Before I recognize the hon. member for Manicouagan, I want to inform him we have just four minutes remaining. He will have more time when the House resumes debate.
Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with the member for Manicouagan.
I rise today to speak to Bill S-8. I had the opportunity to speak to this bill last November. I sat on the committee and I must say that the testimony from witnesses only reinforced the NDP's opinion that this is a flawed piece of legislation.
At the heart of this debate is a basic human right: the right to safe, affordable and adequate drinking water. Unfortunately, this is a challenge in many Canadian communities, including several first nations and Inuit communities.
Canada has such an abundance of water that it is hard to imagine that such problems could exist in such a developed country.
While the appropriate course of action is to develop safe, reliable systems in partnership with the communities in need, the Conservative government has chosen to legislate regulations that would force these communities to go it alone. In fact, this legislation seems more about pursuing a Conservative view of how first nations should be run than about dealing with the actual problem. It would create demands and conditions for first nations, yet it is predictably short on the resources that would allow these communities to comply.
Bill S-8 excuses the government from its primary obligations to first nations while subjecting them to substantial risk, significant financial burdens and a patchwork of provincial standards for the delivery of safe drinking water.
This bill fails miserably when it comes to the real challenge, which is helping first nations build the capacity that would allow them to do the work of administering water and waste water systems on their lands. It is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. In the case of communities that have been consistently asking for assistance for specific problems, they are getting rules and regulations instead of help with bricks and mortar.
The problems we have seen with flooding this spring in Kashechewan help illustrate this point. That community has been asking for help with waste water, which has been identified as problematic, since flooding in 2008. It has asked for assistance in developing storm sewers and with placing back-flow limiters on each house. Guess what? The government has consistently refused to step up, and this spring, homes in that community were inundated with backed-up raw sewage, which then forced the community to be evacuated. The minister tried to blame this on the lack of training, yet it was a company that was actually monitoring this.
On a larger scale, we can consider the testimony the committee heard from a municipal group that included the mayor of Maple Ridge and metro Vancouver's general manager of corporate services, both of whom sit on metro Vancouver's aboriginal relations committee. They reminded the committee that the report of the 2009 national assessment of first nations water and waste water estimated the cost to bring 618 individual first nations up to standard would be $4.7 billion, and it would take a decade. In addition to that, the cost to operate these improved systems would be $419 million a year.
The metro Vancouver delegation told us that local governments were concerned about this legislation's broad powers to delegate to any person or body any aspect of drinking water provision, monitoring and enforcement, which could have significant implications for local governments, as providers of utility services. It also highlighted areas of concern identified by local governments.
On that note, I want to tell the House that what we were hearing was that it may be very difficult to have municipal governments even wanting to assist first nations in hooking up to their systems because of the onerous aspects of this legislation.
Among their concerns were the following: there has been a lack of consultation and local government input; the transfer of responsibilities is unknown; the level of services is unclear; there are challenges with bylaw regulations and enforcement; there are legislative and jurisdictional uncertainties, which appear to be similar to the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act; regulatory authority over reserves is unclear; there is a need to clarify financial liabilities; there are unknown funding capacities; and there is a lack of an adequate implementation plan. Does that sound like legislation that is ready to roll out? I do not think so.
As I mentioned, the committee heard from many witnesses who spoke to the deficiencies in Bill S-8. The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has made three submissions on this bill and its predecessor, Bill S-11. It echoed many of the criticisms of other witnesses and stated:
We remain alarmed and concerned with the federal government’s continued approach and insistence that legislation is the answer for First Nations. We question why the current Canadian Government must be compelled to legislate as opposed to doing what is humane and just by providing adequate resources to ensure comparable water systems as the rest of Canada.
It went on to state:
Trust is earned through respectful, reciprocal and honourable actions and good faith negotiations.
The creation of legislation and policy without seeking and meeting the realistic needs of First Nations will not create success or the accountability that government is seeking for its investments.
It is not for a lack of desire that first nations do not have appropriate systems to deliver safe drinking water or manage waste water. If there is a deficiency in the process, it is certainly related to being able to deliver on those desires.
I have heard from Whitefish River First Nation on this subject as well. In a letter to the minister, Chief Shining Turtle provided the government with some basic math that showed how flimsy the government's community infrastructure investment was, and also illustrated the incredible costs related to doing the kind of work that Bill S-8 would make mandatory for these communities.
Here is the math that I believe needs to be considered by all members. The government has committed $155 million over 10 years, so let us do the math. This comes out to about $15 million a year, divide that over 8 regions that INAC uses and it becomes $1.94 million a year per region. We are going down. Divide the $1.94 million over the Ontario region's 133 first nations and the total is $14,567.67 a year. How far will that go?
