Canada’s Parliamentarians: The Harper Era


© 2007, 2009 Brad Kempo B.A. LL.B.

Barrister & Solicitor




Parliament Hansard


February 6, 2006


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


The number of children in care is too high. The effectiveness of the $416 million that the government currently spends needs to be studied.



April 5, 2006


Hon. Bill Graham (Leader of the Opposition, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, yesterday the government presented its Speech from the Throne, a somewhat thin document that is short on promise and even shorter on specifics. The throne speech is notable really for what it does not include: [...], aboriginal Canadians.




Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP):


In a country as rich as Canada, first nations, Inuit and Métis people deserve better than third world living conditions and second-class treatment. It is an absolute national disgrace that 95% of aboriginal people live below the poverty line. Despite the disappointments of the throne speech, we must follow up on the important and long overdue work achieved at Kelowna and we must quickly deliver settlements for victims of Indian residential schools.


Canada's first peoples must no longer be denied the quality of life that most Canadians take for granted. This means proper housing, health care, basic infrastructure such as clean drinking water. Aboriginal people have waited long enough to be properly considered nation to nation.



April 7, 2006


Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.): 


The new government must begin to listen more closely, especially to its own members. I want to congratulate the new Minister of Indian Affairs on his appointment. It appears that he cares, but what about his colleagues?


On January 10, at the height of the recent election campaign, he said on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network:


 --I am the party spokesman on the Kelowna accord and let's be perfectly clear for the viewers of your network. We are supportive of Kelowna. We are supportive of the targets and objectives that were set at Kelowna.


He said they are supportive, but is anyone listening to him? Is his own Prime Minister? Is his Minister of Finance?


Why is the aboriginal community not in the five priority list? Kelowna speaks to hope and opportunity for aboriginal peoples. It speaks to dealing with the different circumstances in all regions and communities, in rural and urban areas, on reserves, on settlements in the north and Arctic regions. It speaks to working with first nations, with Inuit and with Métis, to women, to men and to children. It speaks to improving education, housing and health care. It speaks to partnership, collaboration and accountability, and accountability is more than financial audits. Accountability is to change the lives of Canada's first citizens. It speaks to transformation and it speaks to change.


Again, I would say to those opposite that they should honour the agreements reached by all the aboriginal leaders, by the provincial leaders, by the territorial leaders and by the Government of Canada. I repeat what Mr. Campbell said, “The honour of the Crown depends on meeting our commitments”.


The throne speech was silent on all matters relating to the aboriginal community, in particular, the Indian residential school resolution. We have asked the minister questions about honouring it. He is not silent but he says nothing.



April 10, 2006


Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, congratulations in your new role. You are doing an excellent job.


I would also like to say that I am glad to see the member back. However, I was absolutely amazed that he would even mention the aboriginal people in his riding. I am glad that he has some and recognizes them, but I would love to know if any of them voted for him after the dismal record of this government in the last Parliament in its continual voting against land claims and, as the terrible situation of aboriginal people in Canada was gradually being lifted, that party also voted against the increased funds we put in for the programs for aboriginal people.


I want to know if, inside his caucus--certainly, behind closed doors is fine--he is going to fight for the maintenance of the Kelowna agreement and the residential schools agreement as they stand. They are two historic agreements. They were not written overnight. It took a lot of negotiating. It was very difficult and it took a long time to finally come to an agreement on something that was so historic and so heartfelt. There were tears at the residential school signing. It meant so much to heal that long rift in Canada. This cannot be undone. This cannot be tinkered with, not without great jeopardy.


I want to know if he is going to fight for these great initiatives that have so much support, I am sure, from the aboriginal people in his riding and the people across the country. They certainly will not solve all the problems, but they are historic. I want to know if this member will fight for keeping those agreements intact and keeping the $5.1 billion that we have already paid for the Kelowna agreement and the $2.2 billion for the residential schools agreement.


Mr. Gerry Ritz: 


Mr. Speaker, certainly there is a lot of work to be done on both the residential schools file and the Kelowna agreement. The devil is always in the details. That is always what we saw with the Liberals. They would have ad hoc meetings behind closed doors and do a lot of the political spin and so on. They have always had the leadership in their pockets. What I hear ordinary aboriginals say in my riding is, “What does this really come down to? What does this really mean to us?” They do not know and I cannot tell them that yet either because there are still a couple of court order hoops and hurdles to be followed through with on the residential file.


As for the Kelowna agreement, as I said before, the devil is in the details. We really do not know what all that encompasses and how long term that is going to be. I have always had a concern and the concern of most aboriginals in my riding is when is it going to be over and when will we finally see some resolution.


The Liberal government in its political wisdom went ahead with a consultation period on the residential schools. Eighty per cent of the money went to lawyers and consultants and 20% went to the so-called victims of the residential schools fiasco. We do not need to take any lessons from the former Liberal government on what to do about the aboriginal file. We will look at it case by case, detail by detail and move forward, not sit still or move backward like the Liberals did.



April 11, 2006


Ms. Olivia Chow (Trinity—Spadina, NDP):


40% of aboriginal children live in poverty in this country.



April 25, 2006


Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.):


Mr. Speaker, congratulations in doing an excellent job in your new role. I congratulate the parliamentary secretary for his promotion. He too has a good grasp and speaks very well. However, I was surprised when he said that the time for talk was over. This is the first morning of discussions on a huge bill, as he said a sweeping bill and one of the largest bills ever, which will have three readings of debate in the House of Commons and three readings of debate in the Senate, yet he says that the time for talk is over.


We just witnessed one of the most shameful things in recent memory in the House. I asked the NDP members to support aboriginal people and they refused. I gave them three choices to support the Kelowna accord, the residential school accord and a government to government relationship and there was absolute silence.


It is incomprehensible why they have abandoned their support for aboriginal people.




Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, the issue here, at least in part, is why the NDP have settled for so little: nothing for child care; nothing for the Kelowna accords; nothing to fight climate change; nothing for student aid; and nothing for science and innovation.


This is rather pathetic given that the government has inherited the strongest economy and the best fiscal position of any incoming government in Canadian history. Will the government at least commit to the $5.1 billion to fully honour the Kelowna accords for Canada's aboriginals?


Hon. Jim Flaherty (Minister of Finance, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member that I hold all parties in this House in high esteem.


I can also assure the member that when the budget is announced, when we make spending initiatives and when we make commitments to reduce taxes, we will keep our commitments. We will not make a deal a couple of months later to change our commitments. When we reduce taxes, we will keep our commitments to the people of Canada, who voted for change.




Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.): 


I enjoy working with the member on many items related to aboriginal affairs. I think we have the same view and enjoy fighting on those issues.



April 26, 2006


Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay, NDP): 


My God, this is a fourth world condition at Kashechewan.




Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP): 


Mr. Speaker, I was saddened to hear that we have to talk about the Garden Hill First Nation and the second tuberculosis outbreak in two years. This adds to a litany of events in communities across Canada, such as Caledonia, and another evacuation in Kashechewan. It goes on and on.


We bandy around the word “accountability”. We talk about accountability yet we have had decades of Conservative and Liberal governments that have neglected and have not fulfilled their obligations around first nations communities. I would like the member to comment on specific steps that must happen immediately to make sure that first nations from coast to coast to coast are at the table in a meaningful way to get what they deserve in Canada.


Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.):


Mr. Speaker, first and foremost the member referenced the matter of Garden Hill First Nation. Unequivocally there has to be a medical assessment of every member of that community to see how far the tuberculosis outbreak has spread.


On the other items, first and foremost there has to be a consultation with the leadership in the aboriginal community. The Assembly of First Nations has been open. It has been part of the discussions with government over the years. To impose this kind of legislation on them is indeed shortsighted.


The most important thing the House could do would be to ratify the Kelowna accord and the dollars committed and booked by the previous government for the Kelowna accord. The Kelowna accord provides hope for aboriginal communities from coast to coast to coast. I have visited with many. They are waiting to train further health officials, for education and for the plans that will lead to economic development and opportunities for them.


Unequivocally, the ratification of the Kelowna accord by the House would be an important transformative change for aboriginal peoples in the country.




Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP):


One might wonder how that relates to accountability. It relates to accountability because one of the reasons for an outbreak of tuberculosis is due to poverty and inadequate housing. Numerous studies have been done in Canada which have talked about the dire conditions on many first nations reserves with respect to their housing situations, yet we still do not have an adequate remedy.


Just to refresh the memory of the House, in the Auditor General's report of April 2003 under Appendix A, she listed numerous studies which have been done that talk about the conditions in first nations communities and the recommendations that have been made to remedy that situation. This goes back in recent memory to 1983 and the special committee on Indian self-government, also known as the Penner report; in 1985, the task force on program review; in 1990, the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs; in 1991, the Office of the Auditor General; in 1992, the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs; in 1993, the Office of the Auditor General; in 1996, the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples; and in 1998, Gathering Strength: Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan.


A litany of Conservatives and Liberals have failed to act in a meaningful way on housing on reserve. Now for the people who live in that community there is the third world outbreak of tuberculosis which is directly attributable to lack of adequate housing. On top of that, only 4% of this community of 3,500 has running water.


We must go beyond talking about accountability in terms of making parliamentarians accountable for how money is spent. We must be accountable to the Canadian people to make sure that first nations and aboriginal peoples have access to clean water, access to safe, clean affordable housing and that they get the health care that is their right in this day and age.


When we are talking about accountability, I firmly believe we need to expand that conversation beyond talking about parliamentarians and how they spend their money.




Mr. Marc Lemay (Abitibi—Témiscamingue, BQ): 


Mr. Speaker, 2006 marks the tenth anniversary of the release of the Erasmus-Dussault Report on Aboriginal Peoples.


 The Royal Commission of Inquiry, which was an initiative of then Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in response to the tragic events at Oka, was a promising start and a demonstration of political will, not to quantify the distress of the Aboriginal people, but to look for ways to remedy it.


Quebec recognizes the aboriginal peoples as distinct peoples who have a right to their culture, their language, their customs and their traditions, and their right to decide for themselves what path to take in developing their own identity.


The Bloc Québécois asks that the federal government adopt the findings of the Erasmus-Dussault Report and implement them at last.



April 28, 2006


Ms. Tina Keeper (Churchill, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, at this moment the Garden Hill First Nation in my riding of Churchill is experiencing a tuberculosis epidemic. Since March the first two active cases of TB have spread to 20 people and hundreds upon hundreds of people, myself included, have been in contact. Despite pleas from the community leaders, the minister responsible has done nothing to prevent this disease from spreading further. This rate is 125 times greater than what the Minister of Health declared as a target for first nations on National TB Day.


 I ask the minister, how many more people need to be infected before he will commit to helping the Garden Hill First Nation?


Mr. Steven Fletcher (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, the member is actually incorrect. The Government of Canada, Health Canada and Manitoba Health Services are working on managing the outbreak along with provincial regional health authorities.


In fact, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development met with the first nation chief about four weeks ago, immediately after the outbreak occurred. Clearly, the government is taking action and we look forward to working with the community and all other stakeholders to ensure that appropriate action is taken.


Ms. Tina Keeper (Churchill, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary for health is not aware that the chief was in Ottawa this week and had tried to meet with officials and representatives from government. They have not been able to access those responsible. This community has not been able to implement a crisis response. Screening of all individuals is necessary to contain the outbreak.


In the midst of a public health crisis, why does the government not provide the first nation with the same level of service that any other Canadian would receive?


Mr. Steven Fletcher (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the member is not aware of the meeting that the chief had with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development yesterday, not to mention the meetings that they had previously.


Having said that, it is clear that aboriginal communities all across Canada are having challenges and that is due to 13 years of Liberal neglect of these first nations. We look forward to treating all Canadians equally and ensuring access to first class health care.




Mr. Gary Merasty (Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, imposing legislation upon aboriginal governments without prior consultation does not work, not to mention that it is an insult. Aboriginal organizations, the federal Auditor General, and the previous government had established a round table joint policy initiative to build capacity toward the establishment of a first nation's auditor general.


Why is the government imposing its colonial wards of state attitude upon the first nations and not respecting this agreed to initiative?


Hon. John Baird (President of the Treasury Board, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the member opposite that before the decision was taken to include first nations in our federal accountability act, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Chief Fontaine. He asked for a meeting and one was granted within 24 hours.


Mr. Gary Merasty (Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, instead of a round table, we get more of a bully pulpit. Each first nation government already files a minimum of 168 financial reports every year to the federal government, all of which the Auditor General gets access to.


The parliamentary Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development stated that 96% of first nations are fully compliant with all the regulations and rules. When will the government get off the pulpit, get back to the table, and begin consulting with first nations people?




Hon. Carolyn Bennett (St. Paul's, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, that is a vague and incorrect answer. The Liberal government had set aside $100 million to improve early learning programs and child care on reserves.


Since the Conservative government has no plan, will it honour the Liberal commitment and give aboriginal Canadians the services they need?


Mr. Rod Bruinooge (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, our government's agenda is based upon accountability and taking responsibility. It will also be that way with aboriginal policy. We are going to be working with aboriginal Canadians in the months ahead. I look forward to Tuesday when we outline some of our plans for the future.




We are going to take responsibility for the responsibilities that are laid at our feet. On Tuesday we will outline some of our budgetary measures and I am very hopeful that aboriginal people will see a good future in Canada.




Mr. Speaker, our government is clear. We are very interested in assisting aboriginal people in terms of education, housing, and of course children and families. We will be moving forward. We will see on Tuesday a budget with regard to our plans. Our choice in child care plans is something that will benefit all Canadians.




Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, members of the House know that the Kelowna accord is indeed an opportunity to make a difference. Canada's first nations would see improvements in health care, education, housing, and in economic opportunities. The funding for the Kelowna accord was booked in the same budgetary allocation that allowed the government to give $755 million to farmers, and that was good.


Given the budget that is being presented on Tuesday, will the minister confirm that $5.1 billion committed to the Kelowna accord will be delivered as promised?




Mr. Speaker, Kasechewan and water, Caledonia and land claims, Garden Hill and health care, all of these incidents of aboriginals being worse off than their fellow Canadians will be alleviated if the Kelowna accord is implemented in full. Canadians are demanding from coast to coast to coast that the prosperity gap be eliminated.


I challenge the minister. Will he make the Kelowna accord the government's sixth priority?


Mr. Rod Bruinooge (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, as I have said, our government is very interested in pursuing all of the issues that were left behind by the previous government.


We are going to take responsibility for the responsibilities that are laid at our feet. On Tuesday we will outline some of our budgetary measures and I am very hopeful that aboriginal people will see a good future in Canada.



May 2, 2006


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 

Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for his question.


The new government’s program is based on accountability and assumption of responsibility. This should also be the case for first nations policies.


In the coming months, the new government will be working with Canadians of native origin. We are going to define the new framework for establishing the federal action plan and federal expenditures. This is something the Liberal government never did.



May 3, 2006


Hon. Bill Graham (Leader of the Opposition, Lib.): 


He should tell that to the aboriginal people of our country, Mr. Speaker.


It took 18 months for the Liberal government to pull together the provinces and native communities for a historic agreement. It took the Conservatives 18 words in the budget to rip it up. The Conservative premier of Alberta has condemned what they have done. He said he preferred the Liberal plan, that the Liberal plan was better.


Why has the Prime Minister given up on the aboriginal people, the first nations of our country?


Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, in a few short weeks and a few short months the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the Minister of Finance have managed to deliver a residential schools agreement that the Liberal government could not.


The budget puts new money into the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. This budget puts more money into aboriginal housing off reserve and more money into aboriginal housing on reserve. The Minister of Indian Affairs has come forward with a program to improve water treatment on reserves, which was never done by the Liberal government. There will be more money for aboriginal housing in the territories. That is why the chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples said, “We are very pleased with this budget”.




Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, Canadians agree that the economic and social conditions of our aboriginal citizens is desperate. For months, the Liberal Party, the aboriginal leadership and all the premiers have called for the full implementation of the Kelowna accord. Had the NDP not sold out, they too might have done the same.


My question is for the Prime Minister. With a 90% reduction in the Kelowna commitments, does he realize that he has cast aside the greatest opportunity to create social peace and prosperity for aboriginal Canadians?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, let us ensure that the facts are clear. Aboriginal Canadians are real winners under this budget. We have provided the following: $300 million for northern housing; $300 million for off reserve housing; $150 million additional funds in the budget; and a $325 million budgetary increase for this department in the estimates last week. That is a total of $1.1 billion of new money. In addition, there is the $500 million socio-economic fund. In addition to that, there is $2.2 billion for the residential schools agreement.


This is a fair and reasonable budget for aboriginal Canadians that also requires--




Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, this is not a good news budget for aboriginal peoples. Let me tell members what people are saying.


Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of B.C. Chiefs, said, “aboriginal people across Canada learned that Prime Minister has a wooden heart to match his wooden smile”. Grand Chief Phil Fontaine agrees.


As we heard earlier, Ralph Klein said, “I don't like it...I liked the commitment that was given by the Liberal government to the First Nations and the Métis people”.


How can the Prime Minister and the minister even pretend that what was announced was good--




Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, the budget puts forward $1.1 billion of new money for aboriginal Canadians. It balances the competing objectives of being fair and reasonable to aboriginal Canadians, and ensuring accountability and results.


Here is what Patrick Brazeau, the national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, had to say:



 --it's the first time that a federal government has fully acknowledged our constituency being the off-reserve, Métis, non-status and status Indians... But secondly, you know, we see a government that's fulfilling its commitments.




Hon. John McCallum:


I turn now to Canada's aboriginal people, to what is in the budget for them, or more accurately, what is not. The Conservative government jettisoned the Liberal government's Kelowna accord, an agreement by both levels of government committing $5 billion to improve aboriginal housing, health and economic development.


While the commitments the Conservatives have made, including national water standards for first nation reserves and native-run school boards, will no doubt be beneficial to our country's first nations, Inuit and Métis people, they are little more than a distraction from the larger issue at hand.


The programs outlined in this budget were laid out in the Kelowna accord. What the budget lacks is any new funding at all for aboriginal Canadians.


Kelowna was the result of first nations, Métis and Inuit leaders joining with premiers, territorial leaders and the federal government, for the first time in history, to forge a comprehensive plan, with measurable targets to ensure accountability, that will address the urgent problems facing aboriginal communities.


On this side of the House, we believe the commitments made in Kelowna are essential in order to bridge the gap in living standards between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians. However, with this new budget, it is clearer than ever that what we achieved in Kelowna is in danger. The Conservative government has abandoned the plans laid out in the accord for the sake of ideology.


The Conservatives' lack of commitment to what was achieved in Kelowna is no secret. During the last election, the former Conservative finance critic, now the immigration minister, publicly stated:


[The] Kelowna agreement is something that [they] crafted at the last moment on the back of a napkin on the eve of an election. We're not going to honour that. We will have our own plan that will help natives a lot more than the Liberals'.


It is disappointing but not surprising, I would say, to see this lack of commitment reflected in the Conservative budget. Where is the plan that was promised by the former finance critic? Is this budget a signal of what is to come? Is it the first step in the Conservatives' plan to abandon the Government of Canada's commitment to aboriginal people? Is this their strategy to gradually undermine the Kelowna accord?


Kelowna is the product of more than two years of hard work by native leaders and the federal and provincial governments. Together we managed to reach a historic agreement to overcome the economic divide that will still exist in 10 years between aboriginals and their fellow citizens in the areas of education, health, housing and economic opportunities.


I cannot see how a government of any kind could withdraw in all conscience from such an agreement. Aboriginal Canadians deserve at least that. They deserve all the funds they were promised at the first ministers’ meeting in Kelowna, and not just crumbs. Only a detailed plan will enable us to make real changes to the quality of life of aboriginals and help them move from poverty to prosperity.


It is simply unacceptable to cherry-pick from the Kelowna accord without even having the decency of consulting the aboriginal leaders. In the Liberal Party, we are committed to working together with first nations, Métis and Inuit leaders. Despite the poor showing in this budget, we will continue to strongly encourage the Prime Minister to do the same. It is not enough to just pay lip service. Canada's aboriginal peoples deserve a government that can achieve real progress.


Throughout the past few months, the Conservatives have been trying to create a phony war between their government and the opposition on the subject of child care. The Prime Minister and his ministers have tried to frame the child care debate as a matter of choice. In a way, they are right, but it is not a choice between the Liberal child care program and the Conservative child care program. It is a choice between an existing national public system of early learning and child care--




Mr. Ron Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, aboriginal Canadians really are a priority for the government.



May 4, 2006


Ms. Nancy Karetak-Lindell (Nunavut, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, as an Inuk of which there is no reference, I am deeply troubled by the Conservative government's budget tabled in the House of Commons on Tuesday, May 3.


The current government has not addressed the needs of Canada's aboriginal peoples. The government has neglected to address the serious challenges for the people of Nunavut, to develop educational programs and promote language skills geared specifically for Nunavummiut.


The recent Berger report stressed the importance of education and development in Inuktitut and English language skills in the north and yet another opportunity has been ignored to implement the recommendations.


The announcement of the annual $1,200 universal child care benefit for children under the age of six does not address the serious shortage of child care spaces in Nunavut.


While I applaud the funding for housing, it is a one time investment, not the multi-year plan we had under the Kelowna accord.




Mr. Gary Merasty (Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, Lib.): 


Far too many in a land of such wealth and prosperity have little and must engage in a daily struggle for survival. Their pain far too often does not have a voice, rather, only cold, unfeeling numbers tell the undeniable story of their unspoken tragedy.


Infant mortality is a clinical phrase, one that only suggests the terrible anguish it brings. In 2000, Health Canada reported that the first nations infant mortality rate was 6.4 deaths per 1,000 live births, a rate 16% higher than the general Canadian population. Those who survive are often brought home to live in a house that overcrowded and need of repair. Indian Affairs and Northern Development reported that in 2005 12% who live in a first nations community live in overcrowded conditions in comparison to 1% elsewhere in Canada.


Moreover, 27.6% of these homes are in desperate need of major repairs or need to be replaced outright. Many of these children suffer greatly because of the twin scourges of poverty and disease. The rate of child poverty in Saskatchewan, for instance, is already far too high at 17.6%, but for off reserve first nations and Métis in Saskatchewan, the number shows a truly dire situation. Fully 55.9% of first nations children and 36% of Métis children live in poverty.


I ask members to please not confuse the culture of poverty with the culture of aboriginal people.


Too often poverty also means disease. In 2000, the gap between first nations and Canadian rates of enteric, food and water borne diseases among children aged 0 to 14 were reported by Health Canada to be 2.1 times higher for shigellosis, 6 times higher for rubella and 7 times higher for tuberculosis.


These horrible statistics are linked to other troubling and chilling numbers. Aboriginal youth are eight times more likely to be incarcerated than other Canadian youth. In Saskatchewan, 75% of all youth incarcerated are aboriginal. As a terrible last act, 22% of all deaths of first nations youth were as a result of suicide. We need more than anything to listen to these silent voices for their anguish says the most.


I ask the House to try to fully comprehend the tragedy of these numbers. This is a tragedy with silent voices, voices that all need to be given strength, to be listened to and to be responded to.


The response we need to give is one of compassion, support and help. This support is not a hand-out but a helping hand up. Right now there are little or no supports for aboriginal children aged 0 to 4 in first nations communities, especially children born with disabilities. With no services and few accessible quality early childhood intervention programs try to imagine the anguish that parents and children who want and need but they cannot get. This is what it means to be powerless.




Low income aboriginal Canadians need support. This $3.25, or rather 55¢ [for child care], will not help with threats of disease and terrible living conditions. This is an attempt to explain away the problem without dealing with it, without building capacity, creating opportunities for early learning and care, and giving parents the support they need.




Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick (Prince Albert, CPC): 


I agree with the member when he says that the housing problem with aboriginal people has deteriorated, that schooling has deteriorated, that suicide rate has deteriorated, that the crime rate has become worse, that water quality problems in our aboriginal communities have deteriorated and that the lives of aboriginal people have been deteriorating and the gap is widening. The Auditor General will confirm that.


To me he has just described a damning indictment against a government that has governed this country for 13 years. From of his own lips, he has said that the lives of aboriginal people have deteriorated and the culture of poverty that exists among aboriginal people has become worse.


Why is the member involved with an organization that has basically failed the aboriginal people over the past 13 years and led to this really dreadful situation that we are seeing today?


Mr. Gary Merasty: 


Mr. Speaker, I cited some statistics in my speech that talked about how the actions of the Liberal government actually helped. We began to set the stage for making even bigger differences in the lives of aboriginal children.


What we see across the floor today is that Kelowna has been tossed aside, child care has been tossed aside and there is no mention of health care. These kids need the help of the government today.


The Liberal Party is proud of its record when it was in government. The Kelowna accord set the stage for bigger and better things.



May 5, 2006


Mr. Rod Bruinooge (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, our government is very concerned about aboriginal people throughout Canada.




Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP): 


In terms of a public health framework for first nations communities, the First Nations Health Bulletin, Winter-Spring 2006 talked about work that the Assembly of First Nations is doing in the context of many communities across Canada. It is raising a number of issues including some of what we call the social determinants of health. We must not just talk about health promotion. We must talk about the social determinants of health. The bulletin refers to high rates of unemployment, lower educational opportunities, poor housing and overcrowding, lack of basic amenities such as running water and indoor toilets. These are but a few of the social issues that contribute to the poor health in first nations communities.


The bulletin stated that it is essential that a community have access to information about itself. We know that knowledge is often power. When we do not have adequate information to talk about the health in communities, then we do not have the tools to help us develop the appropriate public policy to address these issues. That is not available in many circumstances, largely due to the dysfunctional surveillance systems for first nations health.


It goes on to say that the recommendations proposed in the public health framework take into consideration the distinct communities that first nations represent across Canada. This points to the fact that we cannot have a one size fits all approach to public health in first nations and aboriginal communities from coast to coast to coast.


The Assembly of First Nations put out a bulletin on May 3, 2006. I will quote from this because I think the words should come from the people it directly affects. The headline is “Federal Budget Ignores Health Crisis in First Nations Communities” and it states, “Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine said it is alarming to see a complete absence of funding in the federal budget to address urgent health crises faced by first nations communities such as those faced by Garden Hill First Nation in Manitoba and Kashechewan First Nation in Ontario. It is ironic that the first government saw fit to invest in epidemics of tuberculosis, HIV-AIDS in developing countries, while many first nations are living with these diseases and there is no new assistance for them”.


To give a little more context, this is Canada. This is not a developing country where sometimes, sad but true, people come to expect high rates of infant mortality, tuberculosis, HIV-AIDs and diabetes. Let us talk about the reality in first nations communities.


