(1)(c), it is a far more complicated procedure.
     Under this section of the proposed act, for a first nation to opt out if it finds it does not work, the community election code has to contain an amending formula. Also, the question of a first nation being removed from the act must be submitted to a community vote in which electors must vote by secret ballot. The minister would only remove a first nation from the act if at least 50% of all eligible electors cast a vote and if a majority of these votes were in favour of the community election code and the removal of that schedule. The requirement to publish the code would ensure that all members would have the opportunity to read and become acquainted with the election code.
    It is a simple band council resolution to get in, but it is a complicated process to get out. It comes back to the fact that what the government really wants to do is force people into this proposed piece of legislation and then not let them get out of it if it does not work for them.
    Grand Chief Nepinak went on to talk about section 3(b). He said the draft bill also:
    Purports to grant the authority to the Governor in Council to set aside an election "on a report of the Minister that there was a corrupt election practice in connection with that election.” ...
    This preserves broad discretion of the Minister to determine that "there was a corrupt practice" methods and criteria not outlined under the proposed legislation.
    The AMC did not make any such recommendation.
    Once placed on the schedule considerable obstacles and costs limit the ability of a First Nation from being removed from the schedule of “participating First Nations.”

  (1145)  

     In subclause 3(1), “protracted leadership” and “corrupt practice” are not defined. That gives the minister a fair bit of authority to determine who he or she will force under this new election act.
    One of the things that had been asked for by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs was a common election date for the first nations that chose that. Grand Chief Nepinak indicated:
...it does not provide Manitoba first nations with the policy of adopting a common election day and an extended term of office. The bill has a quasi common election day that does not mirror the recommendation of the AMC.
    Election dates are found in clauses 5 and 6. Grand Chief Nepinak's written brief to the committee stated:
    The bill does not achieve a common election day with an extended (four year) term for all Indian Act elections, and does not give options for current Custom Election Bands to opt into a common election day with an extended four year term.
    The other piece that has caused concern for many first nations is the restriction of the appeal process to external courts. Grand Chief Nepinak also pointed out:
    This bill limits appeals to what it calls courts of competent jurisdiction and lists federal or provincial court as the only courts of competent jurisdiction.
    This bill ignores the rights of First Nations people to develop their [own] legal institutions including a local appeal process.
    This bill ignores the AMC's request for a local appeal process.
    This bill requires individuals to finance cost prohibitive legal counsel and go to court for appeal rather than a less expensive and less complex and intimidating and local appeal process.
    The requirement that First Nations appeal to federal and provincial courts is associated with a reduction [in] administrative and financial responsibilities of the Minister and constitutes a conflict of interest for the Minister, i.e. the Minister is not without motive to subject First Nations to the new legislation.
    In the conclusion of the brief Mr. Nepinak presented to the committee, he said:
    The proposed legislation is simply an addition to the Indian Act, citing the same authority and the same definitions, granting broad additional powers and discretion to the Minister and his office. The legislation mingles only one recommended change from the AMC and the illusion of another and the resultant product is another piece of federal government owned legislation that perpetuates Canada’s self-proclaimed authority and chips away the rights of First Nations.
    The fact that the government talks about a consultation process, and that the bill was broadly supported and whatnot, flies in the face of the testimony that was heard in committee.
    I want to touch on one of the recommendations that came out of the Senate report, “First Nations Elections: The Choice is Inherently Theirs”. Recommendation 3 states:
    That the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, in collaboration and consultation with the appropriate First Nations and/or Treaty Organizations, take immediate steps to establish a First Nations Electoral and Appeals Commission, operating on a national and/or regional basis, empowered to hear appeals arising from First Nations elections and to promote and strengthen First Nations electoral capacity.
    That is a very important recommendation that has come from a number of different bodies. I referred earlier to the JMAC study that was conducted. The Senate held numerous hearings across the country to hear from first nations and their representatives about some proposed changes to the Elections Act. That is explicitly not mentioned in this piece of legislation. It would be an important avenue to provide community members an appeal process that would perhaps allow for appeals to be heard in their own language, because as far as I know, there are not too many federal or provincial court judges who speak many of the indigenous languages across this country. It would be a process that would respect custom codes and some of the traditions that our first nations communities may have. That is one recommendation that was not included in the bill.
    I want to touch on the regulatory process for one moment because much of the changes in the act will happen under regulations. Under the regulatory process, clause 41 states, “The Governor in Council may make regulations with respect to elections, including regulations respecting...”.

  (1150)  

    It includes appointments, powers, duties, removal of electoral officers, a requirement that electoral officers be certified, the manner of identifying electors of a participating first nation, the manner in which candidates may be nominated, the imposition by participating first nations of a fee on each candidate, the manner in which voting is to be carried out, the removal from office of a chief or councillor of a participating first nation by means of petition, the holding of by-elections, and “anything else that by this Act is to be prescribed”.
    Those are pretty broad powers that are outlined in the regulatory process. Unlike other regulatory processes where there was at least some notion of working with first nations, nothing in Bill C-9 talks about how first nations will be consulted and accommodated with regard to developing the regulations. This is a very important piece.
    For the benefit of people who may be listening, by and large, most regulatory processes have absolutely no parliamentary oversight, as we have seen in other regulatory processes. The regulations are posted, there is a period of time where the public can comment, the regulations are modified based on public input, and then they are adopted. Neither parliamentary committees nor Parliament has any oversight on those regulations.
    With the broad range of activities that would be included in these regulations, it is very important to include in this piece of legislation exactly how first nations will be included in developing these regulations, which will have a direct impact on how elections are conducted in their communities.
    Part of the reason why that process needed to be spelled out was that there is a deep and abiding mistrust of how the government conducts consultation, or what it is now calling stakeholder engagement because it knows that stakeholder engagement does not meet the test of what the Supreme Court has laid out for a consultation process.
    We only have to look at Bill C-9 to find that the government took a step toward a consultation process by engaging the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Atlantic Policy Congress, but then expanded the scope of the bill to that which was not included in the terms of reference for the consultation process that was conducted by AMC and APC.
     We also have before us a draft piece of legislation called the first nations education act, which is another example where there is a deep mistrust of the consultation process. In fact, today there will be a rally on Parliament Hill protesting the government's direction on consultation.
    At the committee stage, the NDP did propose a couple of amendments that would have improved the bill. We voted against clause 3(1)(b) and (c) at the committee stage so that they would be removed, which would remove the ministerial jurisdiction. We also asked for a report back to Parliament because we want parliamentary oversight on the regulations. That proposed amendment, which was voted down in committee, proposed that for any amendments made to the regulations or the schedule respecting the additions or removals of first nations, orders of the minister respecting the coming into force of any community election codes, names of persons who have been convicted of an offence under the act and penalized accordingly, applications submitted to a competent court regarding the contested election of the chief or council of a participating first nation and any decision made by that court, petitions for the removal of office of the chief or councillor, the minister must cause a copy of the report to be tabled in each house of Parliament on any of the first sitting days after which the House is sitting, and so on.
    We did attempt to improve the piece of legislation before us so that at least it would reflect some of the concerns and provide some parliamentary oversight both to the regulatory process and the legislation itself.
    Based on those facts, we cannot support the bill. If the government wants to claim it is engaging in consultation, it must adhere to the principles around consultation, which means that it must provide the resources and the information. It must listen and then take what it hears and make sure it is reflected in the legislation that comes before the House.

  (1155)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am very indebted to the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, and to know that the official opposition, like the Green Party, feels compelled to vote against Bill C-9, even though it initiated with consultations, as she quite rightly pointed out, on two key points, narrow points, of lengths of terms and timing of elections. We have seen the bill morph, thanks only to paragraphs 3(1)(b) and (c), into something that shows a disrespect for bottom-up control, and a disrespect for section 35, the inherent rights of first nations.
    As the official opposition attempted to do in committee, as I attempted to do earlier this morning at report stage, would the hon. member share with me any insight she has as to why, with such good intentions from the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations and the first nations chiefs of Manitoba, we could not just get the changes that the first nations themselves requested so that we could vote for it, instead of having this imposition of ministerial discretion on what should be inherently first nations self-government?
    Mr. Speaker, it is puzzling. I believe that it just continues with the approach the current government has consistently taken with regard to first nations, which is lack of recognition around inherent rights, lack of movement on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, continued lack of appropriate consultation. This has clearly been outlined by the Supreme Court. We have seen it in the first nations water bill. We saw it in the matrimonial real property bill. We are now seeing it in the elections bill that is before the House and we are seeing it in the first nations education act.
    We could always remain eternally optimistic that during this comment period where first nations, schools, parents and organizations across this country have an opportunity to comment on the first nations education act, that the proposed piece of legislation that is before first nations would substantially change, based on that input, but that is not the track record of the government.
    Once again, first nations have come to the table in good faith. The AMC, the APC, came to the table in good faith, yet they end up with a piece of legislation that at least the AMC cannot support.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan on her dedicated work on the files for first nations.
    I am glad she mentioned the proposed national first nations education legislation, because I have in my hands a letter that was sent to me by Chief Ted Roque of the Wahnapitae First Nation. Yesterday, I just happened to be speaking to Walter Naveau, the chief of the Mattagami First Nation. The last time I was on the Whitefish first nation, Steve Miller, who is the chief out there, spoke to me. Marianna Couchie also had a telephone conversation with me about the education legislation a couple of months ago.
    It is all the same story over and over again. It is the lack of consultation with the first nations. It is the same thing with the bill, Bill C-9. It always comes back to lack of consultation. Now the Prime Minister is facing a mini-revolt in his own caucus because of lack of consultation with his own members.
    Would the hon. member comment on the fact that the Prime Minister never consults, not only with his own members but also with first nations?
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Nickel Belt has been working very hard with the opposition arising to the first nations education act. It is just another example of a top-down paternalistic approach, imposing more bureaucracy and reporting on first nations, not listening to the very valid concerns, disregarding the successes that many first nations are having. I just want to point to B.C. and the first nations education act that was passed in B.C. in this House a number of years ago. It is showing some very good results, but that could all be wiped out by this supposed first nations education act.
    With regard to consultation, it is very interesting, because I would say that the Conservatives acknowledge that they are not doing consultation because they do not call it consultation anymore. They call it stakeholder engagement.
    As I mentioned earlier, they know that stakeholder engagement does not meet the test clearly outlined by the Supreme Court in a number of court decisions about the duty to consult, and I might add, the duty to accommodate. They know that it does not fit, so they are clearly not doing the consultation.

  (1200)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan commented a couple of times that the bill does not provide for an independent appeals commission. The fact is that this bill would remove the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development from the elections appeal process altogether. Instead, it would put this power back into the hands of the courts, where qualified, independent judges could hear these appeals.
    This is how the provincial and federal elections appeal processes are decided. Is the member suggesting that this is not an improvement from the status quo?
    Mr. Speaker, what the member is suggesting is that the government actually listened to first nations, who asked for a first nations commission, something like the Elections Canada commission, which would be a place where people could go with concerns.
    That is what first nations have asked for, not what the government is imposing.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan for her good presentation on this bill.
    For 23 years I was involved in the negotiations that resulted in the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Article 3 of the declaration speaks about the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples, by virtue of which they freely determine their political status. The word “freely” is important in this sentence.
    Perhaps my colleague could help me understand something about this debate. It is now 2013, and today we are celebrating the life of a very important person in our history, Mr. Mandela, who brought down the apartheid system in South Africa. It seems that what is being proposed here today, to borrow the parliamentary secretary's words, is the improvement of a system that closely resembles the system that existed in South Africa. Can she explain to me why we are going in that direction instead of letting aboriginal peoples freely determine their political status?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for that very important question. It is a question that I would rightly like to put before the government.
    First nations have culture, traditions, history and electoral processes that have been in place in many nations from time immemorial. They have long traditions of self-governing, yet we continue to see an Indian Act system that undermines and devalues those systems of governance.
    It would seem that any move toward changes in elections should be governed by first nations. It should be proposed by first nations. It should be developed by first nations. This act simply does not do that.
    Mr. Speaker, one shakes one's head as one begins to discuss this bill. It could have been a bill that got total support across the House, but yet again, the government just cannot help itself. It cannot help itself putting something in that is just totally unacceptable to the majority of first nations in this country.
    It is about two paragraphs. First, all the government had to do was not put in the two paragraphs. Second, it should just remove them. The official opposition, ourselves, the Green Party and everybody else is asking the government to take out these two paragraphs. Then, we would finally get on with a piece of legislation that is first nations-led and supported by the House of Commons. It could have begun a process of first nations being able to suggest and put forward legislation that Canada would expeditiously get through and support. Instead, the government just cannot help itself.
    The process began, as we say, in a good way. It began with the development of a bill that was led by first nations. The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs worked closely with the government to develop a new set of optional election rules that first nations could choose to adopt and remedy many of the flaws in the Indian Act election rules.
    Both the AMC and APC facilitated consultations. Many of the issues identified by those consultations are reflected in Bill C-9.

  (1205)  

[Translation]

    The bill would establish a regime, alternative to the one under the Indian Act, to govern the election of chiefs and councillors of certain first nations. This regime would provide that chiefs and councillors hold office for four years; provide that the election of a chief or councillor may be contested before a competent court; and set out offences and penalties in relation to the election of a chief of councillor.
    The bill would also allow first nations to withdraw from the regime by adopting a written code that sets out the rules regarding the election of the members of their council.

[English]

    Both the AMC and APC-facilitated consultations, again, are reflected in those clauses. That is why it is such a shame that the minister has insisted on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory with this current version of Bill C-9, with these two totally aggravating paragraphs.
    While much of the bill is largely based on the consultations with first nations, the Conservatives included elements that were not supported during the consultations, and have refused to remove or amend the offending sections.
    Yet again, the government does not seem to understand what consultation means. Consultation means actually asking the opinions of first nations and listening, and then doing what has been suggested. Instead, yet again, the government thinks consultations are actually information sessions that just tell first nations what they are going to do and presume they will just accept it, love it and live with it; and indeed, it is the ultimate paternalism to put in these two paragraphs that give the minister these unprecedented powers.
    In particular, Grand Chief Nepinak, grand chief of the AMC, has highlighted the minister's ability to bring first nations under the legislation without their consent. As we know, the AMC was one of the proponents of this bill and now the grand chief is seriously clear that the lack of a first nations appeal process and the conduct of draws to resolve tie votes in elections for band council chiefs and councillors are areas of real concern.
    However, what is most appalling is Grand Chief Nepinak's first point, which was the minister's refusal to keep the bill truly optional, unlike how it was sold during discussions with first nations.
    In fact, Bill C-9 would give the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development broad discretionary powers that go against the opt-in nature of the legislation. The opt-in nature of this legislation had total support, and instead the Conservatives have inserted these two paragraphs.
    In paragraphs 3(1)(b) and 3(1)(c), the bill would provide the minister with explicit powers to bring a first nation, currently under the Indian Act system or a custom code, under Bill C-9 when the minister finds “...that a protracted leadership dispute has significantly compromised governance of that First Nation”, in paragraph 3(1)(b), and the Governor in Council has, under section 79 of the Indian Act, set aside an election of a first nation on the basis of the minister's finding of “...corrupt practice in connection with that election”, in paragraph 3(1)(c).
    Given the opt-in nature of Bill C-9, it is completely unacceptable that the Conservative government has included a clause that would provide the minister broad discretion to force first nations under the act. Forcing first nations under an act is not exactly opting in. Opting in is what first nations agreed to in their support of this legislation. Now we have clauses that would allow the minister to force a first nation under Bill C-9.
    The minister's power grab has turned what could have been a positive tool for first nations governance into unnecessarily divisive legislation. In fact, one of the two initial first nations partners in creating this legislation, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, is now strongly opposed to the bill. Further, while the level of consultations may have been sufficient if the bill were truly voluntary, opt-in legislation, the minister's insistence on inserting discretionary powers to force a first nation under the bill means that much broader consultation across the country would have been required.
    According to the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs' report on the engagement process, the level of feedback received from first nations was uneven across the country and, the report notes that little or no feedback was obtained in Ontario and Quebec. This may well be because, in a truly opt-in piece of legislation, the first nations understood that they would have the ability to opt in or not. The fact that now the nature of this legislation has totally changed, giving the minister these unprecedented powers, means this level of consultation is totally unacceptable.
    AFN regional chief, Jody Wilson-Raybould, representing the AFN before the Senate on this bill's predecessor, stated:
    In terms of clauses 3(1)(b) and (c), I believe that if those clauses remain in the bill, the consultation of which you are asking for clarity and the depth of consultation you are seeking would be greatly increased if those clauses remained, or the obligations would be greatly increased if those clauses remain in this bill.
     She went on to say:
    If those clauses are removed, it is simpler. The bills become simpler and the consultation would not be required in that this is a First Nations-led initiative and it's entirely optional, which it is not right now.
     Although there are other improvements that could have been made, such as creating a new independent and impartial first nations elections appeal body instead of relying on the courts, returning the bill to a truly optional piece of legislation would have made it more acceptable.
     Grand Chief Nepinak told the aboriginal affairs committee, while he still had concerns over the bill, “I think it does become a little more palatable if you remove that broad discretion of the minister”.
    If the Conservatives had agreed to our proposed amendment to remove this discretion, this would have been a much more acceptable piece of legislation to both first nations and the Liberal Party. The minister has suggested this power is necessary to fill a gap that would be created if he did not have it. He also stated that if he is going to impose an electoral system on a first nation, as he currently can under the Indian Act, he would prefer to impose this one.

