Mr. Chair, the hon. member has confused the message and the debates a lot. If I could offer some perspective, having been to Israel and attending the Knesset, the debate in Israel is pretty intense at times. Israelis are very forward thinking. Israel is a very democratic nation that serves its best interest by serving democracy. There is always debate.
However, to suggest that if one offers criticism to Israel, that somehow one is anti-Semitic has never been an utterance that has ever occurred on the floor of this chamber through the course of this debate. What we have said, collectively and very clearly, is that anti-Semitism is a very real phenomenon that is born in hatred. It is not born in criticism, not in public discourse of fair minded people and fair minded values. It is born on hatred. It incites violence and it will create an era of intolerance.
If that is the message that has confused her in this chamber, I also feel it becomes so painfully clear that the message could be confused elsewhere. That is why we have to speak out so loudly, so forcefully and so clearly to define anti-Semitism as a hatred and a violence that will not be tolerated. Those who seek peace, who seek discourse, as we did at Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, who embrace all cultures and all citizens will all have a place. That is the lesson maybe we can all take home from this.
Mr. Chair, I would be pleased to split my time with the hon. member for Mount Royal, who is, I believe it is fair to say, our Parliament's scholar, historian, and collective conscience on human rights issues and who has been a great architect of the Ottawa protocol. I would love to hear a little more of his thoughts on that particular topic.
I have appreciated the discussion here tonight. It has been very valuable to me, and there are two essential messages that have come forward that must be communicated.
One is that anti-Semitism will not be tolerated no matter where it occurs, whether it be on the borders of Israel, in a European capital, or, God forbid, here on Canadian soil.
The second message, of course, is that this cannot be empty rhetoric. This message has to come with a resolve to protect and with a call to action. To those who are threatened by anti-Semitism, we must be firm: never again.
Members might wonder what exactly the member of Parliament for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte from Newfoundland and Labrador would be able to offer to this particular debate. I have an interesting perspective to offer.
I am an Irish Newfoundlander, and many Newfoundlanders are Irish. In 1968, my constituency decided that the best person to represent us in this chamber was a man named Jack Marshall.
Jack was Jewish. There were a lot of Jews in my riding, but we did not vote for him because he was Jewish, and we certainly did not vote against him because he was Jewish. He was the best person for the job. In fact, he was so very popular and such an effective advocate for veterans right across this entire country, as he was for his constituency in each and every matter that was important to it and to the people of Humber—St. George's—St. Barbe at the time, that the prime minister of Canada had to elevate him to the Senate, because that was the only way to free up the seat. He was a phenomenal representative.
His successor was a kind of a twist of irony. A by-election was held when Jack Marshall was elevated to the Senate, where he so well served this country and every veteran that ever served in uniform. His successor was a young man by the name of Fonse Faour, a Lebanese Canadian who was 24 years of age. We did not vote for him because he was of Lebanese descent, and we did not vote against him because he was of Lebanese descent; we voted for him because he was the best person for the job. Therefore, I come from a perspective that all things are possible. That is the way we are.
With that in mind, I went to Israel last year. I wanted to learn more. We received some great briefings and met with the Canadian representative to the Palestinian authority. Four days into the trip, Hamas started firing rockets into Israel, indiscriminately, for the sole purpose of killing innocent civilians. Hamas, the terrorist organization, was doing what it does.
That was the most profound experience that anyone could possibly imagine. It was transformative for me.
Anti-Semitism is real. It is very active in this world. The events in Montreal prove that it is on the rise. Is it on the rise everywhere? I think it is.
Yesterday, because I have been an outspoken advocate for peace and for the right of Israel to exist and to protect itself, I received a message from within my own constituency suggesting that I was acting like a Nazi for my beliefs and my sincere conviction that peace can happen, that Israel has the right to exist, and that action against anti-Semitism must be taken.
These are the perspectives that a man from Newfoundland and Labrador who sits in this chamber can offer to this debate. Not only do we have to communicate that anti-Semitism is not to be tolerated, but we have to send a message to the Jewish community, to those who would advocate for peace and for harmony, that we will not stand idly by, no matter what corner of the globe or part of Canada we are from.
I will conclude with that one perspective. This is an issue that should captivate us all. We have a duty to action and a duty to protect, and it is inherent in each and every one of us.
Mr. Speaker, I am sure that the members of the opposition will have plenty of time to debate this legislation, provided that the government calls it again. My understanding, however, is that there seems to be some interest in having this passed very quickly and without the necessary debate. As can be seen by the questions and debate with the minister so far, there is considerable interest in this question in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
While there might be interest, given the history of aboriginal matters in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, to which the minister alluded and to which I alluded in my question and comment intervention, the reality is that Newfoundland's history with aboriginal peoples as a part of Canada's history and before is one that is subject to a great deal of historical debate and controversy. However, since Confederation, it has been under the legal regime of the Constitution of Canada and is the responsibility of the Government of Canada in terms of its fiduciary role with respect to aboriginal peoples and its constitutional responsibilities under section 92 of the Constitution Act.