In 2000 the life expectancy at birth for first nations populations was estimated at 68.9 years for men and 76.6 years for women. That represents a gap of 7.4 years and 5.2 years respectively with Canadian populations. The gap in the potential years of life lost between first nations and Canadians was estimated in 1999 to be three times greater on injuries, almost double on endocrine diseases, such as diabetes, and more than double for mental illness. In 1999 the first nations suicide rate was 27.9 deaths per 100,000. The Canadian suicide rate was 13.2 deaths per 100,000. There is a litany of these pieces of information. It is shameful that we need to talk about them today in the context of a country as wealthy as Canada.


I will briefly touch on pandemics as I know I will run out of time and I still want to speak about tuberculosis and diabetes. Pandemic readiness in first nations communities is not where it needs to be. In a paper by Dr. Gideon for the Assembly of First Nations, she specifically talks about the fact that there are gaps in the training plans, that many first nations communities have had the opportunity to develop these plans, but have had no ability to test the plans, that there is still inadequate training around drinking water and sewage plant management, and that there are still no formal discussions or written protocols between Health Canada and the provinces and territories where much of that action will need to happen.


I need to turn my attention in the time I have remaining to the crises around tuberculosis and diabetes within first nations communities in this country. I want to talk about Garden Hill specifically. In 2001 the incidence of tuberculosis disease in first nations communities was on average 10 times higher than that of the Canadian population as a whole.


Between 1975 and 2002 there was a significant decline in the number of cases and incidence of TB among first nations. The most positive impact was achieved by 1992. This is despite the first nations insured health benefits branch tuberculosis elimination strategy implemented in 1992 with the goal of reducing incidence of TB disease in the first nations on reserve population to one per 100,000 by the year 2010. Over the last 10 years there has been limited improvement in further reducing the incidence of TB among first nations, especially in western provinces.


This is in the context of the first nations community, the Garden Hill Reserve, with 3,500 where only 4% have access to running water. There are 20 cases that have been reported in the area. The first case went undiagnosed for eight months. There was a critical need to move on clean drinking water, on sewage, on adequate health care resources in the community.


The community is calling for community-wide testing. We must act. This is Canada. People should not be facing the spread of tuberculosis in their communities in this day and age.


I want to turn now to diabetes. Friday, May 5 marks National Aboriginal Diabetes Awareness Day. Diabetes walks are being held in my own community to attempt to shine the light of attention on this crisis.


 I am going to quote from a press release by Chief Phil Fontaine who said, “Diabetes has become a disabling and deadly disease for many Canadians but first nations continue to suffer with a level that is three to five times higher. In order to better come to grips with understanding and treating this epidemic, the Assembly of First Nations is in the process of completing a three part first nations diabetes report card based on the Canadian Diabetes Association model. The report card will assess the current state of diabetes supports available to first nations people focusing on six areas: prevention; treatment; education; policy development; research; and surveillance. The first part of the report card will be released next month.”


The great tragedy of diabetes is that it can be easily prevented or regulated through diet and exercise, but when people live in poverty, making healthy choices is not an option when there is no access to affordable foods and safe drinking water. The press release goes on to talk about how in some communities entire families, from toddlers to grandparents, have diabetes.


This year the first nations regional health survey revealed that the average age of diagnosis among youth is 11 years, but there are also many adults who go undiagnosed and untreated until they suffer serious complications, such as blindness or loss of limb. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes can be reduced through healthy nutrition, healthy weight and regular physical activity. There are success stories in some first nations communities but there are also many tragedies.


The release goes on to say, “The great tragedy of diabetes is that it can be easily prevented or regulated through diet and exercise, but when you live in poverty, making healthy choices is not an option when there is no access to affordable foods and safe drinking water”.


There is a litany of information. For many decades first nations communities across this country have continued to plea with governments to ensure that the social determinants of health that are impacting on the health and well-being of aboriginal communities is addressed.


We have developed drinking water strategies and housing strategies and yet we still do not see a significant improvement in many aboriginal communities. What is the loss to this country in terms of people's ability to participate fully in their community life? What is the loss to the economic well-being of the community? What is the loss to the cultural vibrancy of the community when many elders and young people are contracting a disease that is entirely preventable?


Diabetes can be addressed through a comprehensive program that ensures there are adequate health resources in the community and adequate educational resources. These tools must be developed in conjunction with aboriginal communities to make sure they are culturally relevant and appropriate to the first nations community, because it is a diverse community from coast to coast to coast. These things must be put in place to address this crisis.


We saw events unfold in Kashechewan last year when the community was faced with a drinking water crisis. We are seeing an emerging situation in Garden Hill with a tuberculosis outbreak. I believe there are currently 79 boil water advisories in place in first nations communities.


This bill provides us with an opportunity to highlight some of these very serious issues facing first nations, Inuit and Métis communities, both on and off reserve. I would urge the committee to examine these issues in a very serious way and put forward some meaningful proposals developed in conjunction with aboriginal communities and their leadership.


It is critical that we make sure that access is available for all. We consider ourselves an equality country so let us make sure equality is in place. The time for action is now.


Hon. Robert Thibault (West Nova, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, I had the honour and privilege of serving with the member in the last Parliament on the health committee and I know of her resolve on these issues. While we may not always have agreed 100% on the way to solve the problems, we always participated very well, worked very well and shared the principles.


I am pleased that she has made a reference to TB, because I think it is one the areas of public health that we have to pay a lot of attention to. My father was a victim of TB. He lost a lung to TB, which probably contributed to his death at 49 years of age. There was an outbreak of TB in my community almost 40 years ago in which hundreds of people were hospitalized. High school children and children in intermediate school were hospitalized. They lost a lot of very important years at a very important time. I know people who spent seven, eight and ten years in sanatoriums because of tuberculosis.


There is currently a fear of an outbreak in my community. At the Yarmouth Regional Hospital, approximately 750 people had to be tested for tuberculosis. I know what anxiety and fear this puts into our community. I can only imagine what anxiety levels and fears there must be in native communities throughout this country where they have to live with this fear every day.


We know that with TB, fetal alcohol syndrome, juvenile diabetes, and especially adult onset diabetes, socio-economic factors play a large part in the opportunities for those diseases to manifest themselves and spread within those communities.


We know the disappointment there must be in those communities that the Kelowna accord has been scrapped by the government, with the loss of the opportunity they had for socio-economic improvement of those communities throughout Canada, especially in the northern communities, from one ocean to the two others, where they had reached an agreement with all the provinces to deal with the basis of the problems in those communities. That $5 billion investment, a great first step, has been scrapped.


Could the member tell us her impressions of the socio-economic costs of cancelling the Kelowna accord?


Ms. Jean Crowder: 


Mr. Speaker, I know the member has been committed to addressing the very serious health issues both in his own community and in aboriginal communities across the country.


The Kelowna agreement was an effort to address the poverty gap that exists in first nations, Inuit and Métis communities. There is a disregard of the amount of work done over 18 months, of the amount of consultation and the very real participation of aboriginal communities across this country. To just rip up that agreement after all that work really leads to a sense of dismay.


The social determinants of health, which I spoke about earlier, have a real impact in terms of the incidence of disease in the communities. The agreement may not have been perfect, but it was a good step forward in terms of addressing that poverty gap in this country in first nations, Inuit and Métis communities.




Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP): 


Mr. Speaker, international human rights law states that whenever possible it is best to ensure children's welfare within the family and community.


Standards for child and family services are set by provincial and territorial governments. Funding on reserves, however, comes from the federal government.


In 2000 the federal government acknowledged that, on average, funding for indigenous children and family services was 22% lower per child than provincial funding for non-indigenous children, despite the higher costs of providing service in small and remote communities. The gap has increased every year since.


With one in ten status Indian children currently in care, it is unacceptable that this Conservative budget ignored the needs of these vulnerable children.


I call on all my colleagues in this House to support Jordan's principle, which states that when there is a jurisdictional dispute over a child's care, the needs of the child come first, without delay, and then there is a referral of that matter to jurisdictional dispute mechanisms.


I also call on the Conservative government to ensure this gap in funding is quickly closed.




Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, what he counts is last year's money and maybe next year's money but nothing this spring.


Until February, the books of the Government of Canada carried specific allocations to fully implement the Kelowna accords for aboriginal people: $1.8 billion for education, $1.6 billion for housing and water, $1.3 billion for health, $170 million for governance, $200 million for economic development, more than $5 billion altogether until February.


With the biggest surplus in Canadian history, why did the government gut 90% of the funding for aboriginal people?


Mr. Jason Kenney (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, the real question is why, after 13 years in power, did the member, when he was finance minister, his party and his government fail to act for aboriginal Canadians? Why is it that they waited until the 11th hour and 59th minute to put together a press release in Kelowna rather than delivering for aboriginal Canadians, as we have in the budget, with an additional $450 million over two years?


That is why the head of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples said, “We're very pleased with the budget.... We see this as a down payment on the Kelowna agreement”.




Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, over the last 13 years, the Liberal government gave more attention to the north than any government in history and we are very proud of that fact.


It is incomprehensible that the government created an entire throne speech and an entire budget without even mentioning the northern half of Canada. There is no northern strategy, no northern economic development fund, no northern search and rescue planes, no northern contaminated sites and, in fact, the word “north” is not mentioned at all.


When will the Conservatives stop leaving the north out in the cold?


Mr. Rod Bruinooge (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, our government is very interested in the north. We actually took some of our first initiatives, especially on behalf of the minister, who toured the north and met with many of the stakeholders. In the budget we indicated that we would be spending $300 million on northern housing. We also put forward $500 million for a socio-economic fund for the Mackenzie Valley basin.


We believe that this is a vision for the north and we are looking forward to working with all stakeholders.


Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, how embarrassing could it be when the only money the government can come up with is our $300 million from last June 23, our $500 million that the deputy prime minister--


Some hon. members: Oh, oh!


An hon. member: It belongs to the taxpayers, Larry, not you.




Hon. Larry Bagnell: 


Mr. Speaker, it is so embarrassing that the only money the Conservatives can talk about is the money we announced last June 23 for affordable housing and the $500 million the deputy prime minister, Anne McLellan, announced for the Mackenzie Valley pipeline.


We put in a northern strategy, northern economic development money, money for northern search and rescue planes, money for the territories and more money for northern health.


When will the Conservatives put in even one thing for the north?


Mr. Rod Bruinooge (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, our government is very interested in the north.


Let me remind the member that the money committed is not his money or our money. It is taxpayer money.


As a person who is originally from the north, I am very interested in working with the minister and with all members on this side to help northerners achieve the economic development that they are looking for.




Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP):


Mr. Speaker, the Lubicon Lake First Nation is testifying today at the United Nations in Geneva. It will tell that international body of the government's reluctance to settle land claims, of the third world conditions its members live under, the mouldy housing, the lack of running water and the high rates of youth suicide.


Why did the government not live up to its promises and put real money toward closing the gap on aboriginal poverty in the budget? Is this fair and reasonable?


Mr. Rod Bruinooge (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, our government is very concerned about aboriginal people throughout Canada. We are currently working with all stakeholders throughout Canada to rectify the problems as they are.


The government is committed to a progressive achievement by all Canadians of economic, social and cultural rights contained in the international covenant, which the member mentioned, at the UN and we look forward to working on this issue.




Mr. Todd Russell (Labrador, Lib.):


On aboriginal issues, the Conservatives have torn up the Kelowna accord. The Liberal government budgeted over $5 billion to meet our commitments to first nations, off reserve, Métis and Inuit peoples. The money would have gone toward health, housing, safe water, education and other important initiatives to bring aboriginal living standards up. It was historic and our people were looking forward to the benefits. Instead, this budget offers a pittance for the Innu and Inuit and absolutely zilch for the Métis who face the same challenges in respect of housing, drinking water and other issues that the Kelowna accord was going to tackle.


Last week the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development dismissed the Kelowna accord as nothing more than a press release. The government says it will meet the Kelowna targets, but without the Kelowna funding. It has replaced the Kelowna accord with the Conservative bologna accord. It is bologna and the members opposite know it. This is a disgrace. It is a major setback for aboriginal Canadians. It is time for the government to honour the deal signed in Kelowna.


All in all, this is a budget that favours the wealthy. It benefits people who do not need the help and does not help the people who need the benefits. This budget leaves a lot of unanswered questions. What programs and services are going to be slashed? How will my constituents be better off when the Conservatives raise their income taxes?




Mr. Nathan Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley, NDP): 


What a joyful and perplexing scene it is for many Canadians watching the Tweedledum-dumber debate going on day after day in this House where one party accuses the other of playing fast and loose with the memory and the record and the other just accelerating the direction of that record.


It is an extraordinary challenge to address a budget that is faulty in so many different ways, particularly when it comes to the west coast and particularly when it comes to the environment.


It is rather easy for opposition members to get up and simply criticize, as that is our role. I know the government appreciates our being able to have open, honest and frank debate in this House, a crashing together of views so that Canadians are better served by the best views coming forward. When I look at this budget, I have to wonder exactly whom the government was listening to when it made some of its most critical decisions.




With respect to the aboriginal file, my riding is made up of more than 30% first nations, some of the strongest communities and nations in our land such as the Nisga'a, Haida, Wet'suwet'en, Tsimshian, Haisla and others. These communities represent the absolute cultural and historical backbone of my region. After many months of deliberations and after more than 12 years of stalling and delaying on the part of the previous government, we finally arrived at an accord that lo and behold all the provinces could agree with. I was at the signing of that accord. It was a moment that even the current Minister of Indian Affairs marked as historic and important, only to turn around and have it destroyed within mere months.


It is discouraging because of the astounding poverty and the astounding cultural erosion that we see taking place in our first nations communities, not just in my riding but across the entire country. The sense of urgency on this file can no longer be ignored. With respect to the playing of partisan politics between those two parties, I say a pox on both houses for having so long ignored the plight of aboriginal Canadians who, in my experience, display the greatest sense of generosity and forthrightness. In my region they always deal in good faith when dealing with the government, even though over decades their faith has been misplaced.


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, we have heard from aboriginal Canadians that they have full confidence in the ability of the government to deal with aboriginal issues.


The budget, which has been put forward, is a wonderful budget with more for aboriginal Canadians than ever emerged from that side of the House, in terms of northern housing, off reserve housing, increases in additional funds for women, children and for other purposes.


Aboriginal Canadians will have confidence in this government.




Mr. Blair Wilson (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, Lib.): 


[T]he Conservatives have failed to address the very pressing needs of Canada's aboriginal people in this budget. Rather than honouring the historic Kelowna accord signed last November, which would have substantially improved the lives of our first nations people, the Conservative government chose to ignore them, cutting planned funding by 80% from $5.3 billion to just over $1 billion.


My riding is home to many different native groups, including the Squamish first nations, and many have agreed that this budget does very little to deal with the gap in the quality of life between aboriginals and non-aboriginal Canadians. The B.C. First Nations Leadership Council has called one the Prime Minister to live up to the financial commitments contained in the Kelowna accord in order to address the critical socio-economic and infrastructure gaps suffered by first nations.


Chief Gibby Jacobs of the Squamish first nation, one of my constituents, has also expressed great concern over this budget. The budget has failed dramatically on education and innovation. It has also failed on its priorities to Canadians. One of the strongest priorities to Canadians has been health care, which has been completely panned and ignored by the government. The federal budget provides no additional funding for wait time reduction nor any explanation of how the wait time guarantee will be implemented. What happened to the Conservatives' priority of fixing waiting times?



May 10, 2006


Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP):


Canadian aboriginal people have waited long enough. We want no more excuses or delays. We call upon the Prime Minister to take the next step and apologize, so that we finally might repair this difficulty that has existed between our nations.




Mr. Brent St. Denis (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, Lib.):


I mentioned that I had roughly 24 first nations in my riding. We had the Kelowna accord, an accord that was signed, sealed and delivered by the premiers of the provinces and territories, by the aboriginal, Métis and Inuit leadership and by the prime minister of the day. To see that accord tossed out the window is a damaging for the relationship between Canada and its aboriginal peoples.


Our aboriginal people deserve respect. They deserve to be at the table. It was a historic meeting in Kelowna where provincial, territorial, national and aboriginal leaders were together for the first time. They made breakthroughs that were historic. I really hope that the very small down payment that the government made in its budget is followed up with further action and a commitment to follow through on the over $5 billion that was committed to in Kelowna. We are really counting on that. We will give the government the benefit of a little more time, but it is barely 20% there on that commitment.




Mrs. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP): 


The housing money allocated to reserves is not going to address the housing needs of the first nations people. The $450 million allotted may cover repairs needed on current stock, but it will not address the overcrowding or relocation needs in communities like Kashechewan.


We are pleased to see money from the NDP budget go to off reserve first nations housing. The money can be used to ease the current housing burden, but spread across the entire country, it will not come close to addressing the needs of those who most need it. Too often, aboriginal people have seen money disappear into programs with no corresponding improvement in their standard of living.


This budget is not much more than sleight of hand. It pretends to help working families and women, but upon closer inspection, the so-called savings simply disappear into thin, cold air.



May 11, 2006


Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.): 


In the recent budget, more money was into the mountain pine beetle than for the aboriginal people of British Columbia.




Mr. Brian Jean (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, CPC): 


We are going to [...] keep their aboriginal culture intact.




Mr. Ken Boshcoff (Thunder Bay—Rainy River, Lib.):


If we have a goal of becoming the most literate nation in the world, support for literacy programs is conspicuously absent in the budget, particularly support for aboriginal literacy.



May 15, 2006


Mr. Gary Merasty (Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, Lib.): 


Aboriginal leaders and premiers have slammed the government for killing the Kelowna accord, an accord which provided $5.3 billion for various initiatives on and off reserve.


The late Harold Cardinal, who wrote the book The Unjust Society, talked about how hard aboriginal Canadians worked to get the attention of the government over the years. He stated:


 “Well, boys, what you have to say is good and you must be commended for the intelligence you have shown through your extremely good presentation”...“but we know your problems and what should be done, and we're certain that you will be pleased with our carefully considered decisions”.


Kelowna was the joint intelligence that all parties came up with. The government has thrown that away with its “we know what is good for you” attitude. This is very problematic to the aboriginal people. A real credibility gap has emerged where aboriginal people are very wary of the government's intentions.


By killing the accord, all of Saskatchewan is hurt by the loss of opportunity. A targeted investment in first nations Métis on and off reserve education and post-secondary skills training would have created new opportunities for an emerging youthful Saskatchewan labour force, keeping in mind the context I opened with.


Economic development funding would have leveraged millions in business activities. Aboriginal businesses are one of the fastest growing tax bases in Saskatchewan, with exceptionally high rates of returns on strategic business investments. Housing would have pumped millions into the industry and provided more training opportunities.


The budget also completely excludes the Métis people and leaves out survivors of the Ile-à-la-Crosse boarding school despite campaign commitments from the Prime Minister and the previous member of Parliament in my riding.


As I stated earlier, Saskatchewan people have worked hard to re-establish the province as a place full of promise, optimism and pride. All residents of Saskatchewan realize that by betraying the Kelowna accord and ignoring forestry, agriculture, child care and higher education and by raising taxes, our work as proud Saskatchewan people is made even tougher. The government cannot ignore us in Saskatchewan. The budget falls far short of what Saskatchewan people need.


Mr. Rodger Cuzner (Cape Breton—Canso, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, I listened to the comments put forward by my colleague in his presentation. I respect his understanding for the aboriginal issues and the work he has done to date. I would like him to take a moment to speak to the on ground issues regarding the actions or inactions of the government through the budget in not investing in aboriginal issues, in not supporting the Kelowna accord. We could talk in broad terms about the immense amount of dollars that have been taken from that file, but how do the actions of the government impact on people on the ground and aboriginal people across this country?


Mr. Gary Merasty: 


Mr. Speaker, an investment in aboriginal people is an investment from which residents in Saskatchewan and all of Canada could benefit. Success in that demographic means success for all.




Ms. Olivia Chow (Trinity—Spadina, NDP):


Think of the aboriginals. The first nations in this country have also been left out in the cold. Once again, they are an afterthought. The NDP managed to negotiate funding in last year's budget, which was a start, but with this Bush-league budget aboriginals are being ignored. There is nothing new and promised child care funding of $25 million was ripped away. Aboriginals deserve better and we can do better than that.




Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.):


An example is the most vulnerable is aboriginal people. It says on page 112 of the budget that the budget of Indian Affairs has grown about $350 million a year because there is a growing population and inflation. How much did the government increase the budget? The Conservatives increased it $150 million, which is less than 50% of the average of previous governments. What is $150 million of the $5 billion that the Liberal government offered for Kelowna? It is one thirty-third of that amount. When reporters asked where the $5 billion went, what answer did they get? The previous Liberal government had it all set aside.




Hon. Michael Chong (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister for Sport, CPC): 


[T]he previous government often promised great things but it failed to deliver on them. For years aboriginal Canadians have been suffering some of the worst living conditions in our country and yet the previous government never delivered additional money for it. Budget 2006 delivers new additional money, the first new additional money in years for aboriginal communities.




Mr. Rod Bruinooge (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


[W]e are working with northern governments and aboriginal organizations to ensure that quality health care, education and economic opportunities are available to northerners. What I have outlined today clearly demonstrates our government's commitment to the north. [...] Our government recognizes the tremendous potential of the north and the important role it will play in Canada's future prosperity. Let me sum it up simply. Our government is committed to the north. We are improving housing, enhancing sovereignty and security, and providing important support to the communities impacted by the Mackenzie gas project.



May 16, 2006


Mr. Ron Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, today's Auditor General's report has highlighted first nations concerns that need to be addressed. The Auditor General has made over 30 recommendations since 2000 on how to improve services for our first nations people.


Despite many promises, the Auditor General's report proves that little was actually done by the Liberal government to improve conditions for aboriginal Canadians.


Can the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development tell us what a Conservative government is doing to address issues facing our aboriginal communities?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General's report is in and it is a sad and appalling indictment of 13 years of Liberal government in action. This is what the Auditor General said:


Federal organizations have made unsatisfactory progress in implementing almost half of our recommendations, generally those addressing issues having the greatest impact on the lives of First Nations people and Inuit.


By contrast, in the past 100 days, this government has done more for aboriginal Canadians than the Liberals did in 13 years. We have a national drinking water strategy. The budget includes $300 million for northern housing, $300 million for off reserve housing, an additional $150 million--




Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP): 


Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General said yesterday that no federal organization has taken responsibility for assessing the extent of the insidious mould problem on reserves and no one is developing a comprehensive strategy to address it. This is a serious health and safety issue for first nations.


Which of those ministers will take responsibility for this disaster and ensure the resources are available to deal with this problem?


Hon. Tony Clement (Minister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General has expressed a tale of mismanagement that has a direct impact on the health and safety of aboriginal Canadians. We do not have to make any excuses but we will be part of the solution rather than the members opposite who have been part of the problem for the last 13 years.


Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP): 


Mr. Speaker, without last year's NDP budget the Conservatives would have only committed $450 million to aboriginal peoples over two years, not the $1.15 billion that the minister is fond of bragging about.


The Auditor General's report shows that Conservative promises are not nearly enough to reduce the gaps in the standard of living for first nations, Inuit and Métis. Will the minister commit to implementing every single recommendation in the Auditor General's report for first nations programs immediately?


Hon. Tony Clement (Minister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, I can tell the House that we intend to fulfill our promises that were based on budget 2006, promises to aboriginal Canadians from coast to coast to coast, which the hon. member and her caucus voted against.



May 18, 2006


Mr. Don Bell (North Vancouver, Lib.): 


I have spoken already about the situation with aboriginals and the need to help aboriginal communities across Canada to develop their own fiscal economy, their ability to be self-sustaining. The Tsleil-Waututh First Nation and the Squamish First Nation are in my riding. The Kelowna accord, which they saw as a benefit, has effectively been gutted by the budget. It is down to 20% of what was agreed to after a historic accord between all provinces and first nations. This would have enabled first nations to get the economic base to provide employment and to deal with the social and economic problems on reserves. It is a shame.




Mr. Lloyd St. Amand (Brant, Lib.):


How disappointed the 11,000 residents who live in the first nations community of Six Nations on the Grand River were when this budget effectively scuttled the Kelowna accord. How ironic for members opposite to talk about the longstanding problems faced by our first nations communities and how long term solutions will be required in order to correct problems which have taken years to develop. How sadly ironic it is that the long term problems have not resulted in a long term commitment by the government to one of Canada's founding peoples.


The budget, rather, presents temporary band-aid solutions only, and inadequate ones at that, for the significant economic, social, health and educational issues which confront first nations communities across Canada. How much better it would have been for the budget to speak about long term plans for first nations, a real commitment to our first nations peoples.




Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has properly stated the grossly inadequate standard of living that most first nations people have.


The Kelowna accord, signed not quite six months ago, was hailed by everyone who knew the details of it as a watershed moment in the lives of our aboriginals. It would have significantly assisted them with respect to health, housing and education. Those are three areas in which our aboriginal peoples have not kept pace.


Simply put, they need considerable assistance and the Kelowna accord would have provided them with that assistance. I share the member's disappointment that the Kelowna accord has been scuttled.




Hon. Karen Redman (Kitchener Centre, Lib.):


All Canadians got a wake-up call last summer on the quality of life of Canada's aboriginal peoples when we saw the evacuation of the Kashechewan reserve. The Liberal Party responded to that crisis with a historic landmark agreement between first ministers and aboriginal leaders in Kelowna, British Columbia. At that meeting, the government of the day committed to over $5 billion over five years to close the gap between aboriginal peoples and other Canadians in such significant areas as education, health, housing and economic opportunities.


The Conservative government has forsaken this agreement. Not only has it forsaken it but it has provided a mere $200 million to address these very important aboriginal issues.




Mr. Jim Abbott (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, I must say to my friend across the aisle that I have a very high regard for her and therefore I know she says these things with sincerity, but I still have to ask this question.




My second question is with respect to Kelowna. I wonder how she feels about the fact that on the Kelowna agreement there was absolutely no discussion and no part in that agreement for 50% of the aboriginal Canadians, that 50% of aboriginal Canadians who are not on reserve, those urban people who are in an urban situation. There was absolutely no place for that. It was a very wonderfully crafted show, but it did not really have the substance. We are going to be working on the substance.




Hon. Karen Redman (Kitchener Centre, Lib.):


As far as the Kelowna accord is concerned, I have always been very supportive of the kinds of services we need for urban aboriginals, and as a matter of fact, I have a fairly large component of urban aboriginals in my own riding of Kitchener Centre, but it should not be done at the cost of the Kelowna accord. The accord was landmark and historic because we had aboriginal leaders sitting with first ministers and the Government of Canada to work out a long term framework that would address some of the very serious concerns we see on reserves.



May 29, 2006


Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, the government's response to the Auditor General's report is at odds with reality. The government offers the Kelowna accord as evidence that progress is being made on aboriginal issues. The government further speaks about the need to consult with aboriginal organizations. We all know it killed Kelowna and we certainly know it did not consult aboriginal organizations when it drafted the accountability act.