  (1210)  

    What the minister does not seem to understand is the inherent paternalism in that statement. The minister does have similar powers under the Indian Act. However, this legislation was sold as purely opt in during all of the consultations. The minister is essentially saying that unilaterally changing the fundamental character of the bill is acceptable if it gives him a better option when he decides to step in.
    This new optional legislation should not be used as a vehicle for the minister to have another option when imposing any electoral system upon a first nation.
    Further, the degree of discretion the minister has given himself is truly worrying. The terms “protracted leadership dispute” and “significantly compromise government” are not defined in the legislation. These terms, which would trigger the minister's ability to impose the legislation, are therefore extremely broad in nature.
    This is not, as the parliamentary secretary tried to frame it at committee, the “ability to opt in” and as he stated in the answers to the questions in this debate so far.
    This is clearly the ability of a minister to impose a set of rules on a first nation that has not chosen to adopt it. This is therefore not opt in legislation. This is not voluntary legislation. This is legislation which would give the minister the ability to force a first nation under the power of this act.
    We truly feel this is insulting only because all of the work that the AMC and APC put into this project. Here is this impressive piece of work that was generated bottom up by the AMC and the APC. It is really upsetting to us, as the Liberal Party of Canada, to have to impose what could have been a very important precedent in first nation generated legislation because of their inability to remove these two egregious subclauses in what could have been totally acceptable legislation.
    The government's insistence on inserting this ability to impose these rules upon a first nation has really squandered an opportunity to develop practical legislation in partnership with first nations rather than for them. In fact, this was actually led by first nation organizations and this is the way I think all of us believe we should go forward in the future.
    It is too sad that the government just cannot help itself. It had a perfect piece legislation, but it had to insert the poison pill to ensure it could be on the wrong side of what was to be the future of first nations, legislation that would affect them and their people in keeping with the Constitution, and the duty to consult in keeping with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the idea of free, prior and informed consent.
    Here it was, a first nations' initiative, a first nations' legislation that they put forward, that they consulted on and that everybody was ready to help.
    The government cannot help itself. It had to put in some stupid little clause that would ensure we could not support it nor could first nations support it. This is a really sad moment in that there was an opportunity for the government to at least listen to the first nations in the consultation, or remove these clauses at committee or at report stage. No, it is just charging on, forcing this legislation through, which would give this unacceptable power to the minister to force the bill upon first nations that do not opt in, that do not accept or need the legislation in their community,
    It is quite clear the government is just continuing in its paternalism, continuing in the way that it has dealt with matrimonial real property, the way it has dealt with the water bill, with the governance act and is threatening to deal with the education act.

  (1215)  

    I do not know how the Conservative members of the aboriginal affairs committee can continue to listen to witnesses after witnesses telling them not to go forward on this, that they do not agree. Those Conservative members of Parliament continue to not hear anything that is said at committee or anything that is said in consultation and press on forcing through legislation against the wishes of first nations in the country. It is totally unacceptable.
    Maybe those Conservatives will come out to the rally at 1 o'clock today. Maybe they will come and hear what first nations and Idle No More have to say about the education act coming up. Maybe they will have a sober second thought when it comes to forcing through even more legislation against the wishes of first nations in the country.

  (1220)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her speech.
    This is not the first time that she has spoken in the House about the first nations, whom she is very committed to. She is very knowledgeable about the issues facing them.
    The member mentioned a number of times that the current Conservative government seems to be failing in its commitment to have a real, constructive dialogue with the first nations.
    I would like to hear more of what she has to say about that. Based on her experience, how does she think we could have a constructive dialogue with the first nations?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question.
    It is absolutely essential to hold genuine consultations and to listen to the needs and wishes of the first nations of Canada. The problem with this bill is that it contains a provision that makes consultation voluntary. This means that the consultation, which is very important, will not necessarily be as extensive as consultations on other bills that have to do with the first nations.
    It is very sad to see a bill that makes consultation optional. Ultimately, the government will not do the consultation that is needed, since the two other clauses in the bill override that by giving much more power to the minister.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is very important to provide first nations with the option of holding their elections. They have been asking for this.
    The member for St. Paul's stated in her remarks that the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs no longer supported the bill. I want to state for the record that the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, under the leadership of former grand chief Ron Evans, was instrumental in the development of the first nations elections act. Mr. Evans recently appeared before the steering committee on aboriginal affairs and northern development where he reiterated his support for the bill.
    Is the member for St. Paul's suggesting that we should only be listening to the current grand chief and forget about all those first nations that have called for this legislation?
    Mr. Speaker, there are individual first nations members who have put a lot of time and effort into the bill. I respect the work that former grand chief Ron Evans put into the bill.
    As we said before, in the original proposed bill, these provisions to the minister were not there. I understand the former grand chief really believes that it is important to go forward with this, in spite of these provisions, but the elected Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has decided not to. It thinks these provisions are unacceptable and therefore the current leadership of AMC is opposed to the bill. We are listening to it.
    I only wish the member would understand that we in this chamber supported the Kelowna accord. I wish you had listened to the Kelowna accord based on what the former leadership of this chamber had put forward.

  (1225)  

    Before I go to questions, I would like to remind the member and all others to direct their comments to the Chair rather than to their colleagues.
    Questions and comments, the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard.
    Mr. Speaker, the member has reiterated what we have heard in the House of Commons, time and time again, and that is how in a lot of bills that we study here there is a common thread of ministers having extended decisional power on the direction of some of those bills. I would like her to comment on the paternalistic approach the Conservatives have toward, in this case, first nations.
    Mr. Speaker, the member asks a very important question. From the apology that the Prime Minister gave in this chamber to the very important meeting that took place last January 11, in terms of the Crown-First Nations Gathering, there was supposed to be a reset. There was supposed to be a new way of going forward that was promised to first nations.
    However, this is again unfortunately a continuation of paternalism, which is really a continuation of colonization. It is no longer acceptable. This was one little step the Conservatives could have done in terms of a first nations-led piece of legislation that would have been acceptable. It could have been a precedent. Instead, we have this “father knows best, top down, you will like it, we might need this because there are these generic problems in first nations”. The government does not seem to think first nations can sort this out for themselves.
    In nation-to-nation government-to-government relationships, this is unacceptable and a continuation of the paternalism and the reason why the relationship between first nations and the Crown in our country is broken. This legislation would do nothing to put it back in a good way and on the right track.
    Mr. Speaker, more than one-third of first nations people have in government jargon a “core housing need”, meaning their homes do not meet the most basic standards of acceptability. Only 4% of natives have a university education, one-quarter the rate of the rest of society. One-third of aboriginal people do not graduate from high school, three times the rate of non-aboriginals. With regard to infrastructure, overcrowded houses, lack of running water and inadequate sewage are the norm in many native communities.
    As the bill is now, it would give the power for the minister to intervene and declare that self-government and the people who are elected by their own community are somehow not good enough. Would the bill actually deal with any of those fundamental issues facing people in first nations?
    Mr. Speaker, the member knows the answer is “no”, but it was an important bill to bring forward because it was led by first nations. The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the Atlantic Policy Caucus had seen a need and were going to put this forward.
    We know if first nations have control over the things that the member mentioned, such as housing, infrastructure, health, governance, all of these things, all of those statistics would actually improve.
    In the Chandler Lalonde report out of the University of British Columbia, communities that are back in charge of their government, health, policing, education and doing their ceremonies, the horrible statistics on suicide radically improve. This is really important.
    I cannot help but remind the member that the things she mentioned were well looked after in the Kelowna accord, another process that was first nations, Inuit and Metis-led. The Government of Canada supported them in their priorities. Almost eight years later, things would have been in much better shape, including the 10-year commitment to having high school leaving statistics at the same as the Canadian average. That was in the Kelowna accord with the money assigned. Instead we are no further ahead than we were when the Conservatives took office.

  (1230)  

    I stand with my colleagues in the NDP to oppose this bill in the House of Commons. This bill is very important to me as a New Democrat, but most importantly, as the member of Parliament for Churchill.
    In northern Manitoba, I have the honour of representing 33 first nations. These first nations and the leadership of these first nations have often been at the front lines calling for a nation-to-nation relationship with the federal government. They have been at the front lines pointing to the way in which the Indian Act and a colonial system of legislation imposed on first nations has led to nothing but trouble.
    These first nations have made clear the connection between the paternalistic attitude of successive federal governments and the way first nations are not able to deal with the serious issues they face at home, such as the third-world living conditions.
    They have talked about the way in which, because of the approach of the federal government, they have not been able to get at the table or have had to struggle to get at the table to discuss basic things such as ensuring proper water and sewer services in their communities, ensuring that there is adequate housing for the people who live in their communities, and ensuring that there is equal funding for education in their communities. At every step along the way, these first nations have been told that the federal government and the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs know best.
    It is 2013, and if there is anything we have learned from our history, it is that the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and the federal government do not know what is best for first nations. There are many incidents in our history that indicate just that, such as the residential schools, a policy that was supported by the federal government, a policy that was seen by the federal government overtly as a tool of assimilation and as the way to go. We know that it was a policy that has created long-term trauma and damage for first nations people in our country.
    We had the Prime Minister, a number of years ago, doing something that many first nations took very seriously. He apologized to first nations, Métis, and Inuit people for the federal government's approach towards them. He committed to a new day, a new chapter, when it came to indigenous people in Canada.
    That day has not come. First nations people in Canada are still waiting for that day. Allies of first nations people are still waiting for that day. Instead, the Prime Minister and his government have used that important symbol, the apology, as a tactic to wash themselves of the responsibility and duty to truly change course.
    What they did after that apology, and every step along the way, was adhere to the same old paternalistic approach, which is that the federal government knows best. However, it makes it look as if it is engaging in some consultation. We do acknowledge that in the context of this bill, there were discussions and round tables that took place around the country. Unfortunately, the government took the feedback it got at these round tables and basically shelved it.
    The government chose the discourse that suited it and came up with a bill that does not reflect the needs of first nations people. It does not reflect the real issues first nations people face in terms of their electoral system.
    Instead, what the government's bill would do is give greater power to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to decide how electoral systems exist in first nations. It would take away power and models that first nations people have developed that work for them. The government has made it more difficult in terms of the appeal process.
     It is really a slap in the face of first nations people when we are talking about that new chapter.

  (1235)  

    I have stood in the House far too many times in the last five years to speak out against bills from the Conservative government that would have a negative impact on first nations. I do not speak about them in theory. I have seen what they mean on the ground.
    I have visited these first nations. I have heard from people first-hand what it is like to feel as if they still live in a time when paternalism rules the day. I have talked to chiefs who have fought to come to Ottawa to sit at the table with the minister, if they get that meeting. They have poured their hearts out about the pain in their communities, whether it is about housing, water and sewer services, or health care, only to be told to wait longer or that the federal government will come up with something. Instead, all we see, bill after bill, are bills that exclude first nations' voices.
    It is great to have a process that listens to people, but if the final result, the final bill and the final piece of legislation, do not reflect what these people said, the Conservative government is not living up to its duty to consult. The constant paternalistic tone of knowing better has a detrimental effect on the ability of first nations to push forward.
    Yesterday I was part of the special committee on missing and murdered indigenous women. It is a perfect example of the way the Conservative government is refusing to listen to first nations on the issues that really matter. A constituent of mine, Brenda Bignell, said that we need a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. We are a committee. We are looking for recommendations. Brenda Bignell's recommendation is one we could consider for our report. However, we have already heard from the Prime Minister that he does not feel that there needs to be a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
    What do we tell Brenda Bignell? She has lost her stepmom, her cousin, and her brother. She talked about all of these stories. Do we say that we want to hear from her but that what she tells us will probably not end up in the end result of what we are doing here? That deeply saddens me. It saddens me to be part of a committee, when I know that the Prime Minister has set the tone on a very important issue for first nations people.
     It also saddens me that day after day, week after week, month after month we have proposals by the Conservative government and bills that would change laws in our country that are created without hearing the views of first nations people. The government may have heard them, but the end result certainly does not reflect them. As I said, this has an impact on that working relationship.
    Idle No More was a movement that came out as a response to Bill C-9, Bill C-27, Bill S-2, and all of the bills that have come forward that do not reflect true consultation with first nations people. Idle No More was people at the grassroots level standing up and saying “enough”. It was the first nations, Métis, and Inuit people and their allies who stood up and said that there is a pattern here and they have had enough of it.
    We know that there is a long-term negative impact when it comes to the lack of consultation and the tokenistic approach of picking testimony that suits the government but not actually listening to what everybody has to say. We know that all first nations people suffer when their electoral and governance systems are not allowed to be developed based on what they think is best.
    I thought we were past this. I thought that in this year, 2013, we were past this. I thought that after the apology six years ago, we were past this. I thought that after Idle No More, maybe the Prime Minister and his government had gotten the message. Business as usual is not going to work. I thought we were past this, but we clearly are not.

  (1240)  

    In addition to all of this, what bothers me is that the government uses its bills to divide our society. I have seen how it has done it in the communities I represent.
    Parts of my constituency have high numbers of first nations people. Some parts do not. Interestingly, in the last election, the Conservative Party shared literature in the parts of the constituency where not many aboriginal people live that talked about corruption in first nations. It also talked about the chiefs and the councillors and those people who were using taxpayers' money. The government did not engage in a conversation with the people who live on reserve. There were some materials with vague references to accountability and transparency, which are issues we all think are important. Rather, it chose to speak in parts of the constituency and to fan the flames of division and racism. It chose to use examples of legislation to say that it is keeping people in line.
    That was not just an election tactic. Unfortunately, it is a governing tactic that I have seen from the government too many times. The Conservatives go out there and use material that says that they know best and will tell the first nations how to run their business. However, they will not invest equally in first nations education or make a difference when it comes to the highest dropout rates in our country. They do not talk about the fact that, on average, aboriginal people live shorter lives than non-aboriginal people in our country. They do not talk about the fact that young first nations women are five times more likely to be killed than young non-first nations women. They do not talk about the fact that, on average, aboriginal people live in more precarious conditions, in poverty, compared to other people in our country.
    The government talks about bills that will fix how things get done. The Conservatives will tell aboriginal people how to do it. They will point to a few people who maybe gave some testimony that sounded like what the Conservatives would like to say. They will not listen to people like Grand Chief Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, who currently represents first nations from across Manitoba. He said that there are problems and that they have made recommendations, and those recommendations have not been heard.
    The government will not listen to Jody Wilson-Raybould, the Regional Chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations. It will not listen to Tammy Cook-Searson, the Chief of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band. It will not listen to people like Aimée E. Craft, the past chair of the National Aboriginal Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association. The government will not listen to first nations people who live in places like northern Manitoba. It will not listen to people who want to come to the table, want to work on a nation-to-nation relationship, and want to talk about what is best for their communities.
    I have heard vague references made by some members about how they have been on a reserve or have worked on a reserve. Somehow that gives them the authority to know what is best.
     Thirty-three first nations helped send me to Ottawa. What I have heard from people in my constituency, not just from the leadership but from people on the ground, is that they are still waiting for that new chapter from the Prime Minister. They are still waiting for consultation and for the word of the AMC Grand Chief to be taken seriously. He said that we have to go back to the drawing board when it comes to first nations electoral reform.
    We in the NDP agree that changes need to be made, but this bill is not the way to do it. I could take any bill the government has put forward in the last five years related to first nations and raise similar issues and poke holes in the kind of paternalistic discourse it tries to use to divide Canadians and keep first nations at arm's-length. Unfortunately, it perpetuates the problematic relationship that sets so many first nations back. I wish the government would take on some of the serious day-to-day issues first nations people face with the same energy and passion.

