Canada, House of Commons Debates, “Constitution Amendment Proclamation, 1983”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (27 June 1983)
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, House of Commons Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1983 at 26749-26762.
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COMMONS DEBATES — June 27, 1983
CONSTITUTION AMENDMENT PROCLAMATION, 1983
MOTION TO AMEND CONSTITUTION OF CANADA
Hon. Mark MacGuigan (Minister of Justice) moved:
Whereas the Constitution Act, 1982 provides that an amendment to the Constitution of Canada may be made by proclamation issued by the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada where so authorized by resolutions of the Senate and House of Commons and resolutions of the legislative assemblies as provided for in section 38 thereof;
And Whereas the Constitution of Canada, reflecting the country and Canadian society, continues to develop and strengthen the rights and freedoms that it guarantees;
And Whereas, after a gradual transition of Canada from colonial status to the status of an independent and sovereign state, Canadians have, as of April 17, 1982, full authority to amend their Constitution in Canada;
And Whereas historically and equitably it is fitting that the early exercise of that full authority should relate to the rights and freedoms of the first inhabitants of Canada, the aboriginal peoples;
Now Therefore the House of Commons resolves that His Excellency the Governor General be authorized to issue a proclamation under the Great Seal of Canada amending the Constitution of Canada as follows:
PROCLAMATION AMENDING THE
CONSTITUTION OF CANADA
1. Paragraph 25(b) of the Constitution Act, 1982 is repealed and the following substituted therefor:
“(b) any rights or freedoms that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired.”
2. Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 is amended by adding thereto the following subsections:
“(3) For greater certainty, in subsection (1) “treaty rights” includes rights that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired.
(4) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the aboriginal and treaty rights referred to in subsection (1) are guaranteed equally to male and female persons”.
3. The said Act is further amended by adding thereto, immediately after ection 35 thereof, the following section:
“35.1 The government of Canada and the provincial governments are committed to the principle that, before any amendment is made to Class 24 of section 91 of the Constitution Act, 1867, to section 25 of this Act or to this Part.
(a) a constitutional conference that includes in its agenda an item relating to the proposed amendment, composed of the Prime Minister of Canada
and the first ministers of the provinces, will be convened by the Prime Minister of Canada; and
(b) the Prime Minister of Canada will invite representatives of the aboriginal peoples of Canada to participate in the discussions on that item.”
4. The said Act is further amended by nodding thereto, immediately after section 37 thereof, the following Part:
“PART IV.1 CONSTITUTIONAL CONFERENCES
37.1 (1) In addition to the conference convened in March 1983, at least two constitutional conferences composed of the Prime Minister of Canada and the first ministers of the provinces shall be convened by the Prime Minister of Canada, the first within three years after April 17, 1982 and the second within five years after that date.
(2) Each conference convened under subsection (1) shall have included in its agenda constitutional matters that directly affect the aboriginal peoples of Canada, and the Prime Minister of Canada shall invite representatives of those peoples to participate in the discussions on those matters.
(3) The Prime Minister of Canada shall invite elected representatives of the governments of the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories to participate in the discussions on any item on the agenda of a conference convened under subsection (1) that, in the opinion of the Prime Minister, directly affects the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories.
(4) Nothing in this section shall be construed so as to derogate from subsection 35(1).”
5. The said Act is further amended by adding thereto, immediately after section 54 thereof, the following section:
“54.1 Part IV.1 and this section are repealed on April 18, 1987.
6. The said Act is further amended by adding thereto the following section:
“61. A reference to”the Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982 shall be deemed – to include a reference to the Constitution Amendment Proclamation, 1983.”
7. This Proclamation may be cited as the Constitution Amendment Proclamation, 1983.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise, on what may be fairly called a historical occasion, to move a resolution to authorize His Excellency, The Governor General, to issue a proclamation respecting amendments to the Constitution of Canada.
For the first time in Canada’s history we are today setting in motion a procedure for the amendment of our Constitution, a procedure that no longer requires us to have recourse to the Parliament at Westminster. And it is perhaps fitting that these first “made in Canada” amendments should relate to the rights and freedoms of the first inhabitants of Canada, the aboriginal peoples.
May I draw to your attention, Mr. Speaker, the presence in the galleries of a number of the leaders of our aboriginal peoples.
Some Hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Mr. MacGuigan: We welcome their witness to this further stage in the work we have undertaken together.
The Constitution Act, 1982, which was proclaimed here in Ottawa by Her Majesty the Queen on April 17, 1982, contains three references to the aboriginal peoples of Canada.