What are we to believe, the government's actions or the government's spin?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, I am astounded that the hon. member would have the temerity to stand in the House after the Auditor General's report, which is a sad epitaph on 13 years of Liberal mismanagement.


From the time of the 1993 red book, followed by throne speech after throne speech of empty promises and rhetoric, finally in 2004 the Liberal government said, “The conditions in too many aboriginal communities can only be described as shameful”, a shame which the Liberals created. I am surprised they would have the audacity to raise that suggestion in the House.


Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, what is really clear is that the government has difficulty aligning the truth with reality. It says that it supports the Kelowna accord and that it understands the need to consult but it is clear that the government's words in response to the Auditor General's report are not compatible with the truth.


Given this record, why should Canada's aboriginal peoples accept the government's word as anything more than empty promises?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, in the recent budget put forward by this government more money was provided for aboriginal Canadians than was ever provided under the previous Liberal government.


The reason aboriginal Canadians are prepared to work with this government is that we are consulting with them. We have established working groups to determine how that money will be spent. They know that what they will see from this government is actions and results and not the sort of empty rhetoric, empty promises and voidness that they saw from the Liberal government.




Ms. Nancy Karetak-Lindell: 


Mr. Speaker, the Kelowna accord built upon other successes like the creation of Nunavut, the Nisga'a treaty and other enabling legislation. It is the result of over 18 months of hard work with the aboriginal peoples of Canada.


Yesterday the western premiers reaffirmed their commitment to Kelowna. Premier Gary Doer said the federal government is morally wrong for breaking promises to Canadian aboriginals. How can the Prime Minister justify abandoning the Kelowna accord which has garnered huge support across Canada?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, I will say what is morally wrong. It was 13 years of Liberal ineptitude, mismanagement, incompetence, ducking, dodging, delaying, and cut and run tax and spend liberalism. Our government will not do that.


Ms. Nancy Karetak-Lindell (Nunavut, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, a 90% cut, that is the difference between what the previous Liberal government had booked and committed, and what the present government committed to. That is not enough to close the gap on any aboriginal priority. Manitoba Premier Gary Doer said disbanding the agreement is simply not acceptable.


When will the Prime Minister admit that the western premiers are right, that he is wrong, and that he needs to put the Kelowna accord back on track?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, first, I wish to point out that the Premier of Nunavut has been supportive of the Conservative budget. Second, if we are going to quote Mr. Doer from the premiers' conference yesterday, let us really quote him. He said:


 And if the new government wants to do some more constructive priority-setting under that accord my view is they should have the right, any new government should have the right--


That is what we intend to do. We will work together with first nations to set priorities, get results, accountability, targeted expenditures, and not what the Liberals provided.


Mr. Todd Russell (Labrador, Lib.):  


Mr. Speaker, regardless of the empty rhetoric from the Conservative government on its commitment to aboriginal communities, Canadians know that the Conservative budget completely abandons the Kelowna accord commitments.


Aboriginal leaders like Phil Fontaine, Jose Kusugak and Clement Chartier have described the Conservative gutting of the Kelowna accord as an unacceptable step backward for Canada. Aboriginal communities need action now.


Why have the Conservatives turned their backs on the Kelowna accord and set adrift Canada's aboriginal peoples?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, if we are going to quote the western premiers, let us be fair and let us look at what the premiers actually said. What Mr. Doer commented on primarily was 13 years of Liberal empty promises and corruption. He said specifically:


 We don't want to be unfair to the [Conservative] government because the former government did not put the Kelowna money in the fiscal framework as every journalist here knows.




Mr. Todd Russell (Labrador, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, after hearing the repeated responses of the Conservative government, I would like to know, should I use a spoon or a shovel?


We have heard the empty spin, but it is completely out of touch with reality. Canadians know and aboriginal leaders have made it clear that the Conservative stance on Kelowna is completely unacceptable. The government is abandoning Canada's commitments for no other reason than because it was made by a Liberal government.


When will the Conservatives stop the games and honour the $5.1 billion deal that all provinces, all aboriginal peoples, and all Canadians reached at Kelowna?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, I am cognizant of your previous admonition that we should not resort to barnyard references, so it is difficult to respond.


I would simply point out what Gary Doer said, and it seems to have found some disfavour with my colleagues opposite:


 --the former government did not put the Kelowna money in the fiscal framework as every journalist here knows.


It was more Liberal rhetoric and empty promises.



May 31, 2006


Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.):


Mr. Speaker, more of the 100 days of shameful hypocrisy.


Number 11, dismissing the Kelowna accord.


Number 12, stalling progress on aboriginal issues by snubbing the aboriginal affairs committee.


Number 13, stalling the implementation of the residential schools agreement.


Number 14, reneging on his election promise to include the Métis in the residential schools agreement.


Number 15, undermining the procurement strategy for aboriginal business by allowing non-native companies to bid on contracts.


Number 16, refusing to uphold $400 million in extra funding for water treatment on reserves.


Number 17, announcing its own first nations water strategy with not one dollar attached to it.


Number 18, insulting aboriginal groups by ignoring their work at creating an independent first nations auditor general.


Number 19, scrapping $1.8 billion for aboriginal education programs.


Number 20, completely ignoring Canada's north by neglecting to implement the Liberals' northern strategy, and breaking the Conservatives' own promise to the north by cancelling icebreakers in deep water ports.


One hundred days of shameful hypocrisy.




Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga, BQ): 


Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for sharing this with us and for his very good question, which brings me to the following two comments: first of all, the member seems to be asking whether prison itself is not a good school for crime. Clearly, those who proposed in 1996 that sentences be served in the community had concerns similar to those described by the Bloc member for Brome—Missisquoi, which will remain a Bloc Québécois riding.


Furthermore, there are others, such as Professor Marie-Ève Sylvestre at the University of Ottawa who is doing her doctoral thesis on such matters. Who ends up in prison? Often, it is the most marginalized groups. Unfortunately, aboriginals are often over-represented in prison compared to their numbers in the general population. This is also true for the less privileged.




Mr. Dennis Bevington (Western Arctic, NDP):


Mr. Speaker, we have not seen that side of the government's response to criminal justice. We have not seen the warm side of dealing with people in their environment to reduce crime and prevent crime from happening. We need youth centres all across the country. We need opportunities for young people to integrate into their communities and their societies comfortably.


To me, alienation from their community is one of the greatest causes of criminal activity for young people and once they are into criminal activity, it can lead them into more serious offences in the future. We need to work more with our young people. That requires money.


We have a real need for youth centres across the north. I have requests on my desk right now to work with people from Inuvik right through to Yellowknife along with smaller communities to get money into youth centres so that we can prevent some of this expensive criminal--



June 1, 2006


Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay, NDP): 


Mr. Speaker, for months the people of Kashechewan have tried to work with the government to implement the agreement for a new community on safe ground. They have supplied study after study and they have jumped through hoop after hoop. Yesterday they were told that there was no money, that there was no plan and that there was no political recognition of an agreement signed by the Government of Canada.


I have one question for the minister before a single refugee flies home to that rathole on the coast. Will he stand up in the House and tell the people of Canada that he respects an agreement that was signed by the Government of Canada and the people of Kashechewan First Nation?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, I have met with the hon. member and we have discussed this matter.


It saddens me to say to the House that this is yet another example of a broken Liberal promise. Despite promises made by the previous Liberal administration and the previous Liberal minister, no money was set aside in the budget for the relocation of Kashechewan. It is shameful that the previous Liberal government would have resorted to misleading the people of Kashechewan with empty promises and with no money set aside in the budget.


We will deal with this situation.


Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay, NDP): 


Mr. Speaker, he can blame anyone he wants. He has had ample opportunity to find the money and come up with a plan. He has done nothing.


I would like to read into the record today what the member said in the House. He said Canadians were “sickened by the squalor of Kashechewan...the third world squalor, filth and poverty...their children with scabies”.


The people of Kashechewan met with the Minister of Indian Affairs, they begged for his help and he did nothing. These are the man's words. These are the words by which he and his party will be judged.


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, all Canadians have seen Kashechewan and all Canadians have been saddened by what they have seen.


I have met with the hon. member. I have met with the Chief of Kashechewan and representatives of the community. We have engaged in a discussion about a relocation of the community.


The point I simply wish the House to understand today is that the previous government promised to relocate the community and it included no money in the fiscal framework, not a dollar to relocate that community; more empty Liberal promises.




Hon. Rob Nicholson (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform, CPC): 


I would state at the outset that no government is more committed to improving the living conditions of aboriginal peoples.




Hon. Rob Nicholson (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform, CPC):


I would state at the outset that no government is more committed to improving the living conditions of aboriginal peoples.




Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.):


Mr. Speaker, this is an extraordinarily serious topic and I am glad the House has an opportunity to discuss it. [...] [T]he government's argument today shows profound disrespect toward Canada's aboriginal peoples.




As the federal minister of finance at the time of the Kelowna first ministers' meeting involving the then prime minister, provincial and territorial premiers and the leaders of five national aboriginal organizations, I can confirm that as of that meeting, specifically November 24, 2005, the fiscal framework of the Government of Canada included a total of $5.096 billion to address obligations arising from what became known as the Kelowna accord.


The Kelowna meeting was the culmination of more than 18 months of hard work led by the former prime minister, in collaboration with aboriginal organizations and all provincial and territorial governments, to put together a serious plan to bridge unacceptable socio-economic gaps between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians. The resulting accords focused on issues related to health, education, housing and water, economic development and governance.


In the government's 2005 economic and fiscal update, which was issued on November 14, the importance of the then upcoming Kelowna meeting was specifically mentioned, together with an undertaking to provide the needed funding. I would point out, with respect to the fiscal update, that there was more than enough unused fiscal room in the framework at that time to accommodate the expected sum. When the Kelowna meeting actually took place about 10 days later, the money was booked in the amount of $5.096 billion.


It is interesting that the fiscal treatment of the Kelowna accords was quite similar to how we handled another important issue at that time which was the special federal funding of $755 million to help the grain and oilseed producers in the farm sector. In both cases, formal announcements were not ready to be made at the time of the November 14 fiscal update but both were signalled specifically in that update and flexibility was built into our framework to cover the anticipated expenses.


By November 24, both initiatives were ready to go, both announcements were made and the money for both was booked.




It is interesting to note that at Kelowna the now Minister of Indian Affairs was personally present in the room and applauded the result that was arrived at by the discussions in Kelowna. It seems to me terribly unfortunate that the government continues to devote extraordinary time, effort and energy to denigrating the efforts of previous governments and previous parliaments.


Since all of that there has been an election, a Speech from the Throne, a surplus of $12 billion and a budget. It seems to me that it is time for the government to quit blaming the past and to start governing for the future for a change.



June 2, 2006


Ms. Yasmin Ratansi (Don Valley East, Lib.): 


I want to share with the House a few statistics that my fellow members may find of use in this debate. Aboriginal people already make up nearly one in five admissions to Canada's correctional services, while they represent only 3% of the population.




Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, all Canadians are deeply troubled by the ongoing conflict about land related issues in the Caledonia district of Ontario.


Yesterday, the Ontario Superior Court judge seized with this matter, Justice Marshall, took the extraordinary step of convening a hearing on his own and specifically asked for the presence and participation of the Government of Canada within two weeks.


I understand that the Minister of Indian Affairs said he will cooperate with the court. Could I ask the minister, does that explicitly mean that he will comply with Justice Marshall's invitation, and who will be representing the Government of Canada in court on June 16?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, Mr. Justice Marshall yesterday requested the attendance of a number of parties at his chambers. The federal government was not one of the parties that was asked to attend.


I indicated yesterday that the government will be fully cooperative with Mr. Justice Marshall and as the hon. member well knows, the Government of Canada has been a participant at the tables discussing a resolution of the claims process.


The Government of Canada is being well represented by a former foreign affairs minister and I have full confidence in her ability to deal with the situation.


Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, the Ontario judge, Justice Marshall, is obviously deeply concerned about Caledonia. He obviously believes the involvement of the Government of Canada is indispensable and that the government's involvement so far has been inadequate. It is also clear that Justice Marshall thinks the situation is urgent.


Within the two week timeframe now identified by the Ontario Superior Court, what specific ideas or initiatives will the Government of Canada bring forward and, failing that detail today, what is the process by which the federal input will be developed and exactly when?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has dealt with similar situations, so he understands the sensitivity and gravity of a situation such as this.


In terms of the process, let me be clear. The Government of Canada has been represented at the table by Barbara McDougall, a former foreign affairs minister, and Ron Dearing, a former chief of staff to a Minister of Indian Affairs.


Mr. Dearing, in particular, has spent the last 48 hours negotiating and Ms. McDougall would be at the table today for another negotiating session. The process is, frankly, working. We are committed to it and we will continue to pursue it.


Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, in dealing with public policy issues, issues which touch people's lives in very intimate ways, the building of ongoing effective relationships is crucial. Relationships between aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples are often particularly delicate and also particularly essential.


By appearing to walk away from such an initiatives as the Kelowna accord, the federal government's relationships with aboriginal Canadians have been damaged.


When the court hearings resume on June 16 with respect to Caledonia, what will the Government of Canada specifically propose to begin rebuilding the relationships in this dispute, which have obviously been so badly damaged?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that I do not accept the premise of the question relative to either Kelowna or the relationships between the government and aboriginal Canadians. Aboriginal Canadians are working well with the government. They are pleased by the budget.


We have solid working relationships with the Assembly of First Nations and all of the other aboriginal organizations with whom the Government of Canada deals. They have said that they wish to continue to work in a respectful way with the government. We are pleased with that.


In terms of Caledonia, we are at the table. We are negotiating in concert with the Government of Ontario, which has important responsibilities in this area. We will continue to make progress.


Mr. David McGuinty (Ottawa South, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, 10 years ago, our government created the procurement strategy for aboriginal business, which has been a great success. The strategy was renewed in 2001 and in 2003. It is up for review this year. However, according to documents I obtained from his department, the minister is preparing to quietly abolish this measure, without warning, without consultation and without reason. He is sabotaging the very essence of the Kelowna accord.


Will the minister explain why promoting the success of our aboriginal communities is no longer one of the government's priorities?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, the procurement strategy for aboriginal business continues to be government policy.


I can assure the member that the inferences he is making about future policy direction are not accurate and as part of our commitment to continue to work with aboriginal Canadians and consult with them, we will continue to deal with that.


The department which I represent, in particular, is a strong proponent of aboriginal businesses, the development of aboriginal initiatives, and the creation of employment for aboriginal Canadians. We are continuing to make progress in that area and I can assure the hon. member that what he suggests is not correct.


Mr. David McGuinty (Ottawa South, Lib.): 


It is too bad the facts, Mr. Speaker, do not actually match the minister's rhetoric.


Treasury Board guidelines continue to require that the government minister do business with aboriginal enterprises and the minister's own website strongly encourages aboriginal businesses across Canada to apply for PSAB contracts.


First we learn that an aboriginal company in Winnipeg is cut off after nine years of successful service. Now, without notice, without consultation and without any reason given, an aboriginal company in my own riding is put at risk, jeopardizing over 100 jobs, $40 million in business, and internal documents confirm our worst suspicions.


Not only has the government thrown out the Kelowna accord but now it is actively undermining successful aboriginal--




Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is not correct in his comments. We continue to work with aboriginal Canadians. As I have said, the initiatives that we are pursuing relative to aboriginal employment, searching out where there are major job creation opportunities and where we can create initiatives with aboriginal Canadians on the creation of aboriginally owned businesses, are very clear.


In particular, I would point out for the benefit of the member the socio-economic fund, the $500 million that was announced in the budget, for aboriginal Canadians to create opportunities north of 60.




Ms. Tina Keeper (Churchill, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, when the Minister of Indian Affairs was in opposition he pretended to care about the quality of life for aboriginal people in Canada. However, this year, when he had the opportunity to act on this issue and when there was more than enough money in the federal books, he failed to provide the leadership he was calling for just one year ago.


Will the minister stop insulting aboriginal people by denying the Kelowna accord exists and stand up and implement the Kelowna accord with all of its funding today?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, we should try to get beyond the sort of partisanship that we are seeing in the House. I want to be clear that I was at Kelowna but I do not believe the hon. member was.


There were two specific problems at Kelowna that the hon. member will not be able to address. The first is that there was no budgeted money flowing from the Kelowna process. The second is that there was no Kelowna accord that was signed. An agreement was never signed.


I invited the members opposite to table that agreement and they tabled a press release. This government does not govern with press releases.


Ms. Tina Keeper (Churchill, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, the residents of the Garden Hill First Nation in my community are dealing with a tuberculosis epidemic which has never been seen before in Canada. We are talking about a disease that has been eradicated in most of Canada. Kashechewan has also been abandoned.


The accord was about immediate action to improve the lives of aboriginal people in Canada. The spirit of the accord was one of cooperation, consultation and partnership.


How can the Minister of Indian Affairs continue to justify not funding the accord when it is clear the money was booked and all that is needed is leadership?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, it seems clear that the House will reverberate again this morning with more Liberal empty promises to aboriginal Canadians.


The truth of the matter is that there was no Kelowna money in any of the Liberal budgets. No Kelowna money was ever submitted to the House of Commons. In fact, there was no Kelowna money at Kelowna.



Now the House faces the spectre of a private member's bill offering a continuation of the same thing, no money. The truth is that the former Liberal government never delivered to aboriginal Canadians.


Mr. Ken Boshcoff (Thunder Bay—Rainy River, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, last fall a plan for the relocation of Kashechewan was put forward and the money was booked. The Ontario government has given permission to pursue this move. The Ontario minister has urged the government to speed up the initially agreed upon timeline for the relocation.


He also stated, “money's not an issue here” because the money is there. It is the lack of political will from the government that is the issue.


When will the minister stop inventing fiction? When will he stand up and start acting in the best interests of Canada's aboriginal peoples?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, let us take the hon. member up on his suggestion. Why does he not table in the House where the Kashechewan money was booked? Why does he not provide that to the House of Commons?


The truth is that an agreement was signed by the former minister which the government did not budget for. Since that time, four of the six sites that were under discussion have been flooded. We will continue to work with the community in consultation to find a solution to this.


Once again we have a former Liberal government operating without budgetary parameters and with empty promises to aboriginal Canadians. We will not do that.


Mr. Ken Boshcoff (Thunder Bay—Rainy River, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, I just got off the phone with the chief of Kashechewan and he wonders why the minister walked away from him last night when he was presented--


Some hon. members: Oh, oh!


Mr. Ken Boshcoff:


The province has no issue with handing Crown lands over to the Kashechewan First Nation. The new territory must be designated by the federal minister as reserve land under federal law. The Ontario minister knows that an agreement was reached with the previous government and that it is the Conservative minister who is holding it up.


When will this fiction and these denials end and action begin?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, the only fiction in the House of Commons today is that the former Liberal government dealt with this in any responsible way.


I take from the former government member's comments a suggestion that we should be building houses on the sites selected by the former Liberal government. The truth is that those sites flooded this spring.


We need to work together with the Kashechewan community and we will be doing that. We will find a suitable alternative location and we will build a proper community, something the Liberal government never did.


Arguably, there is no group in the whole country that has suffered more in terms of low living standards, poor health outcomes, and all of these major difficulties and yet, the government simply abandons Canada's aboriginal people. After years of work, we achieved unanimity with premiers, with aboriginal leaders, and with the federal government to make a real beginning to closing the gap between aboriginals and other Canadians.


The government is $5 billion richer as a consequence of not proceeding with Kelowna and notwithstanding the sanctimonious comments of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. The government is not doing anything. It has pulled out. It has pulled the rug from under Canada's least privileged group.


The budget is meanspirited with regard to aboriginals, farmers, Canada's regions, the north and particularly the environment. Those are all big losers in this meanspirited budget, this dishonest budget that--




Mr. Ron Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, the community of Kashechewan has been evacuated three times in the last 15 months due to flooding, sewage backup or water quality issues. The Liberal government made promises and did not follow through.


The Minister of Indian Affairs has said that he is committed to rebuilding Kashechewan. Could the minister please explain to the House his plan for this community?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to advise the House today that we are taking action on this issue. I will be appointing the former Ontario cabinet minister, Mr. Alan Pope, today as a federal special representative. Mr. Pope will be in Kashechewan tomorrow, will consult through the summer and will report back in the fall.


The previous government refused to acknowledge the mere existence of the problem and deal with it. This government is committed to act. We are committed to working together with the first nation and with the provincial government to examine this matter and to report back.




Hon. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.): 


The budget is not just a financial statement; it is at its core a statement about values, principles and priorities. It is not just an accounting exercise but an expression of our identity of who we are and what we aspire to be.


In that context, this budget, while containing a number of commendable features, is disappointing overall in the values it reflects and represents, and in the principles and priorities it espouses. It would not speak, for example, to my constituency which is a kind of rainbow constituency in that regard.


For example, in the matter of tax policy, the income tax for the poor and the vulnerable will go up while the GST, of which we just spoke, which disproportionately benefits the wealthy will go down. This is a tax policy that has not only been uniformly critiqued by most economists in this country but which constitutes an inverse value choice for an equitable tax policy.


In the matter of aboriginal people, the most vulnerable of the vulnerable, the government has not only substantially reduced the $5 billion necessary for their needs but has scrapped the framework agreements including the historic Kelowna accord which is at the core of having an aboriginal justice agenda.




Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP): 


Mr. Speaker, I am speaking today on behalf of the New Democratic Party. As many members of the House are well aware, the New Democrats have been unequivocal in opposing the bill. There are many elements to the bill that simply do not address the very pressing needs of Canadians in this day and age.


Canada is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, yet increasingly we see problems with the poverty gap, the huge gap between those who have and those who do not. A recent United Nations report talks about the disparity around any number of issues, including housing, access to legal aid, and so on.


One of the things I specifically would like to address today is the fact that aboriginal and first nations people in this country have not seen their needs met in this most recent budget. In a letter dated May 4, 2006 that was sent to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Summit and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs laid out a number of issues that they felt the budget failed to address. There are a couple of things that I want to quote from the letter, because it is very important that this information be on record. The letter said:


 --the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development made many public commitments to “put wheels on the Kelowna Accord,” and yet, your government has chosen not to uphold the honour of the Crown. Your government has reneged on this historic multi-government agreement, and has proceeded to unilaterally implement its own plan to address our issues without any consultations with us.


The letter goes on to talk about the budget:


Your government has abandoned this Accord and your budget reflects only a fraction of the financial commitments already committed by the Government of Canada to help improve the quality of life for First Nations and Aboriginal Canadians. 


Your government has committed to addressing the fiscal imbalance with provinces, yet this budget does nothing to address the fiscal imbalance faced by First Nations governments. Spending on First Nations programs has been capped at 2% for the past ten years, and is far outpaced by rapid population growth and rising costs.


There were some token amounts in the budget that dealt with some of the issues in first nations and aboriginal communities. Yet it was far, far short of the desperate needs that have been identified in report after report that have come before the House in any number of formats.


It goes back to far before the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples which clearly called on the government of the day, which was then the Liberals, to implement a meaningful action plan that actually resulted in some differences in people's lives.


Now there is a Conservative government that is following on the Liberals' heels by failing to recognize that there are some critical issues that must be addressed in first nations, Inuit and Métis communities, as well as dealing with the off reserve and urban aboriginal issues.


The letter talks about the 2% gap. Since 1996, funding from Indian Affairs and Northern Development has been capped at 2%, yet population growth in first nations communities has far outstripped that 2% cap.


In a recent Auditor General's report, the Auditor General talks about the fact that in reviewing the first nations programming, she saw first nations funding increasing at 1.6%, yet population on reserve is growing at a rate of 11.2%. One does not need to be a mathematician to recognize there is a significant gap in the funding for services versus the population growth.


Mr. Speaker, I failed to mentioned that I will be splitting my time with the member for Vancouver Island North.


In that report, the Auditor General was very critical on a number of fronts, including housing. The Auditor General spoke about the fact that housing is in crisis on reserve. The mouldy housing is of crisis proportion in this country.


The member for Timmins—James Bay has talked about the fact that Kashechewan has been facing problem after problem. In Garden Hill there is an outbreak of tuberculosis and it is partially due to the housing conditions on reserve.


In my own community of Nanaimo—Cowichan we have one of the largest first nations populations on reserve in the province of British Columbia and there are significant housing problems in terms of the mould.


The Auditor General has talked about the failure of the government, and in that case it was the Liberal government's track record, but the failure of the government to adequately address this. It is a matter of shoddy housing construction. It is a matter of overcrowding. It is a matter of an ineffective approach in dealing with this critical issue.


As well, the budget failed to deal with on reserve housing and the crisis around housing. It also failed to deal with some of the very critical health issues on reserve. We are talking about tuberculosis. We are talking about diabetes. There was no mention in the budget for first nations health.


These are concrete, valid reasons to vote against the budget. I am only focusing on first nations. There are many other issues that I cannot begin to touch on in the very short time that is available for me.


In conclusion, it is important that Canadians understand that the NDP did not support this budget, that the budget falls far short of the honour of the Crown to deal with the issues before it in terms of its responsibility toward first nations communities and aboriginal communities in this country. I would urge people to continue to work together to make sure that these matters are addressed.


Mr. Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the hon. member. Quite frankly I am concerned as to whether or not the hon. member has actually read the budget because there were significant investments made for first nations Canadians in the budget. Certainly notwithstanding $300 million for off reserve housing, $300 million for northern housing, $450 million to address on reserve concerns, $2.2 billion is going to the residential schools agreement. I am quite shocked that the member does not seem to be aware of these investments.


Does the member have any idea what the base funding is this year for the Department of Indian Affairs? I know how much it is. I am wondering if she does.


Ms. Jean Crowder: 


Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member actually listened to what I had to say. I was specifically speaking about on reserve issues. There was not a significant amount of money put in this current budget to deal with on reserve issues.


As well, with regard to the Kelowna accord that was in place, the amount of money that is in the budget falls far short of what was a plan that was developed with broad consultations across this country. It took 18 months to get to the point of that very significant document, which the government has chosen to completely disregard.


I want to assure the member that I also paid very close attention to the budget. The $450 million in the budget over two years falls far short of any of the analysis that has been done on the critical shortage of funding and resources required in first nations communities immediately.


I do not need that member to lecture me on what is available to first nations communities.


Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for a reasoned and impassioned argument on behalf of our aboriginal peoples.


It is really outrageous that someone would suggest that there is money in a departmental budget. He well knows there are moneys in a variety of budgets to help all Canadians. The reality is that aboriginals are the least among Canadians in so many regards. Anyone who has spent any time on reserve and has seen the conditions there would appreciate that these are areas where extraordinary measures are necessary. I would like to give the member an opportunity to further educate the member about the importance of our aboriginal peoples.