  (1245)  

    Maybe government members could spend some time talking to the chiefs of the Island Lake First Nation. I would be happy to take them on a tour. We could visit houses that do not have sinks because they do not have running water.
    Can members imagine that, in 2013? This is their regular house. They have a counter, but where there should be a sink, there is not one because there is no running water. Guess what that means? There is also no bathroom. One has to go to an outhouse.
    I remember visiting an elder who had mobility issues due to diabetes. In -30° weather—the way the winter gets in northern Manitoba—he has to trudge out to the outhouse, with mobility issues, because he has no indoor bathroom. This was not 50 years ago; I was there just last year.
    I could talk about other instances, such as in communities like Gods River where the chief is extremely passionate about people in his community succeeding when it comes to education. This is a community that has grown significantly over the last number of years, and the school is so overcrowded that the science lab and home economics room have been taken over for regular classrooms. This means that these children are obviously not getting the one-on-one attention they need. It also means that these kids are not able to access specialized programming because the needed classrooms equipped to do that have been dismantled and made into regular classrooms.
    Often these kids see a system that has given up on them. They see their chief fighting for them, but they know that, although the chief has gone to Ottawa and Winnipeg fighting for a new school to fit their needs, year after year, that demand is denied, and many lose faith and hope.
    Unfortunately, in communities like Gods River, Gods Lake Narrows, Shamattawa and Pukatawagan, too many kids have gone down that path too far and have not turned back. They have committed suicide, fallen through the cracks of our society or moved to urban centres where they have been lost and have never come back.
    There would be an opportunity for change. It is not because their chief, their leadership, and people like the Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs have not said what needs to be done, but that the current federal government does not listen.
    Not only do the Conservatives not listen, but they choose to drive an agenda that suits them. It is an agenda that sucks up wedge issues, pits people against aboriginal people in our country and tells first nations and aboriginal leadership that they do not know how to run their business. It is an agenda that fundamentally keeps us on the path of a history that has only created trouble, is based on paternalistic colonial views and has been proven wrong.
    I am proud to stand with a party that seeks justice when it comes to first nations people, which is why we are opposed to Bill C-9, and why we are opposed to so many of the first nation-related bills that the Conservative government has put forward. It is why we are asking for change, for a better future for first nation people and all Canadians.

  (1250)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, once again, I would like to commend my colleague's commitment and devotion to her constituents. She speaks about them from experience. I would also like to acknowledge her struggle for the cause of aboriginal women. We are facing not only a broken relationship between the Conservative government and our first nations, but also a totally dysfunctional relationship between this government and first nations women.
    I wonder if the member could elaborate further on this issue. Perhaps she could also offer us possible solutions to give a little hope to aboriginal women.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. I would also like to thank her for recognizing the NDP's advocacy in support of aboriginal women and their families as well as all missing and murdered aboriginal women.
    The government denies the need to ensure justice for the families of missing and murdered women. This is part of its agenda, which opposes the voices of first nations, the aboriginal peoples of our country. As I said earlier, many aboriginal peoples believed the promise made by the Prime Minister six years ago. He said he was ready to begin a new chapter and to work with others to change the colonial and paternalistic relationship that still prevails today.
    Investments in the education system are not equitable when it comes to education for first nations. We cannot start a new chapter with Bill C-9. Government relations with first nations are still the same and the way it works with first nations is still the same. That is precisely what needs to change.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if my colleague from Churchill is aware that this bill was led by the first nations in her own province.
    The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, under the leadership of former grand chief Ron Evans, was instrumental in this first nations elections act. Chief Evans led an extensive engagement exercise in Manitoba and visited almost all the first nations in the province that hold elections under the Indian Act, to discuss his recommendations and obtain feedback, but he also appeared in committee just last week on this very bill.
    Ron Evans also met with first nations organizations in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia and wrote a letter to every chief and council in Canada that holds elections under the Indian Act to explain the recommendations for electoral reform. He remains supportive of this bill and recently wrote to the minister, saying that the proposed first nations elections act would change the way first nations are governed, create stability and credibility, strengthen self-governance and allow first nations to move forward.
    Could the member for Churchill please explain why she is opposed to this important first nations-led initiative?
    Mr. Speaker, given that question, I want to take the opportunity to read into the record a quote from the current grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Derek Nepinak, who stated:
    This proposal does not fulfill the recommendations put forth by the AMC. It appears to be an attempt by the Minister to expand governmental jurisdiction and control the First Nations electoral processes that are created pursuant to the Indian Act or custom code. I am hopeful that Canada will engage in meaningful consultation with First Nations in Manitoba in order to fix some of the problems, instead of unilaterally imposing a statutory framework that will greatly affect the rights of First Nations.

  (1255)  

    Mr. Speaker, as we speak, there is a large group of first nations people coming to Parliament Hill. They may even have arrived. They are asking Parliament to seriously focus on the needs of children. We know that aboriginals can expect to live, on average, a decade less than other Canadians. In terms of infant mortality, we know that aboriginal children die at three times the rate of non-aboriginal kids and are more likely to be born with severe birth defects and conditions, such as fetal alcohol syndrome. The rate of suicide is six times higher. First nations young people are in desperate need of hope and better education, and that is what the people out on Parliament Hill are demanding.
    Perhaps the member could talk about how this bill does not deal with the fundamental questions of respect, self-government and providing hope for the future of first nations people.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her passionate contribution to this debate and also to this issue for many years. I know that her work as a child advocate here in this province has also been very much connected to seeking justice for first nations children.
    Do we need a more obvious message than the fact that aboriginal people are coming to Parliament Hill, taking time away from the AFN assembly where they have serious issues to discuss as well, to call upon us to shape up, to do the job they want us to do?
    First nations people in the ridings of so many Conservative MPs want them to do that job, to look at funding for education, to look at employment opportunities, to look at ways in which first nations youth can have hope for the future, can have opportunities in the future.
    Why must they come out to Parliament Hill to tell us, once again, and to tell the current government, once again, that it is not doing its job?
    The trend, the constant way in which the government has chosen to impose legislation, has failed to consult, has failed to listen to leadership across this country that is saying “We want to work on this; we need to do a better job on this”, the way in which it keeps saying it knows better is appalling. It is not fitting of a government that said, six years ago, it would do things differently. It certainly speaks to its lack of fundamental respect for first nations people, and its ignorance when it comes to the real needs on first nations.
    Frankly, I share the sentiments of the people who will be coming to Parliament Hill to tell us that they are watching, that they want change, that they want justice.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise to speak on this topic. I am very proud to rise in opposition to Bill C-9, an act respecting the election and term of office of chiefs and councillors of certain first nations and the composition of council of those first nations.
    I want to acknowledge at the outset the amazing work done by a colleague of mine from Nanaimo—Cowichan. She has been an amazing advocate for this file, along with my colleague from Manitoba who just spoke.
    I am a very optimistic and hopeful person, but there are moments when I despair. When I look at the role of the federal government when it comes to the first nations people, to our aboriginal and Inuit, I think here we are in 2013, the 21st century, and we have people living in our first nation communities that absolutely bring tears to our eyes when we see the way the children live and the way the communities are surviving.
    I have had the privilege of visiting many first nation communities in my previous life. Every time I went to those communities, I was so impressed with the strong feeling of community, with the strong feeling of hope that something will change. These communities are asking us the biggest question of all: When will things change and get better for first nations people in many parts of Canada?
    Since I have been in the House, we have dealt with a lot of pretty tragic cases. Attawapiskat is a fine example. The report from the United Nations is another fine example. All of the information we have says that some urgent action needs to be taken on a whole lot of issues to address concerns with the first nations people.
    I was pleased when I heard the Prime Minister say there would be a new way of moving forward with our first nation communities. Being a hopeful and optimistic person, that actually made me feel good. However, since I have been in the House and have heard some of my colleagues from the other side on the way our federal government is dealing with the first nations people, none of that has come to light. What we get are lots of words. Words are good because they are a first step, but it is absolutely imperative that we take the next step and the next step in order to put right wrongs that have existed for hundreds of years.
    This is the 21st century. We are beyond colonialism, I hope. We talk about respect for our first nations, nation-to-nation relationships, moving forward nation to nation, but in reality, what we have is more paternalism, and “We might have talked with you, and we did, but we know better what will work for you”. It is that kind of paternalism that is at the root of why I am opposed to this piece of legislation.
    No one is saying that we do not need to address some of the problems that exist with the Indian Act and the election provisions within it. We agree that we need to make some changes, but those changes cannot be railroaded and they cannot be imposed. Yes, consultations occur, but when the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, not just one person but the assembly, says that this is not good and this does not reflect what we said, then surely it is time to take a breather and go back to try to build consensus and to try to address the concerns that were raised.

  (1300)  

    Instead, the government is going to say that they talked with them, they had round table discussions and they came, and that they found the APC does support Bill C-9.
    We agree that the APC supports this. However, there is not overall support. For the government to say one group supports it and the other group does not and therefore it is going to do it anyway, it seems a little top-heavy and unnecessary. If the government had taken the time to address some of the issues, we would not have this dilemma today. If it had even accepted the amendments, we would not be here debating the bill in this way today.
    Everyone wants to see elections fixed, or whatever they are, and to make sure things go right. We agree with that. However, we do have the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs saying this does not cut it. One of the reasons it does not cut it is that to opt-in to this scheme it just takes a vote by the council, but to opt-out is a very cumbersome affair. Surely, opting-in and opting-out should be similar mechanisms.
    The other thing is that we know the ministers under this government love to have more and more power centralized in the ministries, but in this, the minister could even impose a first nation to come into this system, even if it decides not to go in. That seems way over the top and totally unnecessary. Once again, what it would do is give far more power to the minister, and in that process, it would diminish the nationhood of the first nation groups that it impacts. We should really be paying attention to that.
    The Assembly of First Nations, when it came and gave witness to the Senate, said:
    What, in fact, is missing from our toolbox to move beyond the Indian Act is an effective and simple mechanism for a First Nation to remove its core governance out from under the Indian Act when it is ready, willing and able to do so and after its citizens have legitimized governance reform through a community referendum.
    Is that really too much to ask for? That seems to capture what would have made the first nations people support Bill C-9. Instead, we would give more power to the minister and then we would move the appeals toward the court system, which is already overburdened. It would be a lengthy, cumbersome and expensive process.
    I was so impressed by the first nations people wanting something similar to what we have when it comes to federal and provincial levels of government. All they wanted was the creation of an independent first nation election tribunal, very similar to Elections Canada, yet we cannot even move toward that.
    During the time I have been here I have seen legislation after legislation that impacts first nations people. Every time, I have had to stand up in the House and oppose it, yet if it was changed to actually respect the nation-to-nation relationship with our first nations, then I could have supported it.

  (1305)  

    This bill would have taken very few amendments to get my support as well.
    As members know, there are many things, when it comes to our aboriginal and first nation communities, the indigenous people of Canada, that we should be addressing. A lot of that comes from identity and who we are. There are huge issues of loss of language. There are huge issues of isolation. However, there are also huge issues around identity and also of not having that independence that is so critical. With that comes a certain amount of, I would say, mental distress.
    As a high school counsellor for years, I am always appalled at the very high levels of suicide among our first nation communities. All I know is that when things should be getting better, in many ways things are getting worse. Maybe things are getting worse now because we can actually see it. Because of our technologies such as television and satellites, we can actually see what is happening in some of our remote communities. I would invite my colleagues across the way not just to drop in but to actually go there and visit people's houses, not the ones that have been specially cleaned for them but visit the houses and some of the seniors and even some of the schools. I would really invite them to do that.
    More than that, I would urge our government and our Prime Minister to live up to the words he gave to the first nations people. I can remember the look of excitement and anticipation on Chief Atleo's face when the minister made his speech, and I know how full of hope and optimism the first nations people were that this was a way forward. However, I would say that since then the words do not look so shiny. As a matter of fact, they have been muddied because over and over again we have not responded to the needs of the first nations people, nor has the government, despite all its words, respected that nation-to-nation way of moving forward, getting out of colonialism and out of this paternalistic type of governance, and moving into true nation-to-nation governance for our first nations. With that comes rights, and with that comes responsibilities.
    However, it is very disturbing for me when we hear some of the comments. For example, children who go to first nation schools should surely get the same dollar amount as the students who go to public schools, K to 12, in Canada. Surely when we have communities up in the north, we have to build into the budget the cost of heating and transportation. If we do not, once again that takes away from the dollars that can be used to educate our first nations' children.
    We have a huge responsibility as a nation. As a country, Canada has given me lots. It has given me not only my beautiful children and grandchildren, but an opportunity to have a wonderful life, to teach for many years and now to be here as a member of Parliament. I could not live with myself if, sitting in this House, I did not use my voice to advocate for our first nations people, but not in place of them. We have colleagues in here from the first nations community sitting on this side who will be speaking and have spoken.

  (1310)  

    As Canadians, we have a responsibility to set things right. We have it within us. We have the words. What we need now is the will to take action, meaningful action not just words for the sake of words that sound good when there is a camera shot, but take real steps to build a strong, meaningful relationship with our first nations people.
    Our first nations people are in territories that are very rich in resources. I also know they are very concerned about the environment as each and every one of us should be. If we only talk about extraction of resources without thinking about the impact it is having on us globally, then we do our children a huge disservice.
    We need to pay special attention to our first nations people who are raising red flags, who come on television and say “Look around us. The ice is melting, folks. This is not a textbook issue anymore.” It is real. It is happening around them. We need to pay special attention. We also need to pay special attention to what we are talking about, and that is our first nations people, our aboriginals and our Inuits.
     As the Prime Minister has made a commitment on building a relationship nation-to-nation, we need to have real action to take us forward in that direction.
    Getting back to this legislation, I am from the beautiful province of British Columbia. Every one of our provinces is beautiful, as well as all our territories and regions. B.C., my home province, also has as its emblem, “Beautiful British Columbia”.
    Most of my knowledge of first nations and their communities is about British Columbia. Jody Wilson-Raybould, B.C. regional chief, Assembly of First Nations, had this to say on clause three:
    These provisions essentially give the minister the ability to impose core governance rules on a First Nation, which, if ever used, would be resented by that First Nation, would not be seen as legitimate in the eyes of that nation, and would probably add fuel to an already burning fire. Ultimately, each nation must, and will, take responsibility for its own governance, including elections.
    I could not put that more eloquently than my friend, Jody. When Jody says that, she is not using words lightly. It actually makes common sense. As a teacher, one thing I have learned is that when teachers are teaching children, they cannot talk at them, they must work with them, with their learning. We know that about children.
    Here we are talking about first nations and surely when we are talking about first nations, we cannot, in the 21st century, be so paternalistic and think that we know better than they do. Even though 50% of the group we consulted was opposed to the changes, the government will make those changes anyway.
    Surely this is the time for common sense to prevail and for my colleagues to oppose the bill. Let us send it back and get it fixed, so all of us can support it and respect the nation-to-nation commitment that the Prime Minister made to the first nations people not so long ago.

  (1315)  

    Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague's speech occasionally touched on Bill C-9. As well she quoted Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould, the B.C. regional chief of the band.
     In an appearance before a Senate committee, Chief Wilson-Raybould said:
    In conclusion. for nations that want to use them, there is no question that the election rules that have been developed in Bill S-6 and that will be expanded in regulations are superior and more thought through than those under the Indian Act.
    Obviously this is opt in legislation. The provision the member talked about where the minister could put a first nation operating in custom code back into the new code envisioned by Bill C-9, that power has only been exercised three times in the history of our country. It is a last resort when there is a protracted leadership dispute where grassroots first nations people are not getting the services that are delivered.
    Will the member accept the words of Jody Wilson-Raybould, who said that this was far superior to the Indian Act system, and accept as well that only in the most extreme circumstances where first nations grassroots members do not get the service they require, the minister would intervene?

  (1320)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am so pleased that my colleague agrees with me that the final power still rests with the minister to impose this system on first nations and there is no criteria set out for when the minister would do this.
    Yes, the bill does have improvements and we are not saying it does not have some good parts to it. However, categorically in there is that the system to opt in and opt out are two totally different systems, which does not seem right to me. They should be the same.
    Further, the minister still retains that paternalistic power to opt in any nation when it chooses not to. I do not want to say that ministers could be political, but they could be and use that.
    Mr. Speaker, when we talk about first nations, I remember the Marshall decision. At the time, Marshall went to the Supreme Court and the first nation got the right to fish, cut wood and work in the forestry. I remember at that time I was in Parliament and the government members were grabbing their heads because they wanted to have powers. It seems to me the Conservatives just want aboriginals on the reserves and not do anything. They do not want them to be self-determined and do things by themselves.
    For example, when British Columbia wanted the Nisga'a bill to pass, and the Liberal government at the time supported the bill, the Reform Party or the Alliance Party at the time voted with its amendments. It had 471 amendments to the bill that the first nations wanted. We voted 471 times against those amendments of the Conservative Party, the then Reform Party. We voted from Monday to Wednesday morning to say that we had to respect what the first nation was asking for.
    Is it asking too much to say go back to the drawing board? Go back and look at some amendments that first nations will accept. Go back where the Constitution of our country gives them that power. The government has a responsibility of consultation with the first nations. By having a minister just impose something on them goes against the Constitution of our country.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for capturing a historical perspective so well. Once again, here we are that when the opposition brings any amendments forward or even the ones suggested by the first nations people, the Conservatives really cannot have anyone else amend their legislation. They seem to have an allergy to that, to changing their mind once they put something out.
    It is a sign of maturity when we can actually listen to the concerns, take them into account and rewrite what we have so it builds consensus and builds that nation-to-nation relationship that the Conservative Party has paid so much lip service to over the last number of years.
    We are not asking for too much, nor are the first nations people. All they are asking for is to have the right to determine things for themselves.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for again giving a speech with all the passion and verve she is known for.
    I would like to go back to a point that she mentioned repeatedly and knows well because of her experience in education.
    What impact does the lack of funding for education have on first nations? Would she care to talk about this particular issue?