One more crucial number that has been provided is the cost per metre to construct water mains on the Whitefish River First Nation. It is $300 per metre.
While the government brags about the size of their investment in community infrastructure for first nations, in reality that money is only enough to build 48.5 metres of water main a year.
In addition to these problems, Bill S-8 regulations may incorporate, by reference, provincial regulations governing drinking and waste water in first nations communities, but those regulations are not uniform, which could lead to unequal burdens for communities for what is primarily a federal responsibility.
The expert panel on safe drinking water for first nations expressed concern about using provincial regulations, claiming it would result in a patchwork of regulations leading to some first nations having more stringent standards than others.
In addition to that, the regulations in this bill would overrule any laws or bylaws made by first nations. Bill S-8 would also limit the liability of the government for certain acts or omissions that occur in the performance of their duties under the regulations the bill sets out.
As I mentioned at the outset, safe drinking water is a basic human right. The connection to health and economic well-being that flows from safe, dependable and affordable water cannot be dismissed, but this legislation is missing the mark entirely.
In addition to that, the bill would leave communities on the hook for existing problems they may not have created themselves. In those instances, if what these places really want is to start over in an attempt to get things right, the reality is they will be saddled with problem systems they have inherited.
It will make first nations liable for water systems that have already proven inadequate, but offers no funding to help them improve those deficient systems. Even if a first nation wants to build a replacement to better suit its needs, it will have to maintain its old, often costly systems at the same time.
Here is an example of how that will work. Constance Lake First Nation's water supply has been through a state of emergency. Its traditional water source was contaminated by blue-green alga, which resulted in a shutdown of its water treatment plant. It has drilled two new wells and has been off boil-water advisories for the first time in years, but also requires a new system to ensure quality and to meet its growing demand. Under the provisions of this legislation, it will be liable for the old system, while it tries to build a new one. It will be forced to waste money instead of being allowed to invest it smartly.
I see my time is up, and I will finish up the rest during the question and answer period.
I thank the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake for his intervention.
It is true that members should be sure to keep their comments relevant to the question before the House. In hearing the hon. member, he is making some connections in respect of his arguments. Having said that, I will leave it with the hon. member to make sure that he brings his arguments around specifically to the question that is before the House in the course of his arguments.
The hon. member for Manicouagan.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start off by saying that I have only 10 minutes. Given the many criticisms we have levied at the Conservatives for their incompetence on fiscal and budgetary matters and their inability to run a modern economy, I do not think 10 minutes will be enough. However, I know that my colleagues in the NDP caucus will be speaking to this as well, and we will be speaking as long as we can, because there are a variety of issues that need to be raised.
I would like to start by putting on the floor a fact the Minister of Finance is well aware of. The fiscal period returns filed with the Department of Finance, which is surely not a hotbed of social democrats, have been saying for 20 years running that the best governments for balancing budgets and paying down debt are NDP governments. The Minister of Finance knows this. He would never stand up and praise the NDP. However, he knows full well that the NDP is best at balancing budgets.
NDP governments are simply better than Conservative governments. I will not even talk about Liberal governments, because they are in last place. The reality is that we run a better health care system, pay more attention to the environment, do more for working families, and most importantly, are actually better at balancing budgets than the Conservatives are. That is why I think in 2015 we will see the first federal NDP federal government in Canadian history.
Talking about balancing budgets is one thing, but let us talk about the economic record of the government. We have had some Conservatives today stand up. They love to say that they have created hundreds of thousands of low-cost jobs for temporary foreign workers. That is the only thing they can point to as far progress and any sort of success for the Conservative government.
We think that is wrong-headed. The economic direction of the country should actually be to look at building high-paying jobs for Canadians. It is a different approach. However, when we look at the Conservatives' record, they have lost half a million well-paying, family-sustaining jobs in the manufacturing sector. Then they deposit a budget, which we are discussing tonight, Bill C-60, which, according to a legitimate, independent, impartial judge, the parliamentary budget officer, would cost Canadians 67,000 jobs.
The Conservatives are laughing at that. They are saying, “So what?” Ordinary working families actually care that the Conservatives have been so inept as to lose 67,000 jobs through their budgetary incompetence.
When we talk about the loss of high-paying, family-sustaining jobs in the manufacturing sector, something the Conservatives do not seem to understand, they reply that they are creating well-paying jobs in the Canadian Senate.
I think it is fair to say that on this side of the House, we do not even think the Senate should continue to exist. Like most Canadians, we believe that the Senate should be abolished and that the $100 million we put into it to bloat the expense claims of Conservative senators could better serve by providing support for working families in this country. That is what an NDP government would do, of course.