Ms. Jean Crowder: 


Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has worked extensively on issues such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. That disorder is just one example of a shortfall in working with first nations communities.


There is significant investment required for indigenous children in care which I did not even begin to speak about. This is a human rights issue. Analysis has been done on indigenous children in care on reserve that suggests there is a $109 million shortfall annually in dealing with the matters that are facing people on reserve. Part of this shortfall is a comparison between what the provinces spend and what the federal government actually invests. The government will tell us that it is putting in $25 million; however, $109 million is required to deal with the children in care issues for children in protection.


Ms. Catherine Bell (Vancouver Island North, NDP): 


Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Nanaimo--Cowichan for sharing her time with me today.


The government had an opportunity in this budget to make a real difference for ordinary Canadians, but it missed that opportunity. Billions of dollars in surplus could have been invested in the kinds of programs and services that would make a real difference for working families.


People of my riding of Vancouver Island North are looking for investments in our communities. Once vibrant forestry and fishing communities are on the brink of becoming ghost towns. There is a real need for something to be done. Those people are having to struggle to maintain their communities through a very difficult time.


More than 20 different first nations bands in the riding are also struggling. They have a proud history in Vancouver Island North, but it is hard to move forward when the very basic things they need, which most of us take for granted such as adequate housing, clean water, roads and bridges to their communities, are either lacking or they are in serious need of repairs. I will come back to some of that in a minute.



June 8, 2006


Opposition Motion--The Economy 


Hon. Geoff Regan (Halifax West, Lib.) 




That, in light of the rapid increase in the value of the Canadian dollar, high global energy costs, the overhang from huge budgetary and trade deficits in the United States of America, the rise of new economies such as China, India and Brazil as major global players, and the unprecedented demographic change that is about to take place in Canada with the imminent retirement of the Baby Boom generation, in the opinion of the House, future Canadian economic growth and broad-based prosperity demand--in addition to a competitive tax regime (especially in relation to income tax rates and brackets) and the strategic positioning of Canada at the centre of global commerce and networks--focused and immediate investments by the government in: 




(3) targeted initiatives to strengthen skills, job-readiness and successful workplace participation among First Nations, Metis, Inuit and other Aboriginal peoples--as envisioned as part of the Kelowna Accords--




As a nation, we must continue to invest in the talents, brains and creative powers of Canadians and bring higher education and innovation to their highest levels ever, not only for economic reasons, but also to ensure that every member of society— [...] aboriginals [...] maximizes his or her potential.




Mrs. Joy Smith (Kildonan—St. Paul, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, I am interested in a few things. Some parts of the motion definitely have some merit. When it talks about “targeted initiatives to strengthen skills, job-readiness and successful workplace participation among First Nations, Metis, Inuit, and other Aboriginal peoples”, and also when it talks about “measures to reduce financial barriers that now stand in the way of students”, it has some merit.




Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP): 


Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Victoria.


I am pleased to speak to the motion today. I will focus on one line in the motion under (3), which reads:


targeted initiatives to strengthen skills, job-readiness and successful workplace participation among First Nations, Metis, Inuit and other Aboriginal peoples - as envisioned as part of the Kelowna Accords....


One might wonder why it is that we are here today debating the motion when there had been an opportunity over the past 13 years to address some of the very serious issues that are facing aboriginal communities around education.


In a 2004 report from the Auditor General, she clearly outlined some very serious concerns around funding and the exact deliverables that were happening through INAC programs, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada programs. Some of it does come down to funding. I would argue that we have seen decades of either indifference or outright neglect when it comes to ensuring aboriginal communities, first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, have access to adequate funding and resources that ensure they have availability of education that will allow them to move out of some dire circumstances.


In a letter dated May 4, addressed to the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development from the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Summit and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, it reads:


The funds announced in your budget will do very little to remedy chronic under-funding or the crushing poverty and appalling socio-economic conditions of First Nations communities. True recognition, reconciliation and social justice with respect to lands, territories and resources, as well as social and economic programs, are becoming even more distant goals.


We have the situation where the previous Liberal government did not fulfill its responsibilities as outlined under any number of reports and initiatives, including the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People back in 1996. I have 12 different Auditor General reports that talk about a variety of aspects in first nations communities and now we have a Conservative government that has disregarded 18 months of work that resulted in the Kelowna accord and gone ahead with an agenda that is its agenda and not the first nations' agenda.


There are many reasons. I mentioned the 2% funding cap that has been in place since 1996 which has limited the ability of first nations communities to move ahead with initiatives they have developed and designed and which are important to their communities. However, there are also a number of other issues that the House needs to consider when we are talking about education in the context of the motion.


One of the issues before us is that the first nations population is one of the most rapidly growing populations in Canada, both on and off reserve. The first nations population will be the backbone of the workforce in many of our provinces. Half of the first nations people are under the age of 25 and the numbers are even higher in Inuit communities.


I referenced earlier the Kelowna accord and education was a prominent part of that accord. I want to talk specifically about the aboriginal affairs committee, which is currently dealing with education as one of its priorities. Chief Fontaine appeared before the committee this week and highlighted a number of points that he thought would be important for the committee to consider and for the government to consider when it is making decisions, not only about education, but about other issues.


When Chief Fontaine came before the committee yesterday he said:


I want you to apply a test of five criteria that the Assembly of First Nations has developed for successful policy development. Is there first nations leadership, national dialogue, independent first nations expertise, government mandate for change, and a joint national policy process?


In the context of this motion, perhaps we could adopt the five recommendations from Chief Fontaine and the Assembly of First Nations as a way of moving forward when we are examining, not only educational policies but policies in housing, in water, and many other aspects that are facing first nations communities.


Chief Fontaine went on to say:


 --the process laid out in the political accord on the recognition and implementation of first nation governments, the proposal in our Accountability for Results Initiative, and the five tests in our backgrounder on joint policy development. If these items to not stand up to these tests, then I would ask you, respectfully ask you, to reject what you are hearing. On the other hand, if these tests are met, then I'm asking for your vigorous support so that we can establish sustainable solutions to these urgent problems.


 In addition, the Auditor General outlined a number of factors that have been critical when she looked at what had been successful. I will not to go into great detail about these factors but the Auditor General says that there are seven factors, the first one being the sustained management attention.


The second factor is the coordination of government programs. The third one is meaningful consultation with first nations. The fourth is developing capacity within first nations. The fifth is establishing first nations institutions. The sixth is an appropriate legislative base for programs. The seventh is the sorting out of the conflicting roles of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.


The Auditor General has outlined some critical success factors. Chief Fontaine and the Assembly of First Nations have outlined five key tests when policy development is happening. In the context of this motion around education, I would argue that these are credible and important things that the government should move forward on.


I have talked nationally and now I will bring it back home for just one moment. In my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan, the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group is in the process of protracted treaty negotiations. On March 27, Mr. Robert Morales, chair of the chief negotiators of the First Nations Summit based in British Columbia, and chief negotiator for the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group, wrote an article in the Cultural Survival Quarterly, issue 30.1.


The Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group is the individual Coast Salish nations, which is composed of the Cowichan Tribes, Chemainus First Nation, Penelakut Tribe, Halalt First Nation, Lyackson First Nation and Lake Cowichan First Nation.


In the article, Mr. Morales outlined a number of factors that the House should consider.


First, under Canada's community well-being index, which is used to examine the well-being of Canadian communities, the six Hul'qumi'num communities scored between 448 and 482 out of 486 communities surveyed in B.C. Those kinds of numbers in this day and age in this country are shocking. It does speak to those years of inaction and inattention by the previous government. The current government has not developed an action plan in consultation with first nations that will address this very serious deficit.


Later on in the article, Mr. Morales talks about the many factors that impact on first nations, both on and off reserve, and on the Inuit and Métis' ability to move forward in this country. Some treaties have been negotiated but when it comes to Hul'qumi'num peoples they need the economic self-sufficiency. They need access to resources, to education and to adequate housing to ensure they can rightfully take their place in this country and not be living in the kinds of conditions for which we would be embarrassed and which have been embarrassing internationally.


We will be supporting the motion but it is unfortunate that we need to be discussing this when we had 13 years under the Liberal government to address these circumstances.




Mr. Bill Siksay (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP): 


Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by acknowledging that both the member for Nanaimo--Cowichan and I represent ridings that are in the traditional territory of the Cosalish people.


I would like my colleague to comment on an aspect of the Kelowna accord, which often gets lost around here in debate, and that is the fact that there is a signed agreement between the first nations of British Columbia, the federal government and the province of British Columbia to implement the Kelowna accord, which is called the transformative change accord. Part of the actual structure of the document sets out defined goals and measurable outcomes.


We have heard in the past the Minister of Indian Affairs saying that he wanted to work toward an agreement that had measurable goals and definable outcomes. We have that already. We have a signed document that all of the first nations representatives, the First Nations Leadership Council, which is composed of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, and the First Nations Summit, all signed onto. It is structured in just the way the Minister of Indian Affairs has asked it to be structured.


Does my colleague know why the government will not recognize this important agreement?


Ms. Jean Crowder: 


Mr. Speaker, the fact that the transformative change accord was signed by three levels of government, the federal government, the provincial government and the first nations, was based on the fact that people thought in good faith that the event that happened in November, the very real attempt to close the poverty gap for first nations across this country, was a done deal. There were many witnesses to that agreement. The province of British Columbia moved forward believing that the honour of the Crown would be upheld and that the agreement would move forward in good faith.




Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 

Mr. Speaker, false indignation appears to be the garb of choice for the Liberals these days on aboriginal policy. It is a bad fit.


The Liberals ran this country for 13 years and for 13 years they failed aboriginal Canadians on education, on housing, on drinking water, on treaty implementation and on accountability. They have been criticized by the Auditor General, by the United Nations and by Amnesty International.


They can be as indignant as they want but history will record the Liberal era as one of empty promises. What they really wore is shame.


Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.): 


It is interesting, Mr. Speaker, who wears the shame.


There is no question that the Kelowna accord money was booked. The former Prime Minister said that it was booked, the former finance minister said that it was booked and even finance department officials admitted that the money was booked.


Canada's aboriginal people now have confirmation that the Prime Minister willingly and knowingly killed the Kelowna accord.


Could the Minister of Indian Affairs assure the House that he will no longer pretend that the money does not exist as a way to deflect attention from the fact?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, the latest iteration we have from the Liberal Party is a private member's bill that has no money either. It is just a continuation of more empty Liberal promises.


We intend to proceed with clear budgets, with accountability, with action, with results and with measurement. We will deal with the issues of aboriginal poverty that the Liberals did not address for 13 years, a 13 year record of shame and incompetence.




Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.): 


In the foundation of a house, no brick is more important than any other brick. Even the weakest bricks have to be strong. It is like a chain is only as strong as the weakest link. We have to help everyone wherever they are in the foundation. That includes aboriginal people. As people know, for years aboriginal people have been below the general population in many determinants such as deaths in child birth, levels of education, incarceration and health.


Governments over the years have constantly put large investments into both basic services, the ultimate solution of self-government in land claims and healing with the residential schools agreement, so that base will not be another weakness, a foundation block that will crumble, causing the house to crumble. These determinants have been going up over the years with these investments. They have been improving, but there is still a great disparity.


When a historic agreement is made between the Government of Canada and the first nations people, where everyone worked together, the premiers, the first nations leaders who came up with the solutions and identified the problems, and it is broken, it breaks the great faith of the nation of Canada. It would have been so easy to have kept this historic agreement. That is going to be a very dangerous weakness in the foundation blocks of this nation.




Mr. Laurie Hawn (Edmonton Centre, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, on the first question, members on the opposite side have been using that all day. It is a completely disingenuous and twisted approach on what the member from Fort McMurray said. If that is the best they can do in terms of debate this will be like duelling with an unarmed man.


However, I am glad the member talked about the aboriginal situation because the government is in fact doing a lot for aboriginal students in Alberta and in the rest of Canada. Canada's new government is making significant contributions to aboriginal workplace participation, including a five year $1.6 billion partnership initiative through the aboriginal human resources development strategy.


I can actually speak directly to the case of the aboriginals in Alberta. The oil and gas industry, which some members of the House like to criticize, is doing a tremendous job in bringing aboriginals into the workforce. Fully 12% of Suncor's workforce in Alberta is aboriginal. Other big companies, like EnCana, have gone out of their way to include aboriginals in their workforces and to give contracts to aboriginal companies.


NAIT has gone to the extent of equipping trailer trucks, 18-wheelers, that it takes out to the reserves in northern Alberta to teach aboriginal people, young and old, to give them opportunities to participate in the economy of Canada. This government and the Government in Alberta is doing a tremendous amount for natives across Canada.




Mr. Todd Russell (Labrador, Lib.):


 The motion also calls specifically for targeted initiatives to strengthen skills, job readiness and successful workplace participation among aboriginal peoples. My hon. colleague could well have had my riding of Labrador in mind when he drafted that part of his motion.


Tomorrow I will be attending the high school graduation in Sheshatshiu, one of the two Innu communities in Labrador. Too often we hear bad news about aboriginal communities, but Sheshatshiu is increasingly a good news story. This year's graduating class is one of the biggest in many years.


There is a real awakening to the importance of education and skills development among the Innu, Inuit and Métis communities in my riding. In recent years, we have seen increased participation in post-secondary education and the skilled trades. There are Inuit, Métis and Innu who have gone on to become nurses, doctors, engineers, lawyers, mechanics, carpenters and the like.


The development of the mine at Voisey's Bay has helped many aboriginal Labradorians enter the skilled trades. Not as many as I personally would like to see, but it is a start.


There are other developments on the horizon in Labrador: a massive resurgence in the iron ore mining industry; potential hydro developments; and renewed interest in our proven uranium deposits. If aboriginal and other Labradorians are to benefit from these developments, we have to be in on the ground floor.


For aboriginal people, in particular, the Kelowna accord would have made great strides in this regard. On November 24, 2005, the hon. member for Wascana, then finance minister, committed and booked over $5 billion in funding to meet the Government of Canada's commitments under Kelowna. Kelowna included $1.8 billion over five years for aboriginal education initiatives.


The Conservative government has torn up that agreement and tossed it aside. The money that we had committed is no longer available. The government has done so over the objections of every aboriginal organization in the country. It has done so over the objections of the premiers who themselves signed onto the Kelowna accord. It did so with the complicity of the Bloc Québécois and the NDP in precipitating an early election. I wonder what the aboriginal people in the respective ridings of the members in those two parties must think about what they have been involved in.


The government has put into jeopardy the real progress that Canada and Canadian first nations, Métis and Inuit people were starting to make in terms of educational attainment, skills and employment. I worry about the repercussions of these cuts not only for today, but for the many years and maybe for generations to come.


Strong social programs, including education and training and a commitment to aboriginal peoples, provide the basis for long term, strong economic growth. Few places is this more true than in Labrador. However, the Conservatives have stuck to their fend for one's self ideology. It shows up time and time again in their budget and in their program cuts. They are turning their backs on people and regions, which can use constructive programs. We are looking for a hand up, but the Conservatives only see such programs as a hand out. It is disgraceful.




Mr. Speaker, the facts are clear and they were again reiterated by National Chief Phil Fontaine yesterday. There was a deal.


One of the hon. members from the Conservatives asked if there was a signature page. The comment was also made that there was no signature page on the health accord, where we transferred $42 billion, but we transferred that money. For a Liberal, a handshake is as good as a signature on a page and that is what was done in Kelowna. The National Chief said so himself. When we make a deal with aboriginal people, we uphold our deal with aboriginal people and other Canadians.


The Kelowna accord offered so much for national organizations. We heard in the aboriginal affairs committee from groups like ITK, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Assembly of First Nations, and we are going to hear from the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and the Métis National Council next week. These organizations already consulted with their members at the local community level, and drafted plans to implement and put into force what was in the Kelowna accord, to meet the objectives and targets that were set out in Kelowna.


The Conservative government, with the help of the NDP and the Bloc, just pulled the carpet out from under aboriginal people. We were left with nothing but our plans, with no fuel to invigorate them or make them meaningful for our aboriginal people at the community level.


There are numerous opportunities for aboriginal people in all parts of this country and in all sectors of this country, but we cannot do it without the resources. Aboriginal people know what is best for themselves and that is what the Kelowna accord offered, an opportunity for aboriginal people to implement and construct the plans necessary, stemming from their own priorities, and implementing them in a way that was culturally sensitive so that we could meet those targets.


This is an opportunity lost. It was an opportunity where we could have bridged that gap, particularly in the labour force and marketplace. It is a sad reflection of the Conservative government's vision for aboriginal people and other Canadians who need it.




Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis:


The Liberal government had many opportunities to address these facts. I especially remember the question of aboriginal people and on-reserve housing. I was there when the Auditor General brought down her report and said that she had never had to write such a scathing report in all of the time she had been Auditor General. She pointed to third world conditions. She pointed to such deplorable conditions that we were the laughing stock of many countries around the world.


It is very hard for us today to accept this kind of rhetorical message from the Liberals, when in fact they had a chance to do so much to make our world so much better.



June 12, 2006


Mr. Gary Merasty (Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, often the best of intentions go awry. Unintended consequences and terrible results can come from acts that were seemingly simplistic. Such is the case with Bill C-10.  The thinking behind this bill is certainly simplistic enough: jail the bad guy and crime disappears. The unfortunate part of Bill C-10 and its companion piece, Bill C-9, is that this is the only idea the Conservatives have had about justice: the start and the end of crime is prisons and nothing else.


As Canadians, we abhor crime and violence, and rightly so, but we also denounce injustice and inequality. Our concept of Canada as a just society demands nothing less. However, there is injustice in Canada, social injustice, and it is etched in the history of our aboriginal people.


In a response to one of my questions, the Minister of Indian Affairs said that the first agenda he dealt with was the advancement of social justice for aboriginal people. I would suggest that either this is clearly not the case or the rest of cabinet did not get that memo.


Bill C-10 is a case in point. It talks about crime and it hits all the good fear buttons, but the justice minister is not looking at a holistic approach, a consultative approach or a community-building approach to eradicating crime in aboriginal communities.


The bleak numbers in a study released last week by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics have depicted this history as incredibly brutal and harsh for all aboriginal people. Aboriginal Canadians have the terrible distinction of being more likely to be victims and more likely to be jailed than non-aboriginal Canadians.


The study reveals that 40% of aboriginal people over the age of 15 reported being victims of crime in the 12 months prior to being interviewed for the study, which is 12% higher than non-aboriginal Canadians. Aboriginal people were twice as likely to be repeat victims, three times more likely to be robbed, assaulted or raped, and three and a half times more likely to be the victims of spousal assault.


On reserve, the reality for many aboriginal people is even worse. Compared to national averages, aboriginal people on reserve are eight times more likely to be assaulted and seven times more likely to be sexually assaulted.


 These are unfortunate realities. Therefore, the first question is this: has incarceration been the solution? Has locking up and throwing away the key been the answer?


These numbers persist despite the fact that aboriginal people have an incredibly higher rate of incarceration. In fact, although aboriginal people make up only 3% of the Canadian population, they made up 20% of the provincial inmates and 18% of the federal inmates.


In Saskatchewan, this number explodes. Although aboriginal people are approximately 11% of the population in the province, they comprise 80% of the people in jails.


The situation is so grim, in fact, as stated by Larry Chartrand, head of the aboriginal governance program at the University of Winnipeg, that young aboriginal people “have a greater chance of landing behind bars than graduating from university”.


Let me repeat that: young Canadian aboriginal people have a greater chance of landing behind bars than graduating from university, and this in Canada, the home of the just society.


There is no mystery to these terrible numbers. These studies lay out stark terms. They list a number of factors that have been associated with higher rates of victimization and offending. On overage, aboriginal people are younger. Their unemployment rates are higher and their incomes lower. They are more likely to be involved in crowded conditions. They have a higher residential mobility. Aboriginal children are more likely to be members of single parent families.


In spite of noticeable improvements to education levels, there is still a noticeable education gap between aboriginal people and non-aboriginal people. The gaps in education and employment opportunities are reflected in the aboriginal people who are in these correctional institutions. Three-quarters of incarcerated aboriginal adults have not completed their secondary school education. Also, aboriginal Canadians were less likely to be employed at the time of incarceration.


There is a problem that needs to be responded to. Therefore, we have a second question. Will mandatory minimum penalties and more jail time address or improve these statistics? The answer, very clearly, is no.




Hon. Shawn Murphy (Charlottetown, Lib.): 


At some point today, an aboriginal child will born in Canada, probably in your own city of Winnipeg, Mr. Speaker. According to the statistics, that aboriginal child has a more likely chance of going to prison than going to college. I do not even have to say any more about how the sentencing system and our justice system have treated minorities in our country.




Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP): 


Mr. Speaker, we are 100 days into it and the situation in Caledonia is growing more and more intense by the day. Now we have learned that the provincial government is planning to cancel the scheduled negotiations that were to take place. Where has the federal government been in all of this? It has been missing in action. There is no leadership. There is no plan whatsoever. Caledonia is a powder keg that is about to blow.


I am asking the Prime Minister, where is his commitment to take action to settle this decades old dispute, or has his party learned nothing since Oka?


Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada has been working with the Government of Ontario throughout this difficult dispute. I know I have talked with Premier McGuinty. The clerk has talked with his counterpart. The Minister of Indian Affairs has been talking with his counterpart. Barbara McDougall and others are working on our behalf at Caledonia.


We are working closely with Ontario. We support the Ontario government's position that the law must be respected and must be enforced. We would certainly urge all parties to ensure that the law is respected and that anybody who has committed any acts of violence is properly apprehended.


Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP): 


Mr. Speaker, the government cannot just sit here and wash its hands of this situation. This is a dispute that goes back decades regarding treaties that involve the Crown.


The fact is that the responsibility is not being taken. The government appointed a fact finder three months ago and we have not heard a word. The first nations and the non-aboriginal people in the Caledonia area are waiting to hear the results.


Will the Prime Minister take his responsibility seriously and take some leadership here, and get involved and settle this decade old dispute or not?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is seriously out of date on the facts that he brings to the House.


I am pleased to advise the House that we are encouraged by the steps taken by Six Nations today, particularly Chief McNaughton and the clan mothers. As the Prime Minister said, we are also supportive of the steps taken by the province of Ontario.


Six Nations has today taken steps to remove the remaining barricades near Caledonia, including the rail line. This goes a long way to removing a huge source of tension in the community and to build trust. We are encouraged. We continue to look forward to making progress. We are hopeful of what lies ahead in the coming days.



June 13, 2006


Ms. Nicole Demers (Laval, BQ):


Aboriginal people received no new assistance in the last budget to deal with the tuberculosis and HIV-AIDS epidemics. This prompted the auditor general, in 2004 and again in her latest report, to criticize the lack of follow up of the medication taken by Aboriginal people since 1999. She even strongly suggested that Health Canada implement enabling legislation to enable it to follow up, and ensure that the use of non-insured prescription drugs is rigorously controlled and that people are administered the appropriate drugs.




There have been incidences of tuberculosis in Garden Hill. Only 4% of houses have running water, and overcrowding in housing is three times higher there than elsewhere. Places like Kashechewan still do not have drinking water. There are places where there is no affordable housing. There is no adequate housing. Resources are lacking to help them.




Thousands of people in first nation communities are denied access to basic health services that are taken for granted by others. They have no official recourse.




The hon. member mentioned the money being invested for aboriginal peoples. As I said earlier, whether another $200 million, $600 million or $30 million is invested in another program, we cannot forget that $2 billion was taken away this year. That is a lot of money.


Even if money is invested, it is not enough to adequately meet all needs. There are entire generations of people who are dying. We cannot allow this.


No matter where one lives in Canada or Quebec, everyone has the right to healthy living conditions and to have a roof over their head.



June 15, 2006


Mr. Colin Mayes (Okanagan—Shuswap, CPC): 

Mr. Speaker, a person of note in my constituency is Dr. Mary Thomas, a mother, grandmother, great grandmother and an elder of the Neskolith Band.


Dr. Thomas began her career as a First Nations Ambassador in 1970, when she founded the Central Okanagan Interior Friendship Society. Since that time, Dr. Mary Thomas has devoted her life to the preservation and teaching of her culture and language.


Dr. Thomas has received numerous awards over the years, including two honorary doctorates from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the University of Victoria. She received the B.C. Museums Association Distinguished Person Award in 1989 and the Governor General's Award in 1992.


Dr. Thomas was the first native American to receive the Indigenous Conservationist of the Year Award from the Seacology Foundation. Dr. Thomas was awarded the Aboriginal Achievement Award of Canada.


At 87 years of age, Dr. Mary Thomas is actively forwarding her dream to build a Shuswap cultural centre that will contain much of her life work.


Dr. Mary Thomas is an inspiration to her people and a great Canadian.




Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, Canadians expect leadership from their government. In this regard, the government receives a failing grade for its handling of the crisis at Caledonia.


For 106 days the Prime Minister has been silent. His only comment was an abdication of responsibility labelling the land claim as a provincial matter.


Protests in support of Caledonia are planned across the country, disrupting roads and rail travel for Canadians.


Will the Prime Minister acknowledge his negligence? Will he commit to being an engaged participant in resolving this dispute?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, let us speak of leadership and let us talk about sanctimony which the Liberals now add as one of their public character flaws.


Yesterday the member for Kings—Hants referred to Barbara McDougall as a “wax museum figure”. Barbara McDougall is one of this country's most distinguished senior citizens.


I ask the hon. member to disavow and withdraw that comment on the floor of the House of Commons if he is interested in leadership.


Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, she is a distinguished citizen but she should attend more meetings.


The member for Haldimand—Norfolk wrote her constituents and said that she wished she could walk in and take down the barricades herself.


Wishing on a star only worked for Jiminy Cricket. The member should have wished that the Prime Minister had shown leadership.


When will the Prime Minister respond to his own caucus, to the people of Caledonia and to Canadians? When will he accept the government's responsibility? When will he take an active role? When will he commit to ensure a resolution of this issue?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, as the member well knows and as the House knows, the government has been involved in Caledonia. We have had senior negotiators at the table since the dispute began.


We continue to work through Ms. McDougall and Mr. Doering, with the Government of Ontario, within our respective constitutional jurisdictions. Considerable progress has been made over the last few days.


What is appalling is that a member of the Liberal Party would resort to referring to a respected and distinguished Canadian, who is helping to resolve this issue, as a wax museum figure. It is beneath contempt.




Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP): 


Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the NDP motion on a seniors charter for Canadians. I would like to thank the member for Toronto—Danforth for sharing this speaking spot with me. I would also like to thank the member for Hamilton Mountain for her excellent work on this very important motion.