The problem has been that aboriginal people in Newfoundland and Labrador did not get access to the same programs, services, and funding that were made available to other aboriginals in Canada. That has been a source of significant conflict and significant neglect. Historically speaking, a lot has been lost along the way in terms of advancement and the benefits to aboriginal people in Newfoundland and Labrador.
When we look at the chronology, even the one produced by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, we see huge gaps between mentioning 1949 as the time of Confederation and the next entry, some time in the 1970s, with the consideration of the Innu nation. It talks about the variety of studies and discussions regarding the application of the Indian Act to the Innu in Labrador, some 25 years later. It was initially agreed to by the Government of Canada that the Mi’kmaq of Conne River develop an application, and the recognition of the Conne River first nation was in 1984, 34 years after Confederation.
We have had a long period of neglect. I took an interest in this back in 1987, when I was first a member of Parliament, and had a paper commissioned, looking into the terms of union. The resulting paper was called Pencilled Out, because during the terms of union negotiations between the Government of Canada and the representatives of Newfoundland and Labrador, there was series of draft agreements, which included, up until the second or third versions, a provision for Indians—as they were then universally known—in Newfoundland and Labrador, but at later stages of negotiations that was all removed.
It was removed for various reasons that have been given historically. One suggestion was that they would lose the right to vote if they became recognized under the Indian Act. There were other reasons given for that historically, but the fact of the matter is that they were excluded from the benefits and provision of services, including non-medicare benefits that were available everywhere else in Canada, such as special health benefits, drug programs, important access to education, and other programs that were available throughout Canada to everyone who qualified as status Indians.
This agreement, this Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation act, is an attempt by the Mi'kmaq to retrieve or achieve something that they should have been entitled to, going back to 1949. It is imperfect because it deals with individuals who are still a part of the communities that traditionally had Mi'kmaq populations. The minister says 67, but I count 65 in the schedule, unless it has been amended. These 65 populations that are still associated would have rights under this band.
They have an enrolment process that, as is widely known, has resulted in people recognizing that at long last there will be an opportunity for the Mi'kmaq of Newfoundland and Labrador to be recognized generally for their status within Canada as aboriginal people.
The minister is quite correct. This legislation is not about the big picture. It is not about the enrolment rules as such and it is not about the qualifications.
Those agreements were made by the Federation of Newfoundland Indians on behalf of the communities and memberships in the various bands throughout Newfoundland that were associated with the Mi'kmaq people and the communities in which they resided. It was ratified by the people who participated in the vote, by some 90%, which is a fair indication that, with respect to the communities that have been identified here, there is a wide degree of acceptance as to what they hope to achieve by the creation of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band.
That part is the historical agreement that was made ultimately in 2008, with the modifications in 2013. We are talking about what the effect of this legislation would be on this process and what the effect would be on those who may be excluded by this process. We have some concerns about how this will be interpreted.
The minister commented that people would still have access to the courts but they would not be able to get damages. The member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte has a more assertive understanding of what denying people access to the courts really means. That needs to be fully explored as this legislation proceeds. We would expect significant and proper and appropriate legal representation and expertise ought to be applied to this legislation to see whether it would do anything more than prevent someone from getting retroactive damages for not being recognized then as opposed to now, or whether it would extinguish any right or prevent someone from having access to the courts.
The minister indicated that access to the courts would be retained for the purpose of a declaration, that someone in the Qalipu first nation band should be covered by the agreements and should have access to the benefits. If that is indeed the case, then we would want to have expert opinion on that from people with knowledge of the law and knowledge of agreements like this and how similar types of legislation treat this. Are some special rules being created here to prevent individuals who may be wrongfully excluded from the band to get a proper adjudication from the court for getting the redress they need? I would certainly want to have clarification of that.
With respect to the issue of enrolment itself, this legislation would not change the criteria for enrolment. The application of the criteria and the documentation necessary and the process to be undertaken to do that seems to have been a misjudgment by the people on both sides who negotiated this agreement. The Federation of Newfoundland Indians is represented by their leadership, including Chief Brendan Sheppard. The federation set up a procedure that it thought would be fair, equitable, and adequate to assess and deal with the applications. Clearly, it was not. I do not think anybody anticipated that the number of people who applied would be in the tens of thousands, three or four times more than what was anticipated.
The timelines of the procedure, the committees that were set up, the time that was given in the agreement for processing applications, for making decisions, for issuing the applications, was totally and woefully inadequate, to the point that people were going to be denied the ability to participate in the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band because their application would not be processed in the time that was set out in the agreement and in all of the legislation.
Clearly something had to be done to modify the enrolment process and the assessment of that.
As the minister pointed out, the new regime, with two members of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians, two members representing the Government of Canada and an independent third party, is a process that has been agreed upon. They have timelines. I have not heard any complaints about the adequacy of the time that people have had to apply, although there are still people, I understand, who are learning about this process, for one reason or another, and still feel that they have not had an opportunity to be considered. Some may say that is because they have not self-identified as a Mi'kmaq and they have not participated and been accepted by these groups as a member, something to which we should all give consideration.
