Thank you. Mr. Chairman, I look forward to working with you again. When I first came to the Hill, you and I worked together in the same committee.
Welcome, Mr. Minister and staff.
Just to put in context my own background, this is my first formal meeting representing the PC Party as their critic.
I have 13 reservations in my own riding. For many years I've worked with the aboriginal community, long before I came to the Hill.
Anyway, I'll make a few comments and I'll ask you some questions.
There's no doubt that the aboriginal history in Canada is a sad one. I believe Canadians want to see this come to an end. History has shown that the paternalistic approach, which we've read about and discussed--certainly reading the minutes from the last several meetings--has failed miserably under both the British and Canadian governments.
Mr. Minister, I agree with you that we need a debate, a fresh start on this whole issue of aboriginals becoming the masters of their own fate. I believe Canadians want to see this happen as well. Certainly I believe self-government is really the goal, self-government that would bring about aboriginals being the masters of their own fate and getting away from this paternalistic approach, but within the context of being members of this country and citizens of Canada. This morning you talked about the basic needs being the same needs that all Canadians have, which are education, infrastructure, the ability to feed ourselves, and to make sure our kids go to school and become contributing members of society.
I recently communicated with the leadership in Manitoba, who I know very well--Grand Chief Dennis Whitebird, Grand Chief Francis Flett, and Grand Chief Margaret Swan. I was puzzled last summer because you had two meetings scheduled in my riding and neither of them took place. They were both cancelled. I was looking forward to actually attending your meetings.
My first job is to bring up some of the concerns the grand chiefs have. They represent the aboriginal community in Manitoba. They consider your governance act a top-down process. The proposal is not based on first nations support. In fact, they tell me the JMAC didn't even reach a consensus. I wonder if you can address that. They feel the government's basis of support is faulty. Maybe you can start with those concerns they have.