I want to focus on a small but growing group of Canadian seniors, first nations, Métis and Inuit elders. We usually think of the population of Canada's aboriginal peoples as being overwhelmingly young. Although this is true, the life expectancy of first nations and Inuit, in particular, is increasing, even though it is still far beyond the average Canadian life expectancy.


In the next 15 years 57,000 more first nations members will be aged 65 and older and the Inuit population over 65 is increasing at three times the rate of the general Canadian seniors population.


In aboriginal communities elders are regarded as important, productive and creative members of their society. They are essential to the survival of language and culture in their communities.


The problems affecting seniors in the general Canadian population are far worse for first nations, Métis and Inuit elders. For example, the average income for aboriginal elders is between $5,000 and $15,000. This is well below the poverty line and is a shocking number today in Canada. Elders also have lack of access to secure housing.


Many of these problems arise from disputes over jurisdictional authority, disputes between the federal, provincial and territorial governments, and no one often claims responsibility for fixing these problems.


Even within the federal government, the departments often do not coordinate their responses. For example, the Auditor General recently reported that mould in housing was an example of where the federal government took take responsibility for the problem. Long term care is an area where the provincial government has responsibility and Indian and Northern Affairs has no mandate to provide it on reserves.


I want to talk about a specific case as an illustration of this, the Anishnabe Long Term Care Centre at Timiskaming, Quebec. In this care facility there are approximately two dozen elders, all of whom cannot stay in their own homes any longer. Without the Anishnabe, these elders would have to go to provincially run long term care centres in surrounding communities where French is the operating language. Yet most of these elders speak either Cree or English.


There is a need for the federal government to step up with its provincial partners to provide the range of care facilities that is required. In this context I want to reference the Assembly of First Nations action plan on continuing care. It talks about some elements that are critical to looking at continuing care. Its vision is to provide a holistic continuum of continuing care services, ranging from home support to higher levels of care under first nations control, reflecting the unique health and social needs of first nations. Services are comprehensive, culturally appropriate, accessible, effective and equitable to those accessed by Canadian citizens.


That is specifically dealing with first nations, but I would argue that Inuit, Métis and other aboriginal people should have access to services that are culturally appropriate.


There are also other critical issues impacting on the health of elders. For example, epidemics such as diabetes mean more first nations, Métis and Inuit elders live in poor health longer than the general Canadian population. More and more these elders will need options that will keep them in their community where the care is culturally appropriate and in their own language, without fighting through multiple layers of bureaucracy.


I want to move to another topic in terms of mental health. A recent Senate report on mental health referred specifically to these inter-jurisdictional problems to which I have already referred. I will quote from the report on the confusion around responsibility. A seniors advocate, as proposed in our motion, would focus on this kind of inefficiency. It states:


The federal government has had ample time to clarify its own role and responsibilities through legislation and to develop policies to reduce interdepartmental confusion. It is time to take significant steps to rectify the interdepartmental fragmentation that contributes to the overall poor health status of First Nations and Inuit.


In addition, the legacy of residential schools also leaves elders with greater mental and physical health burdens than the average population for seniors. The Senate report on Mental Health indicates:


Inuit reviewing the Aboriginal Healing Foundation program see the need to expand it, to have it not only focus on residential schools and the negative impact of those schools relating to abuse but also the negative impact relating to language loss, cultural loss and the loss of parenting skills.


I want to speak specifically on access to government services. The first nations action plan on continuing care looks at the continuum of care for elders and highlights two important areas: the need for culturally appropriate services; and health and human resources training and capacity development.


For elders whose first language may not be one of Canada's official languages, finding care givers who can provide the specialized care in their own language is a real challenge, even for home care services; that is, even if elders have access to secure housing.


Aboriginal peoples in Canada face a huge housing shortage. The Senate report on Mental Health described the effect this housing shortage has on families. It stated:


In many regions, housing shortages have reached crisis proportions in our area. The mental impact on families so crowded that people must sleep on the floors and in shifts cannot be underestimated in our region. Homeless people drift from relative to relative to find a spot for the night. 


That kind of overcrowded housing on reserves and lack of affordable housing off reserves means that many elders living in poverty do not have secure shelter. Again, from the Senate report on Mental Health, it stated:


Poverty, crime, violence, addictions, all categories of abuse, overcrowded housing, alienation, abandonment and suicide are all connected to mental and physical well-being. That interconnectivity of mental health issues is often forgotten


We would expect in this day and age that seniors, that elders in communities are given the respect that is their due. They have served their communities for decades. They have contributed in first nations communities and Inuit and Métis communities. They have contributed to the ongoing survival of the culture and of the language. They have provided guidance and teaching to the youth and others. In their declining years, we would expect that they would not have to worry about having enough to eat or having a decent place to live.


It is a shameful comment that in this day and age we are having to have this discussion.


I want to end my speech by returning to our motion and saying, again, how important it will be to have these rights enshrined in a charter to protect elders, to provide for elders and to celebrate elders and their achievements.


I urge all members of the House to join with the NDP to ensure that we have a seniors charter, to ensure that we enshrine those fundamental elements in a charter that say: yes, elders are an important part of our community; yes, we respect the work that they have done; and, yes, they deserve to live their declining years without any worries around those essential quality of life elements that so many of us take for granted.



September 26, 2006


Ms. Tina Keeper (Churchill, Lib.): 


Why is the government condemning first nations and Inuit people in Canada to third world health conditions?


Hon. Tony Clement (Minister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth.



September 29, 2006


Mr. Rod Bruinooge (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, I always take it as an honour to speak on behalf of aboriginal issues and our new Canadian government. […]There is no question that the government is taking action. […] We are committed to accountability. […]We are committed to bettering the lives of aboriginal people in Canada through a practical and decisive approach and the steps we have taken so far clearly show this.



October 3, 2006


Mr. Dave Batters (Palliser, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, in a speech given on May 4, 2006, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell said, “I believe that the Prime Minister and his government are committed to closing the gaps identified in health, education, housing and economic opportunity”.



October 24, 2006


Mr. Marc Lemay (Abitibi—Témiscamingue, BQ): 


Is the minister not embarrassed to go to Mashteuiatsh when he is against the Declaration on Indigenous Peoples' Rights and the Kelowna accord?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


We would have supported that declaration if it had been clear, effective, responsible and fair.



October 30, 2006


Mr. Todd Russell (Labrador, Lib.): 


Why has the government not honoured Kelowna?


Mr. Rod Bruinooge: 


Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows full well that in fact there was no accord, and there was no signed document which would indicate that there was an accord. I asked this of the member forLaSalle—Émard and of course he could prove that there was no signature page.



November 3, 2006


Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP): 


Will the government commit to supporting the declaration and resolving the situation in Caledonia so that Canada can hold its head up at the United Nations instead of lowering it with shame?


Mr. Rod Bruinooge (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


We are moving forward with a plan that will bring forward human rights where they have not been before.



November 6, 2006


Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP): 


Mr. Speaker, Pikangikum is in crisis. It is the Kashechewan of the northwest. This fly-in community still depends on buckets to collect drinking water from lakes and the kids in high school shop classes are busy making outhouses because there is no sewage system.


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


The Pikangikum community is one of close to 200 communities which the government inherited where the drinking water system is at high risk or worse. We are working on it. We have invested $1 million this year, $1.1 million is scheduled for investment next year and, in the years beyond that, an additional $9 million is scheduled to deal with the water and infrastructure issues.



November 9, 2006


Mr. Tom Lukiwski (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform, CPC):


The Government of Canada has a major role in ensuring strong and safe aboriginal communities. That commitment is taken very seriously.



November 10, 2006


Mr. Rod Bruinooge (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, [...] We as a government want to allow for all first nations aboriginal people to have the liberty to choose how they would like to live their lives in the future.


November 21, 2006


Mr. Ron Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, today we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. The Assembly of First Nations has issued a report card on the former Liberal government's performance in relation to the RCAP report.


Can the Minister of Indian Affairs share with the House his comments on the Liberal Party's failing grade, a capital F?


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, on this the 10th anniversary of the royal commission I am pleased to announce that the new Government of Canada is making progress in improving the lives of aboriginal Canadians, unlike the former government.


Frankly, I agree with the AFN, the Auditor General, and virtually every other independent commentator who has remarked on the terrible Liberal grade of F for its failure and disgraceful, shameful abandonment of aboriginal Canadians. Aboriginal Canadians now know they have a government that delivers. No more ducking, dodging, dithering or delaying.



December 6, 2006


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, I will stand with pride and conviction in this House at any time and defend the policies of the government relative to aboriginal Canadians. As for my hon. friend, perhaps she might consider to buy a dog and call it “empty promise”.



December 12, 2006


Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP): 


I want to quote the Northwestern Health Unit's observations and final recommendations in its inspection report on the Pikangikum water and sewage systems. The report states:


The most basic of twentieth century (ie last century) health-supporting water/sewage infrastructures are not available to Pikangikum First Nation residents. This includes (but is not limited to) housing, air/water/soil contamination control and regulation, drinking/water provision and sewage disposal. In multiple conversations with federal and provincial representatives, the longstanding neglect is explained, in various rhetorical guises, through a citing of resource constraints and "big picture" considerations. 


Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


I first want to assure members of this House that the government regards the situation in Pikangikum with the utmost seriousness. […]  Mr. Speaker, let me repeat that the government is determined to work with all partners to bring about real and lasting change for this community. It is for that reason that I asked for the advice of the committee and I reiterate my disappointment in the hon. member for passing the buck when she had a chance to act toward positive change.



February 7, 2007


Mr. Rod Bruinooge (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC):


Most Canadians recognize that huge gaps exist in the quality of life experienced by aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in our country. The government is determined to close these gaps and make tangible, sustainable progress on the full range of aboriginal issues. To do so, I believe we must address root causes, and there is no doubt that inadequate legal frameworks exacerbate many key problems. I am pleased to report that a collaborative effort is underway to design and implement appropriate legal frameworks.




Mr. Speaker, the root cause we see so often on reserve, which has led to many issues that we all have become familiar with as we spend time working with first nations, is that the system itself has been very restrictive of first nations citizens from achieving true liberty in Canada.


I know the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is very interested in seeing systemic improvement and this is one of the first steps in that process to improving the system by opening up opportunities for first nations people to be able to access the laws that so many of us in Canada take for granted every day.




Ms. Tina Keeper (Churchill, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, this is a critical and important debate looking at the human rights of first nations citizens in our country. The Canadian Human Rights Act is not only based on principles upheld in this country but on international human rights principles and practices for which we are leaders on the world stage. As Canadians we are very proud.




Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP):


Recently, Monday as a matter of fact, we had National Chief Phil Fontaine talk about filing a complaint at the Canadian Human Rights Commission regarding the appalling situation concerning child welfare in this country. Then my colleague from Timmins—James Bay today asked a question about Kachechewan, a community where the children do not even have access to a primary school. Surely schooling is a fundamental human right in this country.


There have been many opportunities for the government to demonstrate its commitment to human rights for first nations, Métis and Inuit people across this country and it has failed to do that. It is a bit hypocritical, I would suggest, to argue that the government's foremost piece of legislation will deal with human rights for first nations people in this country.


Mr. Harold Albrecht (Kitchener—Conestoga, CPC):


More specifically, aboriginal women are more likely than non-aboriginal women to be impoverished, uneducated, have higher unemployment, be homeless, have higher rates of incarceration, be substantially more likely to head single parent families and more frequently to be victims of physical and sexual abuse.


Bill C-44 is an important first step toward addressing these issues. It would not change the situation overnight but we owe a duty to aboriginal people to start moving forward. The legislation is quite valuable as part of a larger strategy to support first nations communities in assuming greater control of and greater responsibility for their affairs.




N]o one has responsibility for specific issues, such as unsafe drinking water, inadequate housing or poor educational results for their students. With responsibility diffused in this way with no one accountable, there can be no recourse for individual residents of first nations communities. With no effective mechanisms to promote accountability, problems continue to fester. Consequently, to no one's surprise, vulnerable people and unfortunately, typically, women and children, suffer more than their share of consequences.


Canada's new government has begun to change this situation and to instill a sense of accountability into relations between Canada and first nations. Working closely with groups such as the Assembly of First Nations, Native Women's Association of Canada and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the government is determined to establish strong legislative frameworks that promote accountability in community governance.



February 9, 2007


Mr. Roger Valley (Kenora, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, it has been over five months since the Northwestern Health Unit released a report detailing the deplorable health conditions with which the people of the Pikangikum First Nation are forced to live.


Chief Pascal and his council have worked tirelessly to bring attention to his people's suffering. When I visited the community last month, the message was very clear: to improve the health of the community, the power line must be completed.


The minister promised to rectify this situation, but the government has been stalling. When will the government recognize the suffering of the people of Pikangikum and make the completion of the power line a priority?


Hon. Peter Van Loan (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, I will be very happy to have the Minister of Indian Affairs get back to the member on that question.



February 10, 2007


Mrs. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP): 


The UN recommended that Canada accelerate its efforts to eliminate all forms of discrimination against aboriginal women both in society at large and in their communities, particularly with respect to the remaining discriminatory legal provisions and the equal enjoyment of their human rights to education, employment and physical and psychological well-being. It also recommended that aboriginal women receive sufficient funding in order to be able to participate in the necessary governance processes that address issues which impede their legal and substantive equality.



February 13, 2007


Mr. Yvon Lévesque (Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, BQ): 


I have the statement made by the Prime Minister on April 19, 2004, and reiterated by the government on May 31, 2005. It states:


It is now time for us to renew and strengthen the covenant between us...No longer will we in Ottawa develop policies first and discuss them with you later. The principle of collaboration will be the cornerstone of our new partnership.


To strengthen policy development, the minister and the Assembly of First Nations commit to undertake discussions: on processes to enhance the involvement of the Assembly of First Nations, mandated by the Chiefs in Assembly, in the development of federal policies which focus on, or have a significant specific impact on the First Nations, particularly policies in the areas of health, lifelong learning, housing, negotiations, economic opportunities, and accountability; and, on the financial and human resources and accountability mechanisms necessary to sustain the proposed enhanced involvement of the Assembly of First Nations in policy development.




Mr. Brian Pallister (Portage—Lisgar, CPC):


[A] failure to take action on such a fundamental issue of human rights under the guise of being respectful of people is actually disrespectful of those very people.


These people have had their rights ignored for a long, long time and they continue to have them ignored by members of the House who should know better.



February 15, 2007


Ms. Ruby Dhalla (Brampton—Springdale, Lib.):


Now we take a look at the Assembly of First Nations and their leadership action plan for children on the aboriginal and first nations community. Their vision was:


First Nations children must have an equal opportunity to grow-up with their family, in their community and in their culture. No First Nation child should have to forgo this opportunity as a result of poverty or an inability to access basic services.


First nation leaders need to make a difference for this generation of children and redress the breach of rights for children of generations past, but unfortunately, we know that the Conservative government has failed the children of the first nations community by cancelling the Kelowna accord and by cancelling investments in the area of health, of education and of infrastructure. It has failed the first nations communities all across the country.




Mr. Rick Dykstra (St. Catharines, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's comments, especially her last comment with respect to the work the government has done over the last year on aboriginal affairs. I would like to ask the member a question.


We did a lot of work together on the health committee in the area of understanding, from a health perspective, how we could ensure there was enough funding for the aboriginal community. As she knows, $450 million was put into the 2006-07 budget, which included funding for social programs for women and children. A bunch of the categories also included ensuring that we provided opportunity for education for youth and for aboriginal housing, both on reserve and off reserve.


Could she comment on why she thinks that $450 million, which was added to the budget in 2006-07 over and above what was already there, is not a good thing for the aboriginal communities across our country?


Ms. Ruby Dhalla: 


Mr. Speaker, when we talk to the stakeholders across the country and the aboriginal community, there is a tremendous amount of frustration and disappointment at the fact that the Conservative government has failed them. It has failed them by not honouring the Kelowna accord. The Kelowna accord took many years to come into effect. It was in collaboration and cooperation with all the community leaders from the first nations.


The member for Winnipeg South Centre has done a tremendous amount of work in this particular area. The Kelowna accord would have provided on reserve investments in the area of heath, education, ensuring that children from first nations communities would have the very best. However, because the Conservatives cancelled the Kelowna accord, first nations communities have once again been left in limbo.




Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, I am choosing to speak primarily to two areas of the motion. I do believe the government has failed to act. The two areas that I will focus on are aboriginal affairs and the Status of Women. During the previous election campaign, the Prime Minister made clear promises to honour the Kelowna accord and the CEDAW declaration, which promotes equality of women. He broke both promises.


As we all know, budget 2006 presented the Conservatives an opportunity send a strong signal to aboriginal communities that they honoured them, celebrated them and valued them. From the outset, they have done nothing but insult the aboriginal people, beginning with their refusal to honour the Kelowna accord. It is clear that the issues surrounding Canada's aboriginal peoples are not of primary concern to the government.


We know Kelowna was an important initiative. It was an initiative that was built on relationships among the Government of Canada, the leadership of first nations and the leadership of the 13 provincial and territorial governments. We had 18 months of consultation and 28 round tables, dealing with issues of housing, water, education, economic development, governance, capacity building, all of which the Prime Minister, in a radio ad during the election campaign, promised to honour. As soon as the time came for him to show that he meant what he said, it was gone.


I have to underline that we all know this money was booked. The Department of Finance confirmed it. The former minister of finance confirmed it. The commitment to aboriginal people is, at best, tepid.


In addition to program cuts, the Conservatives have abandoned the aboriginal procurement policy. They have abandoned, as my colleague said, child care funding for first nations. They have eliminated the first nations' stop smoking program. Aboriginal language funding, which the minister took pains to speak about this morning, has been slashed, and we have heard an outcry from aboriginal leadership across the country.


In my own province the doors of Aboriginal Literacy have been closed and people have been laid off.


Capital projects have been cancelled. Capital projects that have been promised and designated for schools have been eliminated. Just this week I heard of a school in which the walls were caving. The teacher has chosen to have the class at home in the living because the school is not big enough or conducive to education.


We are hearing a lot of rhetoric across the way and we are seeing a lot of inaction, a lot of juggling moneys around to make it look like they are doing something, but not much is happening.


We hear much about how the government is the champion of human rights. This party will not take second place to anybody on human rights. The Conservative government not only opposed the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People, but it opposed it. Twenty years of work was done by our aboriginal communities to ensure it had a place at the United Nations and the government chose to lobby against it.


We now hear a great deal about the repeal of section 67 of the Human Rights Act. I want to make it clear I have sympathy for the intent and I support it. However, the government is going about it all wrong. The minister said this morning that the act was introduced 30 years ago and he said that he thought 30 years of consultation was enough. That is an insult to aboriginal peoples.




Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP): 


Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Windsor—Tecumseh for sharing his time with me on this important matter. I too will be speaking in favour of this motion. I am going to address two parts of the motion. I want to talk specifically about budget spending cuts directed at aboriginal people and I also want to touch briefly on child care spaces.


With respect to budget cuts affecting aboriginal people I want to reference two documents. There has been much discussion about the appalling state of poverty for many first nations, Métis and Inuit people. In a document entitled “Federal Government Funding to First Nations: The Facts, the Myths and the Way Forward”, I want to highlight the fact that in this document it says that funding for core services such as education, economic and social development capital facilities and maintenance has decreased by almost 13% since 1999-2000.


This document was written in 2004 so it is not talking about the current fiscal situation. We are all very well of the fact that there has been a 2% cap on spending for first nations people. That cap remains in place despite the fact that this population is growing much faster than the national average in many first nations communities.


In addition, to highlight the situation around poverty for first nations communities, the Assembly of First Nations is currently conducting a Make Poverty History: The First Nations Plan for Creating Opportunity. I will not quote from all of this document, but it clearly outlines the challenges facing first nations communities.


It talks about the fact that one in four first nations children live in poverty compared to one in six Canadian children. About one in three first nations people consider their main drinking water supply unsafe to drink and 12% of first nations communities have to boil their drinking water. Mould contaminates almost half of all first nations households.


In terms of the overall health and well-being of the communities, applying the United Nations human development index would rank first nations communities 68th among 174 nations. Canada has dropped from first to eighth due in part to the housing and health conditions in first nations communities.


Those numbers are shocking. We have recently seen international organizations coming to Canada to highlight the desperate conditions on some of the reserves. I would argue that it is well past time for the House to come together and address in a meaningful way the conditions in many first nations communities.



February 16, 2007


Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP): 


How will the government help working families in the north with climate change and the inadequate education resources?


Mr. Rod Bruinooge (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Indian Affairs have on many occasions stated their interest in supporting the north.



February 19, 2007


Mr. Roger Valley (Kenora, Lib.): 


It is time to ensure all first nations have the protection that most Canadians take for granted.


For too long first nations people have been subject to lesser standards than non-first nations people. Deplorable living conditions, substandard educational facilities and the lack of adequate health care highlight the vast gap that exists between the first nations and non-first nations people of Canada.




Mr. Yvon Lévesque (Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, BQ): 


My colleagues and I will maintain our unwavering commitment to our [First Nations] constituents as well as our solidarity with other peoples like ours, which yearn for self-sufficiency, their most fundamental rights and loyalty from their elected representatives.




Ms. Nancy Karetak-Lindell (Nunavut, Lib.): 


Aboriginal people suffer constantly because of decisions made somewhere else that do not give us any opportunity, first, to be part of the process that leads to that decision. Then we must live with it and are usually not given any chance to phase in the change. Canadians wonder why we are suffering social consequences.




People have to understand that some of these communities are barely given enough funds to cover their operations, such as, providing housing, education, clean water, keeping the facilities up to par, just the funds for a band. We will have to explain to people what this change will mean to them. Processes have to be put into place. We will need to do capacity building in the communities.




Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.):


People do not understand that first nations do not have any money. They do not have the revenue generation that we do. Many of them have higher levels of unemployment, but they do not even have the tax base that we do. They only have government grants for a specific function that the government has given them.




Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga, BQ):


The government has a fiduciary responsibility to the first nations. Sadly, it is doing a very poor job of living up to its responsibilities and has not put sufficient resources for housing on the table.



Mr. Ken Boshcoff (Thunder Bay—Rainy River, Lib.): 


A demonstration of good faith by Parliament utilizing all the principles of decorum and democracy would go a long way to demonstrating to first nations that we are sincere, truthful and honest.




The Liberal Party is the party of the charter of human rights and supports this measure to extend fundamental human rights protection to all native Canadians. The Liberal opposition believes that aboriginal communities will need time to change their laws and interpret the Human Rights Act.



February 20, 2007


Mr. Tony Martin (Sault Ste. Marie, NDP)


Mr. Speaker, from listening to some of the conversation today I have some hope that we might get to an anti-poverty strategy that might deal with some of the very difficult circumstances that many of our first nations people live with.


I was in Thunder Bay a little over a week ago and there the face of poverty is obviously aboriginal. Poverty is horrendous and terrible and should not exist in this country.


The United Nations has called on us, because we signed on to covenants, agreements, to address the human rights of all of our people, particularly our aboriginal people. The UN has been particularly scathing in its criticism of us. Today's motion flows from some of that international concern and the leadership that has been shown.


I am really disappointed that the Bloc has indicated that it is not going to support this motion. When the Bloc members get a chance to speak, I would like to ask them why it is that they cannot see that we have been called upon by the international community to live up to some of the covenants on human rights that we have signed. The conditions our aboriginal brothers and sisters live in need to be addressed by the federal government. We need an anti-poverty strategy to, at the very least, deal with that.




We must fundamentally right the wrongs and honour the obligations we have to our first nations, Métis and Inuit. It is all about human rights, justice and fairness.




Mr. Yvon Godin (Acadie—Bathurst, NDP): 


The member for Nanaimo—Cowichan spoke about the aboriginal people, for example. Is poverty among the aboriginal people acceptable here, in Canada? Is this acceptable? I say it is not. It is shameful.



February 21, 2007


Hon. Stephen Owen (Vancouver Quadra, Lib.): 

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a delight to rise in this House and turn toward the other place, and bid a fond adieu to Senator Jack Austin, who retires next week.


Senator Austin raises the bar for all parliamentarians: informed, reasoned, seasoned, articulate, and positive about all our country represents and what it can aspire to be.


From his humble beginnings at Harvard Law School, Jack has excelled as deputy minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, principal secretary to Prime Minister Trudeau, and then in Mr. Trudeau's cabinet as super minister for social policy involving 15 separate departments, and on to senior minister of British Columbia and government leader in the Senate in Prime Minister Martin's cabinet.


The key issues of Canadian policy have all benefited from Senator Austin's leadership: [...] aboriginal justice...


To all the hundreds of us who came to Ottawa bewildered by the majesty and confusion of it all, Jack is the mentor who stuck out as a class act.




Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):


We need specific strategies to address the needs of aboriginal people with disabilities. We need federal leadership to ensure the full and equal participation of Canadians with disabilities in all aspects of Canadian life.



February 23, 2007


Ms. Tina Keeper (Churchill, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, the meanspirited Conservative government has hit rock bottom. Its decision to abandon First Nations children has forced the Assembly of First Nations to launch a human rights complaint on the First Nations child welfare crisis. We even have international aid groups working to assist First Nations in a country which is one of the wealthiest in the world. This is unbelievable and unacceptable.


When will the minister stop talking and start acting to help our children?


Mr. Brian Jean (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member that after 13 years and decades of neglect by the previous Liberal government, the government has actually taken an initiative.



March 1, 2007


Ms. Peggy Nash (Parkdale—High Park, NDP): 


As parliamentarians, it is our duty to ensure that water is protected for all Canadians. It is the government's responsibility to implement a national investment strategy that enables municipalities and aboriginal communities to upgrade desperately needed infrastructure.


The government must recognize the UN Economic and Social Council findings and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that access to clean water is a human right.




Ms. Bonnie Brown (Oakville, Lib.): 


Mr. Speaker, the government's right-wing ideology is again targeting children. Some $3.5 billion for early learning and child care has already been cut. Now we hear that the health department is preparing to axe the two programs that serve Canada's most vulnerable preschool children, that is, aboriginal head start and the community action program for children.


How can a government that inherited a booming economy and billion dollar surpluses justify targeting children for health program cuts?




Hon. Tony Clement (Minister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario, CPC): 


Mr. Speaker, I can certainly assure the House that the hon. member's facts, figures and assertions are completely incorrect. We support our funding for children. We support, in particular, the children at risk in aboriginal and Inuit communities.


All I can say is that after $25 billion of social service cuts by the previous Liberal government, provinces found it more difficult to deal with social services issues. First nations communities found it more difficult. That is the Liberal record. Our record is considerably brighter for the future of Canadians.



 January 27, 2009


Hon. Jim Flaherty (Minister of Finance, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, I wish to table the budget 2009 documents, including notices of ways and means motions. The details of the measures are contained in these documents.