The minister said it is not about ancestry, but indeed it is about ancestry. One of the criteria required, among other requirements, is that an individual self-identify as a member of the Mi'kmaq group of Indians of Newfoundland and be accepted as a member of the Mi'kmaq group of Indians of Newfoundland.
This is an agreement in relation to a subset of people who are aboriginal Mi'kmaq of Newfoundland and Labrador. This subset of people continues to self-identify with the Mi'kmaq group of Indians and is accepted by them. That implies an association with an existing group, as opposed to someone who has left.
It would be grossly unfair, arbitrary, and unjust to those people I have referred to, such as those who may have been removed from their homes for one reason or another. It could have been for stereotyped reasons of government officials. It could have been the practices of child welfare organizations. It could have been for legitimate reasons of child protection that removed a child from the particular home, circumstance, or situation, which ended up in that individual being raised elsewhere without knowledge of their ancestry and their identity as an aboriginal. That is something they may have learned many years later as an adult. It would be grossly unfair for them to not be considered as having an opportunity to identify with their ancestry, their history, their culture, their true identity as an aboriginal person.
I do not see any real provision for that here, and it needs to be addressed and redressed. There are significant problems with that from a moral, legal, and entitlement point of view, and it does need to be addressed.
The minister made some comments, which I find encouraging, although I do not see them in the legislation. I do not see them in any of the agreements that his comments will be taken up by individuals concerned about the fact that they have been potentially left out for the future with the Mi'kmaq group of Indians as under the Qalipu first nations band.
Regardless of the criteria, there had to be a process. I do not think anybody would disagree with that. If we lay down the criteria, someone has to decide whether an individual is in that criteria.
Yes, I could agree that it is the failure of the Government of Canada to ensure that there is a process that is available and that will work, but it is also fair to say that neither the Federation of Newfoundland Indians nor the Government of Canada anticipated the numbers of people who wished to be considered members of the Qalipu first nations band.
I will not denigrate their desire, which the minister seemed to do by suggesting that they showed up at the last minute, claiming to be of aboriginal ancestry. Given the history of Newfoundland and Labrador and the history of neglect by the federal government of its responsibilities from the time of Confederation on, it is not surprising that there are people the government wanted to assimilate, wanted to ignore, refused, and failed to provided the services being given everywhere across country. For example, the non-insured health services, the Innu and Inuit of Labrador were denied access to non-insured health benefits that every status Indian in Canada had access to as long as they existed and were recognized.
It is a shameful history. I brought attention to that when I was first a member of Parliament in 1987, because I knew of the history of negotiations about Confederation. I remember the premier of Newfoundland, Joseph Smallwood, saying that we did not have any Indians in Newfoundland and Labrador. Well, they did not have any on paper because they refused to recognize their existence. Yet here we have the Innu of Labrador, the Mi'kmaq of Newfoundland, and now 100,000 people saying that they are of aboriginal ancestry and proud of it, and they want to have that recognized. I am not saying every single one of them meets whatever criteria are laid out, clearly they probably do not, but there has to be a process. It has to be fair, equitable, and it has to come to a conclusion.
To be fair, there is a process and a process of appeal so that if people are denied because they do not meet the criteria, they do have the right of appeal. There is a time for appeal and the process would go on for some longer period before final decisions are made.
We want to know what this legislation is all about. Is it necessary to have this legislation to achieve the creation of this band? Yes, it is controversial, as I mentioned in my remarks to the minister—what is it with this “landless” band”? Sixty-five communities that are identified as being Mi'kmaq communities in Newfoundland and Labrador are going to have access to some services and programs, but what about a land-based or resource on which they lived for hundreds of years? There is no role for that.
I suspect that was perhaps the only way they believe that they could achieve any recognition by the Government of Canada of their rights. Land claims negotiations in Canada are glacial. The government seems to keep hoping that aboriginal people and their claims will go away. I have not read the book, but I recently saw a quotation from Thomas King's book, The Inconvenient Indian. He has come to the conclusion that the whole history of aboriginal rights in North America is about one thing: land. It is about land that he calls the white man wanted, and that is the major thrust of any policy toward aboriginals in North America.
Here we have a landless band, which says something about what was trying to be achieved here certainly by the Government of Canada. The minister says it was the choice of the Mi'kmaq. I doubt very much that the Mi'kmaq said, “We do not really want any land, we do not need a land base for hunting, fishing, forestry, and looking after our families”. For centuries they had lived on the land in these communities as aboriginal people. They were stewards of that land.
There are a lot of complexities. There is a lot of negative history associated with this whole process and we do not want to see it repeated in a process that is not fair. If it takes away rights, if it denies people access to the courts to establish those rights, then we have a significant problem with that. We want to ensure that when the bill is studied, it gets full consideration by experts so that nothing is done that is going to damage the future possibilities for the aboriginal people of Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly the Mi'kmaq, but we do want to see the Qalipu band get the recognition and the services, programs, and the future that it deserves.
