Mr. Speaker, as you have heard several times in the House today, the New Democratic Party is in support of this legislation. However, we think it is important to bring to the House the concerns raised by the many witnesses who came from Nunavut and the Northwest Territories to express some concerns about the legislation. They took the time to make sound, genuine recommendations for improving the bill. Some of the issues were not resolved in the time for consultation. I would like to share some of those, as have some of my colleagues.
I will be sharing my time today with my colleague, the hon. member for Alfred-Pellan.
The bill is a very important one. It is very important that all jurisdictions in Canada have a sound system for reviewing projects, for planning developments in their communities and for environmental impact assessments. This particular legislation has been long in coming, as my colleagues have pointed out. The agreement between the Crown and the people of Nunavut was signed in 1993. Yet here we are, two decades later, and this legislation is only now being brought forward. There have been successive governments in power that have dropped the ball. To the credit of the government, it has moved forward with the legislation. There has been a greater attempt at consultation, but clearly not enough.
Interestingly, in the bill there is reference to the duty to consult. I am not sure that some of my colleagues have raised this issue. In the bill, under part 1, which deals with the Nunavut planning and project assessment act, the minister is obligated to consult closely with the territorial minister, the designated Inuit organization, the commission and the board created under the bill on any amendments to the bill in the future. What is not made clear is whether the minister is obligated to do that consultation in advance of tabling the bill. There are a number of matters that merit improvement. Perhaps the government will listen to my hon. colleagues, who have suggested that it would be wise to have a review of this legislation sooner than 10 years from now so that we might address some of the factors that are missing, particularly in the second part of the bill dealing with surface rights in the Northwest Territories.
Part 1 of the bill deals with Nunavut planning and project assessment. Many of the mechanisms created in this legislation are already set out in the land claims agreement. That is the normal course of what has happened in the modern treaties. The step that was missing was that we needed the federal legislation to actually implement the intricacies of the systems for planning and assessment. To their credit, the people of Nunavut have been proceeding for 20 years to try to deal with these complicated matters without the legislative framework. Now we have a legislative framework.
As I mentioned, I had the privilege of sitting in on the committee for one day to replace one of my colleagues. I had an opportunity to talk with a number of the representatives from Nunavut and with other witnesses who have raised a number of concerns about the bill. They had a number of pragmatic, practical recommendations to improve the bill. Sad to say, none of the recommendations made to the committee, which we brought forward as proposed amendments, were accepted. I think that is most regrettable. It raises questions about how sincere was the consultation on the bill.
One thing I would like to bring attention to, which I am not sure anyone else has mentioned, is relevant to the issues that have arisen with the bill. There has been some suggestion, particularly by the member for Western Arctic, that concerns have been raised by the first nation peoples in the Northwest Territories that the part of the bill to do with the surface rights board is perhaps being rushed through too quickly, for a number of reasons.
Not all of the first nation final agreements include a surface rights board. In some cases they are saying they do not have any issues under the surface rights system, and they are asking, what is the rush? In other cases, some first nations have said that since they have not settled their land claims yet, they will likely litigate.
Therefore, there are a lot of questions about the rushing through and, again, the omnibus nature of it. The personalty of the government when it has dragged its heels seems to be to wrap it all up tight with a ribbon and table it in the House. In this case, these are two very distinct pieces of legislation that cover two distinct territories of our country. It is rather puzzling that it has forced these together.
The matter I want to raise is the series of legal actions, first filed by the Inuit of Nunavut, represented by Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, against the Crown, in 2006. They filed that action, very regrettably, because negotiations had broken down on the duty of the federal Crown to actually deliver its side of that modern treaty. A big part of that was passing over the necessary finances for Nunavut to begin acting as a modern government. The action dealt with breaches of the agreement relating to core funding to establish systems of governance; failure of the Crown to act in a manner consistent with the honour of the Crown; and, contrary to the terms of the Nunavut final agreement, failure of the federal Crown to deliver its responsibilities.
Since 2003, proper and adequate funding has not been provided. It is interesting to hear the list of entities within the Nunavut government that the federal government was not supporting, which goes to the very matters under this legislation. It was failing to adequately fund the Nunavut Planning Commission, the Nunavut Impact Review Board, the Nunavut Water Board, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, the Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal, and the hunters and trappers organizations.
In addition, the action alleged that the federal government was failing to deliver a general monitoring plan, which is required under the agreement. Last year, in June, the court held that in fact the government had erred in law and was required to provide that funding. Guess what happened? The government has appealed that matter. Therefore, instead of simply transferring over the dollars that it signed on to and is constitutionally obligated to transfer, it has simply taken Nunavut to court, again.
