The member for Manicouagan has just one minute.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Manicouagan for that very good speech and for his very committed work. I know that he has been doing great work raising awareness on a number of pieces of legislation, including the omnibus bill, Bill C-45, and Bill C-27, the financial transparency and accountability act, which the Conservatives have pushed through.
When it comes to NunatuKavut and other nations across the country, one of the things we observe is that while the comprehensive land claims and treaty or self-government agreements are stalled in negotiations, or not even accepted for negotiation, development is taking place on the traditional territories, whether it be forestry or mining. The people who have inhabited those lands for millennia are not benefiting from that development or are having no say when it comes to the environmental impact.
The Fort Chipewyan First Nations in Alberta are very concerned about the environmental impact on their communities. On the west coast, we have forestry. In Ontario, there is the Ring of Fire.
I wonder if the member could comment specifically on why it is important to move forward on negotiating these comprehensive land claims and treaty and self-government agreements so that the people who live in those territories have a say about the kind of development that is happening.
That this House call on the government to: (a) abandon its confrontational approach to First Nations, Métis and Inuit in favour of a nation-to-nation dialogue; (b) make treaty implementation, as well as the settlement and implementation of land claims, a priority, including in Labrador; and (c) begin negotiations in good faith with NunatuKavut Community Council on their comprehensive land claim that has been without a response since 1991.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise on behalf of New Democrats on this important motion before the House. I will be sharing my time with the member for Manicouagan.
New Democrats have put forward this motion today because of what we have been seeing over the last many years, actually for decades, particularly under the current government, which is that first nations, Metis, and Inuit continue to have their rights overridden by the government in any number of ways.
We have seen unilateral impositions of legislation, evidenced most recently by the fact that debate was once against shut down on Bill S-2, matrimonial real property rights. For the 31st time, the government has invoked time allocation.
One of the reasons we are bringing this forward is the context in which we are operating, but I want to put it in the context of some international documents. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, article 10 says:
Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.
That seems a very appropriate section of the UN declaration when we are talking about land claims. Treaties, comprehensive land claims, self-government agreements are now part of the Canadian landscape, and unfortunately, from coast to coast to coast, we have far too many examples where the government has simply refused to move forward in negotiating in good faith.
In case Canadians think that this is something new that the government should have some responsibility to take part in, I want to refer to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples where it refers to the 1763 Proclamation. The proclamation portrays aboriginal nations as autonomous political units. It goes on to say that aboriginal nations hold inherent authority over their internal affairs and the power to deal with the Crown by way of treaty and agreement. It also says that land concession is thus to be effected by mutual agreement or treaty.
One would think that a document from 1763 would actually continue to help shape and inform government policy, but sadly, in this country, nations have been forced to the courts to try to get the government to come to the table in good faith. We have any number of court decisions that continue to reaffirm indigenous rights and title. I cannot go through them all, because apparently there are about 180 of them, but there are some very key ones.
In the Calder decision in 1973, this was the first time that courts acknowledged that aboriginal title to the land had existed, and that this significant case would pave the way for addressing aboriginal title in Canada.
In Guerin, 1984, it established that aboriginal title was a sui generis right and the Crown had a fiduciary duty to protect it for aboriginal peoples.
In Van der Peet, 1996, there was established a set of criteria to determine whether an aboriginal right was protected as an existing aboriginal right under the Canadian Constitution, and just recently we had the Daniels decision that said all aboriginal peoples in Canada, including Metis and non-status Indians, are included in federal jurisdiction under 91(24) of the Constitution.
We have also had some provincial court decisions that continue to reaffirm rights and title and the duty to consult. We had the decision in December 12, 2007, where the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal delivered its decision in Newfoundland and Labrador v. the Labrador Metis Nation, and the Labrador Metis Nation is now known as NunatuKavut.
This was a unanimous decision and the court upheld that the province has a duty to consult the respondents in respect of their asserted aboriginal rights.
Why is this important? We have first peoples in this country who have been here for millennia. They are the people who lived on this land when the settlers came. I will talk a little bit about who the people of NunatuKavut are. NunatuKavut, from their website, says:
Our Aboriginal ancestors lived in Labrador long before Europeans set foot on North American soil. The land was part of them, and they were part of the land.