Section 25, which is a Section in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, amounts to a rule of construction and provides that:
The guarantee in this Charter of certain rights and freedoms shall not be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any aboriginal, treaty or other rights of freedoms that pertain to the aboriginal peoples of Canada including
(a) any rights or freedoms that have been recognized by the Royal Proclamation of October 7, 1763; and
(b) any rights or freedoms that may be acquired by the aboriginal peoples of Canada by way of land claims settlement.
Section 35, which comprises Part II of the Act, is entitled “Rights of the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada.” This Section is substantial in nature. It provides for the recognition and affirmation of the existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada, and goes on to define the term “aboriginal peoples of Canada” to include the Indian, Inuit, and Métis peoples of Canada.
The Section reads as follows:
35. (1) The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.
(2) In this Act, “aboriginal peoples of Canada” includes the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.
Two aspects of this provision are worthy of note. First, to the best of my knowledge Canada is one of the very few countries whose Constitutions recognize and affirm the existing rights of its aboriginal peoples. Second, never before, in any constitutional document or Act of Parliament have the aboriginal peoples been defined.
The third reference to the aboriginal peoples is to be found in Part IV which is entitled “Constitutional Conference”. Part IV consists of Section 37, which reads as follows:
37. (1) A constitutional conference composed of the Prime Minister of Canada and the First Ministers of the Provinces shall be convened by the Prime Minister of Canada within one year after this Part comes into force.
(2) The conference convened under Subsection (1) shall have included in its agenda an item respecting constitutional matters that directly affect the aboriginal peoples of Canada, including the identification and definition of the rights of those peoples to be included in the Constitution of Canada, and the Prime Minister of Canada shall invite representatives of those peoples to participate in the discussions on that item.
(3) The Prime Minister of Canada shall invite elected representatives of the Governments of the Yukon and the Northwest Territories to participate in the discussions on any item on the agenda of the conference convened under Subsection (1) that, in the opinion of the Prime Minister, directly affects the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories.
This section is particularly interesting in that, since it stipulates that a constitutional conference shall be held within one year after the coming into force of the Constitution Act, 1982, with a view to considering possible amendments to the legislation, it implies that the legislation in question is incomplete in its present form.
In this respect, Mr. Speaker, the resolution now before us, while perforce presented as a proposed amendment, constitutes a first proposal to settle with our aboriginal peoples certain constitutional questions left unresolved.
To understandclearly the intent of the resolution which the House is considering today, we must, I feel, take into account not only the letter of the section in question, but its spirit as well.
First, you will note that the Conference agenda had to include “An item respecting constitutional matters that directly affect the aboriginal peoples of Canada, including the identification and definition of the rights of those peoples to be included in the Constitution of Canada”. May I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to a slight but deeply significant difference between the words respecting rights found in this Section, Section 37, and those found in Section 35. “The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada”, the wording used in Section 35, refer only to rights that are aboriginal in nature, or have been or may be acquired by treaty. This Section deals with Canada’s historical obligations to its native peoples.
Turning to Section 37 we find a different wording with respect to rights. That Section speaks of “the identification and definition of the rights of those, that is, the aboriginal peoples to be included in the Constitution of Canada”.
It will be seen right away that the wording of Section 37 is much broader than that contained in Section 35. The rights in Section 37 need not be in existence. Rather, the section looks to rights not yet identified. Nor are these rights constrained by the terms “aboriginal” or “treaty”. In other words, Section 37 concerns itself with the rights of the aboriginal peoples asthey should be, as well as as they are.
I do not suggest that the Sections are not linked. The process of identification and definition of new rights certainly includes the identification and definition of the existing aboriginal and treaty rights referred to in general terms in Section 35.
Under normal circumstancesanyone seeking identification and definition of any rights contained in the Constitution must have recourseito the courts, but Section 37 provides, for our aboriginal peoples, a political route to follow to seek identification and definition not only of rights now contained in the Constitution, but of rights to be included in the future.
I think this careful consideration of the wording of the Constitution is important to a proper understanding of what is proposed in the resolution before the House today. I hope that Hon. Members do not find it too svearisome, and I can assume you, Mr. Speaker, that I am rapidly coming to the close of the scriptural exegesis portion of my remarks.