  (1325)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is totally puzzling to me. All my life, I have fought for equity. Equality is sometimes misleading, but equity I can understand.
    If we were to see what is happening in our first nations communities and the state of education there, I could put forward a very coherent and economically sound argument that we should be investing more per child right now in order to build true equity and for the sake of social justice. Instead, I am at a loss for words as to why the Conservative government is not even willing to give the same amount per child to first nations for education as it does to children right across Canada.
    Surely the amount that is spent on education should not be decided by whether a child is aboriginal or non-aboriginal? However, that seems to be the defining moment for us.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her speech. I have been listening to the speeches since we started this morning, and there really are two opposing viewpoints.
    On the one hand, we have a government that seems to have adopted the policy of taking baby steps, which is clearly insufficient, and on the other we have the opposition calling for a paradigm shift, a new way of looking at relations with the first nations.
    Could the hon. member please tell us how she sees the paradigm shift we need to get tangible results? We cannot always do little things and get them wrong. I think now is the time to do big things and get them right. I would like to hear what she has to say about that.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, very simply, let us respect our first nations communities, first nations leadership and first nations people. Let us start behaving nation-to-nation and start putting the words that the Prime Minister has used into action.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time.
    Mr. Speaker, Bill C-9, an act respecting the election and term of office of chiefs and councillors of certain first nations and the composition of council of those first nations, also known as the first nations elections act, is what I will be speaking to today.
    The bill was first introduced as a senate bill earlier this year and now comes to us at third reading in this House as Bill C-9.
    The bill came out of a series of regional round tables centred in Atlantic Canada and Manitoba. The round tables focused on making elections work better for first nation communities.
    There is no doubt that there are many problems with how elections currently function in many first nation communities. Indeed, there are problems with how elections function at the federal level in Canada too, including expense claims scandals forcing resignations of sitting MPs and the robocall scandal whereby voters were systematically misled in the hopes of tricking them out of their right to participate in our democratic process. There is room for improvement on all sides.
    A troubling feature of first nations elections on reserves is the low voter turnout. As with other Canadian and provincial elections, low turnout is problematic, and it is a sign of more complex underlying issues that need to be addressed.
    In terms of first nations elections, New Democrats agree that there is room for improvement, but we also believe there are some significant issues with the bill. I would like to go into a few of those issues.
    Bill C-9's key provisions include an election cycle longer than two years.
    We agree this is necessary. We support four-year election terms. With a two-year election cycle, disputes can take most of the two-year mandate to solve through the current appeals process, which lacks rigour, transparency, and procedural fairness.
    Another provision in the bill is the ability to have a common election date. This is also a reasonable provision. The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has called for a single election day so that a region can standardize time spent electioneering.
    Another provision gives the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development the power to order a first nation with community designed elections to adhere to the new regime.
    New Democrats believe Bill C-9 could allow for more effective self-government if it is limited to opt-in legislation, but the current provisions allowing the minister to determine a band's future without consultation contradict the spirit of self-government.
    Another provision is for elections appeals through the courts, rather than through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, and for penalties for breaking election rules. Let me speak to these. The hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan has spoken in this place about our concerns with these two provisions.
    This act would not specifically allow for either an independent tribunal or an electoral commission, similar to what federal and provincial governments have in place. In this legislation, disputes would have to be resolved in the courts. This requirement could mean increased legal costs for first nations, which already tend to be cash-strapped. Why did the government not consider an independent body that would oversee disputes, as was recommended by the Senate, as well as by the joint ministerial advisory committee's report?
    I would like to turn to consultations now.
    As I said before, New Democrats want to see first nation elections improved, but this legislation would not amend the Indian Act where some of the most egregious powers of the minister reside.
    What concerns me most about the bill is the government's approach to its relationship with first nations. The process seemed to start out relatively well, in terms of the AMC and the APC holding regional round tables on how to improve the elections process. Then, with the support of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, consultations were held on developing new opt-in legislation.
    However, as the bill was developed, it seems the government's willingness to work together with others waned. The government had an opportunity to create this legislation in consultation with first nations, but instead it ignored recommendations it received and has refused to make amendments to the bill that were requested by first nations.

  (1330)  

    The concept of consultation has been disregarded time and time again by the government. Where is the government's commitment to working in consultation with first nations and ensuring consent before legislation is unilaterally imposed?
    This strikes me as very similar to some of the issues I worked on in my capacity as deputy critic for Fisheries and Oceans. When the government's omnibus budget bills were introduced, there was much concern over the gutting of habitat protection legislation, as well as a unilateral change to the definition of the term “aboriginal fishery”.
    We talked to the government, which insisted it had consulted with first nations on these massive changes, but when we talked to first nations, it was clear that the government's view of the term “consultations” is very different from how anyone else would define that term.
    One would think “consultations” would mean a somewhat rigorous process whereby input is legitimately sought and incorporated, or at the very least valued, in the decision-making process. However, what I heard was that these consultations often just meant a brief meeting at which government officials informed stakeholder groups of their plans. It was very one-sided. There was no real effort made to gather input, let alone to reflect this input in the final outcome.
    The result of this approach is troubling, and we see it with the bill before us today. Without proper consultation, there is a serious lack of buy-in on the final product, in this case Bill C-9. It means complexities and potential issues in proposed legislation are not fully fleshed out.
    I, for one, was not surprised to hear the government's legal bills have soared to exorbitant levels over the past few years. The government has made massive changes to dozens of pieces of legislation, and its approach has tended to be unilateral in terms of lack of consultation and lack of proper debate and review in the House.
    We have seen dozens upon dozens of time allocation motions. We see that government-controlled committees refuse to incorporate reasonable amendments to problematic legislation, and then they go in camera so that there is not even a public record of their shenanigans. I would prefer that bills be given thorough study and due process so that hopefully the government can avoid these exorbitant legal costs to fix their mistakes. In terms of the omnibus budget bills, the lack of meaningful consultation with first nations was a key driver in the Idle No More protests across the country.
    In conclusion, the Conservative government has promised a new relationship with Canada's first nations, but it is all talk and no action. At every turn, the government prefers to impose legislation without truly consulting with first nations first. First nations have the right to be involved in and consulted on every decision that affects them. The government should work with first nations to solve the problems they are confronting instead of always resorting to knee-jerk paternalism.
    I would like to thank the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan as well as her hard-working staff, who put a lot of effort into understanding this bill and its various propositions and provisions. I would like to thank as well the official opposition critic for aboriginal affairs. She has done an amazing job over the years. My hat is off to her and to her critique of this bill.
    While there are a number of good provisions and goals in this legislation before us today, I cannot, in good faith, vote in support of this bill at third reading.

  (1335)  

    Mr. Speaker, I was a little confused when he said that the government was unilaterally imposing opt-in legislation. I do not know how one would impose opt-in legislation.
    I want to ask him to react to a quote from Ron Evans, Chief of the Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba, who stated:
...when enacted, Bill C- 9 will change the way first nations are governed, create stability and credibility, strengthen self-governance and allow first nations to move forward....
    The current Indian Act election system is not working. It is proven to be weak and creates instability for our communities and their economies.
    I know the NDP does not like to support government legislation, but would it maybe take the words of Ron Evans, former grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and current Chief of the Norway House Cree Nation, that he wants this legislation and he wants us to pass this bill so that his first nation can have this option going forward?
    Mr. Speaker, certainly the NDP is happy to support good legislation at any time. In fact, that is the intent behind the amendments and the comments we have made at committee. I think it would be a good parliamentary process if the government actually listened to not only the official opposition but to first nations.
    The parliamentary secretary quoted one first nation chief. I also want to add a quote from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, who said:
    This proposal does not fulfill the recommendations put forward by the AMC. It appears to be an attempt by the Minister to expand governmental jurisdiction and control the First Nations electoral processes that are created pursuant to the Indian Act or custom code. I am hopeful that Canada will engage in meaningful consultation with First Nations in Manitoba in order to fix the problems, instead of unilaterally imposing a statutory framework that will greatly affect the rights of First Nations.
    I think that is something that the government should heed.

  (1340)  

    Mr. Speaker, Mr. Nepinak makes a valid point. It is something we have talked a great deal about with regard to legislation that impacts our first nations, which is that we have to respect the fact that there is a very strong, able, and capable leadership within our first nations. Far too often we do not allow them to lead the way in legislation, as is required to hopefully enable and foster a better overall relationship.
    I wonder if the member might comment on the importance of acknowledging the strong and powerful leadership that is currently in place within many of our first nations and doing what we can to enable them to provide the leadership in making the necessary changes to have a positive impact on our first nation people.
    Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the question from my colleague and I think it is a very good point.
    In terms of consultation, I think first nations across this country really want to be listened to, have input, and actually lead legislation. They do not just want to be listened to and then be put aside and left out of the legislation.
    We have seen a real development over the years with first nations in their capacity and their willingness to be involved in the process and in their desire to be self-governing. I think that is to be commended. We should, as a federal government, work with the first nations and listen to their comments.
    I want to make a point regarding subclause 3(b) and 3(c) in the proposed legislation, where there are some specific concerns over the ministerial power in the bill. Many first nations have spoken about this, and the government needs to listen if we are really serious about consultation, self-government, and listening to first nations. There are real problems with that subclause.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise to speak to Bill C-9, for several reasons.
    Twenty years ago, I was in Vienna for the World Conference on Human Rights. I am proud to say that I was thrown out of the Vienna conference centre because I dared to stand up for something that was important to me, and that was the recognition of aboriginal peoples as peoples, just like all other peoples on the planet. I had a poster with a big “S” on it because I was insisting that people call us “indigenous peoples” instead of “indigenous populations”. I hope the same thing will not happen in this august chamber if I stress certain points today.
    I would first like to address a number of aspects of this bill that really fascinate me, because there are several aspects of the government's behaviour that I find completely ambiguous. Everyone is supposed to understand that aboriginal peoples are the only distinct group mentioned in the Canadian Constitution and the only one that is referred to separately. In that regard, I think the Constitution should allow a nation-to-nation relationship with those peoples.
    However, that is not the case with this government. This government is not taking action on these relationships, which should have taken on a new scope in January 2012. The way this Conservative government treats the first peoples in this country is certainly not the way partners of Confederation should be treated. There is a problem across the way with relations with aboriginal peoples.
    I mentioned the fight to get recognition for aboriginal peoples as peoples, which took several years to accomplish. Today, I can also tell you that it took us 23 years of discussions, negotiations and drafting to create the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Those 23 years of negotiation took a lot of energy, effort and emotion because it is never easy to work multilaterally, as was the case for those negotiations. It took 23 years to create that declaration, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2007.
    I am proud to have been personally involved in this process, even though it took a very long time. We are used to that. For aboriginals, patience is in our genes, in a way. Sometimes we do not have the choice.
    Sometimes we do have the choice though. Article 3 of the declaration I just mentioned establishes the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination. I mention it because the basic right to self-determination belongs to all people, this right to freely determine their political status. The word "freely" is important here.
    Yet that is not what we have here today. This bill goes against the spirit of self-government that aboriginal peoples should be afforded. It is not in this bill.

  (1345)  

    I would like to quote a witness who appeared before the committee, I believe. Her name is Chief Tammy Cook-Searson of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band. She said:
    
    My main objection to this bill is the lack of positive change from the old Indian Act. Neither the Indian Act nor Bill [C-9] incorporate the constitutional principles of the inherent right to self-determination and governance. The authority in this bill remains with the cabinet and the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada instead of moving towards a greater responsibility with First Nations for our governance.
    That is what I was saying. This opinion is shared by many people.
    There is something about this government that I do not understand. It seems to ignore major global trends.
    Today we are celebrating the life of the great Nelson Mandela. He got rid of a system that had no place on this planet, namely apartheid. While his life is being celebrated, what are we doing here? We are trying to improve a system that does not work. Those are the parliamentary secretary's words. I think that apartheid was largely inspired by the Indian Act and the way aboriginal people were treated in this country. That is an issue.
    In my opinion, another worrisome aspect is the government's lack of willingness to listen to first nations. I want to stress that, because when aboriginal peoples speak of consultation, they are not indulging in political whims. I said that to the House as recently as last week. Calling for consultation is not just a political whim. It is a constitutional duty to consult with first nations and accommodate the concerns expressed during that consultation.
    The government has a dual responsibility, a dual constitutional duty concerning aboriginal peoples; however, it seems to have forgotten that.
    I am always surprised to see that this government does not seem to want to take the path of partnership and co-operation with aboriginal peoples. There is a need for mutual respect. The aboriginal peoples are the original partners of Confederation. It is important to constantly remember that. The government should have really consulted with and listened to the first nations. Changes to this bill have been proposed by a number of aboriginal groups across the country. The intent behind the bill is right, but people have proposed changes and amendments.
    It is important to always remember that we have the constitutional obligation to consult and accommodate aboriginal peoples.
    I have participated in negotiations with the government for many years. That is the only way to move forward with aboriginal peoples. We are certainly not going to accomplish anything by excluding first nations from the table or from discussions.

  (1350)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, again, in the last couple of debates on Bill C-9 and Bill C-15, the NDP members have brought forward witness testimony that they say the government should consider. However, at the same time they refuse to consider the witness testimony of people like Ron Evans of the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs, who say that they want this bill, they want it the way it is, they want it to go forward and they want to be able to opt in.
    The one thing I have heard the most from the NDP members is concern about clause 3, that the minister can choose to put a first nation into this election provision as opposed to back into the Indian Act. I find it ironic that they are concerned about that, when members of the NDP have contacted the minister recently and demanded that he intervene in an election in a first nation in Ontario.
    The NDP members do not seem to want the Bill C-9 provisions, but they have no trouble asking the minister to intervene under the current act.
    Maybe the member could address the hypocrisy of that position of the NDP.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the members on the other side of the House often miss the mark by trying to portray the NDP in this way or that way. That is not what matters today. That is completely ridiculous.
    When we try to present constitutional arguments to the government, the government does not want to listen. Aboriginal people are marching in the streets. In fact, I just came back from one of those demonstrations where people keep repeating that the principle of consultation with aboriginal peoples is vital. It is actually a constitutional obligation. We are not talking about political whims.
    When will this government get the message?

  (1355)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague and I now have to say that it is unacceptable that this government does not consult more with first nations. They play a key role in our Canadian Constitution and we all should be very proud of this.
    My hon. colleague, who made such an impassioned speech, is very well known. I recently saw a documentary on the great explorers of northern Quebec in which he was praised for being among those who listened to our first nations. I also think that he understood them, and I am very proud of him and his work. I think we should pay much more attention to his perspective on this issue. This is important, because I know that many Canadians share this view.
    I would also point out that his work is recognized even beyond our borders. When I travel, I see what the Conservatives are doing to our international reputation and to the way we treat others—because the debate is about that too. I am really disgusted with that attitude.
    I hope that in 2015 we can do some housecleaning. We will quickly clean things up so we can enjoy a truly international reputation.
    Mr. Speaker, I greatly appreciate and humbly acknowledge the comments made by my colleague from Québec.
    I have been working very hard and very patiently on these issues for over 30 years. Often, people tell me that aboriginal affairs are complicated and complex legal issues. However, we have to understand that this does not have to be the case. These issues do not have to be complicated or complex.
    When we find the political will, our political creativity will emerge and allow us to address these issues, which, in my opinion, have been dragging on for far too long.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, which is a vast region in northern Quebec.
    Today, a group of aboriginal people is on Parliament Hill, and I think groups often come to protest the government's actions.
     If the government consulted more with first nations, would there be as many demonstrations on Parliament Hill as there are now? What does my colleague think?
    Mr. Speaker, I can confirm that I was just there. I spoke to the protesters outside. One thing I said was that this would not be the last time we see each other, because the government has not changed its attitude toward the rights and interests of aboriginal peoples across the country at all, even though the Prime Minister promised in January of last year that there would be a radical change in the government's relationships with aboriginal peoples.
    It was just rhetoric, which is unfortunate.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[Translation]

Nelson Mandela

    Mr. Speaker, on this day of special remembrance, I rise to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela.
    On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I would first like to extend our deepest sympathies to his family, to the people of South Africa, and to everyone who has been affected by the life and the loss of this extremely compassionate man.
    Nelson Mandela will always remain a model of determination, courage, dignity and strength of character in the face of hardship and turmoil. Mandela was a rare giant of a man. It would take an entire library to capture his life's work and the lessons he taught us.
    Mandela's life, marked by his political struggles and his willingness to sacrifice, is an example for each and every one of us. His ability to resist pressure, his integrity and his desire to focus on openness and understanding, rather than vengeance and hate, are a testament to his virtue. The courage of this leader, who refused to accept injustice, changed the world.
    May he be an inspiration to us all. Thank you, Madiba.