For Canadians who are listening, these communities line the southern coastal interior waterways of Labrador. They go on to say:
We are the more than 6,000 southern Inuit of Labrador. We are proud of who we are and what we've accomplished. Our rights are protected and enshrined in the Constitution of Canada. No one can take them from us. Our traditions resonate with the ways of our elders. Our respect for the environment, the sharing of our harvest, our knowledge of traditional medicines and practices, and our care for each other can be traced directly to our Aboriginal heritage.
It is very important that what we have here is, from coast to coast to coast, government refusal to respect the honour of the Crown and its judiciary responsibilities, and to respect Section 35 of the Constitution, which protects aboriginal rights and title. This series of court decisions continues to reinforce that duty for Canada to come to the table and negotiate in good faith.
Here is the reality. From coast to coast to coast, aboriginal peoples are being forced to take action to enforce their rights and title as the government refuses to negotiate or honour its duty to consult and accommodate.
On the east coast, we have seen hunger strikes, blockades, and arrests. The NunatuKavut submitted a land claim for consideration back in 1991. To date, this claim has not been accepted for negotiation. I would like to say that this is an isolated case. However, again, what we see from coast to coast to coast is that there are nations that have been in negotiations with the government for decades. The government simply refuses to act in good faith.
I had one elder who said to me that 70 years ago, when he was only nine years old, he sat at the knee of his grandfather. Here we are, 70 years later and his nation still does not have a treaty or a comprehensive land claim. It is shameful that we continue to have to have this conversation when we have such deep roots in our Constitution, in court decisions, in the royal proclamation that say that rights and title were reaffirmed and that the government does have a responsibility to protect and to negotiate.
We do not only have the NunatuKavut, who submitted their land claim in 1991. We heard just yesterday that the Innu will be shutting down Muskrat Falls because of the fact that racism continues in this country and their rights and title are not being recognized. Meanwhile, development continues and the NunatuKavummiut are watching it happen. They have not been consulted and accommodated. As I mentioned earlier, these are people with a very long history in what is now known as Labrador.
On the east coast, we have had this situation since 1991 where the government refuses to go ahead and negotiate the claim that was submitted in good faith by the NunatuKavummiut. On the west coast, we also have the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group being forced to take its case to the human rights commission of the Organization of American States. We have domestic court decisions that continue to reaffirm rights and title, but now we also have to go internationally because we cannot get the government to the table.
The Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group has a case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concerning the 1884 expropriation of over 237 hectares of resource-rich land from the traditional territories of the Hul'qumi'num peoples on Vancouver Island. The Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group alleges that Canada has violated international human rights norms by refusing to negotiate for any form of redress for the expropriated lands, which are now mostly in the hands of large forestry companies, and by failing to protect Hul'qumi'num interests while the dispute remains unresolved. They go on to say that in agreeing to hear the complaint, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ruled that the available mechanisms to resolve this dispute in Canada, whether through the negotiation or the B.C. treaty process, are too onerous and too constrained in their protection of human rights to live up to the standards of international justice.
Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come from the Grand Council of the Crees said:
Fair and timely resolution of land and resource disputes is essential for reconciliation of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada and for closing the unacceptable gap in standard of living facing so many Indigenous communities.
We can see that indigenous peoples in Canada are being failed consistently by the government, despite the fact that we have numerous court decisions that reaffirm the right to their lands and their right to the sharing of resources that are being developed on these lands.
I encourage all members to support this very important motion.
I will not comment on it, but perhaps the hon. member for Manicouagan will.
The hon. member for Manicouagan has eight and a half minutes left for questions and comments.
The hon. member for Chambly—Borduas.
Mr. Speaker, this is indeed a matter of decorum.
This is what it says on page 613 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice:
13. Rules of Order and Decorum
Rules Regarding the Contents of Speeches
References to Members
During debate, Members do not refer to one another by their names but rather by title, position or constituency name in order to guard against the tendency to personalize debate.
However, today, in the statements before question period, a member with 688 days of experience in the House, the hon. member for Manicouagan, deliberately and viciously named a member of Parliament.
Mr. Speaker, I urge you to read his statement in the blues, and you will see that that is what happened. I hope that you will make the decision you feel is best.
The hon. member for Manicouagan will have eight and a half minutes for questions and comments when the House resumes debate on the motion.