Beyond this, we need to help Canadians who are out of work to find new, good jobs. For that, we need to increase our investment in skills development. In Canada's economic action plan we will provide new opportunities for short and long-term skills upgrading. This will include targeted programs for apprentices and older workers, additional support for skills development and training for aboriginal Canadians and new investments to create job opportunities for aboriginal Canadians.




Over the next two years, we will make major, new investments in aboriginal communities, to build and renovate schools and health services facilities, to improve wastewater treatment, and to provide safe drinking water.




We have designed this measure to ensure quick implementation through co-operation with the provinces. It will include new funding over the next two years to build homes for low income seniors and Canadians with disabilities and to build and renovate housing in aboriginal communities and in Canada's north.



January 28, 2009


Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ):


The government had the means to help the most vulnerable members of society by funding construction of new social housing. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has an $8 billion surplus. The government should be using that money to help people. Instead, everyone but aboriginal people, seniors and the disabled is being left high and dry.




Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.):


Mr. Speaker, as a fellow northerner and as the official opposition critic for northern issues, I welcome the member to Parliament.



I have a couple of questions, so she may want to get out her pen to write them down. While she is doing that, I hope she appreciates the inukshuk I am wearing today and also my sealskin vest on the 10th anniversary of Nunavut. It is a great day for the people of Nunavut.


My first question is related to the Arctic research facilities. The $85 million for rehabilitating Arctic research centres is fantastic. She said that Nunavut would get a fair share of that money. The way the budget reads it is a competition for those funds. Why is it on a competitive basis? Why not just allocate it to the excellent Arctic research facilities across the north? How can she confirm that Nunavut will be getting a fair share if it is on a competitive basis? It may get all or none.



My second question is related to northern housing. It is a good item in the budget. For my riding there is $50 million. The last time this was done, there was a problem because a large percentage of the money, if not all of it, was for aboriginal people but it was not given directly to them. It was given to the territorial government. People were upset about that.




Mr. Stephen Woodworth (Kitchener Centre, CPC):


This is an economic action plan to create opportunities for Canadians. Our plan will stimulate housing construction and provide support to business and communities. This budget will take action for aboriginals.




Another issue is related to aboriginal housing in the north. If members look at page 105 of the budget there is $400 million for housing on reserves in the south. There is $200 million for northern housing but it is for all northerners; $50 million for my riding.



Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.):


The minister from Calgary got into a lot of trouble in my riding when the money was not transferred directly to first nations but instead went through other governments. Now they want to know how much of that $50 million is for first nations governments. They are pretty upset again.




Mr. Bill Siksay (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP):


Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to ask a question of the member for Yukon. I know that one of the things he is very concerned about is the situation of first nation communities in Canada.



This budget purports to spend about $1.4 billion in first nation communities. The Assembly of First Nations, in its prebudget submission, suggested that a $3 billion stimulus package was necessary for first nation communities. The member knows as well that the last Liberal government proposed the Kelowna accord, which proposed about $5 billion worth of spending in first nations and aboriginal communities in Canada. So we are falling far short of what the first nation communities themselves identified, what his own party identified as was necessary.


Specifically, we see that this budget talks about $20 million over two years for partnerships to improve child and family services when the Indian and Northern Affairs Department itself says that this is underfunded by about $109 million a year. This budget only proposes $400 million for on-reserve housing, when the department again has estimated that in 2005 $5 billion was needed in housing alone to bring aboriginal housing on and off-reserve up to Canadian standards. This budget talks about $515 million for urgent infrastructure. That would only build 10 schools when 89 schools are needed across the country in first nation communities.


I wonder, given that incredible shortfall in funding to first nations, how this member is able to support this budget.


Hon. Larry Bagnell:


Madam Speaker, I know the hon. member has done excellent work protecting the first nations in his area. He certainly will not get any quarrel from me that for a long time there has been insufficient funding to change the disparity between first nations and the rest of Canadians. He is absolutely correct that we put in the Kelowna accord, when those funds were available, the biggest attempt in history to reduce those discrepancies. So I, too, am very disappointed.


Even the items he has lobbied for, and I notice that schools for instance are in the budget to some extent, may be an improvement over what there was in the past. However, these things should have been done long ago, and more money for water systems. Could members imagine if we had not acted immediately and it were not on some distant reserve, and if our water had those types of problems? These are things for which we have constantly pushed.


There are some steps in the right direction in the budget but as the member said succinctly, there needs to be much more. We will constantly, as we have in the past, push even more to reduce these disparities.




Mrs. Cathy McLeod (Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, CPC):


I sat down a number of weeks ago with one of our aboriginal communities, representatives from a forestry company and a delegation from China. Our plan to support international marketing, innovative product development and research directly aligns with their message. Of particular interest was biomass technology.




I suggest that this budget is not a hodgepodge as suggested, but a compact and multi-layered response to a very challenging economic time. As one of the pundits suggested, we cannot have everyone building robots right now. The beauty of this response is the delicate balance of supporting immediate needs without losing sight of the future.




Mr. John Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, CPC):


Our government is committed to acting in the best interests of the Canadian economy, even if it means running a short-term deficit. Our government's plan of action provides effective economic stimulus to help Canadian families and businesses deal with short-term challenges. As well, there are measures to encourage private spending; new investments in roads, bridges, water systems and sewer systems; measures to protect the stability of Canada's financial system and ensure access to credit for business and consumers; hope and support for industries in difficulty, including forestry, manufacturing, tourism, agriculture and automotive; new jobs; and measures to protect the vulnerable, including the unemployed, lower income Canadians, seniors and aboriginal people.



January 30, 2009


Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.):


Mr. Speaker, that was the wrong answer sheet. I would like the question answered.


The report's observations spoke to the ongoing poverty of women, lack of adequate child care, lack of legal aid, inadequate housing, and the desperate conditions of aboriginal women.


Canada has fallen to 83rd on the UN gender disparity index, near the bottom, all because of a lack of leadership from the Conservative government.


When will the government take this matter seriously? When will it stand up for the rights of Canadian women? The budget again failed Canadian women.



February 3, 2009


Hon. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.):


Finally, there is no reference [in the budget] to a justice agenda that speaks to the protection of those most vulnerable in our society. We will recall that the test of a just society is how it treats the most vulnerable among it. How does it treat its aboriginal people?




I mention in particular the plight of aboriginal people whose situation, as we meet, is before the universal periodic review of the United Nations Council on Human Rights, again, disparities in access, in justice and in particular the plight of disappeared aboriginal women.




Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP):


Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to have a discussion today on the budget.


The hon. member talked a lot about social justice issues. He talked about a lot of important things, everything from aboriginal rights to world rights and Canada's role in those. What I find difficult to accept is the member pretends to be an advocate to those causes, but chooses to do nothing about them. He decides to run down the Conservatives' budget and their philosophy and then supports them in their measures.




Mrs. Nina Grewal (Fleetwood—Port Kells, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Fleetwood—Port Kells to participate in the debate on the 2009 federal budget. [...] There would be $20 billion in personal income tax relief; $7.8 billion to encourage housing construction, including money for social housing and aboriginal housing...




Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.):


One particular concern when looking at the budget's investment in aboriginal people is the lack of action taken for aboriginal women. As NWAC president Bev Jacobs said:



[W]e needed to hear Aboriginal women specifically mentioned as part of the stimulus plan. Instead, we heard only general comment about Aboriginal issues such as social housing on reserves, Aboriginal skills and training, child and family services.


There were early indications the budget was going to reflect society and offer protection for the most vulnerable, but I’m not so sure this budget passes the litmus test!




Mr. Speaker, I want to advise the member that I speak regularly with members of first nations communities, as well as with the leadership of aboriginal organizations across this country.


The government is beginning very slowly to address some of the needs of first nations, and this is after three years of overt directed neglect by the government.




Mr. Greg Rickford (Kenora, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, Sioux Lookout, Red Lake and the isolated first nation communities in the Kenora riding appreciated this government's recent announcement for immediate additional funding to improve the winter road network across northwestern Ontario.


However, beyond the winter, first nation communities want to know that this government's 2009 economic action plan includes a strategy for the long term infrastructure and critical community services priorities for their communities.


Would the minister tell us what measures this economic plan will take to ensure that the first nation community priorities will be addressed?


Hon. Chuck Strahl (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the efforts of the member for Kenora to improve, for example, the winter road conditions in his riding. I appreciate the announcement he made there last week.


I can assure him that the Prime Minister and I met with aboriginal leaders in productive prebudget talks. As a result, in budget 2009 we are making major investments in housing, improving drinking water, school construction, roads, recreational centres, health and policing services. There is also new spending for skills and development.


All of this begs a question. When aboriginal leaders call all this budget good and a necessary step, why are the NDP and the Bloc voting against it?



February 5, 2009


Mr. Serge Cardin (Sherbrooke, BQ):


[W]hen Europeans arrived in the new world, the aboriginals of the time were exploited and that has not stopped.




Mr. Todd Russell (Labrador, Lib.):


Mr. Speaker, a lot of Canadians feel left out of the budget but none more so than the Métis.


There were more than 5,000 words in the budget speech but “Métis” was not one of them, and yet the Métis people are among some of the most vulnerable in society.


Why was the minister responsible so ineffective or uncaring to allow this glaring omission and injustice, and why was there nothing specific in the budget for the Métis people of Canada?


Hon. Chuck Strahl (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, that is simply not true. There are provisions in the budget for aboriginals who live on reserve and off reserve. There are things that are very important to the Métis National Council, such as the ARDA funding, which it helps to administer, as well as many other things.


We signed a protocol arrangement with the Métis nation just this last fall, something it had asked for from the Liberal Party for 10 years. We were able to sign that because we believe the Métis nation deserves a government-to-government relationship and it has it on this side of the House.



February 6, 2009


Hon. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Lib.):


Do members know that aboriginals families, and this is particularly offensive, receive between $2,000 and $9,000 less per child than non-aboriginal families? Why? What does that mean? It means that those children cannot have books. They cannot get computers. They do not get other school supplies. They cannot hire teachers. The schools are overcrowded. The infrastructure collapses. Some of the schools are toxic. We would not want to see any child trying to study in those schools. Frequently there are not even enough schools to train the kids. How can these children, many of whom are living in impoverished circumstances, get out of that poverty trap? They cannot.


I would also like to see the government look at the Indian Act and work with the AFN and other groups to modify the Indian Act, which is a racist document and a rock around the neck of aboriginal communities in their desire to develop. How can they possibly develop if we have that type of act? They have many more hurdles to overcome in order to develop, so how can they take care of themselves?


There is fabulous leadership in Chief Gordon Planes in Sooke and Chief Russ Chipps in Beecher Bay. They have some great initiatives that they would like to pursue, but they cannot because of the Indian Act and the obstacles it presents to them.


I was on the Pacheedaht reserve in my riding a little while ago. I could put my fist through the walls. There is mould, they are toxic and falling apart. This is in our Canada. Canadians often do not see this because we have to take a bit of a detour to look at it. I ask them to please look at this. See what is in our neighbourhoods and communities. Look at what we have in our country. They will find conditions rival to that in third world nations half a world away.


This is our Canada and it is a pox on our houses that this is allowed to continue. This cannot be allowed to continue. It must be addressed as issues of fundamental fairness and basic humanity. I would like to see the Minister of Indian Affairs go to these schools and clinics, take a look at the conditions in which these people live. I would like him to say that this cannot continue and work with first nations leaders to resolve this. Many of these reserves have extraordinary natural resources that can be developed, but it must be allowed to happen.


On the schooling issue, while there was some money for infrastructure for schools, which I complement the government on, they also need money for soft costs such as for the teachers, books, computers and access to schools. The children in the Pacheedaht reserve have to travel hours into soup to go to school, which means they cannot avail themselves of normal child activities and programs such as music, physical education and team sports that help to build them as they go through life.


It is fundamentally important for the government to grasp this. We are willing to work. We have some great people in the Liberal Party, and in all parties, who are very willing to work with the government to implement the solutions to address these issues, which are human and critical and which must be resolved as an act of basic humanity.


The public expects us to come in here and do things quickly, which we would all love to do. The frustration that I think all of us in the House feel comes from the desire and our willingness to address the concerns of our citizens, meeting the glacial pace in which things move around here. In fact, they move somewhere between glacial and full stop. That is how fast things move. However, the implication of that is the failure to address some very critical things. In 1998 the House passed a resolution for a head start program for children. This is the most fundamental and easiest way to have an important impact on our children.



February 10, 2009


Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP)


moved for leave to introduce Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians.




The bill would ensure adequate, accessible and affordable housing. There is no question that there is a housing crisis in this country. We know that at least three million Canadian households live in housing insecurity and that homelessness is a terrible crisis in many communities.


It is important that the federal government accept its responsibility for housing and work with the provinces, local communities and aboriginal representatives to ensure we deal with the housing problem.


The bill puts forward a strong plan to ensure that secure, adequate, affordable and accessible housing is there, that coop housing is developed, that housing for aboriginal people is developed and that housing is developed for people who are homeless. The bill calls on the federal government to work in a cooperative way with other partners to develop such a strategy and a program. We believe this is critical.


I hope all members of the House will consider the bill and support it because we need to ensure that we do not have a homelessness crisis and a housing crisis in a country as wealthy as Canada.




Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.):


A chief in the north spoke to me about this. He wants his people to be self-sufficient. The people want to build housing and charge rents without it being solely limited to social housing units. With the new economic development plan, they have their own world view. They want to ensure they are recognized for that and have their views respected.


The biggest item for first nations is the financial transfer arrangement. The nine year review has been going on for a number of years now.


The biggest item for first nations is the financial transfer arrangement. The review has been on going for a number of years now. We need a mandate from the federal government. We need to get on with it quickly, conclude it and implement it. Before the election, the minister said that he would do this quickly. There are benefits for everyone, for Arctic sovereignty, for economic development, for governance in the northern strategy. Let us get on with it and get it done.



February 11, 2009


Mrs. Carol Hughes (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, NDP):


The Conservatives would have Canadians believe that the NDP opposes the idea of this government helping Canadians because we do not support this budget. Nothing could be further from the truth. I cannot imagine how the Conservatives themselves can belive what they are saying when they make such scandalous statements. No sensible person would oppose something that helps our citizens. What we do oppose, however, is the way this budget, which is supposed to stimulate the economy, deceitfully targets specific political objectives: attacking women, punishing the public service, deceiving Canada's aboriginal peoples, and ignoring the needs of small communities and those in the north.



February 12, 2009


Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP):


In B.C. there are up to 15,000 homeless people. In metro Vancouver the 2008 homeless count was 2,600 people in a 24 hour period. The overall homelessness rate in Vancouver has risen 32% since 2005 and street level homelessness has increased by 364% in greater Vancouver since 2002. That is from the metro homeless count.


What is even more disturbing is that aboriginal people make up over 30% of the homeless population in Vancouver even though they make up only 2% of the overall Canadian population.




Hon. Mark Eyking (Sydney—Victoria, Lib.):


Mr. Speaker, Eskasoni is the largest native community in Atlantic Canada. It had four young people die by suicide just last week. I visited the community. It is in crisis.


The recent funds from Health Canada are only a short-term solution. Eskasoni has presented the government with a long-term proposal. The people of Eskasoni need to hear from the Minister of Indian Affairs. Is he going to act on their proposal to stop the tragic loss of lives?


Hon. Leona Aglukkaq (Minister of Health, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to offer my condolences to the community and to the families of Eskasoni. Growing up in the north, I am very familiar with the issue and the impact it can have on a community.


Health Canada has met with INAC and the Eskasoni community. My department has been involved with this file from the very beginning. I can say that Health Canada provides Eskasoni with more than $1.4 million in annual funding for counselling programs and services related to mental health.


I am committed to working with the community on a short-term and long-term basis, and will be in contact with the community on an ongoing basis.



February 13, 2009


Mr. John Duncan (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, I am proud to have the pleasure of introducing Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Indian Oil and Gas Act.


In the recent Speech from the Throne, the government committed to take steps to ensure that aboriginal Canadians fully share in economic development opportunities and this legislation is a concrete example of that commitment.


The oil and gas sector provides a real source of promising economic development opportunities for first nations. Few other countries in the world can lay claim to the secure, abundant and diverse energy resources we enjoy in Canada. This energy wealth has fueled tremendous economic growth in many regions of the country.


The world's need for Canada's oil and gas holds significant promise for development for many years to come.


Since the government was formed, we have made clear our determination to ensure first nations share equally in our country's prosperity and that they are able to build stronger and self-reliant communities that can manage their own affairs.


Bill C-5 would help to advance these goals by enhancing Canada's capacity to assist first nations in managing their own affairs. The management and administration of oil and gas resources is governed on reserve lands by the Indian Oil and Gas Act and it is administered by Indian Oil and Gas Canada, a special operating agency within Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.


The mandate of Indian Oil and Gas Canada is to assist in fulfilling the Crown's fiduciary and statutory obligations related to the management of oil and gas resources on reserve lands and to ensure first nations initiatives for greater control over the management of their resources. In practical terms, this means that the agency issues and administers agreements on first nations lands, monitors oil and gas production and collects royalties for the benefit of first nations.


I will now speak to why the existing act needs to be amended.


The legislation under which Indian Oil and Gas Canada operates has not kept up with the times. The act first came into force back in 1974 when the industry was in the midst of a global energy crisis. Since then, most provinces have overhauled their laws and updated their regulations numerous times. For example, Alberta's legislation, the Alberta mines and minerals act, which governs resource development, has been amended more than 15 times since the 1970s. In contrast, the Indian Oil and Gas Act has remained unchanged for the past 34 years. We need to change that.


Furthermore, oil and gas exploration and exploitation on reserve lands and the revenue that these activities generate are significant. Over $1 billion in revenues from on reserve oil and gas activity have been collected on behalf of about 60 first nations over the past five years alone. This revenue is credited to those communities in its entirety. The industry is continuing to invest millions of dollars in exploration and exploitation activities on first nations reserve lands, more than $300 million in the past five years for drilling alone.


I realize that these amendments are very technical in nature but they are important. The broad changes brought forth can be grouped under three themes: first, amendments that would bring clarity to the oil and gas regulatory process; second, amendments that would ensure and strengthen accountability of Indian Oil and Gas Canada; and finally, amendments that would enhance the protection of first nations environmental, cultural and natural resources.


In terms of bringing clarity, once adopted, the amendments would ensure that the role and powers of the minister and reference to the courts are clear and provide for broader regulation-making authority. They will, equally important, allow federal regulations governing oil and gas projects to be harmonized with provincial oil and gas regulatory regimes. Co-operation with provincial authorities is key.


I want to make it clear that Bill C-5 would not increase the jurisdiction of provinces. It would allow for federal regulations to be made that are consistent with provincial laws, which is important to create clarity and certainty for both first nations and industry.


Enforcement powers would be clarified, as well as modernized. The current act limits fines to $5,000. This would be increased to $100,000 per day and sometimes more could be imposed by the courts.


In areas of high risk, such as the seizure of records and equipment, this would all be governed by relevant Criminal Code provisions and overseen by provincial courts. These amendments would ensure that the government, through Indian Oil and Gas Canada, can provide certainty and consistency for first nations, for industry and for provincial stakeholders.


The amendments that strengthen accountability to act on behalf of first nations by Indian Oil and Gas Canada are examples such as clear audit powers for Indian Oil and Gas Canada and accurate reporting and paying of royalties due to first nations when companies operate on reserve lands.


 As another example, rules would be put in place to address complex relationships, not only between unrelated corporations but also between an existing corporation and its subsidiaries.


Bill C-5 would authorize new regulations to prevent companies from using non-arm's length transactions to unjustifiably reduce the royalty which would otherwise be payable to first nations. A company would not be able to sell oil or gas at a reduced price to a company it already owns in order to pay less royalty.


Furthermore, the limitation period to commence legal proceedings would be extended to 10 years and there is no limitation period in cases of fraud or misrepresentation.


The final set of amendments deal with enhancing protection for first nations' environment, cultural and natural resources. These amendments would balance the development of oil and gas resources with environmental protection. This is of interest to all Canadians. The current act has limited remedies in the case of non-compliance. Under the amendments, provincial environmental laws can be incorporated by reference into the federal regulations that apply to first nations reserve lands.


It is very important, of course, that anyone doing work on a reserve respect first nations' cultural and spiritual values and their special relationship to the land. Bill C-5 would authorize the minister to suspend operations of a company if areas involving these special values are at risk.


There are some further concerns from first nations. They wish to have a remedy when companies trespass on their property. With this legislation, there would be specific offences so that Indian Oil and Gas Canada would have more options to deal with these breaches.


A key policy objective for the government is ensuring our legislative framework supports first nations. The current Indian Oil and Gas Act falls short in this area. Many first nations are concerned that they will not be fully benefiting from the increase of exploration and development taking place around them. The Indian oil and gas industry is equally frustrated.


The reason behind these changes is to provide consistency and certainty to the oil and gas regime. That is one side of the equation. For the affected first nations, the revenue generated by this activity translates into increased economic development, new jobs and improved living standards.


The money being raised is used by first nations for training, housing, water and sewer projects, building stronger communities and a brighter future for their children. This modern suite of tools will better enable first nations to seize opportunities.


The amendments, as I mentioned, are very technical in nature. The first nations have been asking for these changes, and Canada started the process to modernize the act in 1999.


The Indian Resource Council is a national aboriginal organization advocating on behalf of 130 first nations with oil and gas production or the potential for production. We had extensive consultations with first nations and with oil and gas interests. First nations have validated the principles embodied in the legislation and have made suggestions for improvements.


Most noteworthy was the need to amend and modernize the legislation, and this need was endorsed by the Indian Resource Council at annual meetings in 2006 and 2007. Thanks to this close working relationship, oil- and gas-producing first nations have had the opportunity to influence the development of the amendments and will be called upon again to participate in the development of the regulations that will flow.


This support is reassuring, but the council went even further in order to make sure all communities with oil and gas interests had the opportunity to become fully aware. It held a symposium earlier this year in Alberta. Over 100 members representing more than 60 first nations attended. Their involvement and support were encouraging, and we are on the right track. We will continue to work in partnership, and this will lead to greater first nation control and management of petroleum resources on their lands.


The key to unleashing this potential lies in modernizing the legislative framework. Strong regulatory regimes are essential for both economic and social development. That is why we are bringing the Indian Oil and Gas Act up to 21st century standards.


Mr. Bruce Stanton (Simcoe North, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, it is great to hear the parliamentary secretary here today speaking on these important amendments to an act that I am sure will be important for aboriginal peoples and in particular northern communities.


I would like to put a question to the parliamentary secretary, if I may. One of the things I understand is that the amendments will modernize the regime for the management of oil and gas activities, but in the course of that, the government has not done anything to affect its fiduciary responsibilities with first nations or to affect aboriginal or treaty rights.


Could the member expand on that subject for the House?



Mr. John Duncan:


Mr. Speaker, the question came from the chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, and he is doing an excellent job.


The fiduciary obligation of the federal government is obviously paramount in any legislative changes that we undertake in Parliament. I mentioned in my speech the fact that this act has been subject to major consideration since 1999. Indian Oil and Gas Canada made presentations to every one of the Indian Resource Council's annual meetings. It advocates for the first nations involved in oil and gas productions.


Formal consultations started in March 2002. We had a stakeholder involvement package sent out at that time to 120 first nations, to 200 energy companies with active leases, to the four oil and gas provinces involved, to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and to the Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters. We had Indian Oil and Gas Canada holding one-on-one sessions with 85% of all the oil- and gas-producing first nations, and it also met with tribal councils.


The first nations position generally has been very supportive of this legislation. The modernization and harmonization themes have been very well accepted, with most comments supporting the strengthening of Indian Oil and Gas Canada.


This legislation is broadly supported by all stakeholders, and I believe it has broad support from all parties in the House of Commons. I look forward to swift passage at second reading and moving it to committee.


Mr. Todd Russell (Labrador, Lib.):


Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today at second reading of Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Indian Oil and Gas Act. The Indian Oil and Gas Act was first introduced in 1974 and really has not had any major amendments. There were only some minor amendments in 1995.


This is the third time in as many sessions of Parliament that these more substantive and modernizing amendments have been brought forward. Unfortunately, between early elections and early prorogations, there has never been enough time in the parliamentary calendar for consideration of the substance of this bill. In fact, merely by getting to second reading, this version of the bill has outlasted its predecessors.


For the benefit of all who have a stake in this bill, there will hopefully be no more parliamentary hiccups keeping it from continuing through the proper legislative process here and in the other place.


Since the bill in its previous form was introduced in the last session, I have had the opportunity to read it and to study the background information explaining why these changes are needed at the present time.


In the past number of years, we have seen a massive increase in the natural resources sector in Canada, particularly in oil and gas exploration. My own riding, while not known for its onshore oil and gas, has significant offshore potential. We are also one of Canada's main mining regions, and in fact the Voisey's Bay nickel project in Labrador is an example of how resource industries and aboriginal peoples can work together.


The people of my riding are also well acquainted with the oil and gas industry in other parts of Canada, especially in Alberta and other western provinces, where many of the people I know have gone to work on petroleum industry projects. The recent economic downturn is affecting these industries, just as it is touching all industries and sectors of the economy.


We on this side of the aisle are very concerned about the economic direction of the country and the need for stimulus in the short term to get people working and get industry moving. However, in the long term we also have to look at making Canada a good place to do business and taking the steps to ensure that our resource and other industries will resume their growth and provide jobs for the future.


We also have to take steps to ensure that first nations people are brought in as true partners and participants in the development of natural resource industries.


During the latest boom, many mining and petroleum projects were crying out for employees, due to an acute labour shortage. Despite the current economic situation, the long-term trend is that Canada will require more skilled workers in all sectors of the economy, including the natural resources arena.


At the same time, there is a large and growing population of aboriginal Canadians, and far too many aboriginal communities are at an economic disadvantage. There is an incredible opportunity here to develop the industries with aboriginal people as owners, participants, partners and workers over the coming years and decades.


Modernizing the Indian Oil and Gas Act is one step that may help achieve these goals in respect of oil and gas exploration and development on first nation reserve lands. This bill contains a number of technical changes to the way oil and gas resources on reserves are administered and managed. I will describe the broad strokes of these changes.


The bill addresses the regulatory gap between on and off reserve oil and gas activities. Second, the bill would expand the powers of councils of first nations to delegate any of their powers under the act to any other person, effectively allowing first nations councils to hire experts to act on their behalf.


The law would also require a minister to exercise his or her power under the act only if the council of an affected first nation has given its permission. The bill includes a non-derogation clause, which states that nothing in this act shall be deemed to abrogate the rights of Indian people or preclude them from negotiating for oil and gas benefits in those areas in which land claims have not been settled.


A new section added to the bill governs the payment of royalties from oil and gas recovered on first nation lands, which are paid to the Crown in trust for the first nation in question. There are also greater audit capabilities.