  (1400)  

[English]

Open Government

    Mr. Speaker, there has been much discussion of late on the topic of increasing democracy and how we can improve Parliament. On that note, I would like to take a moment to recognize the excellent work of the Open Parliament website. Openparliament.ca is a valuable online resource that allows Canadians the opportunity to keep up to date on the work we do here in this place.
    I would also like to recognize Mr. Michael Mulley for his significant work as the one-person driving force behind openparliament.ca, and the Canadian not-for-profit organization Open North, which helps provide financial support for Open Parliament. Citizens like Mr. Mulley and the Open North organization may not be household names, but I hope that all members of the House will join me in recognizing the good work they do in making democracy work better for Canadians.

[Translation]

Holiday Wishes

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to use my last member's statement for 2013 to wish all my constituents in Laval—Les Îles happy holidays and a happy 2014.
    Allow me to wish members and their loved ones peace, health, happiness and prosperity for the new year.
    Let us not forget that many of our constituents will continue to struggle with financial and health woes over the holidays.
    I ask members to spare a thought for them and to give generously during this month of December to our local community organizations such as Meals on Wheels, Moisson Laval, Agape, and the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, to name a few, since my time is limited.
    Let us stand together and continue to work hard on creating a society where no one is left behind. Together we can accomplish a lot. Merry Christmas and happy new year.

[English]

Terry Fox Run Taiwan

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to announce great news for cancer research and to make all Canadians proud of the results of working together, without barriers or frontiers, for the benefit of all.
    The Terry Fox Run in Taiwan had been going for 13 years, but paused in 2007. I commend Judith Fox-Alder, sister of our national hero, Terry Fox, for working together with our Canada-Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Group, legislators of Taiwan, and the National Taiwain University to resurrect the Taiwan Terry Fox Run in 2014.
    I quote from a letter written by Ms. Fox-Alder:
    I could have never imagined...as I watched my brother Terry run his Marathon of Hope in 1980, that I would one day have the great...honour of representing the Family and Foundation at Terry Fox Runs throughout our world....
    We have all been touched in some way by this terrible disease. Terry's vision and strength of conviction accomplished more than we could have ever imagined....
    Thanks to the power of international collaboration, we are one step closer to fulfillment of that vision. Let us give a big cheer to Judith, the Terry Fox Foundation, Canada, and Taiwan for this incredible accomplishment.

Government Contracts

    Mr. Speaker, earlier today I met with representatives of the National Trade Contractors Coalition of Canada, a group representing 12 trade organizations, including the Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada, the Canadian Electrical Contractors Association, the Contractors Division of the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors of Canada, and the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction.
    As a person whose household made its living from construction for more than 30 years, it was a pleasure to reminisce with many of the people from these groups this morning. As the Liberal critic for industry, I was especially pleased to have the opportunity to discuss their proposal for a prompt payment plan. In short, this plan would help to ensure that the government pays its bills on time, just as all other Canadians are expected to do, and that the money paid goes to the people who actually do the work, including the subcontractors.
    I hope that all members will join with me in supporting this prompt payment plan. Let us make sure that contractors get paid for the very great, dependable work they do for all of us as Canadians.

  (1405)  

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, recently Warren Buffett and Jorge Lemann, after buying Heinz, announced that they are padlocking the Leamington plant next year, throwing 740 people out of work. This is devastating for workers, farmers, and the supply chain and for Leamington, Kingsville, and our region. The billionaires apparently have money to burn, just not to invest in Leamington.
    Even lower than two billionaires bottom-lining was the ambulance-chasing of the federal and provincial NDP, falsely blaming a regulatory change that never occurred. Canadian container-size regulations remain in place for the food processing sector.
    By contrast, our government will help these workers through EI and job retraining. Our economic action plans have put in place millions for the processing sector and have renewed FedDev Ontario with nearly a billion dollars, in spite of NDP opposition. Local efforts are in full gear to find a new proponent with a plan to restore hope and opportunity to our region. With our programs, our government is ready to help.

Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women

    Mr. Speaker, this week the Special Committee on Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women heard from families from across Canada. We heard powerful messages from families whose loved ones were killed or are still missing.
    I want to thank the families from northern Manitoba who came to Ottawa to share their painful stories. I want to thank Wesley Flett, Brenda Bignell, Brenda Osborne, and Bernadette, the sister of Claudette Osborne.
    The committee did not have a chance to hear from the Nepinak family. Gail and Joyce Nepinak were invited to speak on behalf of their sister and daughter, Tanya Nepinak. Her murder is thought to be linked to a serial killer in Manitoba. They are known as fearless advocates in our province.
    On Sunday, like on many days, they faced systemic discrimination when they could not board the plane to come to Ottawa. Systemic discrimination too often denies aboriginal people the right to the most basic services, even the right to vote, and the most basic right to security for them and their families because of their marginalization. We can do better.

India

    Mr. Speaker, today, on Human Rights Day, it is important that we remember the thousands of innocent Sikh men, women, and children who were killed in the streets of New Delhi and other parts of India in 1984. In 2005, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh apologized for this brutal massacre, saying, “I bow my head in shame that such a thing took place”.
    One of the survivors, Bibi Jagdish Kaur, is currently in Ottawa to tell her story. She lost her husband. She lost her son. She lost three cousins during this terrible attack. She is still seeking justice for her family and other victims. I had the opportunity to speak with her and to hear her tragic story.
    Prime Minister Singh has stated that the perpetrators of these crimes need to be brought to justice. I agree. I invite all of my colleagues in the House to join me in condemning this massacre, remembering its victims, and encouraging the Indian government to actively pursue those responsible to ensure that justice is served.

Michael Pegg and John Zivcic

    Mr. Speaker, it is my great honour to rise today to remember two great men who lost their lives in the service of our communities, and indeed, our country. York Regional Police Constable Michael Pegg and Toronto Police Constable John Zivcic both gave their lives answering the highest human call, that being public service.
    I offer my condolences to the Pegg, Zivcic, York Regional Police, and Toronto Police Service families. I am incredibly proud to take this moment to say “thank you”. Canadians from coast to coast should take time to pay tribute to these true fallen heroes and to our heroes still selflessly serving Canada in all sorts of uniforms.
    We are forever in the debt of Constables Pegg and Zivcic. Their legacies will not soon be forgotten, and we will strive each day to serve as honourably and as selflessly as they both did.

[Translation]

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, in recent days, four Canadian soldiers have taken their own lives. We extend our condolences to the families of Warrant Officer Michael McNeil, Master Corporal William Elliott, Master Bombardier Travis Halmrast and Master Corporal Sylvain Lelièvre.
    Canadians were shocked to learn of the tragic deaths of these heroes. It is not enough to lament this phenomenon; we must take action to prevent the suicide of our military personnel. Unfortunately, 71 soldiers have committed suicide since 2008, and that does not include reservists.
    It is our collective duty to help those who made sacrifices to resume a normal life when they return from their mission. It is the government's responsibility to allocate all the resources required to do so. Unfortunately, the government is going in the opposite direction. At a time in their lives when they have the greatest need for human contact, JPSU does not have enough staff to meet needs, and our veterans are being forced to use Internet services because the government is closing nine Veterans Affairs Canada offices.
    These heroes may not have been killed in action, but we believe that they nevertheless sacrificed their lives for their country. Nous nous souviendrons d'eux. Lest we forget.

  (1410)  

[English]

Seniors

    Mr. Speaker, with Christmas approaching, I would like to take a moment today to talk about Canadian seniors. For most of us, the holidays are a time filled with laughter, fun, family and cheer, but a lot of seniors face social isolation and loneliness. Social isolation can be very serious. It can lead to loss of well-being and even premature illness and death.
    Our government is taking steps to tackle this important issue. Today I ask all members, in fact all Canadians, to help. It is simple. All they have to do is to connect with Volunteer Canada, at 1-800-670-0401, and be referred to opportunities to help seniors over the holidays. Also, people can call United Way's 211 line and be connected with a senior who is alone over Christmas.
    I ask all residents of my riding of Calgary Centre, all MPs in the House and all Canadians to please reach out and help a senior this Christmas.

[Translation]

Laval Volunteer Centre

    Mr. Speaker, the year is coming to a close. As they do every year during the holiday season, residents of Laval are working together to help the less fortunate. Along with community organizations and health care centres in Laval, the Centre de bénévolat et moisson Laval is collecting donations in order to make the 29th Christmas basket campaign a true success. The people of Laval are generous. Last year, over a million kilograms of food were distributed to Laval residents in need. This was made possible in part by the work of hundreds of volunteers. I would like to thank them.
    Congratulations to the Centre de bénévolat et moisson Laval for its hard work and its dedication to this cause in these difficult times. We all want a society where nobody is left behind, which unfortunately is not the case right now. However, we will not lose hope and we will continue to fight together every day to eliminate inequities.

[English]

Taxation

    Mr. Speaker, for most Canadians, the holidays are a time of celebration and festivities. For some Canadian families, however, it can be a time of exceptional hardship. Thankfully, charities like the United Way are there to provide some relief. Our government recognizes the important work that charities do for our communities, and we want to ensure we do all we can to encourage charitable giving.
     In 2012, tax relief from charitable donations was over $2.98 billion. We want to see that number grow. That is why in economic action plan 2013, our government proudly introduced the first-time donor super credit. This provides an additional 25% to first-time donors, in addition to existing federal and provincial credits. Our government will always be there to support the work of charities.

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker,

'Twas the week before Christmas and the Prime Minister's cast;
Were haunted by the scandals of ghosts from his past.

The PM denied when the first ghosts came calling;
That was Duffy, Brazeau and Pamela Wallin.

They attacked allegations with yuletide vendettas;
By stretching the truth and talking poinsettias.

The next ghost wrote a cheque that caused quite a fuss;
In no time at all, he was under the bus.
They tried what they could to keep it from worsening;
But then Deloitte got a call from Senator Gerstein.

The emails police found that the boss wasn't sharin';
That was thanks to the ghost of Benjamin Perrin.

Rob Ford's an old ghost that no one's enjoying.
He's really not scary, more so just annoying.

But it's ghosts of the future, who could possibly threaten;
Think Tkachuk, Stewart Olsen and Marjory LeBreton.

Like Dickens' great tale of the bitter old miser;
We'd expect those in power to conduct themselves wiser.

The truth will come out, we hope and we pray
Cause Canadians know even Scrooge found his way.

  (1415)  

Human Trafficking

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, I was thrilled to join the Minister of Public Safety in Montreal to announce our government's next step in the fight to combat human trafficking, our modern-day slavery.
    As committed by our government in the 2012 national action plan to combat human trafficking, the Minister of Public Safety announced the launch of a special RCMP enforcement team to combat human trafficking, which will be based in Montreal.
    Members of the special RCMP team will work closely with law enforcement partners in the province of Quebec and all across Canada to tackle and dismantle vicious human trafficking rings and bring freedom to their many victims. In fact, only hours after yesterday's announcement, the team arrested four massage parlour operators as part of project combative, which has been targeting a ring of traffickers responsible for luring young Romanian women to Canada.
    I want to thank the Minister of Public Safety for his particular dedication to ending modern-day slavery. I invite all members to join me in commending the work of the RCMP's new integrated enforcement team.

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, this morning we witnessed a travesty of democracy: another Conservative attempt to cover up for a scandal-plagued Prime Minister. Our ethics committee is considering an NDP motion to study Ben Perrin's infamous disappearing emails. Conservatives once argued for open government, but now they prefer to debate in the shadows, away from the public view.

[Translation]

    This morning, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister led the effort to make sure that the Conservatives can continue to keep Canadians in the dark.
    The Conservatives' contempt for democracy and transparency continues to grow. They misled the House and Canadians. They made Parliament into a circus with their stories about pizza. They applauded the Prime Minister when he washed his hands of a crime committed in his own office by his own staff.
    As time goes by, Canadians are realizing more and more that they deserve better than a government that is constantly wheeling and dealing. They deserve an alternative to the old party that is jaded by power and has lost its principles in an effort to hold on to that power. The alternative is the NDP.

[English]

Christmas

    Mr. Speaker, Christmas is approaching soon. In an effort to be inclusive and to avoid causing offence, some Canadians are trying to dampen its spirit. Political correctness and commercialization dilute the true meaning and the spirit of Christmas. Christians must not be denied the right to openly celebrate it. Christmas cannot be Christmas without Christ in it.
    How can we justify wishing someone a happy Diwali, Vaisakhi, Eid or Chinese New Year while avoiding the words “merry Christmas”. As a Sikh, I am not offended when Christians celebrate Christmas in a traditional way, and I rather enjoy celebrating with them and participating in the spirit of giving.
    Canada stands as a symbol of tolerance and religious freedom. We must continue to respect and uphold religious rights. Freedom of religion means that all Canadians have the equal opportunity to openly practise their faith, including Christians.
    I ask that members please join me in wishing everyone a merry, merry Christmas.

Oral Questions

[Oral Questions]

[Translation]

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, this morning, before forcing the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics to go in camera, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister opposed the NDP motion calling for an investigation into the Benjamin Perrin emails that were deleted by the Privy Council Office.
    Who in the Conservative government instructed the parliamentary secretary to do such a thing?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I understand the committee in question was meeting in camera, so I was not aware of what was going on.
     I can say this. The Privy Council Office has taken responsibility for the technical, even inadvertent, problem with respect to the emails in question. The moment the mistake was brought to our attention, we immediately informed the relevant authorities.
    Mr. Speaker, I can tell the minister that Conservatives went in camera because they were scared of an NDP motion to investigate the deleted emails, but before the Conservatives shut out the public, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and for Intergovernmental Affairs said that no investigation was necessary.
    Does the Prime Minister share this view? Does he believe, like his parliamentary secretary, that no investigation is needed into how the government handled these missing emails?

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is a fact that the Privy Council Office has taken responsibility for this issue.
    Mr. Speaker, we started this scandal with a Conservative cover-up, and today the cover-up continues. Conservatives evaded questions, they misled the public and they kept crucial information secret. If Conservatives really do not think that an investigation is necessary into what happened to Ben Perrin's emails, then why do they not just give Canadians a little bit of accountability, maybe an early Christmas gift? Why do they not actually release all the relevant emails to the public today?
    Mr. Speaker, what did happen is that the Privy Council made the office of the Prime Minister aware of this mistake and immediately the relevant authorities were advised and we said we would make all these emails available to them immediately.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we want to know why Benjamin Perrin's emails were deleted.
    Mr. Perrin was the Prime Minister's legal advisor. Anything that relates to the Prime Minister's Office and the attempt to cover up the Senate scandal is the administrative responsibility of the government, since it has to do with the management of the government's affairs.
    Do Benjamin Perrin's emails contradict the claim that there was no legal agreement?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I think the Prime Minister has been very clear in responding to those questions about the fact that he was not aware of the actions of Mr. Wright in this regard. We have said that all these emails, which have been recovered, will be made available to the authorities so they can look at all these issues.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to go back to what happened this morning at the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.
    Could government ministers tell us what instructions were given to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister about that meeting?
    Did my colleague opposite receive an order to oppose the motion? If no one gave him that order, why did he oppose the motion?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Privy Council Office has publicly written and taken responsibility for the inadvertent and technical issue with respect to these emails. The minute that letter from the Privy Council Office with its apology was received, we informed the relevant authorities and they can have access immediately to all the emails whenever they like.