On other budgetary priorities of the Conservative government, we have had some very eloquent speeches tonight from the member for Manicouagan and the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, who talked about the crisis we are seeing in northern housing. Yet Conservatives want to put money into the F-35s, even though the initial budgetary proposal of $9 billion bloated to $20 billion then $30 billion and now $40 billion-plus. No one knows on this side of the House how much this will eventually cost Canadians. There is not a single Conservative who is able to give us a precise number.
However, it is not just that. It is the Conservatives' other record.
The Conservatives have inflated the advertising budget in just one ministry by 7,000%. There is a 7,000% increase in advertising for Natural Resources Canada. It is as if they are opening their wallets, which actually belong to the Canadian taxpayers, and throwing money on the floor. It does not seem to matter when they are running ads. As the member for Ottawa Centre said so eloquently, it is for programs that do not even exist. They are just running and throwing money left, right and centre.
The Prime Minister flew at a cost of over $1 million to have his limousine over in India. We have seen Conservative cabinet ministers going from four-star hotels, because that was not good enough for them, into five-star hotels. It is simply unacceptable.
Conservative fiscal management is an oxymoron. What we have is Conservatives simply betraying their voters. This is what I hear most often. It is Conservative voters, people who voted Conservative in the last election, who tell me that they did not vote for this. They did not vote for the corruption, scandals and fiscal mismanagement. They did not vote to lose jobs. They did not vote for a threefold increase in temporary foreign workers when job training programs in Canada are going unfunded. They did not vote for all of that.
A time of reckoning is coming soon. Canadians are very upset at how the government has betrayed the commitments they ran on.
I want to say one more thing about the whole approach on the economy. We think it is just wrong-headed. We see what the Conservative government is doing putting all of its emphasis on exporting raw resources—raw bitumen, raw minerals and raw logs. When the Conservatives send raw materials out of the country, they are actually exporting Canadian jobs. They should not be proud of that. They should be ashamed of exporting Canadian jobs.
What we say is that we need the value-added here. In my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster, after the softwood sellout was signed by the Conservatives, 2,000 full-time family-sustaining jobs were lost. Three plants went down. Canfor, Interfor and Western Forest Products went within weeks of the signature on that softwood sellout. Those jobs can only be re-established if we have a government that is determined to bring value-added manufacturing back to Canada.
Look at the green energy sector. There is a revolution happening worldwide. We are talking about $2 trillion in investments over the next decade and five million jobs worldwide in clean energy and renewable energy sources, but the Conservatives are saying, no. What they are going to do is continue to subsidize the very profitable oil and gas sectors by over $1 billion a year.
On this side of the House, we think that is wrong. On this side of the House, we actually think that we are seeing these countries, as the member for Burnaby—Douglas mentioned, investing in innovation, research and development and green jobs, and that is the future path Canada should be taking.
More and more Canadians believe in that vision as well. We are seeing more and more Canadians looking forward to 2015 when they can get this wrong-headed approach out and actually look with hope and inspiration to future prosperity in this country.
There is one last thing I wanted to mention. I come from a riding where the vast majority of my constituents are new Canadians. They have seen how mean-spirited Conservatives are when it comes to gutting the family reunification program and increasing costs for visitor visas. The families I represent, who want to come for funerals, weddings or the birth of a new child in the family, are stopped by Conservative incompetence in the immigration file. In fact, we have never had a time when it was tougher for families to get together just to visit.
However, we see in Bill C-60 that the Conservatives actually want a blank cheque from new Canadians for visitor visas for their families in their countries of origin when they come from India, China or the Philippines. When they come to Canada, the Conservatives are slapping them in the face and saying that now they are going to pay more. Not only are the Conservatives going to reject their applications; they are going to pay more for visitor visas and for student visas. When their family members want to come and visit them in Canada, they are going to have to pay more. As we know, in most cases, they are rejected.
That shows the height of disrespect for new Canadians in this country. On this side of the House, in the NDP caucus, we believe that new Canadians are first-class Canadians too. They deserve to have their family members come and visit them for these important family occasions and not be attacked by these mean-spirited Conservative taxes they impose for visitor visas, student visas and the like.
We believe that new Canadians should be treated with respect. What a concept.
For that and many other reasons, we are going to be voting against this mean-spirited budget, against the financial incompetence of the government and against the attacks that it is putting against Canadian families.
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 electoral district of Manicouagan (Quebec) has a population of 83,608 with 63,886 registered voters and 190 polling divisions.
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