Before I recognize the hon. member for Manicouagan, I must inform him that I will have to interrupt him at approximately 6:30 p.m., at the end of the time provided for government orders today.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Manicouagan.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-48, the technical tax amendments act, 2012. It is a very important piece of legislation. While the legislation may be technical, it is nonetheless important legislation that would benefit all Canadians, providing the clarity and certainty to Canada's tax system.
Our government has conducted extensive consultations on the provisions of the bill, some provisions having been announced over a decade ago. As previous parliamentarians' efforts to pass these amendments were unsuccessful, the backlog has increased over the years, and it is more important than ever to pass these technical amendments. In fact, among those calling for Parliament to quickly pass the amendments includes the Auditor General of Canada, who in a 2009 report stated:
Taxpayers' ability to comply with tax legislation depends on their understanding of how the rules apply to their own circumstances. [...] Uncertainty about how the law should be applied can also add to the time taken and costs incurred by tax audits and tax administration.
I could not agree with the Auditor General more. However, it is not just the Auditor General who is saying this; it is all the other parties in the House, as the bill has all party support. In fact, earlier this week, during the finance committee study of Bill C-48, the NDP member for Parkdale—High Park, and finance critic for her party, said, “Obviously we support the goal of closing tax loopholes and making the tax system in Canada clearer and easier to understand for Canadians”. The NDP finance critic went even further, on Bill C-48's first day of debate, saying, “the official opposition [New Democrats] will be supporting the bill”.
One would think that after making such an unequivocal statement of support for the legislation that she and all NDP members would be eager to vote on this important piece of legislation and ensure its timely passage through the House of Commons.
Alas, the actions of the NDP seem to be at odds with the NDP finance critic's statement. I have to ask: What is the reason for the NDP delay? Even more puzzling, it is not simply the NDP finance critic who is displaying these bizarre tendencies; it is every member of the NDP. My hon. colleagues have all declared their support for the bill while at the same time trying to filibuster second reading, for over 100 days. This attempt to disrupt what is only the first stage in a long legislative process continues to delay the finance committee's opportunity to formally study the bill.
I have taken the liberty of reviewing the debate on the bill and, time after time, the NDP MPs are vocal in their support for this piece of legislation. For example, the NDP member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques said, “We will support this bill because it eliminates some tax loopholes and other measures that lead to fiscal inequity”. The NDP member for Beauport—Limoilou said, “It will be a great pleasure for me to support this bill”.
The NDP member for Manicouagan said, “We support the changes this bill makes, and particularly those aimed at reducing tax avoidance”. This sentiment was echoed by the NDP member for Surrey North, who said: “We support the changes being made in the bill, especially those aimed at reducing tax avoidance”.
The NDP member for London—Fanshawe said, “The bill makes important and long-overdue changes to the tax laws” , and then went on to say, “New Democrats support the bill..”. The NDP member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing said, “As the House is aware, the New Democrats are supporting the bill...”.
The NDP member for Scarborough—Rouge River even highlights that her reason for supporting the legislation is that many of the provisions have already been announced, declaring, “Once they've been announced, people accept them as adopted. It's for these reasons that we are supporting the bill”.
These kinds of comments from the NDP continue and continue. NDP member after NDP member have all voiced their support for this piece of legislation, which has been in Parliament for more than 100 days. Furthermore, all of these statements of support came on the very first day of debate; yet more than 100 days later, we are still debating the bill at second reading.
This is simply unbelievable. Why would members of the NDP support the legislation, but not ensure its passage at second reading to the finance committee for closer examination by their own NDP colleagues? One wonders what the NDP hopes to gain by prolonging the debate. Again, perhaps the members are unaware that many of the measures have already undergone extensive debate in this House.
In fact, Bill C-48 has been before Parliament for five months now, as it was introduced in November of last year. Do members know what this means? Clearly, the NDP members do not, and so I will spell it out for them.
Let me state again that the House of Commons has had more than 100 days to examine and debate this bill at second reading stage already. We have already had days and days of debate and heard hours and hours of speeches, but what has all this debate yielded from the NDP benches? As I have highlighted, it is repetition upon repetition of support and praise for this legislation.
Well, if NDP members truly do support it, I plead with the NDP to not stall second reading in debate. Let us work together and pass this important legislation that would help Canadians. Let us make Parliament work. That would be an important change for the NDP, as its members have repeatedly shown that they have a track record of delaying and opposing legislation that would be beneficial to Canadians. For an example of this, we need look no further than our Conservative government's economic action plan legislation in these recent years.
