Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of things I would like the member to clarify for me. I can understand the rip it, strip it and send it quote because they do a lot of that in my community of Nickel Belt with the mines, but I would like him to explain. I am not sure if I heard correctly that the Canadian government spent $65,000 to bring in some people so they could try to convince them that they need our jobs. Do they need our jobs? Then he said something else about not being allowed to export raw material from the United States, yet the government is trying to convince them that we should do that with our raw material.
I am not sure if I understood correctly. Could he clarify that for me please?
Mr. Speaker, we have obviously been spending a lot of time on this here in the House of Commons. As I said in my opening question to the deputy leader of the Liberal Party, it seems that we have come to a point where the Liberals themselves are in agreement with the fact that their leader is in way over his head.
Last week we were in the House, and the Liberals were accusing the NDP of bringing forward a silly motion that showed how amateur the NDP was and so on and so forth. Now we have the Liberal Party basically admitting to Canadians that the new leader of the Liberal Party will be the member for Avalon. He is the person they trust more than their own leader to get to the bottom of issues.
Where are we with respect to the Senate? It is important that we look back and see where we are and what has happened.
On February 13, as I have said in the House on a number of occasions, Senator Duffy approached the Prime Minister to try to justify his inappropriate expenses. He approached the Prime Minister, who was very clear: if Senator Duffy had inappropriate expenses or expenses that he did not earn, he had to pay those back. The Prime Minister was very clear.
I do not think any of us, at least on this side of the House, would disagree with that statement. If someone has accepted a payment that he or she is not entitled to, it must be paid back.
The Prime Minister made quite clear to all of us, in a caucus meeting with senators and members of Parliament in attendance, the standard he expected from members of Parliament and each of us who is entrusted with taxpayers' money. He told all of us that if members have something inappropriate, they had better make it right. If they do not, they cannot expect their caucus to stand up for them. At the conclusion of that meeting, as I have said, Senator Duffy approached the Prime Minister to try to justify those expenses. The Prime Minister was very clear that he had to repay those expenses.
We then learned, along with all Canadians and all members of the House, that Senator Duffy had taken out a mortgage or a loan from the Royal Bank of Canada on one of his homes, and with that loan, he paid back the expenses. That is what we were told. Obviously, that was not true. There is no disputing the fact that Senator Duffy, at this point, had not paid back a penny of the inappropriate expenses he accepted.
We learned subsequently, when it was reported on May 15, that Nigel Wright had, in fact, repaid Senator Duffy's expenses. Nigel Wright, of course, understands that it was inappropriate. Nigel Wright is prepared to accept the consequences of that decision. Nigel Wright, as far as we understand, is working with the authorities in providing whatever information they ask for. We also subsequently learned that there were other individuals whom Mr. Wright had brought into his confidence with respect to his repayment of Senator Duffy's expenses. That was, of course, addressed by the Prime Minister in the summer.
Let us talk a bit further about what has been happening in the House for a number of months, because that is really at the heart of what this Liberal motion is all about. Since this came out, we have had the audit. Canadians I have spoken to, the ones who are contacting my office, want to learn more about how the Senate operates. They understand that there are two houses of Parliament, but they do not always appreciate the independence the Senate has with respect to the House of Commons. They understand that we have certain rules we follow over here with respect to how we submit and receive our expenses, but they do not understand how this was able to go on in the Senate for so long, and they want accountability.
Canadians also know that one of the ways they can extract accountability from their members of Parliament is by throwing them out of office at the time of the next election. It frustrates them that they do not have that exact same ability with senators. It frustrates them that there is no way to remove a senator from office until that senator reaches the age of 75.
The member opposite, from the NDP caucus, asked a question in which he talked about former Liberal senator Andy Thompson. Canadians remember this. Here was a Liberal senator, the former leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, who I think was appointed in 1967, I suppose by Pierre Trudeau or by Lester Pearson. I assume it was Pierre Trudeau, because it was late 1967.
By 1997 people were wondering who the heck this senator was. People started to look into it. He appeared once or twice a session to collect his paycheque, but then he was gone. We subsequently found that the senator had actually been living in Mexico. However, for years he still collected a paycheque from the people of Canada as a senator. It never dawned on the Liberal Party that that was somehow inappropriate for the taxpayers of Canada to be paying for a senator to live in Mexico, come up to Canada, show his face in the Senate once or twice a session, collect his paycheque, collect credits toward his pension, and in no way participate in any of the debates that were so important to Canadians at that time.