Before I leave Section 37 may I draw the attention of the House to that part of the Section which provides that the Prime Minister of Canada shall invite representatives of the aboriginal peoples, “to participate in the discussions”. This might be seen as the third element of the framework that
underpins the special position ofiour aboriginal peoples in Canadian society as a whole. First, Section 25 protects the rights of aboriginal peoples by a rule of non-derogation in construction. Second, Section 35 recognizes their existing aboriginal and treaty rights, and third, Section 37 not only provides for the inclusion of further rights of aboriginal people in the Constitution but assures their participation in discussions of their rights.
The Constitution Act, 1982, as it is presently drafted, made a constitutional conference a definitive solution. However, it soon became very clear to all interested. parties that the unresolved issues respecting the aboriginal peoples and the Constitution could not be settled in only one year and by only one conference. Early last summer, the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) informed the aboriginal leaders, the provincial premiers and the territorial governments that it would be advisable to set up a permanent mechanism to replace the conference provided for in Section 37, a mechanism which would play a role no less important than the conference itself.
If I may now turn to the resolution, starting at the end rather than at the beginning, you will find, Mr. Speaker, that the new Section 37 that is proposed provides for two further constitutional conferences. The Section, as amended, continues the thrust of the original Section 37 and need not delay us further at this time.
I should at this point, however, draw to your attention that by an accord signed by the Government of Canada and by nine of the provincial Governments, with the participation of the leaders of the aboriginal associations and the territorial Governments attested by their signatures, a third constitutional conference, chronologically to be the first, is to be held within one year of the completion of the conference held in March of this year. The fact that this conference, being the first in time, is agreed to in an accord rather than contained in the proposed amended Section 37 derives from the delay involved in the operation of the amending formula. I shall deal with the amending formula in a moment.
So, Mr. Speaker, we look ahead to three further constitutional conferences that will deal with what I have earlier called the unfinished business respecting our aboriginal peoples and the Constitution, the first of these conferences to be held prior to March 16, 1984; the second, prior to April 17, 1985; and the third, prior to April 17, 1987.
The schedule and work plan that lie before us amply demonstrate, I believe, the shared commitment of the aboriginal peoples, the Government of Canada, and the provincial and territorial Governments to the completion of this aspect of constitutional renewal, the identification and definition of the rights of the aboriginal peoples.
But the security of the on-going process is not the only achievement of the constitutional conference. Turning once again to the resolution we find, first, a proposed amentlment, by way of clarification, to the rule of construction in Section 25. A similar amendment, but this time substantial in nature, is proposed to Section 35 in the form of a new Subsection which makes it clear that the treaty rights referred to in that Section include “rights that now exist by way of land claim agreements or may be so acquired”.
Hon. Members will be aware, Mr. Speaker, that our aboriginal peoples were eager to ensure that aboriginal rights are guaranteed equally to male and female aboriginal persons. Some confusion has ensued as to whether the wording contained in the resolution before u.s is that agreed upon at the conference. I can report to the House, however, that the leaders of the aboriginal peoples, showing a totally admirable generosity of spirit, have notified the Government in writing, that the wording now before us can stand, thereby avoiding delay in the process of amendment.
May I in this House express my thanks to those who have so kindly written to me and to the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau), and confirm publicly today that we will revisit this issue when we meet again next year.
The proposed wording of the new equality Subsection in Section 35 as it now stands is as follows:
Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the aboriginal and treaty rights referred to in Subsection (I) are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.
The last of the amendments proposed in the resolution before us today arises from the wish, common. to all the aboriginal organizations, to have what they have described as a “consent” clause which would make it a constitutional requirement that they signify their consent to any amendment to any of the Sections of the Constitution that specifically affect them.
These provisions would give aboriginal peoples the right of veto with respect to certain sections of the Constitution. This would be unacceptable to the Government of Canada, since, with the exception of certain very specific cases, only the Parliament of Canada which represents all of the people of Canada enjoys a right of veto.
However, most of the conference participants acknowledged the fact that the sections of the legislation directly affecting the aboriginal peoples require special protection against possible, although, I would hope, unlikely, arbitrary intervention from one or the other of the governments.
I In furtherance of this objective the resolution proposes a new Section in Part IV of the Act, to read as follows:
35.1 The Government of Canada and the provincial Governments are committed to the principle that, before any amendment is made to Clause 24 of Section 91 of the Constitution Act, 1867, to Section 25 of this Act or to this Part,
(a) a constitutional conference that includes in its agenda an item relating to the proposed amendment, composed of the Prime Minister of Canada and the First
Ministers of the Provinces, will be convened by the Prime Minister of Canada; and,
(b) the Prime Minister of Canada will invite representatives of the aboriginal peoples of Canada to participate in the discussions on that item.