What is more, NDP members have shown time after time that they would prefer to vote against tax relief measures that help Canadians and our economy, such as the hiring tax credit for small business and the introduction of a tax-free savings account. They even voted against a reduction of the GST to 5%.
However, we all know what the NDP does support: a carbon tax. I find this very puzzling. On the one hand, the NDP would gladly support a reckless $21 billion carbon tax that would raise the price on essential goods and services for Canadians, but it would stall well-reasoned and thoroughly examined legislation like Bill C-48.
While the NDP finds these partisan procedural games amusing, Canadian taxpayers and businesses, who are waiting for these technical amendments to be passed, certainly do not.
Despite the NDP's bizarre position on this bill, Canadians can rest assured that their Conservative government will work to ensure the passage of Bill C-48 through Parliament so that taxpayers' confidence is not lost in Canada's tax system.
There remains one minute before the hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound has his five-minute right of reply.
The hon. member for Manicouagan has one minute.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak after my colleague from Manicouagan, who gave an excellent speech.
I am pleased to speak to this motion today and happy that we are getting an opportunity to address some of the long-standing concerns for Canada's first nation, Inuit and Métis people. It took New Democrats to bring this debate about, since the Conservative government has proven it does not understand the challenges, is unwilling to work in a respectful manner with first nations and is bereft of any ideas that would actually improve the situation for this section of our population, which has been trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty that is unacceptable.
Canadians are proud of our country, and for many good reasons. We are rated sixth on the United Nations human development index. However, when first nation-specific statistics are applied to that same index, first nations in Canada are rated—get this—63rd.
How could any member elected to this place not see this as a significant and pressing challenge?
It is clear that the current government does not know where to start. It has insisted on presenting its own solutions that pick away at the margins, instead of working with first nations to arrive at a mutually agreeable path of action that could get to the heart of the problem. In doing so, it invites a negative response. By dismissing its duty to consult, it not only angers first nations, but also manages to come up with legislation that acts as a lightning rod for communities that have grown weary of commitments that bear no fruit and of demands that are unreasonable.
Instead of doing something to truly address living conditions and employment opportunities on first nations, the current government has saddled them with onerous accounting regulations that duplicate work that is already being done in a different format.
Instead of doing something to create employment for this chronically underemployed segment of our population, the government meddled in the way that bands make decisions on how to allocate their land.
This Parliament has been seized with bills and budgets that dictate to first nations and do little, if anything, to address the real challenges that would help that United Nations human development index number start to move in the right direction.
For now, the sad fact is that decades of inaction and failure on the part of past governments are catching up with Canada, and the current government's heavy-handed treatment of aboriginal people has brought about a significant and strong reaction from people who have, frankly, had enough. That explains the Idle No More movement that has swept Canada.
However, it would be unfair to say that the movement is a reaction to just that.
Idle No More came about as a response to the hatchet job the current government did on the Navigable Waters Protection Act and picked up steam from there. That issue affects all Canadians, as does the worrisome direction the government has taken on many environmental issues.
I would like to read from a letter that is being circulated by the Chief of the Sturgeon clan in Whitefish River First Nation that helps explain these grassroots activists. Chief Shining Turtle's letter speaks to the pride he feels as he watches young people in that community become engaged in the political process and attempt to take control of their future by taking part in the political discourse of the day. He writes:
These Idle No More drums are not just for us: they beat for you because the legislation we are protesting does not just harm us—it hurts you and your children and your grandchildren. This is not about your aboriginal neighbours, it is about 'justice' for you, too. The omnibus budget bills change the law in ways that will forever harm the water and earth that we all rely on....
These bills take power away from the public—both aboriginal and non-aboriginal—to review and understand and speak out about projects which could harm the environment. Your children and grandchildren, and my grandchildren, will live in an unhealthier and, as a result, poorer world because of it.
We can see the issues are not confined to first nation-specific items. There is no doubt that there are many of those types of issues that helped create the climate of discontent, but it was the dismantling of the Navigable Waters Protection Act that provided the spark. Now, it is up to us to do something creative with the fire that has been lit.