Mr. Speaker, in Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador, there are two very important and productive offices that I would like to highlight. One is a Canadian Armed Forces recruitment centre, which is one of the most successful, efficient and highest-performing recruitment centres in all of Canada. Young people from western and northern Newfoundland are being recruited to the Canadian Armed Forces at a significant and substantial rate. In fact, the Canadian Armed Forces decided that they would expand that office. The other office is a Veterans Affairs service centre. That office is closing as of tomorrow.
I would like to ask the hon. member where exactly he thinks the veterans of tomorrow will come from. Will they come from a place where recruitment to the Canadian Armed Forces is on an upward trend and rising?
The current Canadian Armed Forces contingent is proudly overrepresented by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. In fact, while Newfoundland and Labrador only represents 1.5% of the Canadian population, the actual contingent of its people within the Canadian Armed Forces represents 8% to 10%.
Where exactly are the future veterans coming from? They are coming from the places where—
As difficult as it may seem to the hon. member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, I have great confidence in his intellectual capability. I am sure that, maybe with the help of some others in his caucus, he may devise ways of doing it without breaking the rules of parliamentary tradition. I do have full confidence that he will be able to do that and look forward to what he comes up with.
Order. I see the hon. President of the Treasury Board is rising to answer the question, but I think the hon. member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte may find it difficult to get recognized in the House for a little while.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and participate in the discussion brought forward by my friend, the hon. member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte concerning what appears to be the very arbitrary and secretive way in which the Conservative government is attempting to alter a formal agreement signed by the Government of Canada and a first nation.
Motion No. 432 addresses concerns about the deregistration of thousands of current members of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band who have already been recognized by The Indian Registrar as status Indians just a few short years ago.
This motion is also about thousands of applicants throughout Canada who have applied in good faith under the existing rules that were established after a lengthy negotiation between the Federation of Newfoundland Indians and the Government of Canada. Under these rules, people throughout Newfoundland and Canada who maintained a connection to the many Mi’kmaq communities of the island were deemed eligible for membership in a newly created first nation band.
These are not rules that were written in haste or on the back of an envelope, as our colleagues on the other side sometimes like to say. In 2007, the Prime Minister personally approved the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation ratification agreement and personally endorsed the criteria for membership in the band when he signed the agreement.
Simply put, the motion brought forth by my colleague from Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte asked that the Prime Minister of Canada fulfill the promise he made to thousands of members of this first nation who have already been accepted and to thousands of applicants to the band who are waiting for their applications to be processed.
Unfortunately, it appears that the Government of Canada has signalled it will break its promise. It has announced that it intends to change the rules midway through the process. This is not the first time we have seen the government break a promise. It is not the first time that we have seen the Conservative government betray Atlantic Canadians or our first nations. We all know that the Prime Minister broke his promise to honour the Atlantic accord. Of course it cost Bill Casey his caucus membership over there.
Ironically, the Prime Minister carried out his betrayal after quoting a Gaelic proverb that states, “there is no greater fraud than a promise not kept”. That seems to be applicable here. I suspect he may have learned that from Senator Duffy, but I digress.
Earlier this year, we witnessed the deep distrust the first nations have with the government. Idle No More was a sign of the growing frustration among aboriginal communities, leaders and indeed all Canadians over the litany of broken promises and the complete lack of progress from the government on issues affecting indigenous people in Canada. The government's refusal to consult first nations on matters that may impact their inherent rights or treaty rights gave rise to the Idle No More protest movement.
The Liberal Party of Canada has stood against the cynical actions of the government in Parliament and worked to highlight its short-sighted approach for all Canadians, just like we are standing here today.
In relation to this motion and what happened here, in a nutshell the government is suggesting that the number of members and applicants who presented themselves for recognition is too many and that this situation could not have been foreseen. Standing today at 24,000 members and at 75,000 applicants, the government is suggesting that this is far beyond the intended 8,000 to 12,000 members that the Department of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs originally projected when the Prime Minister ratified this agreement in 2007.
The record is clear. In 2009, the number of members in the band stood at 10,000 and the number of applicants waiting to be processed stood at 20,000, with three years left in the enrolment process. Therefore, if the expectation was that only 8,000 to 12,000 members would be assumed to be eligible for membership in the band, that forecast was proven totally inaccurate almost four years ago. Any belief that those numbers would not grow the way they have is just not credible. What would be the basis for it in view of these facts?
Furthermore, the government has raised no concern in the four years that the agreement has been in effect. Meanwhile, the number of applications and the number of members enrolled have been steadily increasing. Now, after four years of executing the agreement, the government is trying to create a story that there is a problem with the high numbers and that the problem is not its doing, that it is the doing of the applicants. What a silly thing to say. The government is suggesting that people who are applying for membership are doing so without proper entitlement to do so. That is what the process is all about.