The effect of the new Section is to extend into the future the role played by the aboriginal leaders at the conference held this year and to be played by them at the three constitutional conferences, thereby giving permanent effect to the thrust of the original Section 37.
The new Section identifies Section 25 and Section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982. We have looked at these earlier. It also identifies Section 91(24) of the Constitution Act of 1867. Hon. Members will recall that this is the provision that confers on the Parliament of Canada the exclusive right to legislate for Indians and Indian lands.
It should also be noted that the new Section is cast in the form of a commitment by the Government of Canada and the provincial Governments rather than in the form of a justiciable provision. This exceptional formulation brings me to a brief discussion of the amending formula.
As a general rule, an amendment to the Constitution of Canada calls for passage of a resolution by the Senate and Commons of Canada, and by at least seven of the legislatures of the Provinces together making up 50 per cent of the population. In the Accord to which I referred earlier, nine of the Provinces and the Government of Canada have undertaken to pass the necessary resolutions prior to December 31, 1983. Not forgetting the vagaries of the political life, I believe that this should ensure that the sought for amendments to the Constitution will be made in good time.
Turning once again to the proposed new Section 35.1, I may say that were it to be cast in the form of a justiciable provision, its effect would be to alter the amending formula. An amendment to the amending formula is one of the amendments which calls for unanimity, something which cannot be expected at this time for reasons I am sure the House will readily understand. Therefore, we have a political commitment enshrined in the Constitution. I do not feel we should see this as a lesser protection than a provision in justiciable form. Its exceptional nature tends rather to highlight it, and it will provie to be exceptionally difficult to amend or ignore.
Section 35.1 might be described, Madam Speaker, as an express convention of the Constitution. I should note that the resolution also contains a few consequential amendments, dearly beloved of lawyers but of little interest to anyone else.
Before 1 sit down I would like to say how impressed I was by the commitment and the diligtmce with which all the participants, Governments and aboriginal organizations alike, approached and pursued the long and difficult road which led to the agreement represented by the resolution before us. I believe that I can safely assert that we have opened a new chapter in the book which records the long and often sorry chronicle of the relations between Governments in Canada and our aboriginal peoples. Today, we write the first few paragraphs in this chapter. If we have the courage, the determination, and the respect for each other which is required, we can together complete this chapter, a chapter which our children and our children’s children will read with pride.
It is now my great pleasure, Madam Speaker, to move, seconded by the Hon. Member for Davenport (Mr. Caccia):
That the resolution be adopted.
Mr. Allmand: Mr. Speaker, in his remarks the Minister referred to letters from the aboriginal peoples in which they expressed their approval of the Accord. Would the Minister be willing either to table those letters in this House or refer them to the Standing Committee on Indian Affairs which will sit this evening, I believe, to consider this matter? I believe those letters will be very helpful in our deliberations.
Mr. MacGuigan: Mr. Speaker, I am certainly prepared to make those letters available. I understand they have already been sent to the Opposition spokesmen. Probably the best way to handle them at this point would be to make them available to the committee tonight when it meets to begin its deliberatrons.
Mr. Stan Schellenberger (Wetaskiwin): Mr. Speaker, I also take pride in standing today to debate the adoption of this resolution. I listened with great interest to the Minister as he put forward what in fact we were doing today, and I do not intend to repeat that. This is the first time that we, as a Parliament, will be discussing an amendment to our Constitution, an amendment which no longer has to go to Westminster to be adopted. I am very pleased that we are now able to do that. I take pride in whatever part I can play in furthering that process.
I would like also to congratulate the aboriginal people of this nation on the way in which they were able to fit into this process, so different from the process to which they are accustomed. This was their first conference, a conference which the federal Government and the Provinces had been participating in for decades. They were aware of the procedure to be followed as this negotiation was taking place, but the aboriginal people came there for the first time. Later in my remarks I will make reference to how the Government should have assisted them further. However, even though the aboriginal people came there for the first time, they were able to put forward their views and desires in a very forthright manner, which, I am sure, made the citizens of this nation very proud. I want to congratulate these people for doing that.
