Mr. Speaker, first I want to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.
I have a speech, but I think I will start by trying to answer questions and concerns that have been brought up. If I do that, then members could vote unanimously for this bill.
The first thing members have been asking is why there are only five more hours to debate this bill. For a lot of bills, that would be a valid question, but at this particular time we have had Conservative after Conservative getting up and not talking about the bill. We heard a lot about Bill C-48, Bill S-6, a letter from premiers not related to this bill, Bill C-15 and a northern moratorium.
I have been here awhile, and last night I witnessed an amazing situation. One of the Conservative speakers, in a 10-minute slot to speak on this bill, spent nine and a half minutes talking before they got to the bill, and then answering three questions by not referring to anything in the bill.
If the public wonders why Parliament has decided to call time allocation on this bill, it is obviously because the Conservatives have nothing more to say. We have heard the same arguments over and over again, and they are not valid. I will go through them one by one right now.
I am not sure why a party would want to stretch out a debate on a terrible injustice that it has caused, and it has done this a number of times. It is strange. Why would they want to put that in the light? Why would they not want to fix that injustice by supporting this bill? One of the members mentioned that he was not here at the time that it happened, so in good justice, he could support the bill.
People have asked what we have been doing for the last four years and why we did not debate this bill earlier. Some of the people in the House now have actually asked this question. This Liberal government has passed something like 85 bills. I think some members' constituents would like to ask them where they have been while these very important 85 bills were being discussed and debated.
One bill in particular was in the exact same situation as this one. It was Bill C-17. Again, the previous government had unlawfully, either technically or in spirit, abrogated a modern treaty, a constitutionally protected treaty, and tried to pass a law that got around it. That was certainly disrespectful.
Some may ask why Liberals did not get more things done, and a good example was what happened when Bill C-17, related to the treaty, was ready to pass. There was a grand chief, chiefs and aboriginal people here in the galleries. It cost thousands of dollars for them to get here from the Yukon. What did the Conservatives do at that time? They called a dilatory motion that the next speaker be allowed to speak, and then the bill could not be done. Some members ask why things are not done, yet they continue to do tricks like that.
This particular bill broke a constitutionally protected treaty, as I said earlier, a land claim. The members opposite have asked—and it is a good question for the ones who were not here before—why Liberals voted for that bill. This question has been brought up a number of times. The reason is that the part of the bill in which the law was broken in spirit or in technicality was snuck in in a much larger devolution bill.
The devolution bill transferred the remaining federal powers to the territorial government. That was a tremendous move, and that is why the party supported that initiative. Unfortunately, even though the people affected by this wanted this taken out and some parliamentarians tried to get it out, the Conservatives pushed ahead with the bill, and that is why the other parties voted for it.
Another concern the Conservatives have noted a number of times is that there are two parts to the bill. I think the member for Northwest Territories corrected them and said there are three parts. Nevertheless, they said there is part 1 and part 2, and there was no consultation regarding part 2. That is not true at all. When we consulted, we consulted with all the local governments involved regarding the entire bill, both part 1 and part 2. Shortly, I will read to members some of the things they said, because the opposition has suggested they did not support both parts of the bill.
The bill concerns the Sahtu, the Gwich’in and the Tlicho. When the Tlicho signed its constitutionally protected land claim and its self-government agreement, I was parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Affairs. At that time, unfortunately, we had to fight against the Conservatives to get that agreement signed. At least the Conservatives can now make peace with that wrongdoing of the past and support the bill.
I will read some comments of support, because the Conservatives have said that indigenous groups did not support part 2 or the bill.
Grand Chief George Mackenzie, from the Tlicho Government, said, “We urge the community to move swiftly and decisively to ensure that Bill C-88 comes into force during the current session of Parliament.”
David Wright is legal counsel to the Gwich'in Tribal Council. I say to David, drin gwiinzih shalakat. He said the following at the INAN committee:
If Bill C-88 is not passed, not only will Canada not have fulfilled its commitment to Northwest Territories indigenous communities, but these communities will be forced back into time-consuming, expensive, acrimonious litigation, all adversely affecting that treaty relationship and the broader reconciliation project. Further, this would generate regulatory uncertainty that benefits no one....
I know the Conservatives have spoken against uncertainty in the past, so that is another reason for them to support the bill.
Premier McLeod and Grand Chief George Mackenzie, in a joint letter, said:
[W]e are hopeful that Bill C-88 will proceed expeditiously through the legislative process and receive Royal Assent [in this Parliament].... The negative implications of the status quo are significant.
Mervin Gruben was also quoted as supporting the bill, as well as Duane Smith from Inuvialuit. It was suggested he was not allowed to come to committee, but he was actually invited. He did provide a written submission, and it was nice to have that information added to the record.
A Conservative member talked about not listening to indigenous people and indigenous voices. The member said that not listening to the people of the north is arrogance. I just read that the four governments involved, the Sahtu, the Gwich’in, the Tlicho and the GNWT, all support the bill. Conservatives are right; we should listen to those people. They should listen to those people as well, along with the rest of the parties supporting the bill, and support the bill.