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, six out of ten first nations youth do not complete high school. With population growth over four times that of the rest of the country, this impacts all Canadians. The crisis is evident with a funding gap of thousands less per student, but proposed federal legislation offers no clear funding and a total lack of consultation. First nations leadership calls it unacceptable.
    When will the government be bringing forward a real proposal to deal with aboriginal education?
    Mr. Speaker, our first nation children must have access to a comprehensive education regime that is currently available to other Canadian students, and this cannot be achieved without legislation.
     This government remains committed to working with first nation leaders, parents and educators to fix the current loan system that has been failing students for too long. As I indicated yesterday, our government will invest new funds in kindergarten and grades 1 to 12 education on reserve, once our new legislative framework is in place.

[Translation]

Champlain Bridge

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have been dragging their feet for years about the Champlain Bridge. They have made no commitment to the province, have not held a public consultation and signed a contract without a bidding process. They do not even have a plan. All we know is that Montrealers will have to pay dearly to use this bridge.
    When will this government give Montrealers a full, clear and coherent plan to replace the Champlain Bridge?

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, after 13 long years of inaction by the Liberal government, our government stepped up to make the necessary repairs to the Champlain Bridge. We promised that the bridge would be done in 2018 with a public-private partnership, and that it would be a toll bridge and involve public transportation. I call that a very clear plan.

[English]

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, Conservatives stonewalling on the PMO scandal defined this session of Parliament: nonsensical answers in question period; lost, then found, email evidence from the PMO's lawyer; blocking testimony and investigations in both the House and the Senate.
    Looking back on this fall, will anyone on the other side stand up and express their regret to Canadians for the approach this government has taken over the past month?
    Mr. Speaker, I believe the Liberal Party certainly knows how to see the glass half full.
    Obviously one person has taken responsibility and two people are being investigated by the authorities, as they properly should. We await the outcome.

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, last night the CBC released documents concerning the activities of Communications Security Establishment Canada. CSEC cannot spy on Canadians, but the documents allege that the agency invites the United States National Security Agency to operate inside Canadian facilities in this country and inside CSEC facilities in approximately 20 countries around the world.
    Can the government confirm that this is the case? What plans does the government have to beef up parliamentary oversight of this agency?
    Mr. Speaker, I cannot comment on specific intelligence activities or capabilities, but I do have good news for the hon. member.
    There is a commissioner who looks into CSEC. Every year for 16 years, the commissioner has confirmed that its activities have been lawful here. The commissioner has done that for the last 16 years, and he is an independent individual, so I am sure that will assure the hon. member.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the question is not whether Communications Security Establishment Canada is supposed to obey the law, but whether CSEC actually did obey the law. The documents uncovered by Snowden indicate that the Americans operated in Canadian facilities here and abroad. It therefore seems that the Conservative government was complicit in spying on some of our trade partners.
    Can the government confirm whether that is indeed true? If so, who approved this operation?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would point out to the hon. member, as I did to her colleague, that there is an independent commissioner who oversees and looks at the activities of CSEC.
    Not only has CSEC complied with Canadian law this last year, but it has done so for the last 16 years. If she is looking for information or proof, I suggest she look at that. It is on the record of Parliament.

[Translation]

Ethics

    Mr. Speaker, let us come back to the Senate. The Prime Minister said in the House, more than once, that Nigel Wright was the only one involved in the secret repayment agreement. We know that is not true. We also know that the Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary opposed the NDP motion to shed light on Perrin's deleted emails.
    Why? Did he know that these emails prove that the Prime Minister misled the House?

[English]

    The committee made no decision. They are still debating this right now. The committee made the decision to go in camera when the NDP chair seemed to lose control, because the NDP members seemed to find it more interesting to point-of-order themselves than to actually deal with the motion that was on the table.
    It was amazing how much debate got done once the cameras were off, and the committee will make its own decision with respect to that going forward.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, that is the art of not answering a question.
    The parliamentary secretary can try to deflect responsibility away from the Prime Minister, but he is the one who told the House, verbatim, that Benjamin Perrin was not involved in a legal agreement. Now that his office and the police are in possession of the emails that magically reappeared, can a government member tell us what role Benjamin Perrin really played in this scandal?

  (1430)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I have said on a number of occasions, as soon as the Privy Council found out that these emails were available, it made them available to the RCMP. That, of course, is the kind of leadership that one would expect. It is the type of leadership that this Prime Minister has displayed. When he found out in May that this had actually been taking place in his office, he ordered his office to fully assist the RCMP.
    I contrast that to the Leader of the Opposition, who for 17 years thought that hiding something was the appropriate course of action. Clearly, there is a lack of it.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we are wondering what is really in those emails. Do the Conservatives feel so threatened that they are trying to prevent an investigation into the mysterious temporary disappearance of the emails, which reappeared not so long ago? When will the government finally make public the content of the Prime Minister's former legal adviser's emails? When?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the committee is still considering the motion that was brought forward.
    However, as I have said, as soon as the Privy Council Office found out that these emails had been put into a separate file that had been sequestered, it immediately made them available to the RCMP to review.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, would it be possible to have a minister respond? After all, this scandal is due to an administrative error on the part of the government. Could a minister confirm whether Benjamin Perrin's emails contain information that incriminates the Prime Minister? Could any information incriminate the Prime Minister, yes or no?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, our ministers have been working extraordinarily hard, not only on this but on all kinds of different files. That is why one million net new jobs have been created in this country. That is why the Minister of National Defence is busy ensuring that our forces have the equipment they need. That is why the Minister of Justice brought forward a victims' bill of rights. That is why the Minister of State for sport is undertaking the Pan Am Games. That is why the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is ensuring that our forces have the equipment they need. That is why the Minister of Natural Resources is making our resources available. That is why the Minister of International Trade is working on a free trade deal. I could go on and on.
    Mr. Speaker, once the Prime Minister claimed Ben Perrin was not involved in the legal agreement, but the RCMP proved that wrong.
    The Prime Minister then claimed that no one except Nigel Wright knew about the deal, but RCMP documents proved that wrong too.
    Is there any other information about this cover-up that the Conservative government would like to share with Canadians before the RCMP releases more details?
    Mr. Speaker, the RCMP indicated that the Prime Minister, as soon as he found out, ordered his office to assist the RCMP so that it had all the information it needed to uncover what had happened.
    The Prime Minister also said that had he known, he would have in no way accepted such an agreement.
    Again, I contrast that to the Leader of the Opposition who, when given the opportunity 17 years ago to admit that he had been offered a bribe, decided to tell nobody. He waited until 2011 to tell anybody that he had been offered a bribe.
    That is not really the type of leadership Canadians expect. That is why he is in opposition.
    Mr. Speaker, this politically wounded Prime Minister and his parliamentary secretary are having a hard time keeping the lid on.
    This morning at the ethics committee, the parliamentary secretary forced out the media from hearing a motion on studying Ben Perrin's mysteriously disappearing emails, emails that were hidden from the RCMP for six months.
    If everything is on the up-and-up, why cover up such shambolic handling of police evidence? If there is nothing to hide, why not just allow the investigation?
    Mr. Speaker, as I said, the committee is obviously still reviewing this motion, but the NDP chair seemed to be losing control when NDP members started point-of-ordering themselves in committee. That did not seem to be an effective use of the committee's time. There were three other motions that we had to discuss at the same time.
    What is clear is that the RCMP has stated that the Prime Minister insisted that his office assist it and provide all the information that is needed. That is real leadership. Also, on page 72, the documents clearly outline that the Prime Minister had no knowledge of what was going on. As the Prime Minister said, had he known, he would have put a stop to it.

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that, speaking of shambolic and all.
    Here is another question from the RCMP files. We have seen from the RCMP that the Prime Minister's Office was panicking that the Duffy residency issues were going to expose other senators. In fact, on February 15, Nigel Wright wrote that he was concerned that Mike Duffy's residency problems would expose Senator Patterson in B.C.
    Why would the Prime Minister's Office refer to a senator from Nunavut as a senator from British Columbia? Does the government believe that Senator Patterson actually meets the legal requirements to sit in the Senate?
    Mr. Speaker, clearly he does, but at the same time let us recognize the hard work of that senator for his region of the country. Senator Patterson, a former premier of the Northwest Territories, has also been very active and aggressive in making sure that the people of the Northwest Territories have access to better jobs and that their resources are used to improve the economy of the Northwest Territories. Of course, this government has taken the north very seriously, unlike the opposition.
    Of course, we are even defending the north further by making a claim on the North Pole. We know that the Liberals do not think that the North Pole or Santa Claus is in Canada. We do. We are going to make sure that we protect them as best we can.
    Mr. Speaker, for eight months Canadians have been demanding answers about the Wright-Duffy affair. How did the PMO know in advance what would be in the Deloitte audit? Why did no one in the PMO tell the RCMP about the two illegal payoff schemes? Why do the staffers involved still hold on to their government jobs?
    Would someone on the government side give Canadians an early Christmas present and answer even one of these questions?
    Mr. Speaker, of course we know what time of year it is when we get silly questions like that.
    The reality is that the RCMP is investigating this matter. The RCMP has identified that it is Nigel Wright and Senator Duffy who are the subjects of the investigation. The RCMP has identified that the Prime Minister did not know what was being undertaken. The RCMP has also highlighted the fact that the Prime Minister ordered his office to work with and assist the RCMP, providing as much help as it could to help the RCMP get to the bottom of this. The RCMP is investigating, and we will let it do its job.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, let us look at other questions that the Prime Minister has refused to answer in the past eight months.
    Did the Prime Minister know about Irving Gerstein's decision to pay Mike Duffy $32,000?
    Did he know that Irving Gerstein secretly contacted one of his Conservative friends at Deloitte?
    Did he order his ministers to hire his former employees who were involved in this affair?
    Will this government give Canadians a Christmas present today and answer at least one of these questions?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, Senator Gerstein has made it quite clear that he did not and was not going to be paying back Senator Duffy's expenses. The Prime Minister has already identified that.
    With respect to giving Canadians a gift, it is hard to take that party seriously when the person who we most look to this year to give gifts, including my daughters, is Santa Claus. All of a sudden the Liberals are suggesting that Santa Claus is no longer Canadian and that they would abandon the North Pole and abandon Santa Claus. On this side of the House, we are going to stand up not only for my daughters, but for your family as well, Mr. Speaker, and for all those young Canadians, in the spirit of Christmas, who are waiting for Santa Claus to come and visit.
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister claims his ethics scandal is confined to just two miscreants: Duffy, the greedy senator, whom the Prime Minister once called his best appointment, and Wright, the great deceiver, whose ethical advice the Prime Minister praised in his book on hockey.
    However, there are more: van Hemmen, Rogers, Woodcock, Byrne, Hilton, Novak, Perrin, Hamilton, Gerstein, LeBreton, Tkachuk, and Stewart Olsen, all named by police in relation to the cover-up.
    Which of these people have now been interviewed by the Mounties, not just once but twice? Which ones?

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, the RCMP are currently undertaking an investigation.
    The RCMP, I am sure, will ask anybody they feel they need to ask with respect to this. They have identified that Nigel Wright and Senator Duffy are the subject of the investigation. I trust that the RCMP will continue to do the work they need to do to find whatever information they need.
    At the same time, I ask the Liberal Party to join with us in protecting the citizenship of Santa Claus, join with us in making sure the North Pole remains part of Canada. For all of those kids around the world who are depending on Santa Claus, I ask them to abandon their ideas and stick with us, and keep Santa Claus Canadian.

[Translation]

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, it is very nice to believe in Santa Claus, but we also have to believe in the people who live in the north.
    There is growing anger against the Conservative agenda on education for first nations. From the members of Idle No More who are protesting on Parliament Hill today to the Assembly of First Nations, which is holding its special assembly, everyone agrees that the minister needs to redo his homework.
    Instead of confrontation, the minister could choose co-operation and consultation to truly ensure that aboriginal children have equal access to quality education.
    When will the minister listen?
    Mr. Speaker, the member may well want to play politics at the expense of children on reserves, but the fact remains that this issue is far more serious than his little game.
    We introduced a legislative proposal concerning the first nations, and we are ready to continue working with them and engaging in dialogue with them so that we can correct a broken system that effectively fails most students on reserves across the country.
    We will continue to work constructively to that end.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, investing in first nation schools is in the interest of all Canadians.
    However, this minister is promising new funds only if he gets his way on the first nations education bill. This is just plain wrong. The funding gap must be closed now.
    A generation of first nations children is looking to Ottawa. How much longer will the government make these kids wait to get equal funding for their education? When will that minister stop playing politics with first nations education?
    Mr. Speaker, I will stand and correct the hon. member.
    First nation students are not looking to the federal government. They are looking to first nation band councils in their communities and their parents to make sure they have the tools to provide them access to a good education system.
    Again, notwithstanding the rhetoric on the other side of the House, my point is that we must work together, first nations, governments, stakeholders, parents and students, in order to ensure that we have a system that can provide first nation students with a good education system—
    The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

Natural Resources

    Mr. Speaker, the truth is Conservatives have broken faith with first nations on education, and also in their failed approach to the northern gateway pipeline.
    This project faces overwhelming opposition from first nations and local communities because people know it is not the right way forward for the economy or for the environment.
    When the joint review panel delivers its verdict later this month, will the Conservative government respect local opposition to the project and will it finally start working to achieve co-operation rather than conflict with first nations in Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, unlike the member opposite, our government will wait to hear from the independent scientific review before it makes its determination.
    I have spoken to many first nations and they understand the importance of the transformative opportunities of responsible resource development to the economy and to the communities in their area.
    I am very encouraged by their response to the Eyford report. Going forward, we are going to work together in their best interests.

  (1445)  

Canada Revenue Agency

    Mr. Speaker, time and time again Conservatives put partisan politics ahead of sound policy.
     Instead of listening to the concerns of Canadians, the Conservative government is targeting environmental groups. It has spent millions investigating 900 groups that disagree with its agenda, and the Canada Revenue Agency has found only one with a problem. Meanwhile, the Conservatives have gutted the CRA unit tasked with going after organized crime.
     When will the Conservatives stop this taxpayer-funded witch hunt against Canadians who happen to disagree with them and start going after the billions lost to tax havens?
    Mr. Speaker, section 241 prevents me from commenting directly on any specific case. However, our government understands that registered charities are an important part of our society and encourages Canadians to donate generously but also to do their homework, such as on our first-time donor super credit that we announced recently.
    In order to protect Canadian interests, we have a duty to ensure that these organizations are operating properly and in compliance with our laws. In cases where the activities of a charity are suspect, CRA will conduct a review and take action as appropriate under the act, and does so free of political direction.

Natural Resources

    Mr. Speaker, our country's economy benefits from the natural resource sector with nearly 20% of our GDP and 1.8 million jobs being supported.
    While our government understands the importance of our resources, the NDP want to shut it down. The leader of the NDP referred to our oil sands as causing a disease to our economy, which is a theory that has been debunked across the spectrum.
    Can the Minister of Natural Resources update the House on the benefits of natural resource development?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Prince Albert for his insightful question.
    Recently, the NDP leader escalated his shambolic opposition to resource development by saying that he would overhaul the regulatory process and prevent some projects from applying for an independent regulatory review.
    This sends a very unsettling message to capital markets about the NDP at the very moment domestic and international investors are considering multi-billion dollar investments in energy projects. In contrast, our government allows the regulators to do their job.

Pensions

    Mr. Speaker, by voting against last night's NDP motion on CPP, the government made it clear that retirement security for people in northern Ontario and right across Canada is not a Conservative priority.
     In June, the Minister of Finance promised to work with the provinces on fixing CPP. Experts agree a modest phased-in CPP increase is the right way to go, but the Minister of Finance now does not believe the experts and is breaking his promise.
    Why is the minister letting politics trump good public policy?
    Mr. Speaker, we will continue to work with the provinces and territories to improve the Canada pension plan. However, we do not believe that this is the right time to be increasing the burden on employees and employers by increasing premiums while the economy is fragile.
    The NDP plan to raise CPP costs will kill up to 70,000 jobs in our economy. Those members should know that it is difficult to have a healthy retirement plan for tomorrow if there is no job for today.
    Despite the NDP's reckless plans, we continue to stand up for lower taxes, job creation and economic growth for all Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, the NDP approach is the responsible approach. No one is buying this ridiculous Conservative fearmongering.
    People in British Columbia and across Canada want a strong, sustainable CPP. People know that a modest phased-in increase is affordable and will pay dividends down the road.
    Why is the minister breaking his June promise to work with the provinces and fix CPP? Why are Conservatives putting attack politics ahead of Canadians who want to retire with dignity?

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, as I said, we do continue to look at Canada pension plan reform.
    I can assure the House that the NDP's plan to double the CPP premiums while the economy is still fragile is not a moderate proposal. The irresponsible NDP plan could force a family with two workers in the home to pay as much as $2,600 a year more. In this fragile global economy, Canadians simply cannot afford the NDP.