There are two issues which must be addressed by those of us here today, namely, the motion which is presented for deliberation, and the principle which is inherent in that motion. The Minister of Justice (Mr. MacGuigan) has placed this motion before the House. If passed, this motion would allow the Governor General to issue a proclamation to amend the Constitution so that two constitutional conferences, in addition to the one which is already specified in the Act, will be allowed to take place in the next number of years. What this is meant to do is to further the process of identification and definition of
the rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada in order that those rights can be entrenched in the Constitution and there will be, once and for all, a protection of those people; and their culture, their language, their way of life will no longer be completely subject to the whims of whoever the politicians are in this Chamber, or other Chambers, at any one time.
This Accord arose from and was signed as a result of a process of consultation and negotiation amongst the parties I have mentioned. This motion, which I endorse, which I know everyone in this House will endorse, is one that both we in this House and the provincial legislatures of this country should pass in all haste so that this can be entrenched in our Constitution at the earliest possible date.
One issue which I believe is very serious is the principle which is implicit in the motion. This principle is of vital importance to myself and to my Party, and to the people of this country, Canada. What is being challenged here today, and in other legislatures across the country, is the very rigidity of our Constitution, and what is being expressed is its dynamism, its ability to fulfil the needs and aspirations of the peoples who together comprise the country in which we have so much pride. This is the process which we are witnessing, and to which I would like to draw attention. It is not just another motion which comes to the House day after day. This motion is in its very nature the foundation of our Constitution.
Today the Government is asking for our endorsement of the ongoing process of identifying and defining the rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada. This endorsement I wholeheartedly give, and I know my Party wholeheartedly gives. An ongoing process is the only means by which the aboriginal peoples can achieve the commitment of the country through its most sacred law, the Constitution, of their right to remain a distinct people within the framework of the Canadian federation. Although I wholeheartedly endorse this goal, the goal of entrenching these rights in the Constitution, I cannot wholeheartedly endorse the manner and the means by which we have achieved this goal.
In my opinion, the process that was witnessed by the Canadian people prior to the constitutional conference held in March of this year was totally inadequate from the start. There were many inadequacies in trying to reach the goal of those people who, in good faith, attempted to thrust Canada into the ranks of the forerunners of the world in the way in which we accommodate our aboriginal people. The processes that were undertaken can be summed up, I believe, in one sentence. Nothing was done beyond reaching a consensus that something must be done. I do not believe that was good enough. It was not good enough for me. I do not believe it was good enough for the people of this country.
It is now time for Canadians to see that in Ottawa and in the Provinces there is a will, the political will to initiate the changes necessary to ensure that the aspirations of distinct peoples, no matter where they happen to live in Canada, are given the opportunity to flourish in freedom. If we need new blood to accommodate this purpose, then let there be that new blood. Let us exhort our Ministers and the present Government and, if there is a change in Government, the new Government and new Ministers, to take part in this very necessary process of negotiation that will bring the aboriginal people and the federal Government together in discussions, so that they can then meet the Provinces and bring about change.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau), in his opening remarks to the constitutional conference on March 15, was extremely candid, and I respected his candour. Upon reviewing his Government’s record with regard to aboriginal peoples, he said the following: “If we did not succeed, it was not for lack of trying”. I have watched over ten years, and I believe that he has tried. However, he has not tried hard enough. He particularly got off on the wrong foot some ten or 12 years ago. It has taken a long time for him and the Government finally to reach today’s debate on this resolution. Perhaps he has tried in the same way he has tried with the other problems we are so remorsefully facing.
At the constitutional conference, a voice rang out long and clear above the din, the voice of the aboriginal people. With their collective voice they were expressing that they do have a resolve as a people. I believe that voice was heard. Television projected it right across the country. I feel that within this Chamber, and within the provincial legislatures, the voice was heard, as well. I hope it was a voice heard with understanding and not just one with sympathy. People in this country will only take notice if we, as politicians in this Chamber and in the provincial legislatures, move forward with understanding, setting in place the kinds of resoltuions and then amendments to our Constitution which will assist our first peoples to have the way of life they desire.
I must admit that the role played by the federal Government in the conference was not the role that I envisaged. As I understand its role, it is to be receptive to the distinct or perhaps divergent interests expressed by the various groups in the regions throughout the country, and then to forge national policy which, while accommodating or taking into consideration the distinct views, will express national priorities that promote the good of all of the country as a whole. That is not what I saw at the constitutional conference.