There is a new section providing further powers to make regulation for the purposes of the act. One interesting provision, from my point of view, is the power to require petroleum operators to employ members of the first nation in question in the exploration or development of oil and gas from first nations lands.


Again, my own riding saw similar issues during the exploration, construction and development of the Voisey's Bay project.


I look forward to hearing more about how similar adjacency or hiring rules will apply under this bill to the oil and gas industry.


I will also be interested to learn from the experiences of first nations in other parts of Canada, who may have valuable lessons for people and communities in my riding.


My party's position is that we support the bill in its broad strokes and agree that a package of amendments must be brought forward for consideration. I have already had productive meetings with some of the stakeholders, like the Indian Resource Council and look forward to hearing other points of view, both one on one and in committee. It is in committee that I trust we can get down to some of the details.


The industry is generally positive towards the package of amendments contained in the bill, indicating that it will bring greater clarity, strengthen accountability and enhanced protection of first nations, environmental, cultural and island gas resource. If there are differing viewpoints, I look forward to hearing them once the bill has been referred to committee.


With the new spirit of openness and co-operation that is said to pervade in Parliament these days, I trust that all parties will be interested in hearing from a number of witnesses representing those with an interest, one way or another, in this legislation.


I also trust that the government will be willing, where appropriate and necessary, to be open to amendments if the committee's work leads us in that direction.


Mr. Bruce Stanton (Simcoe North, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member's remarks in regard to the co-operativeness that we see to move this package of amendments forward.



Could he perhaps reflect on the notions that he has heard in regard to these amendments, particularly from first nations communities, and does he believes they will embrace the kind of changes suggested and proposed in the bill?


Mr. Todd Russell:


Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the member for Simcoe North, for his co-operation. We have seen that in committee thus far and we look forward to more of that in the future.


The stakeholders I have had personal contact with, particularly the Indian Resource Council, which represents 130 first nations that have oil and gas interests on reserve, are amenable to this legislation. They have been involved in at least in the drafting of the recommendations of the legislation.


They feel it will put them on a level playing field with off-reserve oil and gas exploration. It will also help solve some of the regulatory gaps that may now exist. It will help them gain greater benefit from their resources through other capacities.

On environmental protection, there are certain fines or penalties that can be brought in under the legislation.


Generally, the stakeholders I have talked to are in agreement with this. They want to see it move forward in an expeditious manner.


Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP):


Mr. Speaker, one of the concerns we have is whether the consultation process leading up to this should have been dealt with a good number of years ago. Some of the litigation that has gone on has finally forced the government, both the current one and the prior one, to begin to engage in serious consultation as required by the Supreme Court in some of those decisions.



Does my colleague feel that the consultation process on the bill is adequate and, more important, is satisfactory to the first nations across the country?


Mr. Todd Russell:


Mr. Speaker, in terms of the duty to consult, the entire House knows that the government has a legal duty to consult with first nations. A consultative framework has been adopted by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Some would argue whether that framework is adequate or whether it fully addresses the issue of consultation with first nations.


I cannot say whether first nations that are impacted by the bill have been adequately consulted. They will have to speak for themselves on whether they feel adequate consultation has taken place. However, the stakeholders I have met with feel the legislation is long overdue, that it has come about as a result of many talks, much information sharing between the various stakeholders, and they would like to see it expedited.


Mr. John Duncan (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, I would like to add a comment to the response from the member for Labrador.


The NDP representative on committee has said that the consultation on the bill would serve as a potential model for other consultative mechanisms. I think it is quite clear that we have seen a very good example here, and continuing support. I expect this is the kind of testimony we will receive at committee.


The member for Labrador may wish to make a comment as well to further that.


Mr. Todd Russell:


Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt, as I said earlier, that the issue of consultation is one that arises many times, but it has not arisen as an issue today or in the past with regard this bill.


Mr. Mario Laframboise (Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, BQ):


Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-5 on behalf of the Bloc Québécois. This bill amends the Indian Oil and Gas Act.


Allow me to summarize. The summary of this 24-page bill is worth reading.


This enactment amends the Indian Oil and Gas Act to clarify and expand the existing regulation-making powers and to add new ones, particularly with respect to licences, permits and leases for the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas on reserve lands and the determination and payment of oil and gas royalties. It also puts in place sanctions for contraventions of the Act as well as provisions for its enforcement.


The Bloc Québécois has always respected the rights of aboriginal nations. That sense of respect will inform the Bloc Québécois' participation in committee through our critic, the excellent member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, who will defend the interests of both first nations representatives and the Quebec nation.


Naturally, the Bloc Québécois supports the principles underlying this bill. Despite its imperfections, the bill will provide the necessary tools to harmonize existing laws and regulations governing reserves with the laws and regulations of the provinces in which they are located. When this bill goes to committee, our party, the Bloc Québécois, will ask for more details about, among other things, the terms and conditions relating to authority to issue replacement leases for lands added to reserve and, subsequently, oil and gas exploration and exploitation permits issued by the federal government.


The Government of Canada must not use Bill C-5 to abdicate its fiduciary responsibilities toward aboriginals. We must clearly identify the oil, gas and lands that may be affected, as well as the federal government's fiduciary obligations toward aboriginal peoples.


The government is responsible for rectifying inequalities between aboriginals and non-aboriginals. We do not feel that this bill does that. This is part of a bigger picture; it addresses and resolves part of the problem, but it would be false to suggest that this bill can resolve or rectify inequalities between aboriginals and non-aboriginals.


I will reread the summary:


This enactment amends the Indian Oil and Gas Act to clarify and expand the existing regulation-making powers and to add new ones, particularly with respect to licences, permits and leases for the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas...It also puts in place sanctions for contraventions of the Act as well as provisions for its enforcement.


We can see here that Canada made a choice long ago to turn over oil and gas exploration and exploitation to the private sector.


Many countries in the world develop their own oil and gas resources. That is a choice. Canada, like the United States, simply decided to put this in the hands of private enterprise. When a country does that, it must pass legislation and provide for sanctions in the event that legislation is violated. Clearly, this is what part of this bill is intended to do.


I would remind hon. members that the development of a new fiscal relationship between the first nations and the Government of Canada has been the focus of discussions and analyses for more than 20 years. It has been talked about for over 20 years. As early as 1983, the Penner report, a report by the House of Commons Special Committee on Indian Self-Government, recommended that the fiscal relationship between the federal government and the first nations be redefined.


In 1996, the final report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples—also known as the Erasmus-Dussault commission—also recommended a full review of the fiscal relationship between the federal government and the first nations. The proposed initiative focused on redefining this relationship within a broader context based on first nations self-government. The Tlicho self-government act that we passed in this House is an example of this.


The First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act, which came into effect on April 1, 2006, was one of the first steps in this new fiscal relationship between the first nations and the federal government.


This optional law contains two new provisions: the first makes it possible for first nations to manage and regulate oil and gas activities on reserves; the second, to manage funds held in trust for them by Canada. A first nation can choose either option. In other words, they need not own oil or gas to become responsible for managing these monies.


This legislation will change the way oil and gas are developed and it will allow first nations which are self-reliant to develop these resources on their own land. Previously, first nations have had to comply with the Indian Oil and Gas Act and its regulations, which has not allowed them to manage these resources directly.


The First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act allows first nations, that choose to do so, to be excluded from the application of the Indian Oil and Gas Act and its regulations.


That act, the Indian Oil and Gas Act, is the legislation governing exploration and exploitation of oil and gas resources on reserve land. This legislation does not allow first nations to manage the oil and gas resources on their land directly nor does it allow them to develop an appropriate regulatory framework.


Since 2006, the First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act has allowed first nations, if they so choose, to create regulations concerning oil and gas exploration and conservation, on the spending of moneys derived from the exploitation of these resources, and on the protection of the environment.


As for regulations to protect the environment, those established by first nations will have to at least meet the standards of Quebec or the province in which the aboriginal community is located. This is important to us, the Bloc Québécois. Protecting the interests of Quebeckers is just as important as protecting the interests of first nations and aboriginal peoples. Obviously, the law that applies to first nations must be the same as the law that applies to Quebec.


In terms of managing their finances, those first nations choosing to come under this new legislative framework will be subject to different regulations regarding money. This money is currently defined in the Indian Act as all moneys collected, received or held by Her Majesty for the use and benefit of Indians or bands.


For these first nations, the provisions of the Indian Act will no longer apply. They will therefore be able to manage the amounts collected directly, rather than letting them be managed by the federal government. As a result, they will be able to make their own choices for investment in their communities instead of letting the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development dictate priorities to them. Auditor General Sheila Fraser pointed out in her 2004 report that this department is not doing a good job of administering the billions of dollars intended for the aboriginal communities. The best way for aboriginal communities to do this is to negotiate with the federal government as equals.


If a first nation does not feel it would be advantageous to come under the new legislative regime, the current standards will continue to apply to it, so it will continue to benefit from the provisions of the Indian Act, including those that apply to the administration of Indian moneys.


Bill C-5, which is identical to Bill C-63 and Bill C-5, which died on the order paper June 17 and December 3, 2008, respectively, amends the Indian Oil and Gas Act.


It is important for those watching us to understand why bills die on the order paper. As we all know, this is because an election is called or the House is prorogued. In that sense, since the Conservatives have been in power, they have had the pleasure either of calling an election, even though it went against their own legislation regarding fixed election dates, or deciding to simply prorogue the House in order to stay in power. The adverse effect of that, of course, is that all the bills needed for the well-being and progress of the people, such as aboriginal communities in this case, are lost simply because the Conservatives decided either to call an election or prorogue the House.


At present, under the 2006 legislation, first nations that have oil and gas resources but are not managing them must leave the management of their resources to Indian Oil and Gas Canada, a government agency that falls under the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.


Indian Oil and Gas Canada, or IOGC, has a mandate to manage and administer the exploration for and production of oil and natural gas resources on first nation reserve lands. This organization encourages production and ensures proper collection of royalties on behalf of first nations.


But the Indian Oil and Gas Act has not been amended since it was passed in 1974. Of course, in 1995 a regulation was passed concerning Indian oil and gas, but that is not satisfactory given how the market has evolved since 1974. As the industry has become more and more complex, provinces have constantly modernized their oil and gas legislation. And that is why the federal government is now deciding to modernize its legislation—to bring it more into line with reality and various pieces of provincial legislation.


This bill would apply to reserves that have not chosen to exercise rights under the First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act. This bill would apply to first nations that are subject to the Indian Oil and Gas Act. That represents approximately 200 First Nations that produce or could be producing oil and gas.


Currently, more than 80% of these activities take place in Alberta. In 2005 and 2006, more than $270 million in oil and gas revenue was collected by the federal agency that manages Indian oil and gas resources, IOGC. This organization has signed active production agreements on behalf of 60 first nations.


This bill would give the same weight to the industry's activities both on and off reserve—based on provincial legislation—in order to decrease the number of obstacles to first nations economic development, in order to ensure environmental protection on the reserves and in order to allow the government to better fulfill its obligations to first nations in terms of managing these industries by respecting regulations and collecting royalties and other applicable types of revenue.


Under the Indian Act, oil and gas revenues are collected by the federal government and are then to be completely redistributed to native peoples. This money is referred to as “Indian moneys” in the Act and the federal government has fiduciary responsibility for it.


This bill does not transfer to first nations the federal government's power to manage and administer oil and gas exploitation and production activities on reserve lands.


Its purpose is to update the Indian Oil and Gas Act and harmonize the federal legislation with the legislation in the provinces where first nations communities are located. Incorporating the provincial acts and regulations will neither remove any jurisdiction from the provinces nor confer any jurisdiction on them. For example, reserves' environmental regimes will continue to be harmonized with provincial requirements.


The bill replaces almost all of the provisions of the existing six-section Indian Oil and Gas Act and includes a number of matters that are currently provided for in the Indian Oil and Gas Regulations, 1995.


Bill C-5 expands the Governor in Council's existing regulation-making powers and adds new ones, particularly with respect to licences, permits and leases for the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas on reserve lands.


The bill also makes changes in respect of the limitation period for actions to collect amounts owing and the determination of royalty payments. It puts in place sanctions for contraventions of the act as well as provisions for its enforcement comprising fines and penalties, a remedy for trespass, environmental protection clauses and authority to issue replacement leases for lands added to reserves.


It would be interesting to have more information about lands added to reserves and to know what measures are being put forward in negotiations with the provinces. The Bloc Québécois plans to ask some pointed questions about this in committee. We could ask what is meant by expanding the Governor in Council's regulation-making powers and how the provinces will be consulted before regulations are introduced.


For example, even though the bill states that these lands have been absolutely surrendered under the Indian Act or the First Nations Land Management Act, it would be interesting to get some clarification about the negotiation process with the provinces and obtaining a permit on these added lands.


The bill also requires the minister to undertake ongoing consultations with the first nations involved with respect to negotiations with industry. The new section 6(1.1) states that:


The Governor in Council may, by regulation,


 (a) require that a power of the Minister under this Act in relation to first nation lands be exercised only if prior approval of the council of the first nation is obtained, if the council is first consulted or if prior notice is given to the council, as the case may be;


 (b) require that any such power of the Minister be exercised only if prior consent is given by any first nation member who is in lawful possession of the first nation lands; and


 (c) require that notice be given to the council of the first nation after the Minister exercises any such power.


Through Indian Oil and Gas Canada, and in cooperation with the Indian Resource Council, the government consulted most oil-producing first nations and 130 band councils in 2002 and 2003.


The Indian Resource Council was founded in 1987 to represent first nations' collective oil and gas interests with both government and industry. Current membership exceeds 130 first nations from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick and the Northwest Territories. Six non-producing first nations in Quebec are also members: the Odanak Abenakis; the Natashquan Innus; the Kanesatake Mohawks; the Gesgapegiag Micmacs; the Kahnawake Mohawks; and the Wôlinak Abenakis.


Our aboriginal affairs critic met with Indian Resource Council delegates. Some council members are dissatisfied with certain aspects of the bill, but on the whole, the council is happy with the bill and the consultations that took place.


The Bloc Québécois will therefore support the bill in principle.


While far from perfect, this bill will provide the tools needed in order to standardize the legislation on reserves with that of the provinces where they are located. The Bloc Québécois will demand clarifications during the committee's study of this bill, for example, regarding the terms and conditions relating to authority to issue replacement leases for lands added to reserve, as well as oil and gas exploration and exploitation permits issued by the federal government.


The Bloc Québécois will ensure the Government of Canada does not use Bill C-5 as a means to slough off its financial obligations with respect to first nations. The Government of Canada has a fiduciary obligation to aboriginal peoples and it cannot shirk it.


Although passing this bill will engender improvements, the federal government must do a lot more for aboriginals. The housing conditions, education and health of aboriginals are inferior to those of the rest of population. On the reserves, most families—65%—live in substandard housing. The Bloc Québécois deplores the fact that the lack of affordable housing of adequate size and quality for aboriginals has consequences beyond simple housing standards. Various medical and social problems are linked to poor housing conditions and quality of life. The Government of Canada must make the effort needed to correct the situation without simply handing over the problems to the first nations.


Once again, although not perfect, this bill may help create an environment that we hope will be conducive to first nations obtaining resource royalties and reinvesting them in their own communities.


The Bloc Québécois is concerned about aboriginal claims for self-government. Autonomy cannot be attained unless a nation controls its economic levers.


I am the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel and my riding is adjacent to the Kanesatake Mohawk nation. It is important to try to understand others. Last year, I had a rewarding experience with young artists. The Centre de l'image et de l'estampe de Mirabel decided to sponsor aboriginal artists who are now touring Canada. For the past two years, this centre has taken under its wing young Mohawk artists from Kanesatake, our neighbours, and it has been an enriching experience with the results now touring Canada. It is an honour for a population that is often forgotten by governments and left to its own devices. When we try to help these nations to help themselves good things can happen. I hope that this bill will attain its objective.




Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP):


Mr. Speaker, I probably will not be taking my full 20 minutes allocated to this bill. As members have heard already from both the government and the opposition parties, there is general consensus that this legislation is badly needed. It is very timely in the sense that it has been a long time that amendments have been necessary to the Indian Oil and Gas Act.


It also would appear, and we share in this sentiment, that it has widespread support from the first nations. I would signal in particular that the Indian Resource Council, which was formed in 1987 I believe, has come out very strongly endorsing the legislation. I am sure we will hear from the council that it is not absolutely perfect and maybe at committee some additional and probably minor amendments will be necessary. However, the council is quite strong in supporting the legislation and encouraging all parties to support it.


I think that has to be the controlling factor. The council is clearly identified as the group in the country among the first nations. It does have representation from a large number of the first nations, but it is the group that has been identified as dealing with this particular issue, this sector of the economy for the first nations, and it is quite supportive of the legislation.


This legislation goes back to 1974 when it was first passed in the House. It has not been amended since that time. Regulations were changed to some reasonable degree around 1995 but other than that the act has remained as it was in 1974. It is obvious that over that 35 years things have changed.


The relationship between the first nations and the Government of Canada has changed dramatically. As we finally began to recognize, we are nowhere near finishing that agenda, but we began to recognize the significance of working with them on a nation to nation basis on all sorts of issues.


That recognition in particular has taken first nations coast to coast to coast to the Supreme Court on a number of occasions, particularly around, as the Supreme Court of Canada has found now repeatedly, the requirement on the part of the federal government of the day to consult in a meaningful way with the first nations. The Supreme Court and the lower courts have as well found breaches of that responsibility repeatedly. Projects that were to move ahead had to be stopped and meaningful consultation taken up with the first nations.


It appears quite clearly that on this particular piece of legislation consultation has taken place. It actually was completed before the calling of the last election. There was a prior bill introduced by the government, Bill C-63 in the last Parliament, which basically is the same bill as we are seeing now in Bill C-5. That of course died on the order paper when the Prime Minister opted to break his promise and call a snap election in September. Otherwise, this bill probably would have been through the House and been law by this time. This was further extended by the government's dodging of its democratic responsibilities with the prorogation of Parliament last December.


We now have the bill in front of us. The opposition parties are generally supportive. It will go to committee for final review, but I expect, in listening to our critic in this area, that the review will not take very long, so we should see the bill back before the House fairly quickly, and hopefully quick passage on to the Senate and royal assent.


The intent of the bill is to modernize it, to bring it into the 21st century, and in particular there have been conflicts between the federal legislation and the provincial legislation. This goes some distance to clear that up.


The first nations feel that the relationship between the federal government and the first nations that are affected by the legislation will be enhanced by the amendments that are going through. The bottom line is that this would bring clarity.


There are a number of provisions in the bill around the responsibility of the minister to deal with environmental issues. Most often what happens is that multinational corporations come in to do the exploration and withdrawal of oil and gas from the site, including, in some cases, coal deposits, to which it extends, but in the course of doing that it can cause environmental damage. The minister has very clear authority to deal with the remedial action that would be necessary to correct that environmental damage but the minister would be given additional powers to do so, which is an important factor in the bill.


I was caught also by the responsibility of the minister to ensure historical sites, which would, almost exclusively, be for the first nations, are protected, as well as archaeological sites. Over the years, many times first nations have been rightfully indignant, angry and bitter over the treatment of their archaeological sites with no particular sensitivity to their spiritual beliefs and their historical importance. The legislation would strengthen the responsibility of the minister to ensure that sensitivity is assured and guaranteed. That would be a major improvement to the relationship between the Government of Canada and the first nations.


There are a good number of important provisions within the legislation that provide for an enhancement of the role of first nations in the governance of the oil and gas reserves that they have on their lands. That only goes to further strengthen their desire to be independent of control by the federal government. It is clear what the responsibilities are of the federal government, which will continue, but it also significantly enhances the role of the first nations, and that can only be seen as a positive development.


We will be supporting the legislation. I suppose it is always possible that evidence and witnesses at the committee may produce some concerns, but the strongly felt sense we have at this point is that, because of the substantial support from the first nations and the support from all parties, those concerns would be of a very minor nature and again it would be back here for quick passage, hopefully as early as within the next month or so.



February 23, 2009


Mr. John Rafferty (Thunder Bay—Rainy River, NDP):


Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today on behalf of a group of aboriginal students from my riding. These students are deeply concerned about their future and the futures of all aboriginal students. INAC is currently reviewing programs that provide funding to aboriginal students, and my constituents are worried that their voices are not being heard.



Aboriginal students have made tremendous gains in recent years. They are a growing presence on college and university campuses. Such INAC programs as the post-secondary student support program, which provides grants to aboriginal students, have played an important role in these gains. It is vital that such programs continue to grow.


Today I am calling on the government to ensure that the concerns of aboriginal students are heard and that support for aboriginal students, in particular funding in the form of grants, is maintained and improved.




Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP):


Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister met with the Secretary General of the United Nations this morning. Numerous UN reports show that poverty in Canada is on the rise, especially among children, women and aboriginal people. Our record on housing, education, health care and the environment is also suffering. Canada's international ranking is plummeting.


Can the government tell us what the Prime Minister had to say about these problems this morning at the UN?


Hon. Chuck Strahl (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, we were very pleased the other day to make our presentation before the United Nations. We dealt candidly and openly with every kind of issue, from aboriginal issues to housing issues and so on. It was a pleasure to talk not only about what we have done, in our case, for aboriginal people, with inclusion under the Canadian Human Rights Act for aboriginals living on reserve, for example, but also to talk about some of the new initiatives.


In my ministry, there is $1.4 billion in aboriginal-related funding, because we realize there has been a gap which needs to be addressed. We are moving ahead.



February 24, 2009


Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis:


Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member. It is like a jar of pickles that has a new and improved label on it. We think we are getting something better than what the Liberals offered us but when we open up the jar of Conservative pickles they are more sour than the last jar we tasted. That is exactly what we are dealing with.


Neither party in government were prepared to do the job, whether it was financing valuable programs in terms of health, social policy, housing or aboriginal affairs, or whether it was protecting consumers and getting tough on corporations that try to take advantage of ordinary people. Both parties ignored their mandates and neglected Canadians and we are now paying the price.



February 25, 2009


Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay, NDP):


Mr. Speaker, government documents reveal that when the Minister of Indian Affairs walked away from negotiations to build a school in Attawapiskat, the Ontario region had identified three key priorities, Wabaseemoong, North Spirit Lake and Attawapiskat, all because of serious health and safety concerns, and in the case of Attawapiskat overcrowding and badly deteriorated portables.


Yet, the minister told Canadians there was no evidence of any health and safety problems whatsoever. The documents reveal a campaign of misinformation to cover his tracks.


What was the minister's real reason for walking away from the children of Attawapiskat and the commitments made to build that school?


Hon. Chuck Strahl (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, I have never, well I should not say that, I have heard such a load of claptrap in my life, but not recently, as I have from this member.


Here is what we know for sure. This is the member, who when he was a member of the coalition, a member of the coalition that was going to sneak into power, said that when it comes to building a native school in Attawapiskat, he could not make that kind of commitment as part of the coalition.


Why? Because he knows full well that this is the government that committed, in its recent budget, to build 10 new schools, major renovations around the country. We are building schools for first nations. He is voting against it. He is a glory seeker and that is all he is.


Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay, NDP):


Mr. Speaker, that was absolutely shameless. He is trolling through reports.


Let us be very clear on their record. When the head of capital planning for Indian Affairs Canada was asked to provide an update on the schools in crisis and why they were not going ahead, he stated that there was no real reason holding up the money other than the fact that they were in opposition ridings.


It should not matter what ridings they were in. What should matter is that these were the most desperately poor substandard educational facilities in North America.


What steps will the minister take to take responsibility for the fact that he—


The Speaker:  The hon. Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.


Hon. Chuck Strahl (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, the evidence is already in. This member of Parliament is a shameless self-promoter who will take publicity based on the backs of needy aboriginal people.



February 26, 2009


Ms. Denise Savoie (Victoria, NDP):


moved for leave to introduce Bill C-328, An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


She said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to introduce the rights of indigenous peoples act.


The bill seeks to ensure that federal laws in Canada are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This was signed by 144 member countries in September 2007.


The UN declaration was the culmination of two decades of negotiations with indigenous peoples globally and it established a universal framework of standards for human rights, collective rights, self-determination and mechanisms for the resolution of disputes.


In summary, the bill seeks to ensure that Canada's aboriginal peoples, some of the poorest and most marginalized, will enjoy respect, protection and the same access of opportunity as all other Canadians.




Mr. John Duncan (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity today to speak to some of the recent first nations infrastructure investments our government has taken through budget 2009, Canada's economic action plan.


Of course the action plan includes spending for other aboriginal groups in the north and elsewhere...




With Canada's economic action plan, the government provides $1.4 billion over two years for specific initiatives aimed at improving the well-being and prosperity of aboriginal people in Canada. These new investments include $515 million to accelerate ready-to-go first nations infrastructure projects, focusing on schools, water, and critical community services such as health clinics, nurses' residences and policing infrastructure, to name just a few.


These investments include $200 million over the next two years for building ten new schools on reserves and three major school renovations. I might add that the minister announced the new school in Burnt Church, New Brunswick, just today. Our government recognizes that first nations children need the best possible learning facilities to help them succeed in their studies and to start building a solid foundation for realizing their dreams.


Another $165 million will be invested in initiatives to accelerate water and waste water infrastructure projects. We all know that access to clean, safe and reliable drinking water is an essential requirement for the health and well-being of first nations communities and is vital to improving the quality of life for first nations on-reserve.


Our government recognizes it has specific responsibilities in regard to aboriginal issues such as housing, and we are determined to fulfill them. The hard truth is that too many residents of first nations communities live in substandard housing.


The causes are complex and varied. Many communities and individuals cannot access enough capital to build and renovate homes, while other communities lack the capacity to manage housing stock effectively. That is why we also announced $400 million over the next two years to support on-reserve housing. It is dedicated to new housing projects, remediation of existing housing stock and complementary housing activities.


Last week in British Columbia, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development announced that up to $50 million will be invested in on-reserve housing within that province.


These investments are in addition to the $1 billion annually invested in first nations community infrastructure, which includes housing, water and waste water systems, education facilities, and other infrastructure such as roads and bridges.


More specifically, planned expenditures for 2008-09 include $236 million to support a wide range of school infrastructure projects, including operation and maintenance, study and design, renovations, minor repairs and new construction; $368 million to address water issues in first nations communities, including upgrading water and waste water facilities, on-reserve maintenance in the operation of the facilities, training, and moving forward with initiatives under a first nations water and waste water action plan; and $276 million for on-reserve housing needs. A portion of this annual investment provides an average of 2,300 new housing units and 3,300 renovations in first nations communities across the country. Finally, there is $442 million to support ongoing projects such as roads and bridges, electrification, and infrastructure in first nations communities across the country.