Debates such as those on the GST and free trade were very important, and so was the repatriation of the constitution. This senator did not participate in any of it, because he was busy tanning in Mexico. No one in the Liberal Party ever thought that was a problem and they had better do something about it until members of the Reform Party at the time brought this out and asked how appropriate it was. Then all of a sudden the Liberals decided he needed to be removed from the Senate, his salary stripped, and so on. Thirty years later, they finally got around to it.
Canadians also remember, sadly, Senator Raymond Lavigne. This was brought up by my NDP colleague, the member for Nickel Belt. Senator Lavigne, if I recall correctly, was having one of his assistants clean his cottage and chop down some trees. He was getting paid to do that. Senator Lavigne was on the public payroll for years while he was going to court, where he was subsequently found guilty.
Canadians look at this and say they cannot throw them out through an election. When they abuse their expenses, unlike the case in the private sector, where they would be fired, in the Senate they are told not to show up for work. They keep all of their privileges, continue to get paid, and receive credits toward their pension. Canadians know that is unacceptable and, rightly, it frustrates them.
The same goes for these senators right now, Senators Brazeau, Wallin, and Duffy, and recently retired and disgraced Liberal Senator Mac Harb. Here is another case. Mac Harb is a former Liberal member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre. He lived in Ottawa, became a senator for Ottawa, but then found a way to manipulate the rules so that he could claim a housing allowance by buying a home 120 kilometres away from Ottawa, just outside the area, and then pretending to live there. He collected an allowance, year after year, as someone living away from Ottawa.
We all have the opportunity in this place to decide where our principal residence will be. There are a lot of members who, for travel reasons or because they are cabinet ministers or for whatever reason, choose to declare that their principal residence will be in Ottawa, even though they have a home elsewhere. My principal residence is in Stouffville. I declare that as my principal residence when I am asked. However, other members who are here more often and perhaps have extraordinary flight challenges getting back and forth may decide to make their residence here. We understand what that means in relation to our expenses. It is not a confusion to any of us, so it should not be a confusion to the senators either.
As we have been saying right from the beginning, just because somebody can figure out a way to abuse the system and then try to go back and say, “Well, the rules are the rules, and I was able to figure out a way around them“ does not mean that the person should be protected. As the Prime Minister said, it is not only about following the letter of the law, it is about following the spirit of the law.
The vast majority of us in this place, on both sides of the House, have never violated that trust. We understand it. We get it.
We know that there were some members of the Liberal Party who did not quite get it. I think two of its sitting members abused that trust. I hope that they have subsequently paid the money back. I am not sure. I have never seen any copies of cheques showing they have repaid the hundreds of thousands of dollars in residence claims to which they were not entitled.
However, I will take them at their word. If they say they have paid it back, I guess they did, although I have not seen any copies of the cheques suggesting that they have.
However, that does not make it right. Just because someone can figure out a way around the rules does not make it right.
What are Canadians asking? They are saying they understand there are challenges and they are asking us to make it right, so they want us to look at the Senate and find ways that we can reform it. As a result, we have a package of reforms that we have put forward to the Supreme Court of Canada to find out ways in which we can actually reform the Senate.
Canadians have also been clear that they do not want to get into a big, long-drawn-out constitutional battle. They do not want us fighting with our provincial partners regarding the Senate. One of the things that Canadians have most talked about as well is how well the provinces and the federal government have worked together during the great recession to benefit the Canadian people. They do not want to turn back the pages to a time when the federal government was fighting with the provincial governments on everything. However, they do want change.
We have asked the Supreme Court of Canada to help us, to give us a road map to show us how we can change the Senate so that it better reflects Canadian values of the 21st century in order that Canadians can once again be proud of that institution, but in such a way that Canadians can be consulted so that there are term limits for these senators and so that Canadians' voices with respect to accountability can be heard. We are waiting for the Supreme Court to give us that advice so that we can bring it forward and make some changes.
What we said in our throne speech is that if we cannot change it, then it has to be abolished. I think it is quite clear that Canadians will no longer tolerate a Senate that has zero accountability.
In relation to this motion, I get to answer a lot of questions in question period. I know that often my colleagues on the NDP benches are not happy with how I answer the questions, and that is fine. I get it. I understand. I am not always happy with the way they ask the question and they are not happy with the way I answer the question, but at least they actually ask questions on something that they think is important. Their leader gets up in the House and asks those questions. I might not like it and I might want to talk about other things. I think it is important we talk about other things, such as the economy, and I think it is important we talk about health care, trade, and natural resources, as was already mentioned. I think these are also very important things we should talk about
However, this issue is obviously important to the members of the official opposition. This is a priority for them. They are asking those questions, and we are obliged to answer them.