The Minister mentioned advocacy and the exclusive right of the federal Government to legislate on aboriginal matters. The Government should have brought these groups together to discuss the points of view that were so important to each group. However, the only meetings that took place between the federal Government and the aboriginal people were to discuss agenda items, not to discuss the very basic issues that were to be considered at the constitutional conference, and then take those issues to the provincial Governments. The federal Goverment played only a moderating role. It moderated the discussions which had taken place. The guidance and advocacy by the federal Government which were most clearly needed just were not there. That is why I said at the beginning that I congratulated the aboriginal people for the way in which they were able to deal with the conference.
A number of conferences have now been put in place in the Constitution. That is what we are dealing with today, in the main. It is my hope that the process that we watched before the last constitutional conference will be distinctly changed. I believe that is the case. I am certainly advocating much more discussion between the various aboriginal groups and the federal Government on the issues that are to be considered by the constitutional conference before we bring the other participants, the Provinces, down to the actual conference, so that it will not be necessary to ask the same questions which were asked at the last one. That brings me to some other points that I think must be mentioned before the next conference.
The funding of these peoples is very important and is a problem which must be addressed in debate. When the federal Government prepares itself to go to a conference to deal with the issues in a national way, there are no restrictions on the funds that it uses or on the amount of personnel that it draws from various Departments to deal with the issues put forward in position papers. When the Provinces come to a national constitutional conference, they, as well, are under no restrictions. They do everything in their power to present views, to bring forward papers and positions, with the best people that they have in their Provinces. They do not have to adhere to specific budgets. However, when we ask the aboriginal people to put forward their position, to meet sections in the constitutional conference, the Government immediately puts restrictions on the funds. I do not think that there is an argument in the sense that they should have open-ended funding, but surely it should be adequate for them to present their position in a forthright manner, because it is so important to their future and to that of the country. I do not believe that that has taken place and I hope it will be discussed in the committee hearings before we bring this resolution back for final reading in the House.
We have noticed that there are great leaders in Canada amongst the aboriginal people. They are performing very well for their people. I watched as they negotiated positions at the constitutional conference. The process must also be very cautious to ensure that, when we are not before the cameras and the public in the negotiating rooms, where some excellent work is being done, the work is recorded properly so that we do not have to have letters, such as the Minister read. The record should be correct so all groups believe the wording can go forward. That happened at the last constitutional conference. I hope the situation can be rectified and a better system established as we move into the next constitutional conference.
I am very pleased to be able to participate in this debate today. I feel proud that we, as Canadians, can now discuss constitutional amendments in this Chamber and test our amending formula. We are showing Canadians that the Constitution is not rigid and changes can be made when they are sought.
I am also very pleased that our first change to the Constitution is for the first peoples, of this nation, our aboriginal peoples. I sincerely hope that we make our best effort to see that this entrenchment is made possible in the proper manner, and that the process can continue not only on behalf of aboriginal people but of all Canadians when there is a desire that it ought to take place.
Mr. Cyril Keeper (Winnipeg-St. James): Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to address the House on this aboriginal rights resolution. I am taking this opportunity to speak in the absence of my colleague, the Hon. Member for Cowichan-Malahat-The Islands (Mr. Manly), who is on the Indian Affairs Committee and has other areas of responsibility in Indian Affairs which he must deal with today. Therefore I am pleased to speak to this resolution in his absence.
I would begin by pointing out that while our Party supports this resolution we do not do so with a sense of celebration or achievement. There remains a great deal to be done since many matters have not been dealt with in this resolution. Up to this point we have achieved a fundamental agreement to continue discussions on defining aboriginal rights. That is an achievement worthy of note in the Canadian context, but we are certainly far from completing the job.
Another accomplishment worthy of note is the affirmation of the existence of aboriginal rights. This is the first time that Canadians, through their Governments and the constitutional process, have affirmed that aboriginal rights exist. We can put that part of the debate behind us and begin to discuss what those aboriginal rights are, and historically to whom those rights belong. However, even that affirmation of aboriginal rights has been tainted by the imposition of the words “existing aboriginal rights” in that clause.
While our Party supports this resolution, we are asking today for a more adequate process of discussing aboriginal rights. First, it is incumbent upon the Government to recognize all aboriginal peoples, whether Inuit, Métis or Indian. In the process of that recognition it is also necessary to recognize the uniqueness of each aboriginal group. This is of particular concern at this point in history to the status Indians in this country because, based on long experience, they are afraid that being included in a larger group of aboriginal peoples rather than as status Indians they will lose even that small amount that they have gained up to this time. Therefore, while recognizing the rights of all aboriginal peoples, it is important also to distinguish between the groups and recognize the uniqueness of each group.