[Translation]

Employment Insurance

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Employment shamefully accused Sylvie Therrien of lying. She blew the whistle on the employment insurance quotas created by the Conservatives.
    If anyone is lying here, it is not her. Ms. Therrien disclosed that first nations, new Canadians and seasonal workers were a huge target for inspectors.
    Does the government understand that it is highly discriminatory to profile the unemployed based on their employment sector or ethnicity?
    Mr. Speaker, first of all, there are no quotas. Second, the government has not changed its policy in that regard. Third, the idea that Service Canada is targeting certain groups when it comes to employment insurance fraud is completely, 100%, false. It is totally false. We completely reject this false allegation, which is totally unfounded. It is completely irresponsible to repeat those false allegations.
    Mr. Speaker, Ms. Therrien first blew the whistle on the quotas and the government claimed that there are none. It took leaked documents to prove that there are. It is incredible.
    Meanwhile, Ms. Therrien continues her courageous crusade—perhaps the minister should go out there and check on the situation—by revealing how the government has a bias against specific groups and targets them. She knows what she is talking about. She received those instructions. The Conservatives want people to believe them, even though they have been shown to be in the wrong.
    Are they going to end the practice of treating entire groups of Canadians like criminals? The minister should go out into the field to see what is really happening.
    Mr. Speaker, these questions and the way in which they are asked are frankly ridiculous. Let me be perfectly clear: there are no quotas in employment insurance fraud investigations, either in the system or at Service Canada. Absolutely no specific groups are targeted, including new Canadians and aboriginal people.
    To say the opposite is completely irresponsible. I am asking the NDP to show some responsibility in this matter.

[English]

Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, today I joined those gathered on the steps of Parliament Hill to echo the message delivered in rallies across Canada last week. The government's proposal for first nations education is not acceptable.
    The minister still refuses to discuss equitable funding for first nations education until after his bill has passed. Will the minister put forward a fully funded plan that includes language and culture, and respects, supports and empowers first nations to control their own education systems?
    Mr. Speaker, we are hearing the same call to throw money at an old system. First nations across the country, stakeholders and education experts in the field, the Auditor General and the Senate committee all agree. Everyone has recommended that we get a legislative framework to provide a good education system for students on reserve.
    As I indicated yesterday, of course the government is committed to funding the necessary system to accomplish this goal. Instead of just spinning our wheels on this false debate, let us get to the substance—
    The hon. member for Vancouver Quadra.

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are failing our armed forces members. The Minister of National Defence claims that mentally injured troops simply need to step up and ask for help.
    Last week in Petawawa, I was told something different. I was told that to seek help is to risk getting kicked out of the armed forces and that the injured need twice the peer support that they are currently getting. I was told that delays in hiring health professionals are due to budget cuts.
    Why is the minister blaming the injured and denying the critical gaps in the necessary supports for our women and men in uniform?

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, those comments by the hon. member are completely untrue. The government has made it a priority to reach out to ill and injured members of the armed forces. We work with them. There have been unprecedented investments in this area. We have the highest ratio of mental health workers of all our NATO allies.
    We are getting the job done and we will continue to support the men and women in uniform, as well as the veterans in this country.

[Translation]

Canadian Heritage

    Mr. Speaker, we are a little more than three years away from the 150th anniversary of Confederation and the Conservatives have barely started organizing.
    Frankly, I have seen surprise parties that were better organized than this. All the Conservatives have done is waste $40,000 on embarrassingly amateur logos and sign the Canadian civilization and history museums up for a partnership with oil companies. Cities like Boucherville wanted to build a legacy, but they were told that there is no plan for that.
    Can the government tell us when it will at least have a budget, a plan or a direction to celebrate this important anniversary?
    Mr. Speaker, my department is working on plans to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation. In a few days we will be launching consultations in Canada.
    As for the logo for Government of Canada activities, we are listening to what Canadians have to say. We will continue with our planning. This will be an extraordinary celebration for our entire country.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government keeps telling us it is going to be great, that we should believe it because we should believe it about everything else.
    The Conservative government—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. I do recall asking members many times previously to wait until the hon. member has finished her question. If they choose to applaud her question at the end of it, then they can feel free to do so, but not in the middle of her question.
    The hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government has been misusing and mismanaging advertising and funds. They have wasted millions on economic action plans that just do not work. Now, they are wasting even more money presenting Canada's 150th anniversary logo designs to focus groups. After spending tens of thousands of dollars, the government's proposed logos were so underwhelming there was no clear winner.
    How can Canadians trust the Conservative government to organize these historic celebrations when it cannot even manage to pick a logo?
    Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of all Canadians, this government has done a lot to ensure Canadians' voices are heard. When we plan the 150th anniversary of our country, I can assure Canadians that their voices will again be heard. Whether it be the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the national flag, whether it be the commemoration of First and Second World War events, whether it be the celebration of the Charlottetown and Quebec conferences, Canadians can count on this Conservative government to be present and listening.
    While the NDP may stay home, we are going to be there celebrating the 150th with all Canadians.

Sports

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians love sport and we love even more getting others into sport. Sport is a key part of our culture and our identity. It has the ability to bring us closer together and instil national pride. Of course, many of us will fondly remember what a great job Canada did hosting the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where we finished number one in gold medals and third overall in the medal count.
    With just 59 days to go until the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, could the Minister of State for Sport please tell the House what our government is doing to ensure Team Canada is well prepared for these upcoming games?
    Mr. Speaker, our government is proud to be the single largest contributor to sport in our country. In fact, our winter athletes have benefited from a 112% increase in funding from the previous Liberal government.
    This support has allowed Canada to emerge as a leading sport nation and provide our athletes with cutting-edge science and research, a world-class training environment and the best coaching in the world. The 2014 Sochi winter games is an occasion to come together as Canadians to support our athletes in their pursuit of excellence. I call on all members to say “Go, Canada, go”.

  (1500)  

Health

    Mr. Speaker, I met with over 55 concerned constituents on Saturday, who fear the current mean-spirited government will cut their health care benefits. They are among thousands of retired public servants who have paid into a health care plan for decades to ensure they would be looked after in their senior years.
    Now they hear the Conservatives plan to unilaterally double their monthly payments and restrict access to their health care. Will the President of the Treasury Board stand today and will he promise today to keep his paws off their benefits?
    Mr. Speaker, discussions are ongoing, but I can tell the House, it is a repeat of the language in the budget.
    We are seeking fair and reasonable discussions with the public sector representatives of the various bargaining tables. We want to protect the taxpayer from loads that are not sustainable in terms of public sector salary costs, and we will continue to represent and protect the taxpayer.

Canadian Heritage

    Mr. Speaker, the 2014 Rhubarb festival put on by the Toronto theatre group Buddies in Bad Times is celebrating its 35th year, but after 34 successful years and hundreds of outstanding original Canadian performances, the Conservatives terminated their partnership and cut funding without any warning.
    Why are Conservatives suddenly turning their backs on one of the leading and longest-running LGBT performance festivals in Canada? Will they now do the right thing and restore funding to this groundbreaking festival?
    Mr. Speaker, that question allows me to stand and celebrate the fact that Canadian Heritage is responsible for providing funding to over 1,100 festivals across the country from coast to coast to coast.
    In fact, all of them go through a rigorous procedure to meet the criteria that are set, and as always, I will continue to work with the very capable public servants in the Canadian Heritage Department to ensure that those festivals that qualify do in fact get the funding they require.

Status of Women

    Mr. Speaker, today marks the final day of 16 days of activism against gender violence in Canada. It is also International Human Rights Day.
    Over the past 16 days, Canadians have taken action by talking with family and friends, wearing a white ribbon and attending vigils throughout the country.
    Could the Minister of Status of Women please reaffirm for the House our government's commitment to ending violence against women and girls?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Mississauga South for her outstanding work on the committee for status of women on this final day of the 16 days of activism.
    Preventing violence against women is a priority of this government and that is why we have taken decisive action, whether it be launching our popular proposals for local community projects to prevent cyber and sexual violence or introducing legislation that would give police and prosecutors new tools to address cyberbullying. Just yesterday, our government announced the RCMP enforcement team to combat human trafficking.
    We are focused on ensuring Canadians are supported. I thank all Canadians who participated in the 16 days of activism against gender violence. By working together, we will actually deal with this issue.

[Translation]

Labour

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have mastered the art of ruining labour relations.
    After Canada Post, Air Canada and so many others, now things are deteriorating at the CBC. Indeed, 1,600 employees at Radio-Canada—the French network—in Quebec City and Moncton have been in negotiations for the past 18 months.
    They simply want to discuss bringing their salaries in line with those of their anglophone colleagues, but the Conservatives refuse to listen.
    Will the Minister of Labour act now and give mediators the powers they need to find a solution and settle this matter while respecting these artists?

  (1505)  

    Mr. Speaker, the CBC is a crown corporation that operates at arm's length from the government. It is responsible for its own operations, including labour negotiations.
    I hope the negotiations will reach a successful conclusion, but that remains in the hands of the CBC and its employees.

Nelson Mandela

    Mr. Speaker, Canada's ties to Nelson Mandela and South Africa are well established and undeniable.
    In 1998, Nelson Mandela became a Companion of the Order of Canada. In 2001 he was the second foreign national to obtain honorary Canadian citizenship. I am therefore renewing my request, so that future generations remember the work of Nelson Mandela and Canada's international political action, both of which helped make the world a better place.
     Would the government consider devoting a national day to Nelson Mandela?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for her interest in this file.
    Obviously Canadians from coast to coast to coast are celebrating the amazing life that Nelson Mandela led. They are celebrating the choice that he made, reconciliation over revenge. They are celebrating his moral leadership.
    All Canadians, including the Government of Canada and Parliament, want to reflect on what we can do to remind future generations of his remarkable leadership.

Points of Order

Oral Questions  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order, which relates to the ability of the Speaker to provide guidance as to the quality of answers. I know this is not a power of the Speakers that has been used in recent years. However, I do believe the power exists.
    When a question was asked that did not pertain to the Arctic or the north and the response was that Santa Claus is a Canadian citizen, I think that is far off point.
    I am also advised by Santa Claus that there will be a lump of coal in the member's stocking.
    Mr. Speaker, I will just say this. I am now shocked to learn that the Green Party itself no longer believes that the north is an important part of Canada.
    I will of course do my best to stand up for Santa Claus each and every day in this House, that includes in question period. He is a Canadian citizen, and we will defend him all the way to the United Nations when we make our claim for the North Pole. I am proud of that.

Nelson Mandela

    That this House expresses its sincerest condolences to the South African people over the passing of Nelson Mandela, a great moral leader, statesman and Honourary Canadian Citizen;
that this House recognizes the invaluable contributions and achievements of Mr. Mandela, not just his fight for an end to the system of apartheid in South Africa, but also his worldwide leadership on freedom and human rights;
that this House sincerely notes the grace and humility Mr. Mandela demonstrated after being imprisoned for 27 years;
and that this House reaffirms Canada's condolences to Mr. Mandela's family and all citizens of South Africa.
    He said: Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions between the parties and I believe you will find unanimous consent for the motion regarding the passing of Nelson Mandela.
    Does the hon. minister have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)


Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

First Nations Elections Act

    This is yet another bill that is being brought forward to tinker with the highly problematic Indian Act. It comes at a time where the breach in relationship between the Government of Canada, the Crown, and first nations across this country is at a very stark moment in our Canadian history, where government seems to believe that it can move back toward a colonial relationship with the first peoples of this country and that it is in the power of the minister to make decisions that really belong in communities.
    There are elements in the bill about tinkering with the problems of the elections act, which we have seen. There are elements in the bill about trying to alleviate some of the problems we have seen with the Indian Act, but the fundamental problem is the breach of trust in relationship that is not being done with the communities.
    Once again, it is Ottawa, the Department of Indian Affairs, imposing upon the people themselves how situations are going to be resolved, rather than recognizing that in the 21st century it is not acceptable to treat an entire section of our Canadian population, basically, as a hostage people under a bureaucracy.
    As we speak, in my communities we are now in probably the 15th state of emergency that I have seen in the James Bay region, due to chronic infrastructure and failed government plans for basic health and safety and housing. We have 70 people who were burnt out of a construction trailer.
    For the people back home to understand what this is, this is not living quarters. This is a bunkhouse that was brought in on an emergency basis after a 2008 infrastructure collapse in Attawapiskat, where the sewage system failed.
    Now, most people in Canada have no concept of how a municipal infrastructure like sewage would fail, but in each one of my communities on James Bay, I have seen the complete collapse of sewage or water from underfunding, from poorly planned projects: Fort Albany, a complete collapse of infrastructure in the winter of 2009; Kashechewan, in 2005-06, an entire evacuation of 2,000 people; Attawapiskat, in 2008 and again in 2011.
    In 2008, when the sewage backed up and destroyed numerous houses in Attawapiskat, the community called upon the federal government for help. Here is what the federal government did. It just said, “You're on your own”.
    We talk about the financial problems in these communities. It was the communities themselves that were forced to evacuate 80 people to accommodations in Cochrane and pay for hotels for months on end at the expense of the band, which put the band seriously in debt.
    We just had a report from the Auditor General on the complete failure of basic safety protocols from the federal government, that the government sets aside $19 million to deal with emergencies across Canada, whether they be fire, flood or other needs for evacuation, when what it spent in 2009-10 was $286 million; $180 million of that went on response and recovery, but only $4 million went toward prevention and mitigation.
    That means that it had to take money from building schools, it had to take money from safe water, it had to take money from building houses to deal with whatever the emergency was at the time.
    I want to put this in context. There is not a single non-native community in this country to which, if there were a fire, the government would turn around and say, ”Well, guess what? There are no more schools in your district for the next five years”. It would say, “We're not building you a hospital. You know why? Because you people ended up getting flooded out”.
    We saw the incredible response in High River and Calgary, from across Canada. The federal government and the provincial government helped the residents there.
    However, when our communities are flooded out, we see the derision and the abuse from the trolls all over the main media sites blaming the people, laughing at the people for being the victims of a natural disaster, and we see the government choosing to ignore them.
    This destabilizes band councils in their ability to deal with the developments in our communities because they are always having to try to find money to deal with the fundamental problem, which is the failed infrastructure.

  (1510)  

    While we are talking in the House about this government-imposed bill that has not been done with proper consultations, I want to also speak about the deep sense of broken trust that exists with first nations communities and this government—in particular, the abuse of the aboriginal residential school apology.
    It was the proudest moment of my life as a parliamentarian to stand in the House and see the Government of Canada acknowledge what had been done in the residential schools. Since that proud day, I have seen systematic attack on the survivors of these institutions by the federal government—in particular, the victims who survived St. Anne's residential school. In the long histories of abuse and degradation that happened in the residential schools, St. Anne's stands out as a particularly dark and brutal story.
    In 1992, the Ontario Provincial Police launched an investigation into the abuse that went on at St. Anne's. It was probably the largest police investigation into child torture and abuse of its kind outside of Mount Cashel. More than 900 witness statements were gathered. Thousands of pages of documents were subpoenaed and obtained from the Catholic Church in Montreal and Moose Factory. The OPP did an extraordinary job.
    Survivors of St. Anne's finally came forward to be part of the independent assessment process, which the government had set up. It told the people who survived this brutal institution that, if they came forward and told their stories, it would work this out with them. The legal responsibility of the federal government at that time, laid out in the terms of agreement under the independent assessment process schedule D, appendix VIII and appendix X, was that the federal government would provide a narrative, a written record of all the known documentation of abuse that occurred at St. Anne's. The federal government, though, chose not to tell any of the survivors, or their legal teams or their adjudicators about the thousands of pages of police evidence that the federal government was aware of, thereby undermining and compromising the independent assessment process.
    I wrote to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs about this breach, because this is serious. The obligation to disclose evidence is a fundamental principle of justice. The minister wrote on July 17: “Canada is, of course, aware of the Ontario Provincial Police investigations regarding St. Anne's Indian Residential School and the resulting...trials”. However, he said that it was not their job to obtain this evidence and it certainly was not their responsibility to tell the survivors.
    He also claimed that the evidence was not even admissible. He said: “...statements made to the Ontario Provincial Police in the course of investigations...cannot...be used as evidence in the Independent Assessment Process. ...only the oral testimony of a witness is considered evidence”. He then referred me to page 10, paragraph 10, of the terms of agreement. I read that and it says nothing of the kind.
    I have the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs putting on record something that is completely false, regarding the withholding of evidence about the abuse and torture of children. In fact, the terms of agreement of the independent assessment process says the exact opposite to what the minister is claiming. It says “...findings in previous criminal or civil trials...may be accepted...without further proof”. This is the key issue.
    The poor survivors who chose to come forward. However, I know many in our communities in Fort Albany, Moose Factory, Attawapiskat and Peawanuck who have not participated in the independent assessment process because they could not bear the trauma of being challenged and having to go through the process again. Yet, the government knew. All the evidence was there, particularly evidence that the administrators of the school built an electric chair to electrocute children, for the kicks of staff. That was in the police affidavit. The survivors coming forward would have to tell this, only to be challenged by federal lawyers who would say that it is not true or not admissible. This is the real key of the breach of trust that shows the dark, dark heart of this government.
    When the issue of the fact that it had suppressed evidence and compromised the truth and reconciliation process was brought out and exposed, the government admitted that it needed to deal with this at the Ontario Superior Court. Next Tuesday, December 17, this issue will be addressed at Ontario Superior Court.