However, they do it from the floor of the House of Commons, unlike the third party, which has clearly been left leaderless. The Liberals have clearly been left embarrassed by their own leader's inability to do anything of any significance or importance within this House of Commons.
The Liberals could start by having their leader's stage handlers pull out a copy of Hansard from May so that he could be brought back up to speed on what we have been talking about since then, as opposed to turning over the reins to the new or presumptive Liberal leader, the member for Avalon, and telling the member for Avalon that it is now his responsibility to do the job because the Liberal leader has so miserably failed in his duties.
What do they want? This is something that at least one opposition has been seized with. The Liberals have tried in their silly way to gain some traction, but it has been quite clear that when it comes to this issue, the leader of the NDP has taken the spotlight, and it is killing the Liberal leader. It is killing the Liberal leader that somebody has stolen his spotlight. What is more evident is just how irrelevant the Liberals have become on matters of any importance to the Canadian people. They are completely irrelevant.
The Liberal leader was elected in April and was going to bring so much hope to the Liberal Party. Liberals waited and waited and waited. Canadians waited with bated breath. Then, how was his first policy formulated? He was having a dinner party at his house with his friends and maybe his advisers; I do not know. They pulled out a joint and started talking about things, and the idea that maybe they should legalize marijuana came up. Now, there was a good policy.
The member for Richmond Hill told me he has a lot of dinner parties at his house. He said that usually people bring wine and they share a bottle of wine, but nobody has ever pulled out a joint and formulated policy on it. Liberals waited and waited and waited, and is that what he had?
Now he is saying he does not have what it takes in the House of Commons, so he is going to cede everything over to the member for Avalon, three hours in front of a committee is enough, and it will be put to bed.
I know why the Liberals want to do this. As we are learning today, the Liberal leader is actually instructing his senators to abstain from voting on these motions. He is actually telling them to abstain. It is being reported in the media, the same media that the Liberals have believed 100% of the time throughout this controversy. They do not care about any of the facts, but if something is reported by a certain person, it has to be true. That same person is now reporting that the Liberal leader has instructed his senators to abstain from voting on this matter.
As the member for Trinity—Spadina just said, the Liberals have lots of practice in abstaining. They do. It is very rare that Liberals will ever come forward with any options.
We have heard this before. I remember that when I was a bit younger, the Liberals said in 1993 that they were going to get rid of the GST and get rid of free trade. Well, the GST and free trade are still here, and then they tried to take credit for how the economy grew because of free trade.
One of the reasons I got involved in politics was that I remembered the debates between John Turner and Brian Mulroney on the free trade issue. I remember those debates. Former prime minister Turner, who was also the leader of the opposition, was passionate every day in the House about what he believed, and he fought for those beliefs. Ultimately, was he wrong? Yes, he was wrong, but he had a belief and he fought for it day in and day out. He stood in this place and fought for it.
I know all members in the House would agree with me that they cannot even begin to imagine that same level of debate from the current Liberal leader, who thinks it is more important to smile for a camera than to be in this place every single day and debate the issues that are important to Canadians.
No matter where we fall on this issue, we cannot help but see it as a desperate attempt by the Liberals to steal some of the spotlight away from the NDP and to do their best to make sure their leader never has to speak on this issue, because he has nothing to say. Other than protecting the status quo, they are terrified that he might actually speak on any substantive issue, anything of importance, because what he says changes from area to area. Unless his stage handlers have put something right in front of him, Liberals are terrified, so they have now told the member for Avalon that he is the new presumptive leader of the Liberal Party. He is the person Liberals trust on this issue. He has three hours to get it done and not do anything to upset the status quo in the Senate.
I think Canadians understand that. When it comes to fighting the status quo in the Senate, there are some people they can trust, and it is certainly not the Liberal Party of Canada.
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-547, An Act to amend the Navigable Waters Protection Act (Fox Lake and other lakes and rivers).
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for York South—Weston for seconding my bill.
Today I introduce my bill to amend the Navigable Waters Protection Act to re-protect many lakes and rivers of Nickel Belt. After the government stripped protection from 98% of Canada's lakes and rivers, I received an incredible volume of mail from constituents asking that their lakes and rivers be re-protected. I have named some 34 waterways in this legislation, including Lake Wanapitei, which is a source of drinking water for the City of Greater Sudbury. We know that navigation is directly related to environmental conditions, ecosystem protection, water levels and the commercial and recreational use of water. We must protect the interests of cottagers, boaters, recreational fishers, municipalities, first nations and more.