It is typical of the government to point fingers. What did the Prime Minister do, even last week, when he had the problems with Senator Duffy? He pointed the finger at his own office. For some reason, he never points it at himself, which is most unfortunate. The Conservatives ought to look at themselves in this case. They were part of the design of the rules. The Prime Minister signed off on these rules that he now does not like.
The agreement spelled out the enrolment criteria for the band in plain language. The agreement stated that to become a member an applicant would have to demonstrate that they or one of their ancestors was of Canadian aboriginal descent. The applicant would not have to show that they were necessarily of Newfoundland Mi'kmaq descent. They would simply have to show that they were of any aboriginal heritage from anywhere in Canada and that would be sufficient.
That is what the Prime Minister signed off on. Those are the rules he agreed to. Now he wants to change the rules. He effectively wants to change horses in midstream. Furthermore, as specifically stated in the agreement, “no minimum blood quantum” or fraction of Indian ancestry was relevant for membership in this band either.
By pointing out these two rules for membership, it might make it easier for people to understand why such a relatively high number of applicants have come forward. It is not surprising. Those are the rules that were set up after the negotiations and these are the rules that the Prime Minister signed onto. If anyone is responsible for the rules that he now does not like, he should look in the mirror. Pointing out that this is exactly what the federal government negotiated, and obviously intended in forming the agreement, is also relevant.
The next criteria for enrolment was that the applicant or their aboriginal ancestor would have to be either (a) a resident of, or (b) connected to the Newfoundland Mi'kmaq community, as listed within the agreement.
The rules were clearly spelled out in the agreement. They were clearly spelled out for people who are no longer a resident of such a community in Newfoundland. They would have to demonstrate an ongoing connection to that community by way of regular telephone calls or visits to such a community. The requirement is spelled out in plain language within both the agreement and the application guides produced by the federal government and Newfoundland authorities for the applicants.
If I have time, I would like to highlight a couple of key elements in what the government signed as part of the agreement with the Mi'kmaq.
Part 13 of annex A specifically states, “The applicant must provide evidence that he is of Canadian Indian ancestry. There is no minimum blood quantum”. The Prime Minister signed onto that. To reinforce that, both the government and the first nation were fully aware of the criteria that they agreed to. The documents produced to assist applicants in preparing their applications, as well as the information found on the government website, specifically stated that residency was not a requirement for enrolment as long as a connection to a Mi'kmaq community can be established, and a connection is described as “visits or communication”.
The government has only itself to blame if it does not like these rules. It ought not to be breaking its promise. It ought to be in this case, unlike so many others, keeping its word to these people, following the process, letting people apply if they wish, and letting the process decide whether or not they qualify under the rules that the Prime Minister signed on to.
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the NDP, I am rising to speak to Motion No. 432 on the Qalipu First Nation. We will be supporting the motion brought forward by the member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte.
The member who presented the motion ably outlined the details of the motion and some of the concerns about the progress. Essentially, this motion calls upon the government to establish a procedure to review all of its standing requests for membership in the new Qalipu First Nation.
At the heart of this, is the issue around who gets to determine membership. As I mentioned in my question, in the past when there have been membership changes, governments of various political stripes have consistently underestimated the resources and length of time it takes in order to, first, make people aware of the changes and second, to process those applications.
I want to touch a bit on the history because I think this is very important. I will quote from an article written by Justin Brake called, “We're Rebuilding a Nation”, in theindependent.ca. He lays out a solid historical overview of how we got to this place today. He starts with:
—in the early 1600s at the latest, most generations of Mi’kmaq have inhabited the island in an environment of oppression, discrimination and stigmatization.
Sadly, I would like to say that this is no longer the case, that first nations are facing oppression, discrimination and stigmatization. However, in my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan, in the last 24 hours we saw a letter to the editor of one of my local newspapers that continued with this discrimination and stigmatization. I have been in contact with the Snuneymuxw Chief Doug White to express my concern on what has happened. It is very sad, in this time of first nations that are achieving so much, that there are so many unaware as to what a real partnership could bring to all of us.
I think many of us are very well aware of what first nations have contributed to both our country and others like the United States, not only around culture and art but something as important as democracy. Most of us are aware that the Iroquois Confederacy was part of the founding principles for the democratic process in the United States. Therefore, when people try to define others by using racist language, they just display their own ignorance.
First nations are not waiting for people like those who wrote the letter to the local paper in Nanaimo to catch up to the vibrant cultures, economies and the futures that are currently the lot of many first nations.
In Justin Brake's article, he goes on to talk about the fact that in those early days in the 1600s it was a nomadic culture that hunted, fished and foraged then transitioned to seasonal settlements, but this was all disrupted by the expropriation of lands. He says:
—out of which grew a struggle to survive the way they always have. An increasing number of Mi’kmaq on the island had no choice but to begin selling their labour for money to buy the necessities they once acquired freely themselves.