All these investments to support infrastructure in first nations communities focus on mitigating health and safety risks, maximizing the lifespan of a physical asset, ensuring infrastructure meets applicable codes and standards, and ensuring community infrastructure is managed in a cost-effective and efficient manner.


Our government is taking action to create change through strong partnerships and constructive leadership. We are helping to improve learning environments for first nations students, increasing access to safe drinking water and improving the quality of life on reserve with new housing projects. We are investing in projects that will provide lasting, sustainable benefits for first nations communities and we are doing all of this in partnership with first nations, other levels of government and ultimately all Canadians.


We believe that for real change, there is no other way to operate. We must do things and act together. No person, group, government or single level of government has all the answers. The answer to our shared challenges does not rest on having one level of government take action. That only sustains the status quo. Instead, we reach our goals through genuine partnership, and the potential life-altering results of this approach are evident all around us. Our partnerships are working.


Ms. Linda Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona, NDP):


Mr. Speaker, I welcome the comments from the hon. member across the way. It is good to hear that there might be new funding coming to the first nations of Canada, particularly in the area of safe drinking water.


However, I would ask the member if he could perhaps clarify. It is one thing to keep promising more money to resolve a problem attested to by hundreds of boil-water advisories; it is another thing to come forward with the actual legislation that was promised last year. In addition, it is my understanding that when these moneys are passed over for safe drinking water and waste water facilities, by a contribution agreement the liability passes to the first nations.


I understand that is a concern for the first nations. Could the member please address those matters?


Mr. John Duncan:


Mr. Speaker, I know that when we formed the government three years ago, we inherited a priority list of water systems that needed to be fixed. That list was something like 180 communities long. We have reduced the list to under 60 communities. We have an action plan to further reduce it over the next fiscal year. That is major progress. We are getting it done. Governments before us did not get it done.


In terms of putting those systems in place, there is also a training component, and the community is involved. We are creating a sustainable situation so that these systems do not fall into disrepair.


Mr. Jean-Claude D'Amours (Madawaska—Restigouche, Lib.):


Mr. Speaker, I would like clarifications from my colleague on certain points. He speaks of hundreds of millions of dollars invested by his government in various projects. On the other hand, there are some specific projects in my riding. The people of the Eel River Bar First Nation have been waiting for two major things for years, ever since this Conservative government has been in place. There has been absolutely no movement on them. They are waiting for the water supply for their aboriginal heritage garden. There have been no announcements, no work has started. They are waiting for the rest of the funding to be able to go ahead.


It is all very well to talk of money here and money there, but where is that money? When will the work start? Or rather, when will they have permission to start on it, and when will the federal government give them the necessary money to finish the project?


The truth is that the Conservatives are giving absolutely nothing concrete. There are lots of fine promises, lots of fancy words, but when it comes right down to it, nothing is being done.


When will all this materialize into concrete actual projects?


Mr. John Duncan:


Mr. Speaker, I am unaware of the specifics of the question from the member opposite, but I will say that we have been delivering. We have been auditing. We have announced some real results and reductions in unsafe water systems. We have been delivering on other infrastructure needs in first nations communities.


Perhaps the member opposite does not want to hear it. He can talk quite loudly. However, I will say that we will take his question under advisement. If I can let him know anything specific, I will, but I can tell him that we are making announcements routinely. There will be a lot of school announcements upcoming. There will be water system announcements upcoming. As recently as today, the minister is in New Brunswick announcing a new school.


Mr. Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, the member dealt to a great extent with aboriginal questions in his speech. That is not the angle I am going to take with respect to my question to him.


We are discussing infrastructure because it is part of a stimulus package. A lot of people believe that it is government's role, and government's role only, to stimulate a comeback in this global recession. That member is a good Conservative who believes the market has a role to play.


Certainly governments in some places also have a role to play, but there are some things the government has not done. Our government has not stepped forward to nationalize corporations. We have not stepped forward with protectionist legislation. We are trying to stay away from nationalization and protectionism. We are also trying to stay away from overregulation, but we have gone into deficit.


Does the member believe that the infrastructure spending we are bringing forward is the approach to take, rather than taking the approach of putting forward long, ongoing programs?


Mr. John Duncan:


Mr. Speaker, I absolutely do believe in these kinds of stimulus packages that deal with shovel-ready infrastructure.


For example, in order for the money in budget 2009 to go to the 10 new schools, the qualification is that they must be ready-to-go schools. This will help clear up some of the backlog and achieve the stimulus goal, while at the same time addressing a real need. That is obviously complementary to the question.




Mr. Christian Ouellet (Brome—Missisquoi, BQ):


Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance set up an economic advisory committee to provide him with periodic advice on overall economic strategy during prebudget consultations. The minister chose to have only finance and business representatives sit on this committee.


As for representatives of unions, women, the unemployed, seniors, aboriginals, artists, the poor, environmental groups, community groups, and consumer advocacy groups, none were to be found in the minister's committee.


By choosing to have only the business point of view in his advisory committee, the Minister of Finance has proven once again that, in order to be heard by this Conservative government, what counts is not good ideas but money.



February 27, 2009


Mr. Dennis Bevington (Western Arctic, NDP):


Mr. Speaker, this week, while the Conservative government has been playing defence on the international stage over its handling of the tar sands, another report was issued, outlining how their out of control development is damaging the Athabasca-Slave-Mackenzie watersheds.


This latest report adds to the mounting evidence that toxic chemicals from tar sands development are the cause of increased cancer rates in Aboriginal communities situated downstream, but the government does nothing.


When will the government take action to protect Canadians who are dying of cancer from tar sands pollution in our waterways?


Mr. John Duncan (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, those are irrational allegations. We have put $1.6 billion into infrastructure spending for first nations. We are putting that money into necessary things like water and waste water. We are ensuring that every community has safe drinking water.


Health and safety is our first and main concern. I think the member should rest assured that the government is looking after this circumstance.


Mrs. Carol Hughes (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, NDP):


Mr. Speaker, the government just does not get it. Water problems are not only in the Northwest Territories but across Canada. The government promised proper and meaningful consultation and accommodation with first nations on the issue of safe drinking water. This is not happening.


The government is ignoring Supreme Court rulings and precondition recommendations by the expert panel on safe drinking water.


Why is the government proceeding with the guise of consultation with first nations when it has apparently already decided the remedy, without any real consultation?


Mr. John Duncan (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, we inherited, in the transition from the last administration, 180 high-risk water systems. That number is now less than 60, and we have an action plan to reduce that number.


Once again we are getting the job done. The NDP and the opposition parties are erecting blockades.



March 2, 2009


Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.):


[T]he northern and aboriginal peoples, who have made up our history for eons, were our highest priority and we would continue to support them.




Hon. Maurizio Bevilacqua (Vaughan, Lib.):


[N]o country in this world can survive in the long term without meaningful investment in people. This means providing opportunities for training and financial support during job transitions, as well as investing in individuals such as immigrants and aboriginal Canadians, who are consistently underemployed and whose potential remains largely unfulfilled. When aboriginal Canadians'



March 3, 2009


Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP):


We already know that when it comes to post-secondary education, first nations students have less access, more barriers, and a lower graduation rate. Yet, we also know that in many provinces the first nations and Métis are a significant part of the student population. It is of concern that we are revamping a program that will affect students broadly in terms of access with the potential to impact first nations students more directly.


At a February 23 gathering of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, National Chief Phil Fontaine spoke about the importance of education. He was speaking about kindergarten to grade 12, but I think this also applies to post-secondary. He talked about the fact that the cost of doing nothing is astronomical. He went on to say:


I recently read an editorial in the Star Phoenix which projected that the First Nation and Métis population in Saskatchewan could account for approximately 23% of the labor force by 2016. The implications of this are huge, and not just here but across the country. Nationally, more than 600,000 Aboriginal youth will be entering the labour market by 2026, with the potential to make a major contribution to the Canadian economy estimated at $71 billion. The social and economic costs will be financially crippling to the provincial and federal governments if we don’t make the right decisions today.




Mrs. Carol Hughes (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, NDP):


Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague.   He raised the subject of pay equity. I would like to point out that, today, women earn some 70.5¢ for every dollar men earn. The figure is 64¢, for women of colour and 46¢ for aboriginal women.




Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP):


Mr. Speaker, the duplicity of the Conservatives astounds Canadians. First nations were working on accountability measures before the government was elected but the Conservatives stopped that work in its tracks.


Now the Conservatives want to change band council elections and band funding with little or no consultation and the Conservatives will cut the budget for talks by more than two-thirds.


Accountability is a two-way street. Since the Conservatives are not talking to first nations, are they ignoring their own responsibilities?


Hon. Chuck Strahl (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, I am not exactly sure what the member is talking about. It is true that we are working with first nations on the Indian government support programs. There is, for example, an advisory panel that has been set up. It involves financial officers from aboriginal communities, the AFN, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and others.


They have a meeting today, very secretive of course, everyone has been invited publicly. I have sent a letter to every single chief and council in the country talking to them about this. There is another meeting. If members want to know about another secret one, it is this Friday in Atlantic Canada.


Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP):


Mr. Speaker, according to leaked documents, the main reason the Conservatives want to modify how they provide money to band councils is to change how pensions are managed. It is an attempt by the Conservatives to rid the government of liability for the underfunding of pensions. The Conservatives want to force change on band councils to cover up the government's own liability for mismanagement.


Why does the government not come clean on its real intentions and stop misleading first nations?


Hon. Chuck Strahl (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, maybe I should speak in even more of a whisper to talk about the secrets. Here is the secret. We are working with first nations, including the Assembly of First Nations, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the Manitoulin Tribal Council and many others. They are sitting on a panel. They are sitting with us to talk about how, when the renewals come up for the Indian government support programs a year from now, we might be able to do it better so that it is better for first nations, better for accountability, better for the people they are trying to serve.


That is no secret. That is what first nations want to do and that is what we want to do working with them.



March 5, 2009


Ms. Paule Brunelle (Trois-Rivières, BQ):


Mr. Speaker, the rate of violence against aboriginal women is three times higher than in the general population. According to the president of Quebec Native Women, many women leave their communities to escape violent situations. They are marginalized because they are women and because they are aboriginal.


Does the government realize that it must make massive investments in housing, education and health immediately in order to improve aboriginal women's quality of life and give hope to aboriginal communities?


Hon. Chuck Strahl (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, in the course of action plan 2009, we have invested massively in housing. We have invested massively in training and skills development for aboriginal people. In the last budget, we expanded the network of women's shelters in this country.


In the last Parliament, we also passed legislation that included all first nations on reserve under the Canadian Human Rights Act. If the member wants to help women, she can help us pass the matrimonial real property rights act, which would help every woman, child and family in this country have the protection that the rest of society takes for granted, the protection of the law, on reserve.


Ms. Paule Brunelle (Trois-Rivières, BQ):


Mr. Speaker, how many houses will be built? How many battered women's centres will be opened? How many transition houses will be built outside these communities? When will the government acknowledge that aboriginal women and their children are desperately poor, and that things are not getting better?


Hon. Chuck Strahl (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, here we are again. The hon. member is right that we need to spend some more money on housing to help aboriginal people, yet at every step of the way, she and her party have tried to stop that money from going to first nations.


I do not get it. On the one hand, those members say it is time to invest, so we have record investments in aboriginal people, schools, housing, and skills and development training, but at every step of the way, the Bloc Québécois says that it is not about aboriginal people, it is about them.



March 6, 2009


Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP):


Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives promised a full review of water systems on reserve. However, they have told groups, including the Safe Drinking Water Foundation, that they are not welcome at meetings on water quality. These groups have spent years cleaning up water systems like the one at Yellow Quill First Nation in Saskatchewan and Saddle Lake First Nation in Alberta.


Their experience is invaluable, so why is this minister turning them away?


Mr. Randy Kamp (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, this government has done a lot since coming to office on water on reserve. We inherited a difficult situation. We admit that. However, we have reduced the number of dirty water systems by over half. Additionally, we launched a water and wastewater initiative that further builds on this by better addressing water infrastructure issues and water systems in all first nations communities. We are working with first nations on a legislative framework. We are getting the job done.



March 10, 2009


Mr. David Anderson (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board, CPC)


Recommendation 15 was that the Government of Canada continue to work with first nations and other aboriginal communities to enable them to become active partners in the development of Canada's forests. We are certainly willing to do that. We are working with them. This spring a number of government members on the Natural Resource file were able to tour communities. One thing we heard regularly was that the process of consultation was important, one that needed to be productive and beneficial to all.



March 11, 2008


Ms. Megan Leslie (Halifax, NDP):


Madam Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his answer. It is my responsibility as an opposition member to make sure the government is acting in the best interests of Canadians. One-off investments will not get the job done when it comes to providing safe, adequate and affordable housing for those who need it. The U.N. committee has all but said so. Especially during a recession, we have to make sure that our investments are made in the right places.




Can the parliamentary secretary explain exactly what provisions are made in the budget, which I have read, for those who are in precarious housing situations and not living in social housing, for aboriginal people living in cities, and for those who are currently on the street?


Mr. Ed Komarnicki (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour, CPC):


Madam Speaker, I have outlined the specific provisions in the budget that relate to homelessness, to those living on the street and to those who are living on and off reserve.


If the member has read the budget, why did the member and her party vote against every measure that was put toward these very issues that she raised: $475 million in new housing for seniors and people with disabilities and $600 million toward new social housing and repairing and modernizing existing social housing in first nations communities and in Canada's far north? They also voted against the budget implementation bill that has $1 billion to repair and modernize existing social housing, money that will help renovate and put new roofs over the heads of thousands upon thousands of families who need it.


Our government is making historic and record investments to address the housing and homelessness needs of Canadians. The NDP member and her party voted against these measures, which is hard to understand in light of the fact that the member says that she is concerned about those who are most vulnerable in the areas she mentioned.



March 12, 2009


Mr. Todd Russell (Labrador, Lib.):


Mr. Speaker, diabetes affects far too many lives and is a major health concern in many aboriginal communities. However, there are rays of hope. People are literally on the move against diabetes, raising awareness and money to combat this epidemic.


In southern Labrador, Métis elder Guy Poole created “Liz's Walk” in memory of his wife who lost her life to complications in 2004. Over the past three years, Guy has walked the southern Labrador road from Cartwright to L'Anse au Clair.


Farther north, Michel Andrew, or Giant as he is known, began his own cross-Labrador walk between the Innu communities of Sheshatshiu and Natuashish on February 11. En route, the 27 year old Innu man received a hero's welcome as he passed through the Inuit communities of Postville and Hopedale. His fundraising and awareness walk has attracted hundreds of followers who are monitoring his progress online.


Inspirational efforts like these give us hope that diabetes can indeed be beaten.




Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North, NDP):


My colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan has been on her feet in the House many times talking about the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women noted with regret that aboriginal women in Canada continued to live in impoverished conditions, which include high rates of poverty, poor health, inadequate housing, lack of access to clean water, low school completion rates and high rates of violence.


She asked this question. Could the government tell us what it sees as a priority that should have been included in the throne speech and then in the budget that would deal with first nations, Métis, Inuit and other desperate economic conditions? A very important question for which we have not received a serious answer.



March 23, 2009


Ms. Meili Faille (Vaudreuil-Soulanges, BQ):


[I]t is important as well to improve the social and economic conditions of aboriginal women, as guaranteed by international treaties to which Canada is a party, in order to reach levels worthy of a Western country.



March 24, 2009


Ms. Niki Ashton (Churchill, NDP):


Mr. Speaker, post-secondary education is important to northern Manitoba and to Canada.  In northern Manitoba we have one of the youngest populations in Canada. People in the north tell us that post-secondary education is key to our future. As a former researcher and instructor at the University College of the North, I have seen the issues firsthand. Canadian students need support.


Aboriginal students across Canada have been calling for adequate funding for their studies and the need for the federal government to respect that education is a treaty right. In terms of research, students, researchers and academics across Canada have decried the cuts and ideological earmarking of research funding. The refusal to see commitments to all research as integral to our economic recovery is damaging to us.


Finally, we need a comprehensive approach to support post-secondary education. We need a long-term commitment to support our institutions, researchers and students in terms of infrastructure, programming and access.


A plan for a strong economic recovery ought to place a priority on post-secondary education.




Mr. Chris Warkentin (Peace River, CPC):


 When it comes to investing, time truly is of the essence [like with] investments in first nations infrastructure, and investments in aboriginal skills and employment partnerships, just to name a few.


To ensure that departments can start funding these initiatives before this summer, we have requested the authority to make payments on these projects up to $3 billion.




Mr. Massimo Pacetti (Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, Lib.):


The Government of Canada has issued official apologies through the prime minister and this House of Commons to groups such as Chinese Canadians, Indian Canadians, Aboriginal Canadians and Japanese Canadians who were also interned during World War II, and our country has been strengthened in each instance because we did the right thing.



March 25, 2009


Mr. Ed Komarnicki (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour, CPC):


For those Canadians who need some help to find housing they can afford, our government provides $1.7 billion each and every year in support of some 630,000 existing social housing households. In September 2008, our government committed more than $1.9 billion over five years to improve and build new affordable housing and to help the homeless. Building on this, Canada's economic action plan will provide a significant investment of $2 billion over two years to build new social housing and to repair and energy retrofit existing social housing.


These investments will improve the quality of life for low-income families, aboriginal Canadians, seniors, persons with disabilities and people living in the north. These are real actions and real help for those who most need it.



March 26, 2009


Mr. Bill Siksay (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP):


Mr. Speaker, often in Canadian society we have assumed that our European ways and traditions were the way to go.


In many ways, we are justly proud of our criminal justice system and the way it has been established and deals with issues of crime and justice in our communities. I think that is a tradition we can be proud of.


However, I am glad we are finally looking to first nations for their lessons, learning and traditions in this area. They have shown us as well that there is much of great value.


Being part of the restorative justice program in the aboriginal community in Vancouver was a very foundational experience for me. It showed me the value of listening to the aboriginal members of my community and learning about their appreciation and understanding of criminal activity, community, and how one maintains and builds relationships when relationships have been broken.


That is a major turning point for our society. I am glad we have had the opportunity now to learn in that way and I am glad it is happening in other communities across the country.


Mr. Brian Murphy (Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe, Lib.):


Mr. Speaker, I know the member comes from a background in the ministry. He cares about people and he knows that even if we are all created equal, which I think is in the Bible, we do not all have the same opportunities growing up.


It is so evident when we look at the statistics with respect to people who commit crimes and people who are recidivists. That is again something the Conservative government has ignored. The high incidence of aboriginal inmates has not been looked at thoroughly. We deal at the justice committee only with the bill du jour.



April 1, 2009


Mr. Marc Lemay (Abitibi—Témiscamingue, BQ):


Mr. Speaker, I have the honour today to present a petition. We have with us today in the House several members of the first nations.


I am tabling a petition signed by 22,731 members of the first nations who absolutely want post-secondary education to be a government priority. These petitioners call on the government to address this critical issue and to honour its responsibility to provide adequate funding with respect to the right of first nations to post-secondary education, by taking immediate steps to follow up on the recommendations contained in the report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development published in February 2007.



April 2, 2009


Mr. Tom Lukiwski (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order with respect to Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians, brought forward by the member for Vancouver East.


Without commenting on the merits of Bill C-304, I submit that this bill would create new spending and therefore must be accompanied by a royal recommendation.


Bill C-304 would require the minister responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to consult with provinces, municipalities and aboriginal communities to establish a national housing strategy.


Subclause 3(1) of Bill C-304 provides that the minister responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation shall, following consultations with provincial ministers and representatives of municipalities and aboriginal communities:


establish a national housing strategy designed to ensure that the cost of housing in Canada does not compromise an individual’s ability to meet other basic needs, including food, clothing and access to education.




Mr. John Duncan (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, CPC):


The minister reiterated that it was the Government of Canada and not provincial authorities that would be responsible for managing first nation lands and resources. The letter of comfort also addressed first nation concerns related to value-added opportunities. For example, the minister pledged to establish first nation energy business centres of excellence in Alberta and in Saskatchewan.


Furthermore, the minister committed to identifying opportunities for greater first nations input and involvement in the decision-making processes at Indian Oil and Gas Canada on issues that directly affected them. As well, he signalled his willingness to explore options for greater first nations control over the management of their oil and gas resources. Of great interest to us as legislators, the minister promised to establish a continuous change or improvement process.


These assurances reinforce our government's determination to ensure first nations share equally in our country's prosperity. Members of government believe profoundly that first nations citizens must participate fully in all that Canada has to offer and be given the tools to achieve greater economic self-reliance and an ever-increasing quality of life. Bill C-5 would help to advance these goals by providing modern legislation, competitive regulations and sound practices that would create the conditions for economic success and social progress.


These goals are shared by all members of the House. The key to unleashing this potential lies in passing this modernized legislative framework into law. By endorsing Bill C-5, we will be confirming, once again, that collaboration and partnership between the federal government, the private sector and aboriginal people can lead to a better future. Indeed, it will help build a better country for us all.



April 3, 2009


Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.):


Mr. Speaker, today the new Australian government reversed the old Howard government's position and adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Shamefully, Canada remains only one of three countries who oppose this declaration. While Australia continues to improve its relations with its aboriginal peoples, the Conservative government continues to undermine them.  When will the government follow Australia's lead and endorse the UN declaration?



Mr. John Duncan (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, the government takes our international commitments seriously and we are not prepared to sign on to this non-binding document because it is inconsistent with our Constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the National Defence Act, Supreme Court rulings, policies under which we negotiate treaties, and does not account for third party interests.


This declaration does not balance the rights of all Canadians. Canada is a world leader on this issue and one of the few nations which provides for constitutionally entrenched aboriginal rights. This government believes in delivering real results.


Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.):


Mr. Speaker, dozens of human rights experts around the country disagree with the government, yet it continues to flaunt it. The government purports to stand for the rights of indigenous peoples. However, the Conservatives continue to impose their own agenda on them. If the Conservatives choose to consult, they refuse to listen. If they did listen, they would know that aboriginal groups are against their matrimonial real property legislation.


When will they listen? When will they hear? When will the Conservative government respond to the unanimous call of Canada's indigenous peoples and endorse this UN declaration?


Mr. John Duncan (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, advocates like that say that the declaration is straightforward and unambiguous. It is clearly not. Four nations initially voted against it, 11 more refused to support it, and 35 states were absent from the vote. I might add that the Liberal administration before ours refused to sign the document as well.


There are more than 50 countries that share our concerns.


Mr. Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre, NDP):


Mr. Speaker, I have two questions for my colleague. My colleague is someone who knows very well the issues of our aboriginal and first nations people. We all want to see more recruitment and retention of aboriginal and first nations people in the [RCMP].Does she see this as an opportunity to invite more aboriginal and first nations people into the service?



April 23, 2009


Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP):


 With regards to requests received by the government to consult with First Nations on projects, programs, policies or plans that impact either inherent Aboriginal rights or treaty rights: (a) since 2005, how many requests has the government received; (b) what was the date of each request; (c) what was the government's response to each of those requests; and (d) what was the date of each response?


With regards to on-reserve school projects, for each year between 1999 and 2009: (a) what projects have finished construction and were ready for occupation; (b) in what federal riding were each school built; and (c) for any of these schools, was there a press release sent out by the government to announce its construction or its opening and, if so, what were the dates of those press releases?




Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question that I raised in the House in March about the process that was being used around the so-called consultation for water on first nations reserves. Now that the results are in, in terms of how effective that consultation was, the Femmes Autochtones du Québec has been quite vocal in its criticism and has commented on this so-called engagement process.


 It is important to note here that engagement sessions were only initiated at the end of February and terminated in early April with a government deadline of mid-April for bands to submit an impact study. This kind of activity undertaken by INAC fails to adequately meet the standards and duty to consult indigenous peoples in accordance with Supreme Court judgements. Indeed, during these sessions, the government had already defined legislation as the only option for bands to choose.


We also have the Safe Drinking Water Foundation's advanced aboriginal water treatment team being highly critical of this process. It has indicated a number of problems, including the fact that invitations were problematic because first nations communities did not receive adequate notice to attend and the timing of the sessions overlapped with critical annual budgeting events which prevented many leaders from attending.


The facilitators provided misleading or incomplete information to participants and government voices tended to dominate their conversations advocating for a particular goal. Having water quality on reserves be subject to variations of less strict provincial guidelines instead of the guidelines for Canadian drinking water quality, thereby abdicating its fiduciary responsibility and liability for first nations drinking water quality.


Later in its report, it talked about the fact that the SDWF's AAWTT feels that the INAC's engagement sessions and attempts to deal with first nations drinking water quality were utterly inadequate, did not offer opportunity for meaningful consultation, diminished first nations' treaty rights and attempted to absolve INAC of its fiduciary responsibility. The SDWF's position in this respect was further explained and it went on to outline a number of problems with the process.


It said participation expectations were not met and the fact that those who were able to attend the engagement sessions expected that they would contribute to the development of the federal action plan on safe drinking water and that they would receive accurate and complete information in order to make well-founded decisions.


It went on to talk about the fact that in these conversations, at times there were more bureaucrats in the room than there were first nations. In some cases the bands received the information package at noon the day before and had to drive three hours in order to even get to a session. As was already pointed out, there were conflicting demands, the timeframe was far too short, and it just generally ignored all the principles of what should be deemed consultation.


I wonder what it was that the minister was trying to avoid by short-circuiting a consultation process that could have had some meaningful impact on the quality of drinking water in first nations communities.


Mr. Pierre Lemieux (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, CPC):


Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to this question by the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan. There was indeed a fruitful and effective consultation process.


My colleague spoke of water quality. Our government is taking action to ensure residents of first nation communities have access to the same quality of drinking water as other Canadians.


Quite frankly, I was surprised at these comments because we have achieved unprecedented progress in collaboration with first nations across the country. For example, in 2006 there were 193 high risk first nation water systems. Today this number has been reduced by two-thirds to 48 systems.


Furthermore, 21 communities were identified as priorities which meant that the community had both a high risk system and a drinking water advisory. Today only four communities are on that list.


What is more, decisive action is being taken on the new measures identified under the 2008 first nations water and waste water action plan. This includes moving forward with the consultation process for water legislation, including the recent completion of engagement sessions in March on the development of a legislative framework proceeding with a national assessment of water and waste water systems that provide services to first nation communities and developing or improving water and waste water protocols to be issued shortly.


Clearly, our government is getting the job done. Nothing demonstrates this more than budget 2009, Canada's economic action plan. With the economic action plan, we provide $1.4 billion over two years for specific initiatives aimed at improving the well-being and prosperity of aboriginal people in Canada. These new investments include $165 million to accelerate water and waste water infrastructure projects.


Our government recognizes that every Canadian deserves access to clean and healthy drinking water. These recent investments demonstrate clear action toward this goal and we will continue with this endeavour.