This is not just an issue for environmentalists. If a river or lake is not protected, it means that anyone can build a bridge, set up ferry service or create an obstruction that will affect navigation on the lake or river.
It is not right that all of these groups and individuals assume the onus to take a developer to court if the proposed protection affects a lake or river. My New Democrat colleagues have launched a campaign to return protection to the lakes and rivers Canadians hold dear. I am happy to include Nickel Belt lakes and rivers in that campaign.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to stand in the House of Commons to speak on legislation and other matters. The bill on the disability tax credit, which I thank the member opposite for introducing, is a vivid reminder of how important our work is.
Persons with disabilities face many barriers or challenges to live full lives. We have real opportunities, as lawmakers, to make a difference in their participation in communities. There are obvious physical barriers to address for this sector. However, today we address equally important barriers, namely financial barriers. We have an opportunity in our tax laws to ensure fairness, justice and equality for persons with disabilities, who lose significant income that others might be able to earn more easily.
Before speaking directly on this legislation, let me recognize the good work done by our current critic for persons with disabilities, the member for Montcalm, and critic for the Canada Revenue Agency, the member for Victoria. They have been outstanding new members of our caucus and serve their constituencies and critic areas well.
I also have to pay tribute to the extraordinary work done on the disability tax credit by a former NDP critic, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. He has been legendary, both in our caucus and in the persons with disabilities networks, for crossing the country to facilitate workshops on the disability tax credit. He has been holding disability tax credit workshops for nine years now in his own riding.
I recently read a comment from a person named George, acknowledging how informative these sessions were. George was grateful that he was able, with the retroactive feature, to secure a tax credit of over $13,000. There are thousands of Canadians who have benefited from these seminars.
My own riding staff in Nickel Belt have also done outstanding work, to inform people and then help them navigate the bureaucratic channels to receive their money. My office wants to make sure that every eligible Nickel Belt resident knows how to access this legitimate entitlement under the Income Tax Act.
As we know, many persons with disabilities struggle from cheque to cheque or find themselves below poverty levels. The disability tax credit can amount to up to $1,380 per year and can be claimed retroactively for up to 10 years. It is transferrable to spouses and other family members if the income of the relative with a disability or infirmity is too low. I will talk about some of these cases in a minute.
Our party has made it clear that we support this legislation at the third reading and report stage. We have noted, though, that a study is needed to improve recommendations about the consultants and other equally important issues.
Certainly it is necessary to establish limits on maximum fees charged by promoters. However, the biggest issues related to the disability tax credit are not addressed in this bill. The application process for the tax credit is not transparent and persons with disabilities have trouble obtaining it.
As a northern Ontario member of Parliament, in a vast riding, I know the cuts by the Conservative government to the Canada Revenue Agency have had a real impact on services offered to Canadians. Closures of Canada Revenue Agency offices across Canada discriminate against persons with disabilities who often need to meet with an advisor.
These issues have become clear when I have talked to people in my riding for whom my staff and I have tried to help secure a disability tax credit.
These people have a right to this money, but they are at a supreme disadvantage. My constituents tell me that without knowing how much money they will get, they have to sign an “authorization of representation” form to authorize consultants, such as National Benefit Authority, to represent them. They have all signed the “authorization or cancelling a representative” Canada Revenue Agency form, T1013, which gives permission to the NBA to access their Canada Revenue Agency account. They have to agree to pay a fee of as much as 30% of the money that the firm gets for the constituent.
The amount of the credit and the refund is complicated by whether the constituent has taxable income or might be transferred to a spouse.
When helped by my staff, people have shared how upset they were when they realized they could have come to my office in the first place, received the assistance and not had to pay the consultancy fees. In one case a woman was eligible for DTC in the amount of $4,800, but the firm took $1,600 which left her with $3,200. If she had not gone with the firm, she would have received the entire amount.
Some of these firms advertise in local newspapers, asking people with disabilities to go to them for help. People go, not knowing that they are being charged for their services. If they had only gone to the MP's office, they would received all of these services for free.
Another constituent who had been getting the DTC was disqualified without any real explanation and could not talk to a person at CRA. This is not right for anyone, but especially for the elderly or disabled. They want to talk to a person.