Another thing the Conservatives have talked about a lot is support for resource development. I am sure all other parties agree with sustainable development. It is another reason the Conservatives should vote for the bill. I will read some comments about how the bill promotes and ensures this.
Chief Alfonz Nitsiza, from the Tlicho Government, said:
[F]ailure to resolve this matter co-operatively would damage our treaty relationship and undermine the process of reconciliation as directed by the courts. Long-term regulatory uncertainty for any reason will damage the economy of the Northwest Territories, including within the Tlicho community. This is all avoidable with the passage of Bill C-88.
David Wright, legal counsel to the Gwich'in Tribal Council, said, “Bill C-88 is a step toward certainty in the Mackenzie Valley, and that is a step that should be taken at this time”.
Finally, Premier McLeod said:
The proposed amendments to the MVRMA in Bill C-88 would increase certainty around responsible resource development in the Northwest Territories. That certainty is something our territory needs as we continue to work with the indigenous governments in the territory to attract responsible resource development.
Conservatives, to be true to the values they so eloquently put forward on resource development, can support those values by supporting this bill.
I support Bill C-88, an act to amend the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act. Although the debate so far has focused on the content of the proposed act, I want to talk about what is not in Bill C-88 and why it would be a mistake to make major amendments at this stage.
Amending Bill C-88 at this stage of the process would defeat its overall purpose, which is to resolve a court challenge arising from the previous government's decision to merge the land and water boards without holding appropriate consultations.
The Northwest Territories Devolution Act, Bill C-15, was assented to in March 2014. The act transferred the administration and control of public lands and waters to the Government of the Northwest Territories and amended the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. The act includes provisions restructuring the Mackenzie Valley land and water boards.
The Tlicho government and Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated challenged the changes to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act that would have dissolved their regional land and water boards. They argued that theses changes violated their land claims agreements and infringed on the honour of the Crown. They added that the consultations had been inadequate. On February 27, 2015, the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories granted an injunction that suspended the proposed board restructuring, along with the coming into force of other regulatory amendments.
I would like to point out that those regulatory amendments, which included the addition of a regulation-making authority for cost recovery, administrative monetary penalties, development certificates and other provisions related to regional studies, all passed through the parliamentary process in 2014. Those same provisions are being presented today. However, they were rewritten to ensure that they could apply under the existing four-board structure. They were not part of the court challenge. Bill C-88 responds to the court challenge by reversing the provisions to merge the boards and re-introducing some regulatory elements that are applicable under the existing four-board structure.
On September 23, 2016, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations sent a letter to indigenous governments, organizations and stakeholders to launch the consultation process on Bill C-88.
Consultations were held with indigenous governments and organizations in the Mackenzie Valley, transboundary indigenous governments and organizations, resource co-management boards, organizations from the mining, oil and gas sectors, and the territorial government. To ensure that the indigenous governments and organizations were able to fully participate in the process, the Government of Canada provided funding to these groups and to the resource co-management boards that took part in the consultations.
Representatives from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, or CIRNAC, held a teleconference with stakeholders to consider next steps and to discuss the consultation plan. A legislative proposal to repeal the board restructuring provisions was drafted and submitted to the groups for review. During the review period, the groups had the opportunity to meet with CIRNAC representatives in Yellowknife to talk about the content of the proposal and to ask questions. This was also an opportunity for CIRNAC representatives to determine whether any part of the proposal was unclear or could be improved, based on the feedback they received.
I will not have time to finish, but I do not want to miss this particular point. The only other questions someone could ask that I have not already answered are whether the consultation that was done was serious and, although they were in agreement at the end, whether any changes were made. The answer is yes. I will give an example of two of the changes that were made.
The first was that because of the consultations with the people involved, a court jurisdiction related to a judicial review of administrative monetary penalties, AMPs, was modified in order to ensure consistency with the exclusive jurisdiction of the Northwest Territories Supreme Court under section 32 of the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.
A second change was that consultation obligations related to the AMPs were added to the bill to ensure consistency with the comprehensive land claim agreements.
The only other thing I think someone might ask is related to the position of national interest and whether this is the only case of that. The answer is no; it is a clause, an idea, that comes up in different legislation. I will give members some examples from the north: the Mackenzie Valley Resource Act, Statutes of Canada 1998, chapter 25, section 130, and the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act, Statutes of Canada 2013, chapter 14, section 2.
Section 94 of the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act provides for the federal minister to refer a proposed project to the Minister of Environment for the purpose of a joint review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act if it is in the national interest to do so.
The Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act also provides for the responsible minister to reject a board decision or to reject or vary recommended terms or conditions if it is in the national interest to do so.
A few close references can also be found in section 51 of the Yukon Act, Statutes of Canada 2002, chapter 7, and in section 57 of the Northwest Territories Act, Statutes of Canada 2014, chapter 2, section 2.
To boil it all down, basically an act was passed that abrogated the land claim and went against a constitutionally protected law of Canada, which we cannot change by just doing another law. Of course, the court found that out and would not let it go ahead. All this bill would do is to put into law what the court had ordered.