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Results: 1 - 5 of 5
View Ethel Blondin-Andrew Profile
Lib. (NT)
Madam Chair, I appear before the committee today because I believe in Bill C-14 and I believe deeply that our country's north has a brilliant economic future that can benefit not only the Tlicho but all Canadians.
I want to start by recognizing one of the most thorough, outstanding, and hard-working negotiating teams, the Tlicho negotiating team, headed by Chief Charlie Jim Nitsiza and chief negotiator. I also want to recognize their Deline neighbours from Sahtu region in the Northwest Territories, to the north of them on Great Bear Lake, who are here in attendance. They are the self-government negotiating team headed by sub-Chief Andrew John Kenny and Danny Gaudet, the self-government negotiator. It's traditional to observe and to show support by observing, and they're here to do that.
I am here to provide support to the minister, and also to the groups that have come before us, especially the Tlicho, on this occasion when we discuss their bill.
My belief is founded on solid evidence that the time is right for the proud Tlicho people to take ownership of a significant portion of their traditional lands. If we look to the facts, the Tlicho have demonstrated a remarkable ability to absorb, adapt, adjust, and apply entrepreneurial and business skills. Furthermore, the north has vast stores of natural resources, the full extent of which we can only estimate. I'm certain Bill C-14 will create synergies between these two facts and give rise to the entrepreneurial spirit among the Tlicho that will become an engine of development across the north and for the betterment of Canada.
Examples abound, as the minister indicated, of the Tlicho making astute and visionary decisions about the 39,000 square kilometres in question in the bill before us today. The Tlicho's business acumen was fully evident as it negotiated partnership agreements with, as the minister indicated, the two largest diamond mining firms in the region, BHP Billiton and Diavik. Notably, Canada will soon become the world's third-largest producer of diamonds. These agreements are virtually unprecedented, nationally and globally.
The benefits of partnership extend well beyond economics. The diamond mining companies also contribute to training programs, scholarships, and infrastructure improvements in Tlicho communities. The Tlicho's burgeoning business partnerships will also lead inexorably to a higher standard of living, and therefore a higher quality of life for the people of the north. As you see, Madam Chair, the Tlicho's judicious dealings with private companies have acted as a catalyst for increased self-reliance and improved educational opportunities.
Madam Chair, I ask the honourable committee members to recognize that Bill C-14 will help establish the secure and prosperous future for the Tlicho. The legislation mandates that the Tlicho establish effective and democratic governments. It also guarantees them representation on resource management boards. These mechanisms will enable the Tlicho to exercise greater control over lands and resources.
Bill C-14 guarantees that all adult residents, including those who are not Tlicho citizens, will be eligible voters in the local elections. This bears repeating because there is a sense that this is an undemocratic process and an agreement that speaks to a rather isolated, marginalized provision for one group of people. This is not so. The head of each community government must be a Tlicho citizen, but half of the councillors can be persons who are not Tlicho citizens. In this way, Bill C-14 not only contributes to the investment the Tlicho have made in their futures, but it also ensures that all northern voices are heard by the Tlicho community governments.
Among these voices, Madam Chair, are the increasingly strong voices of the women in the community. We have a member who is legal counsel who is a first-ever Tlicho member to be called to the bar, Bertha Rabesca Zoe. She's a very committed and hard-working member of this team. There's room for women in the Tlicho government. The committee members will find as they analyze the agreement that it supports gender equality in many ways.
The agreement gives all Tlicho citizens, including women, a larger voice in governance. Tlicho citizens, regardless of gender, will have equal access to the benefits provided under the agreement. Women play a strong role in the Tlicho communities. In fact, the majority of Tlicho people in post-secondary education are women, who will eventually play strong roles in the community and government structures under the Tlicho agreement.
As you know, Madam Chair, under the terms of the Indian Act, first nations face numerous obstacles to economic development. What you may not recognize is that by clarifying legal status and ownership of resources, this bill provides the certainty sought by private sector investors. The Tlicho agreement draws a distinction between land rights and non-land rights. Certainty is achieved for both land- and non-land-based rights, and finality is achieved for land rights.