This process could also be enhanced by involving the elected political leaders of the aboriginal people and the elected political leaders of the Canadian people, both provincially and federally, in ongoing discussions. The substance of these discussions should not be simply left to federal civil servants. This would not do sufficient justice to the necessary process of negotiations.
In order for this process to lead to a greater resolution of the problems now facing us, the federal Government should be willing to lay all of its cards on the table prior to First Ministers’ conferences. Before any such conference the federal
Government should make its positions known sufficiently far in advance so that Indians, Inuit and Métis can study those positions and have an opportunity to give solid and well thought out feedback to the Government. It is not good enough for the federal Government or provincial Governments to take part in the process in a secretive m.anner. They must put all their cards on the table so that we can have a truly open discussion which will lead to the definition of aboriginal rights.
We must have an ongoing process. We cannot expect substantive negotiations to take place under the glaring TV lights of another First Ministers’ conference. We all know that when politicians of whatever political stripe appear before cameras, they tend to posture and play to the audiences from the various constituences. It is crucial that the negotiations leading up to the definition of aboriginal rights continue on an ongoing basis so that the real work can be done before a First Ministers’ conference is convened. This would make those conferences move like other meetings between First Ministers or heads of state which are essentially celebrations of agreement or simply the formal signing of agreements that have been negotiated before a conference. It is not good enough to leave the essential work to be done under the TV lights.
Another factor in making this process more adequate for dealing with this question concerns the provision of financial and other resources to various aboriginal groups. In order for true negotiations to take place between the federal and provincial Governments and aboriginal associations, it is absolutely crucial that the aboriginal associations have adequate resources to match those of the bureaucracies that are at the disposal of the federal and provincial politicians.
We all know that in our modern, technological society, knowledge is indeed power. -Political leaders gain access to knowledge through their ability to hire experts from various fields and form them into a working team. When a political leader enters into negotiations he will have solid facts with which to back up whatever position he is taking. Therefore, adequate resources are crucial to meaningful negotiations over the definition of aboriginal rights.
Our Constitution is not simply a written document which is displayed as a poster orlibrary artifact. The Constitution of Canada is not simply that document we call the Constitution of Canada, the Canada Act or whatever appellation we give it, having abandoned the notion or the name of the British North America Act; the Constitution obviously is that document and the rules under which we form our Governments. It is also the document by which we govern ourselves on a day to day basis. I mention this because the way we govern ourselves as a nation on a day to day basis colours the perceptions we have of the Constitution and of the Constitution negotiations affecting aboriginal peoples.’ It provides the context within which the aboriginal peoples come to the constitutional table.
I want to make a couple of references in this respect. First, the Canada Lands Act, the legislative document which virtually gives absolute power to the federal Government in terms of development of resources in the north, clearly is a constitutional document even though it was brought about through legislative means.
How can we talk about recognizing in a true sense the aboriginal rights of the native people in this country in a context in which we have already given over the governing of the natural resources in the north to the federal Government to its agencies and through that to the large corporations which seek to develop those resources in the north? Clearly, there is no real definition of aboriginal rights, particularly to those people in the north, without some meaningful access to those resources. Until those kinds of legislative actions are changed, then the fine words of an aboriginal bill of rights or of some constitutional document will have very little meaning. Native people know this and it colours the perception of what happens in the constitutional process.
As I said, the Constitution is not just the constitutional document but it sets the way we govern ourselves on a day to day basis. In the way we govern ourselves as a nation we have neglected many and most of the basic human needs of native people whether for housing, education, training or health care. All of these basic human needs have been neglected. Take employment, for example. Even the official employment statistics of Canada do not take into account employment or unemployment on reserves. This is a simple statistical measure of what is going on in the country. We all know, Mr. Speaker, that unemployment on the reserves is something in the neighbourhood of 80 per cent or 90 per cent. This applies not only to the reserves but to the Métis communities as well. It is difficult to celebrate historical constitutional agreements in a context in which the vast majority of aboriginal people are unemployed, are suffering from lack of housing, inadequate education or are frustrated in their particular need to develop themselves. But this is the context in which we are discussing the constitutional 4 recognition of aboriginal rights.
It is not only important at this moment to call for a more adequate process in terms of how we define aboriginal rights in a document, but it is also important to call for a more adequate process as to how the various governments in Canada go about meeting the needs of aboriginal people. Let me say as well that it is not only native people who have this experience of absence of any real action to meet their needs, but this experience has become common to many Canadians. It is most clearly evident today in the totally unacceptable high levels of unemployment. As we seek to better the constitutional process as it affects the definition of aboriginal rights and as it affects the needs of native people, we must also seek to change and to better the process by which we govern ourselves so that we can meet the needs of all Canadians; for there are many today whose heeds are neglected.