By many accounts...Mi’kmaq were prohibited from speaking their own language, children were forced into residential schools...In a nutshell, the Mi’kmaq were stripped of a way of life they had developed over a significant period of time and forced into the much harsher social, political and economic world of the island’s new colonizers.
Adrian Tanner, a retired professor of anthropology at Memorial University, said that the Mi’kmaq were presumed to be on the verge of full integration into society when Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949.
Mr. Brake says:
Joey Smallwood told the federal government they had all disappeared or had intermarried and that there were none...Any small amount of research that he would have done would show that there were clearly existing bands at that time, of clearly identifiable Mi’kmaq.
Though the Mi’kmaq continued practicing what customs and traditions they could, the silence generated from their oppression endured until the late 1960s, when a shift in aboriginal consciousness began to grow across the country.
Mr. Brake goes on to outline the resurgence that happened through the National Indian Brotherhood and others partly in response to the 1969 assimilationist paper, the white paper, that was presented to my colleague by the Liberals of the day. However, we had this rising consciousness, which happened in Newfoundland as well.
Mr. Brake goes on to describe this awakening. He wrote:
“They were calling it ‘the awakening’ here (in Corner Brook), awakening to the realization that they were aboriginal people.... It was awakening to the fact that they had aboriginal ancestry and the fact that they wanted to, I guess, develop that part of their identity. Some people knew all along that they had aboriginal ancestry because their families spoke about it, but from what I understand the majority of people here didn’t know. So you look at those 21,500 people who just got status—the majority of them had no idea they had aboriginal ancestry.”
It is a sad commentary on our country that for many first nations, and Métis in particular, there were long periods of time when people simply did not want to acknowledge their ancestors, their traditions, their culture, their language, because of the way that non-aboriginal society responded. Then of course there were the residential schools, which was another attempt at assimilation.
Mr. Brake goes on in his article to write:
“The whole concept of displacement is very important in terms of identity because families got fractured and dispersed. It was almost like a diaspora as far as I’m concerned. People got flung into different areas in and around the Bay of Islands and wherever, and so where they had concentrated communities at one point in time, and when industry came in and dispersed them—that is an issue of identity because all of a sudden you don’t even know who your relatives are.
Further in the article, he writes:
“We were becoming extinct through ignorance. There was very little history, no written history. Even the people themselves were very unaware of who they were, so we were a lost people,” he continues. “And what we started to do in 1969, 1970 is we started to educate ourselves and educate people about who they were, what they belonged to, the values of aboriginal culture, the values of communities working together with one objective in mind: prosperity for our people. And not only prosperity through the ownership of material things, but prosperity that comes from people working together and sharing in responsibility of the upbringing of each other’s children, which is the kind of upbringing that I’m familiar with.
That is a bit of the history about how we came to this situation where the Qalipu people started to examine their ancestry, their geneology, their ties to the Mi'kmaq people, and said they wanted to be recognized as such.
I said at the outset, it comes to the heart of who gets to determine citizenship. We continue to see that play out in any number of ways, because the Indian Act still has very tight control on who determines citizenship. We have the infamous second generation cut-off clause right now, which talks about when people marry out and eventually if their children marry out, people will no longer have status. That is controlled under the Indian Act. First nations from coast to coast to coast, Inuit and Métis have continued to say the government has no right to determine who maintains status.
I mentioned Mr. Caron earlier, the special person who was hired to sort this out. The Qalipu Watchdogs indicated that it was hard to get information about why Mr. Caron was hired. They finally were able to get information that said he was hired to “engage with the Chief and Council of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation to amend the agreement for the recognition or, if necessary, negotiate a new agreement; to tighten the current enrolment process; and to adopt a new process and criteria in light of the surge in the number of applications for membership and the concerns regarding how the criteria have been applied”.
The letter goes on to say:
This news confirms our worst fears and suspicions that the agreement will be altered and decisions regarding the remaining applications dragged out for some indefinite period of time. Qalipu Watchdogs was formed to act as a single voice for the people, because we believe in fair and equal treatment for everyone; including applicants who have not had their applications reviewed, applicants who are in the appeal process, as well as members of the Band who already have their status and might now face the prospect of changes.
All of this uncertainty contributes to a people who have been waiting centuries if we go back to the 1600s but certainly over the last several decades to be able to clean up the mess around their right to be acknowledged as the Qalipu First Nation.
I would encourage all members of the House to support Motion No. 432.
It being Wednesday, we will now have the singing of the national anthem led by the hon. member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte.
[Members sang the national anthem]
Order, please. The member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte needs to come to order. The hon. Minister of Human Resources has the floor.
Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague for Saanich—Gulf Islands brought up that which is germane to this debate, the preaching of one thing and the practising of another.