Many Canadians try to contact the CRA, but it is increasingly more difficult. They get a message on the telephone asking them to press one, press two, or “Sorry, you pressed the wrong number, so you have to call back“. This is as equally frustrating for people with disabilities as for seniors. This has become a real problem for so many folks trying to access help from the Canada Revenue Agency.
In the north, we have seen cuts to offices that now have fewer people, and since the decision in 2012 to have no direct dealing with people, there have been more and more frustrated constituents. The 1-800 and Internet services can be extremely frustrating, particularly for people who already face enough barriers in their lives.
Sometimes government offices advise people to visit my MP office for assistance. Imagine going to a government office and because of all of the cutbacks to Service Canada that the Conservative government has made, the people who work there will advise that they would get better and faster service at their MP's office.
The Government of Canada is missing in action. Imagine the Government of Canada not being in the business of serving Canadians, but downloading and off-loading to the offices of MPs. The government is missing in action in northern Ontario. Missing persons posters for the Government of Canada could be put up in post offices with what the Conservatives have done to government services.
Another problem is when a doctor refuses to complete the application. We have had three cases where people have been told by their doctor that they do not qualify and who would not complete the form. In one case the person had the DTC previously, but the doctor refused to complete the form. The person did not then feel comfortable going to another doctor.
Let me elaborate on the circumstances of this person. He had been collecting DTC for many years, but had to reapply and get the doctor to re-sign the forms. This gentleman, whom I know quite well, is obviously disabled. He has one arm shorter than the other and is blind in one eye. Yet the doctor figured he could get a job.
This is something that has to be done. I do not know why some doctors act this way. I think it should be up to the CRA, especially when a disabled person is already collecting DTC.
In 90% of the cases regarding DTC and CRA, people had to go back to their doctors for more information or clarification. Quite a few of the DTC cases went to the review level to provide additional information. This process can take up to one year before they receive any information.
Carmela Hutchison, president of the DisAbled Women's Network of Canada, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and the DisAbled Women's Network of Canada support the objectives of Bill C-462 and agree that persons with disabilities are fully entitled to protection from the unreasonable fees being charged by financial promoters.
We want real support for this program and better protection against financial abuse and therefore we want to impose restrictions on the fees charged by promoters to people with disabilities.
Let us get this right. Let us fix the problem with DTC. Let us simplify the application process to make it more accessible for persons with disabilities. Let us reverse cuts to the CRA and provide it with necessary resources to provide information sessions on the—
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from a number of people from the London area who want to draw the attention of the Minister of Health and this House to the fact that the federal government needs a national strategy for dementia and the health care of persons afflicted with Alzheimer's.
The petitioners ask that the Minister of Health and the House of Commons pass Bill C-356, which was introduced by the MP for Nickel Belt, and they ask the minister to initiate discussions within 30 days of the act coming into force.
The petitioners want specific national objectives to be set, and they want to encourage greater investment in research for the discovery or development of treatments that would prevent and reverse the effects of dementia and Alzheimer's.
Mr. Speaker, first I would like to clarify something which the previous speaker said, that the opposition did not want to take part in the Indian Act. I want to make it clear that the official opposition wants to get rid of the Indian Act, but we want to do it by consulting with first nations. We do not want to act like the Conservatives and tell the first nations what they want. We want them to tell us what they want. That is something strange for the Conservative Party.
I am happy to speak to this legislation concerning amendments to the Indian Act. This bill is important as it deals with deleting sections of the Indian Act on wills and estates, sales of produce, trade with certain people, and the sections on residential schools. It also calls on the government to make an annual report to Parliament on its progress on dismantling the Indian Act.
It is important for other reasons too. I am always happy to have another opportunity to speak about the four first nation communities in Nickel Belt, and specifically a few recent events that relate very much to the matter of consulting with first nation communities, which is an important element of our debate.
Nickel Belt's first nation communities include Nipissing First Nation, Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, which I will speak about later, and also the Wahnapitae First Nation, which is extensively involved with Glencore Xtrata mining projects. They monitor the environment for this mining company along with the water. They do this because Glencore Xtrata consulted with the first nations. That is very important. The other first nation in my community is the Mattagami First Nation. They work very closely with a company called IAMGOLD. The reason they work very closely with this mining company is that the mining company consulted with the Mattagami First Nation. They work very well together.
If the Conservatives would start consulting with first nations, they would find that first nations are really interested in consulting. Unfortunately, the Conservatives are not.