They have also alleged no co-operation in the development and implementation of adequate employment and training, which was obviously necessary in order to deliver the functions of all of these boards for planning and assessment. They also advised that there was no Inuit impact and benefit agreement entered into.
There has since been a land claims coalition created, which includes the various Nunavut entities and other governments that have been created under modern treaties. In fact, that coalition of people under modern treaties met in this area just last week and had discussions about the frustrations they are still facing, some progress they are making, and the successes and attributes of working together.
Therefore, the legal actions proceed. Most of their claims have yet to be resolved so they have to continue in the courts, at the same time that they were sitting down and trying to negotiate in good faith. To the credit of the people of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, they did sit down and try to find time, regardless of the lack of appropriate resources and expertise to help them in those negotiations.
It is my understanding that many of these same concerns have been raised regarding the content of Bill C-47. The bill contains no duty or commitment to contribute the resources necessary to implement these selfsame commissions, boards and tribunals established under the first nation final agreements and self-government agreements.
As has been stated by my colleagues, many of the witnesses who came forward said they were delighted that this legislation is finally coming forward after 20 years but they had additional measures they need to make sure it will work properly. Those witnesses are the people who chair and participate on the boards, tribunals and commissions. Among the recommendations that they made are the very ones we brought to the attention of the House. They include the fact that legislation should include a requirement by the government to adequately finance these boards, commissions and tribunals.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to the question that has been raised by the member for Alfred-Pellan regarding a couple of issues.
First, she spoke specifically about Ashley Smith and that very tragic incident. She is also asking about Correctional Service of Canada and the treatment that offenders with mental health issues receive, measures that are very important and that are taken very seriously by this organization to prevent death in custody, such as in the tragic case of Ashley Smith.
Given the ongoing coroner's inquest into Ms. Smith's death that is currently under way, my hon. colleague will understand that it would be very inappropriate for me or any of us to comment on this situation specifically. Any loss of life is significantly tragic, and this is something our government takes very seriously. That is why our government directed Correctional Service of Canada to fully co-operate with the coroner's inquest. To Ashley's parents, her family and her friends, all of us agree that this is tragic. Our thoughts and our prayers go out to them and for the suffering they continue to endure.
On the issue of Correctional Service of Canada, I assure members that since this incident, CSC has introduced a number of additional initiatives and programs specifically aimed at the preservation of life in an effort to prevent death in custody. Furthermore, CSC continues to pursue initiatives that will help it position itself to avoid such tragedy in the future. It is obvious to all of us that this is not a stagnant process. This process has to be continuous, with CSC learning and developing best practices all the time.
Since 2006, our government has invested nearly $90 million in mental health specifically for inmates. We have taken action to improve access to mental health treatment and training for staff. These investments have helped us implement critical aspects of Correctional Service of Canada's mental health strategy, which is a leader in developed countries. These include building capacity in federal institutions and supporting offenders to return safely to communities, which is another very important part of rehabilitation. We also have, for example, ensured faster mental health screening. We have created a mental health strategy for prisoners. We have extended mental–psychological counselling and we have improved staff training, which is an important part of making sure that these tragedies do not happen again.
CSC continues to show its commitment to managing the mental health needs of offenders within Canadian correctional facilities, but work certainly remains to ensure that individuals receive the most appropriate care, which, by the way, may not be in a federal correctional facility. That is why it is important to recognize the dedication and professionalism of the vast majority of CSC staff who work very hard every day, in very difficult circumstances, to make a positive difference in the lives of offenders across this country. Our government is dedicated to promoting CSC's efforts to prevent death in custody and to meet the mental health needs of federal offenders. We will continue to support its work toward ensuring the safety and security of all Canadians.
Before we resume debate, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, Environment; the hon. member for Alfred-Pellan, Correctional Service of Canada.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Drummond.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Alfred-Pellan. In fact, there are unilingual people not only in Alfred-Pellan, but all across the country. In most cases, francophones are the ones who end up penalized by regulations.
As I mentioned in my speech, the world we live in is becoming more and more international, thanks to globalization. As a result, there are times when Parliament loses control over documents used for incorporation, since most of them come from international sources. Some may come from a neighbouring country like the U.S., where 90% of documents are published in one language only, the other 10% being published in Spanish rather than in French.
This will penalize most unilingual Canadians, specifically unilingual francophones, since they will be unable to understand these documents. Such legislation will create obstacles for francophones who are faced with a time-sensitive situation, since they will have to wait for a translation.
The hon. member for Alfred-Pellan has 40 seconds to respond.
Order. The hon. member for Alfred-Pellan.
The electoral district of Alfred-Pellan (Quebec) has a population of 104,765 with 81,766 registered voters and 220 polling divisions.
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