By way of illustration, my colleague who sits in front of me here from (Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte and I voted in the last session of Parliament. There was a minority. The majority of the House voted to reject the idea of signing onto a NAFO agreement, the international body that governs fisheries in the Northwest Atlantic. The majority of this House said no by way of votes. The very next day the Conservative government signed on to it. Prior to that, in the campaign, the Conservatives said that they would bring international agreements to the House. What was the point of that? The very next day they turned around and did the exact opposite of what they said they would do. At what point have they practised what they used to preach?
Going back to my friend's illustration, she brings up the point of the UN declaration. Every indicator in the language within this declaration said that transparency would be there and, certainly when it comes to communication, informed opinion. We get the statistics. It is a cut. We also get the level of transparency that they talk about here going way beyond—to use the term, they have been gobsmacked in this particular situation because they were absolutely surprised because they went counter to what they said.
Here is another illustration. The government stood up in the middle of the Alps of Switzerland and said that it may want to change the age of eligibility for old age security. It was said in a way that led people to believe that it was already known. I do not remember the Conservatives ever talking about that in the campaign. I remember hearing about the extra money they wanted to put in the guaranteed income supplement that was only one-third of the way to alleviating poverty.
Let us go back to that declaration once again. The indicators were definitely there. It was preached about. Back home it was practised in the opposite direction.
I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on November 16, 2011, by the hon. member for Mount Royal regarding the negative impact an organized telephone campaign survey conducted in his constituency has had on his work and reputation.
I would like to thank the hon. member for Mount Royal for having raised this important matter, having responded to the comments of other members and having provided the Chair with additional material in support of his allegations. The Chair would also like to thank the Government House Leader, the House Leader of the Official Opposition and the members for Richmond—Arthabaska, Saanich—Gulf Islands and Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte for their comments as well as the member for New Brunswick Southwest for his interventions.
In presenting his case, the hon. member for Mount Royal states that several constituents had contacted him about survey calls they had received from a telephone number identified as Campaign Research Inc., asking if they would support the Conservative Party in the “impending, if not imminent, by-election”.
He has also informed the House that similar calls were placed to citizens in the Westmount—Ville-Marie constituency. The hon. member for Mount Royal stated that this telephone campaign led his constituents and other voters to think that he had deserted his post, and overshadowed his parliamentary work. Noting that the House has the right to the services of its members free from intimidation, obstruction and interference, he claimed that the confusion created among his electors was damaging his reputation and his credibility.
In the case before us, no one disputes the fact that there is no pending by-election. Yet the hon. member for Mount Royal explains that he has been put in an ambiguous situation through this telephone campaign. He says:
Simply put, how am I, or any member, to effectively represent a constituency if the constituents are led to believe that the member is no longer their elected representative? How can one correct the confusion and prejudicial damage that has been done in the minds of those who may think I am no longer their representative in Parliament or no longer discharging my duties?
To support his argument, the member cited a ruling of Speaker Bosley, as found on page 4439 of the Debates of May 6, 1985, which states:
It should go without saying that a Member of Parliament needs to perform his functions effectively and that anything tending to cause confusion as to a Member’s identity creates the possibility of an impediment to the fulfilment of that Member’s functions. Any action which impedes or tends to impede a Member in the discharge of his duties is a breach of privilege.
The Chair finds striking the repeated emphasis that the member has placed on the importance of this issue not only for himself but for all members. This point has also been stressed by other members who intervened. Because of the Chair's primordial concern for the preservation of the privileges of all members, this is a matter worthy of serious consideration. As your Speaker, one of my principal responsibilities is to ensure that the rights and privileges of members are safeguarded, and this is a responsibility I take very seriously.
The member for New Brunswick Southwest argues, on the contrary, that the House should not even be seized of this question because “...it lies outside its authority”. He claims that:
—the...conduct of political parties should not be judged by the House or by its members....The best place for this to be judged is among Canadians, not in the House...
The Chair has no doubt that Canadians are indeed judging this matter, just as they are constantly judging this House by what happens here and what is said here and by the attitude that members display toward one another.
It does not matter that the resources of the House of Commons itself were not used to carry on this particular campaign. On this point, let me point out that the rights and immunities of individual members can be breached by a wide range of actions and that such actions are not limited, as has been suggested, to actions taken in the House or actions involving the use of House resources.
At the same time, in listening to the arguments on this question, I have seen that a certain confusion seems to exist with regard to the extent of the powers of the Speaker in dealing with questions of privilege. Several members have ascribed to the Chair seemingly vast powers that neither I nor my predecessors have ever possessed. The role of the Chair is actually very limited, as the hon. member for Mount Royal has himself pointed out, citing O'Brien and Bosc, at page 145:
—the issue put before the Speaker is not a finding of fact, it is simply whether on first impression the issue that is before the House warrants priority consideration over all other matters, all other orders of the day that are before the House.
In cases where a member alleges that he has experienced interference in the performance of his parliamentary duties, the Speaker’s task is particularly difficult. As O’Brien and Bosc states at page 111:
It is impossible to codify all incidents which might be interpreted as matters of obstruction, interference, molestation or intimidation and as such constitute prima facie cases of privilege.