The Tlicho appreciate the opportunity that stands before them, and 84% of those who voted were in favour of the agreement. This means there is overwhelming support by the Tlicho, who are more than ready to participate in the development of the vast natural resources, and in turn, the northern communities. We have an opportunity with Bill C-14 to strike a balance between economic development and respect for cultural self-determination.
I ask the honourable committee members to give this bill the careful consideration it deserves and make the most of this opportunity.
Thank you. Mahsi cho.
View Ethel Blondin-Andrew Profile
Lib. (NT)
First of all, I'd just like to remind the member that whether it's one aboriginal person or whether it's 200 or 3,000, whatever arrangements are made between the Crown and those people, if there is constitutional protection, that's a given. It doesn't matter what the size of that group is. That's the essence of it.
For the purpose of people who don't know, section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, protects both aboriginal and treaty rights. The prime objective for government in negotiating these agreements with aboriginal groups is to obtain certainty as to which rights are exercisable.
The Tlicho agreement does not purport to define any existing aboriginal rights but achieves the certainty by a commitment of the Tlicho not to assert any rights not set out in the agreement. They thus trade the assertion of their aboriginal rights and most of those in Treaty 11 for those in the new agreement. It was therefore necessary to confirm for the rights in the new agreement the same constitutional protection as those they had in the rights no longer assertible.
I'm assuming you're a lawyer, Mr. Prentice. You will understand that, first of all, the complexity doesn't mean it can't work. Just going back to the regulatory phase, when you talk about things like the Constitution and the regulation, you make it sound as if, because it's in this particular arrangement, it's not going to work. That's not the way it is. You have many regulatory regimes, related to resource development, related to almost every aspect--for instance, health--that are very complicated, but they work.
In almost everything you do, your comments are laced with the fact that you don't have confidence that this will work. I don't understand how you can feel that way, doing the work you've done.
View Ethel Blondin-Andrew Profile
Lib. (NT)
On section 35, you talk about inflexibility and it not being amendable. That is not the case. The provisions in the Constitution provide protection for the whole agreement—and there is room. It's not part of the Constitution, but the Constitution itself provides the protection for this whole agreement. The agreement can be amended by agreement of the parties; I think it's very, very clear that it can be done.
On the issue of whether it's binding or not, that too is very clear. You'll understand that certain sections of the Tlicho agreement will express that clearly. I'll give you an example. It is also the same for other claims that have a provision, such as the Inuvialuit and perhaps the Saulteaux ones, though I'd have to check. But it's very clear that if the Crown wants to go on Tlicho lands, for instance, it will say clearly that they can do so with or without consent. It will give complete clarification on that. So wherever it's binding, it will clearly explain that. I can't give you all the examples, of course, but it's quite clear that whenever that is the case, it expresses that clearly.
View Ethel Blondin-Andrew Profile
Lib. (NT)
The surrender clause would only be exercised if the court determines that it should be. We have confidence that there's going to be recognition of the non-assertion technique. We believe that will be accepted. We have confidence in that.
There has been a tremendous amount of work that has gone into this. Essentially, the objection to the extinguishment clause was that it presumed, before you even got to the table, that you would cede, release, and surrender all rights to lands and bodies of waters within Canada, but non-assertion doesn't do that. You have certainty with dignity. You don't have to cede, release, and surrender before you get to the table.
In this case, it's a non-assertion technique. The surrendering or ceding of rights would only happen if it's determined by the courts. We're confident that won't happen.
How many times has that happened? None really.
View Ethel Blondin-Andrew Profile
Lib. (NT)
The powers and delegation of the Tlicho government are something all of Canada should be proud of. We have talked for so long about the dependency of aboriginal people upon different levels of government. This is the real empowerment that governments at all levels in Canada want to achieve.
The Tlicho government will be a legal entity. It will have the legal capacity of a natural person. This means the Tlicho government may enter into contracts or agreements, acquire property, raise, invest, or borrow money, form corporations, and do any other things that are conducive to the exercise of its rights, privileges, and powers.
I believe anyone who understands the current state of affairs of aboriginal peoples across Canada would want to support this, would really want to make it a priority and give all the support we can give to it, because it's the height of empowerment of a people.
Thank you.
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