We should learn from our mistakes and do that work in a respectful way in full partnership with our aboriginal neighbours, by making certain to fulfill our constitutional obligations, such as the duty to consult. Certainly there is much that can be done from this place that could help with that.
New Democrats are promoting ideas that could help create more employment for aboriginal populations. Instead of bringing in more temporary foreign workers, the NDP believes the government should address labour shortage by bringing in a job and skills plan that provides stable, predictable and sustainable funding. It should be developed in consultation with first nations for the successful aboriginal skills and employment training strategy, and for other programs to help first nations and other aboriginal groups fill skilled job shortages.
We believe the government should provide equitable funding for all first nations schools based on the motion called “Shannen's Dream”, passed unanimously by the House in February 2012, including core and program funding that is stable, sustainable and predictable, and that is determined in consultation with first nations.
That would be a start. However, there are more items that require attention as well. There are also numerous unresolved comprehensive land claims, which are in various stages of negotiation. In Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, the council of Thessalon First Nation and Chief Alfred Bisaillon recently published a letter to their neighbours that explains the land claim dispute they are trying to work through. The letter explains how the Lake Huron Treaty of 1850 contains a serious mistake in the translation from Ojibwa to English, which resulted in their reserve being surveyed at 40 square miles instead of 144 square miles. They have been frustrated by their dealings with the Canadian government on this, as has the mayor of the township of Huron Shores, Gil Reeves. They have been relegated to observer status as the provincial government hands out logging and mining permits on their land without consent or benefit for their community. Today there are an estimated 900 specific claims that remain unresolved. At the present rate it is expected to take a hundred years to settle them all.
At the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, we have heard repeatedly that these unresolved land claims stand in the way of the kind of development on these lands that the government is seeking. That is the order of operations that first nations are telling us has to be followed, and no amount of bullying by the government is going to make them budge on that.
This brings us to the federal government's legal duty to consult. That constitutionally entrenched duty has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the courts. Needless to say, the government's obligation to consult and accommodate first nations, Inuit and Métis before passing legislation that affects aboriginal lands, waters and communities was not adhered to when the Conservatives gutted the Navigable Waters Protection Act and weakened environmental protection laws.
As we have heard, the government's failure to follow through on its obligations concerning aboriginal and treaty rights is at the root of the grassroots movement that has swept across the country. New Democrats consistently warned how reckless it was to introduce fundamental changes to environmental protection laws in omnibus budget bills and then ram them through Parliament. However, the Conservatives did not want to hear that, and they turned their backs on their obligation to consult with people affected by these changes. They chose instead to take a divisive and confrontational approach, which is how we find ourselves at a crossroad in Canada. What remains to be seen is whether the government will continue to dictate and polarize the relationship or turn a page and start to listen.
New Democrats are hopeful that it will be the latter. We believe in building a new relationship on a nation-to-nation basis with first nation, Inuit and Métis peoples and are committed to the principles of meaningful consultation and real co-operation. We understand that Canada is a stronger place when we choose to work together.
It is clear the government has not acted in a way that shows it shares this opinion. It made commitments at the first nations-Crown gathering that were abandoned in a few months. Despite promises for respectful consultations, it rammed through legislation without fulfilling its legal obligation to consult aboriginal peoples. When coupled with inaction on longstanding and pressing aboriginal issues, this behaviour has led to an historic and growing wave of grassroots actions sweeping first nations communities. That is why New Democrats are asking for a clear and concrete commitment from the House in order to help realize the potential that exists within first nation, Inuit and Métis communities.
When this matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Winnipeg North had six minutes remaining in questions and comments. Questions and comments.
Seeing none, resuming debate, the hon. member for Manicouagan.
Mr. Speaker, in the speech by the member for Manicouagan, he raised the issue of provincial jurisdiction. I wonder if he could comment on whether he has any knowledge about whether the federal government actually even talked to the provinces, because of course this is another example of naming the provinces as having some jurisdiction here. I would suspect that the government has not actually talked to them about what it would mean to their own current caseload. Could he comment on that matter?
Before resuming 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 Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, Fisheries and Oceans; the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, Aboriginal Affairs; the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, Foreign Investment.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Manicouagan.
The electoral district of Manicouagan (Quebec) has a population of 83,608 with 63,886 registered voters and 190 polling divisions.
This action requires you to be logged into Politwitter. No regisrtation is required, just authenticate using your Twitter account.