Furthermore, in ruling on questions of privilege of this kind, the Chair is obliged to assess whether or not the member's ability to fulfill his parliamentary functions has been undermined. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at page 109, notes that my predecessors have stressed the importance of establishing a direct link to parliamentary duties in such cases, stating that:
—rulings have focused on whether or not the parliamentary functions of the Member were directly involved. While frequently noting that Members raising such matters have legitimate grievances, Speakers have consistently concluded that Members have not been prevent from carrying out their parliamentary duties.
In the Bosley decision cited by the member for Mount Royal, the Speaker was confronted with a situation where the former member of Parliament was identified in a print advertisement as the sitting member: the very identity of the sitting member was at issue.
In the case at hand, the Chair is entirely sympathetic to the situation faced by the member for Mount Royal. There is no doubt that he has been bombarded by telephone calls, emails and faxes from concerned and confused constituents. However, the Chair has great difficulty in concluding that the member has been unable to carry out his parliamentary duties as a result of these tactics. The member for Mount Royal has been extremely active in the House and in committee. By raising the matter in the House as he has done, the hon. member has brought attention to a questionable form of voter identification practice and described in detail the negative impact it has had. Indeed, his interventions here in the House on this very question have garnered, as he himself points out, extensive sympathetic coverage in media across the country.
In a ruling delivered on August 12, 1988, Debates, page 18,272, Speaker Fraser stated that:
Past precedents are highly restrictive...and generally require that clear evidence of obstruction or interference with a Member in the exercise of his or her duty be demonstrated in order to form the basis for a claim of a breach of privilege.
Speaker Milliken, in a ruling from February 12, 2009, also stressed this point:
—adjudicating questions of privilege of this kind, the Speaker is bound to assess whether or not the member's ability to fulfill his parliamentary functions effectively has been undermined.
As I considered the member for Mount Royal's case, a second ruling by Speaker John Fraser has resonated particularly for me. On May 5, 1987, Speaker Fraser concluded:
Given all the circumstances in this case, I am sure that the Minister's capacity to function as a Minister and Member of this House is in no way impaired. I point out to honourable Members that this is the real issue of privilege, although there are obviously other matters that surround the particular fact in this case....the Chair has to look very carefully at the exact point of privilege.
In today's case, too, the so-called surrounding matters have given me pause. I am sure that all reasonable people would agree that attempting to sow confusion in the minds of voters as to whether or not their member is about to resign is a reprehensible tactic and that the hon. member for Mount Royal has a legitimate grievance.
I would hope that his airing of this grievance and the discussions this case has provoked—here in the House and in the media—will lead to two results. On the one hand, managers of legitimate exercises in voter identification should be more careful in the information they disseminate to the people they contact. On the other hand, Canadians contacted this way should be more wary and judge more critically any information presented to them by unsolicited callers.
I can understand how the member for Mount Royal and others are seeking relief from the climate of cynicism, not to say contempt, about parliamentary institutions and practice that seem to prevail. But I fear that such relief is not within my gift: the Speaker's powers in these matters are limited, as my predecessors have repeatedly stated.
The words of Speaker Fraser in a ruling of December 11, 1991, seem particularly apt in these circumstances:
The Chair can devise no strategy, however aggressive or interventionist, and can imagine no codification, however comprehensive or strict, that will as successfully protect the Canadian parliamentary traditions that we cherish as will each member's sense of justice and fair play. Especially at this time of crisis of confidence in our parliamentary institutions, our constituents deserve and will tolerate no less.
Accordingly, after studying the precedents in these matters, I am not able on technical grounds to find that a prima facie case of privilege exists in this case.
I would like once again to thank the hon. member for Mount Royal for bringing this serious and important matter to the attention of the House and of Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I understand that what we say here is covered by immunity, especially on this day when you had warned members on a few occasions about being careful regarding their language. I would invite you to look at the blues for the question that was asked by the member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, where he, twice, attacked a very serious servant of this community.
As a former municipal councillor myself, I know how hard municipal servants work. This man across the way, probably in the noise of all the others from that third party, attacked the mayor of an Ontario municipality by calling him names. It was not a lapsus linguae. He did it twice.
I invite you, Mr. Speaker, respectfully, to read the blues.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to table a petition before the House, duly certified by the clerk of petitions, regarding the Government of Canada's hasty and uninformed announcement to close the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.
In light of the historic and recent marine tragedies, including the Ocean Ranger tragedy, the Cougar 491 tragedy, the Ryan's Commander tragedy, the Melina and Keith II tragedy, to name just a few incidents, as the petitioners say in their prayer, and due to fatalities unique to Newfoundland and Labrador in the maritime setting, the request that Parliament reverse its ultimate decision and immediately reinstate the Marine Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.
These petitioners hail from Englee, Newfoundland and Labrador, along with several other communities in my riding of Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte.
The electoral district of Humber--St. Barbe--Baie Verte (Newfoundland and Labrador) has a population of 73,171 with 59,797 registered voters and 208 polling divisions.
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