  (1515)  

    What we have found out since the July 17 letter from the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs is that the federal government had this evidence all along.
    The federal government went to Ontario court in 2003 and demanded access to all of the police evidence. The government was not doing that on behalf of the victims. It said that it was its right, as the defendant and the entity responsible for the abuse of these children, to access the thousands of pages of police testimony and the 900-some witness documents about the abuse that was perpetrated against the children.
    In 2003, the federal government got that evidence. In his 2003 decision, Justice Trainor said that this evidence was to be used and should be used by future plaintiffs. However, the future plaintiffs were not told that. They were lied to in the legal process that they participated in. The evidence was suppressed.
    This is a very serious breach of fiduciary and legal obligations. The federal government acts as the defendant in this case against the abuse of these children, but it also acts, under the obligation of the independent assessment process, to provide all the evidence so that it can be adjudicated by the legal teams. The government decided to suppress this evidence and say that it did not know where it was or have access to it. The government even tried to claim privacy right provisions to prevent the survivors from seeing it.
    The people that I represent in our communities still live with the abuse that went on at St. Anne's. There is not a family I have met who is not still trying to put the pieces back together from the intergenerational damage that was done and the outright attempt to destroy the James Bay people through this horrific institution.
    The federal government knew the extent of the abuse. It knew the number of perpetrators of the abuse. It sat on it and it told the survivors who came before a legal process that there was no evidence to back up their claims. When I go home to James Bay and to see the survivors in Fort Albany, I really do not know what to tell them about a government that could be that mercenary and cold-blooded.
    When the Conservative government comes forward with its colonial attitude about first nations education and its spin and misinformation and attacks on the leadership in these communities, and its blame about it being a big waste on the taxpayers, the communities that I represent know that the Conservative government is one that has not shown any good faith toward them. They know that the Conservative government is one that has breached the fundamental promise that the Prime Minister made when he stood up and talked to the survivors about the residential schools.
    That system was set up to destroy the Indian in the child. Under Duncan Scott, going back, it was meant to eradicate a people. The Conservative government is continuing on a process of treating the survivors, the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren who suffered under this system, in a manner that is abusive and fails to show respect.
    We could continue to talk about tinkering with the Indian Act. We could talk about long-term goals, but I have never heard any long-term goals from the government when it comes to first nations. Otherwise, we could say that something fundamentally wrong happened when the treaties were breached and the children were sent off to the residential schools. It is up to the House of the common people of Canada to repair that breach. We need to do it by moving away from the abusive, uninterested, arrogant, and incompetent attitude of this government when it comes to first nations communities, first nations governance, and first nations children.
    Right now, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs has his first nations education act. I have never seen a man have to run so fast from legislation that he said was going to be a great benefit to all first nations children. He is having to run from it because the government has not consulted with the communities. It is again attempting to impose a model that no other community in this country would allow.
    Education is about children. Education is child-centred. The government believes that it can bring in some edicts and change things, but the government does not understand that the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs is de facto the education minister of one of the largest school populations in this country.

  (1520)  

    He cannot even tell us how many schools are condemned. He cannot even tell us how many schools need building. He cannot tell us the per person cost of educating a child under his watch. That level of negligence is astounding, because we are talking about children.
    The threat the government is making now on the first nation education act is that it is going to put a little money on the table, and either everyone plays ball or it will take the money away. It has the attitude that it can dangle a carrot in front of communities that have substandard education. There are communities in my riding like Attawapiskat where, after 13, 14, 15 years, they may finally get a school. In Kashechewan in my riding, grade school still does not exist. I can name communities across this country where the schools have been condemned for years.
    The government is offering to put a little money on the table, and then people will either do what the government tells them to do or it will take the money away. One has to ask what kind of government would use children as bargaining chips. We used to hear the minister say that the government gives more money to first nation children than the provincial system, but of course he was laughed out of the room for that one, so now he is saying the government will provide a little money and people will come along or it will pull the whole project.
    I asked what kind of government would use children as bargaining chips. I remember when the federal government imposed a third-party manager on the band in Attawapiskat in 2011-2012. It thought the community would fold, but the community did not fold, and they went to court. When they went to court, the government cut off all the funding to the community, including for education, and the community went two months without education dollars. That would be illegal in any other jurisdiction.
    There have been many fights with municipal governments, but imagine a fight with the municipal government in Toronto if it were told the money is going to be cuff off to all the schools until it complies with its mayor. That would never happen, but that is what happened in Attawapiskat. The government imposed a third-party manager at $1,800 a day, who I think was making more money than the Prime Minister, yet students were being evicted from college because the money was not being transferred for their college funds.
    There are some fundamental problems with the relationship, and I would like to tell my hon. colleagues that it does not have to be this way. When I look at first nation communities across this country, I see such immense possibilities. I see inspired young people coming forward as leaders. On the James Bay coast I have seen a whole new generation of young, articulate leaders who see a much bigger world and want to be part of that world. I see industry saying it wants to find ways to get peace on the ground so development can occur, saying that for development to happen, it needs trained, empowered first nation communities, but I do not see the federal government at the table.
    For example, the government claimed that the Ring of Fire—

  (1525)  

    On a point of order, the hon. Minister of State.
    Mr. Speaker, I believe we are debating the first nations elections act, and I think the record will reflect that we have not heard the member even come close to the ambit of discussion around the first nations elections act. I can appreciate that his next sentence was going to be expressing his appreciation for what this government has done to invest in educational opportunities for the Ring of Fire, which would be a good talking line for him, but unfortunately this debate has to do with the first nations elections act and nothing to do with what he has said since he started his speech.
    I came to the chair part way through and I must admit I have not heard anything about the elections act.
    The member for Timmins—James Bay has only about a minute left, so perhaps he could address his closing comments.
    Mr. Speaker, I will certainly send you the blues to help you out so that you will understand the erudite nature of my speech.
    Before I finish up, I would like to point out that I think my hon. colleague was getting a little tense because the Ring of Fire is near his area, and the government blew it. I do not want to embarrass him, but this is why I go back to the issue of governance. We need to deal with this issue of governance. The issue that we are talking about is the breach of faith. The governance between first nations and the government needs to be based on trust, and we have not seen any of that level of trust.
    We can hear all the talking points we want on how the government blew it on the Ring of Fire, but the communities do not trust the government, and neither should they. As I said earlier in my speech, we can tinker with the problems of the Indian Act, but the fundamental problem is the relationship.

  (1530)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I have several questions for my colleague, and I will go ahead because what this bill shows is the Conservatives' attitude toward first nations. Again, this is a paternalistic attitude that aims to impose a decision rather than take into account the consultations held with first nations.
    In the NDP, we are fortunate to have an excellent critic, the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, who discusses issues on a nation-to-nation basis. This very capable member has done a remarkable job on this file for several months using this nation-to-nation approach, which is very different from the Conservatives' paternalistic tactics.
    Today at noon, there were protests outside Parliament to show the government that first nations want an approach that is more respectful of aboriginal rights and more in line with this practice that the NDP has begun to adopt, that is, a nation-to-nation approach.
    I would like to ask my hon. colleague whether he thinks that the Conservatives, in this bill, showed respect for our first nations and what they asked for.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for the excellent question and for the reference to the phenomenal work of the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou. He is a man who has represented us at the United Nations on the issues of first nations.
    As he always points out, we can look to La Paix des Braves in Quebec. The signing of the James Bay agreement with the Grand Council of the Crees was a historic moment. The Government of Quebec recognized that it had to deal with the land issues of the James Bay Cree. It set the first modern treaty, but it was with a provincial government, because the feds were not at the table. We can see from that model that when something is done with respect and involvement, change is possible.
    When I look at the east side of James Bay on the Quebec side and then I look at the west side in Ontario, I see vast differences between the poverty and lack of infrastructure in our region and the development that has happened on the Quebec side. That is not to say that it has been easy. It is not to say that the treaty principles of La Paix des Braves have not been breached, but there is a mechanism in place.
     Unfortunately, we are still tinkering here with a broken act, a colonial act, a 19th century act. We can talk about tinkering, but I think we need to look at the models that work and we need to learn from the people who know how to make things work.
     My hon. colleague who represented the Grand Council of the Cree at the United Nations and in the negotiations with Quebec would certainly be well positioned to be an Indian affairs minister. He could actually deal with some of these fundamental problems that need addressing.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member how he feels about the process of consultation, because I think that is one of two issues with the bill. In addition to the lack of respect for self-government, there is a lack of consultation on so many issues.
    Yes, there were some first nations that wanted to talk about elections, but when they said things the government did not want to hear, the government proceeded with the bill anyway. It is going ahead without respect for what consultation really means, which is not just to let people speak but to hear what they have to say and act on it.
     I wonder what the experience of consultation with first nations in the member's riding might be.
    Mr. Speaker, I have had the great honour to work with some of the Algonquin communities in northern Quebec and really learn on the ground how the governance structures need to work. I have also had the great honour to serve the Cree communities of the upper James Bay region.
    We certainly know that the two-year cycle of elections has been very disruptive and we are glad to see that is changing. Two years is not sufficient time to build any kind of sustainable governance structure.
    The problem with what continues to be imposed is that it is an inverted model of accountability. It is that the band and the band council are responsible to the minister, not to the people.
    In our regions in the north, 180 years ago we had the Hudson Bay agent, who lorded it over the land. Then we had the Indian agent. Now we have the INAC bureaucrat. As far as I can see, they are all the same guy and they all stem from the same problem, which is this idea that they are the ones who will make the decisions and not the people whose lives are being affected. That is not a democratic model.

  (1535)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his very passionate and well-informed speech.
    When speaking with aboriginal people in the community, they tell me that what we saw in South Africa, the apartheid movement, was actually inspired by the Indian Act in Canada. At first, when I heard that, I was so disheartened. What we are seeing today is a continuing lack of consultation and a lack of respect for our first nations aboriginal and Métis people in this country.
    With this change in Bill C-9, what we are seeing is a further lack of respect, not consultation with the communities or with the people who will actually be impacted by the changes. This is a very non-democratic process disguised as a democratic process.
    I was wondering if my hon. colleague could comment.
    Mr. Speaker, certainly on this world freedom day, the day we remember the great Mandela and his walk to freedom, I really believe that in northern communities, there are young people who are the next Mandelas. What Mandela showed is that it is possible to reconcile after years and years of injustice. The word I hear all the time in first nation communities is “reconciliation”. I hear that the treaties will the honoured, that we committed to the treaties for as long as the sun shines, as long the grass grows, and as long as the river flows.
     We have a fundamental duty. It is our primary relationship as Canadians, the relationship formed when those treaties were signed. Everything else comes after that.
    It has been a broken relationship, but in first nation communities, I hear the word “reconciliation”. I never hear it from government. Never. I have never heard the word “reconciliation”. There is no understanding of what it means. Reconciliation is to come together with respect. I think when we come together with that respect, we will actually be able to start re-understanding how to build a governance structure that is forward-looking and accountable to the communities. Fundamentally, when it comes to education and children, no child in this country should ever be thrust into fourth world conditions in marginalized communities across the far north of Canada.
    When we look at Mandela and what he stood for, I think Canada is on the verge today, so we need to take that next step. It is what the world expects of us and what we need to expect of each other.
    Mr. Speaker, I will say, in the spirit of reconciliation, that when the hon. member for Drummond mentioned, after the long and somewhat rambling, off-point speech by the member for Timmins—James Bay, that the current system of elections in first nations communities is paternalistic, I could not agree more.
    Perhaps distracted by his colleague's speech, the hon. member for Drummond did not read the bill that is up for debate today. If he did, he would see that it is designed to take the minister out of the day-to-day governance of on-reserve elections. This, in fact, has been the request of multiple first nations, from Manitoba to the Maritimes.
    Although it takes a little more time, I would urge my colleagues across the way to actually read the bill and see that it is designed to increase self-government in an opt-in manner for first nations communities.

  (1540)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am glad to finally get a question from the shy Conservatives over there. It is interesting to hear the member talk about the opt-in mechanism, but he does not talk about the opt-out mechanism, and that is one of the key issues raised by the first nation communities. The fact is that “[i]t continues minister discretion to exercise control over First Nations governance and it would result in some First Nations being subjects of the act rather than the participants”.
    That was Aimée Craft, chair of the National Aboriginal Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association.
    I know that the group over there does not want to debate these issues. I want to thank the member for having the courage to rise and ask a question.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by saying that I am going to share my time with the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.
    I rise at third reading to speak against Bill C-9, which has a very long title, and to demonstrate that I have actually read it, I am going to go through the title. It is An Act respecting the election and term of office of chiefs and councillors of certain First Nations and the composition of council of those First Nations.
    I am always a bit resentful when members on the other side imply that disagreement means that we have not actually read a bill. In fact, I am disappointed to be in this situation of opposing this bill, because there was actually a promising start with some first nations in terms of trying to come up with a bill to reform the regulations under the Indian Act for conducting elections. However, somewhere this went off the rails, I believe. It is also disappointing because we have been discussing these kinds of issues of governance for a long time. I want to spend some time on how we got here, or more accurately, on how we are stalled at the place where we are now.
    When I said I wanted to talk about how we got here or about how we are stalled here, I am really referring to the broad underlying issue of first nations self-government. This is a principle that was first recognized by this Parliament more than 30 years ago, when all parties agreed to support what was called the Penner report, in 1983. This report was named after the chair of what was called the Indian self-government committee. This was an exceptional committee in the House of Commons in that it invited a first nations representative, Roberta Jamieson, a very respected Mohawk leader, to sit as a full member of the committee. It was certainly the first and perhaps the only time any committee of this House of Commons has had someone from outside the House sit on a committee. The reason for doing that was that we wanted to make sure that first nations were heard.
     The committee travelled the length and breadth of this country, literally from coast to coast to coast, to hear directly from first nations and their communities. I know about this committee quite well, because as a young researcher at the House of Commons, I was actually attached as staff to the committee, and I travelled across the country for nearly a year with the committee.
    What the Penner report did was groundbreaking in what it recommended and in that it actually listened to first nations in their communities. In adopting the Penner committee report, the House of Commons broke new ground, because the House of Commons said that Canadians needed to recognize the right of self-government for first nations and needed to entrench that right in the Constitution. Then there needed to be legislation to implement self-government by recognizing first nations as a third order of government, independent of federal and provincial governments, in their own areas of jurisdiction.
     This marks a journey that began 30 years ago to make first nations self-government a reality in this country, and unfortunately, Bill C-9 indicates that we still have not gotten there.
    The new approach taken by the Penner committee was entrenched in the Constitution Act, 1982, which recognized and affirmed existing aboriginal rights and treaty rights and provided for constitutional conferences to be held later to define and implement those rights. Unfortunately, in the four conferences held between 1983 and 1987, there was a failure to get agreement on how to define those rights and on how to move forward with legislation to implement them.
    The year 1987 marked the biggest setback for the recognition of self-government we have seen in this country, with the failure of that constitutional conference on self-government and with the exclusion of aboriginal people from the talks leading to the Meech Lake accord. Of course, fate sometimes has a way of paying back, so when it came time for the Meech Lake accord to be approved, it failed. It was defeated in the Manitoba legislature by a single vote, that of the respected first nations leader Elijah Harper.
    There was an attempt to reset the debate at Charlottetown, and aboriginal people were included in that next round of constitutional talks. The Charlottetown accord would have explicitly entrenched the right of self-government in the Constitution, but it was subsequently, unfortunately, defeated at referendum.
    I am going to continue just a little longer down this road of talking about history, because it explains what is fundamentally wrong with Bill C-9, as it is presented to us.
    In 1996, we had the publication of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which echoed what had been said in the original Penner report, now some 13 years before. It said again that we needed to recognize and entrench the right to self-government; to recognize first nations governments as a third order of government, equal in every way to federal and provincial governments; and to reorganize our federal institutions to reflect those facts.

  (1545)  

    Unfortunately, the response of the Liberal government in 1998 was simply that they were open to talking