These first nations make contributions to the social and economic life of our region. Given some of the urgent crisis in conditions in some first nation communities in the county, I want to say that these four communities find themselves in pretty good shape. This is the result of their leadership and community members. It is not to say there are no challenges, but it is to recognize the work that has been done there.
When I see a bill like this one regarding changes being made that so affect the lives of our aboriginal and first nation members, I would want to assume that they have been consulted about the changes, but that would be a bad assumption in this case with this bill. Sadly, it is a bad assumption, given the sorry record of the Conservatives and the past Liberal governments.
We do not support this bill for several reasons, including this glaring lack of consultation. The sponsor did not consult with first nations before presenting his bill. I was in his riding this summer. His constituents are very upset with him because he did not consult with them before he presented this bill.
It may be all well and good to delete some archaic provisions of the Indian Act, such as the sale of produce; however, it is not right to proceed to delete other sections, such as the provisions on wills and estates, which could put first nation citizens living on reserve in legal limbo because there is no guarantee that provincial legislation would appear to protect them.
Equally important, we object to the deletion of the provisions on residential schools. This was supposed to be in government legislation, not hidden in a private member's bill. New Democrats would like to see those provisions dealt with by the minister as promised to first nations at the first truth and reconciliation national ceremony.
Let me tell members about those recent events in my first nation communities that underline the importance of consultation with them.
Back in 2003, when the commission on boundaries decided it would split the Nipissing First Nation in two, one-third of it coming to Nickel Belt and two-thirds going to the Nipissing riding, it did not consult with the first nation and it made a very bad decision.
Fortunately this last commission will make this decision right. How will they make it right? By joining the community together and by consulting with the first nations to see what they wanted. The Nipissing First Nation members made it clear that they wanted to be together in one riding, and thankfully the commission listened to them.
Nipissing First Nation has also just recently concluded a $124 million land claim settlement. In the next month, it will be receiving financial compensation for over 100,000 acres that were lost to it due to an inaccurate survey done long ago. I was happy to do my part in getting the payment out to the Nipissing First Nation members, and I congratulate the minister for his role as well.
I mention it because the land claim settlement came about by consultation and listening. This must be at the heart of righting the relationships with our aboriginal brothers and sisters.
My second event to cite is a recent CBC Radio town hall in which I was happy to participate that took place at the Atikamesheng Anishnawbek First Nation. It addressed many pressing national and regional issues concerning them. The town hall was called Aboriginality: Living Together. The conversation about Canada's relationship with first nations has reached a critical point, and that relationship is critical to successful communities in northeastern Ontario. I would like to thank Markus Schwabe from CBC for putting this on. It was very informative and very good.
We talked about a lot of issues during that town hall. There was a round table set up and we had Mrs. Naponse at this round table. We had Chief Miller at this round table and we had John Rodriguez, an educator and former mayor, plus we had a Franco-Ontarian artist married to a first nations person.
We talked about a lot of things during this panel discussion, but the thing that impressed me the most was the number of people in that community centre, and the vast majority of them were white people. Every single one of them who got up to speak said that the government should consult with the first nations. That is exactly how the opposition feels.
For many years, first nations have said that the Indian Act is holding back progress. It does govern almost every aspect of life for people living on reserve. In July 2011 at the annual meeting of the Assembly of First Nations, National Chief Shawn Atleo said it was time to set aside the Indian Act and dismantle the Department of Indian Affairs to create two smaller departments, one to administer a government-to-government relationship, and the other to provide services to first nations. He also said that it was a process that must be led by first nations; again, consultations.
New Democrats want to work with first nations to develop modern legislation that helps first nations communities thrive. This process must be led by the first nations and deal with priorities that have been identified, like education for first nations children.
New Democrats do not want to tinker with the Indian Act and make any changes that would have unintended consequences. There needs to be a detailed study of changes that must be made and how that should happen, provincial law not necessarily being applicable on reserve in the case of dissent about property or an estate, as one simple example.
AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo, who had repeatedly called for the abolition of the Indian Act, criticized the unilateral approach taken by the sponsor of this bill when introducing legislation of such significance without the involvement of first nations.
In closing, the results of this unilateral approach are as predictable as they are tragic. The Auditor General says that over the years things have gotten worse and the gap in quality of life is widening. We must have genuine consultation.
The electoral district of Nickel Belt (Ontario) has a population of 89,377 with 71,107 registered voters and 205 polling divisions.
This action requires you to be logged into Politwitter. No regisrtation is required, just authenticate using your Twitter account.