Let me return to the specific substance of the resolution before us. I conclude by saying that it is worthy to note there was an agreement at the federal-provincial level to continue the discussions to seek and to search for a definition of aboriginal rights. It is worth while noting that the next to last meeting of First Ministers was able to reach an agreement as a result of
considerable pressure from public opinion that the existence of aboriginal rights must be affirmed. However inadequate these measures have been, it is worthy to note this progress. But we must also at the same time note that a great deal is left to be done. The way we do it is crucial and important. We must call for an effort to do a better job and to do more.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Are Hon. Members rising to ask questions or make comments? If not, the Chair recognizes the Hon. Member for Notre-Dame-de-Grace-Lachine East (Mr. Allmand).
Hon. Warren Allmand (Notre-Dame-de-Grace-Lachine East): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate briefly in this debate regarding the constitutional accord on aboriginal rights which was agreed to at the First Ministers’ aboriginal leaders conference on March 15-16, 1983. As I understand it, this resolution will be sent to the Standing Committee on Indian Affairs and Northern Development later today where we will hear some witnesses and deal with the resolution at greater length. As the Minister of Justice (Mr. MacGuigan) pointed out earlier this morning, this is the first-amendment to the Canadian Constitution to be dealt with by Parliament under the new constitutional amendment formula.
Let me say at the outset that the conference in March was itself an important first step in recognizing the sovereign status of the first nations of this continent. It was encouraging to observe the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) and the Premiers sitting down at the same negotiating table as the leaders of our Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples and to see how well our aboriginal people put forward their views and how well prepared they were. I was encouraged by the reaction of Canadians right across this country who watched this conference on television and commented so positively on the participation of our aboriginal peoples.
This is how it was in our earlier history when our British and French ancestors recognized the first nations of this continent, the Inuit, the Micmac, the Montagnais, the Iroquois, the Ojibway, the Cree, the Bloods, the Sarcee, the Dakotas, the Nishga, the Dene and the Athabaskans, to mention only a few of the first nations who lived on this continent as sovereign nations and as our allies. If we look back at those earlier times when the Europeans first came to this continent and made contact with these nations we will recall they treated our first nations people as their allies and they recognized their great value as allies. This is evident in the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and in the treaty making process that was observed in earlier days, just as we have started to do again when representatives of the monarchy met as equals with the leaders of the first nations to negotiate and sign these treaties.
Since last September I have had the good fortune to work with a special committee of this House on Indian self-government. We have.heard witnesses from all over this country during the last number of months on subject matters which relate very closely to the subjects discussed in this accord. During the sessions where we heard witnesses on the subject, one main theme was repeated over and over again, that the aboriginal peoples of the country wanted us to recognize their right to self-government within the Canadian federation. They are not asking us to grant the right to self-government because they feel they have had it for centuries and centuries. They want us to recognize it very clearly, not just in a statement of the Government, not just in an ordinary statute, but in the Constitution where it will be enshrined like other levels of government and protected from changes which might be made through the ordinary legislative process by one government or another that might be elected. They want the same protection for their basic aboriginal rights as the minorities in Canada would like for their human, political and legal rights.
The statement by the Prime Minister at the outset of the conference was extremely important. I will refer to it very briefly. He rejected the idea of assimilation of aboriginal peoples and said that we should work toward establishing distinct institutions and arrangements for aboriginal governments. While several proposals had been made concerning aboriginal government, he said that they varied from group to group, from region to region. Also the Prime Minister indicated in his statement that there was plenty of room for variation in the range of options and full scope for serious discussion. He has gone on record for entrenching these very important rights in the Constitution.
In the Constitution Act, 1981, as was already pointed out by the Minister of Justice, there were certain provisions relating to aboriginal rights. Section 25 gave a certain priority to aboriginal rights over matters in the Constitution and in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 35 recognized and affirmed aboriginal and treaty rights. Section 37 provided for the aboriginal rights conference which took place in March of this year. While those provisions were important, they had certain shortcomings which were pointed out by the leaders of our aboriginal peoples. The inclusion of the word “existing” in Section 35 has left us with a statement that is ambiguous. It is on the agenda for further consideration that that term be removed so that it is a very clear and precise statement with respect to aboriginal and treaty rights.
In addition, the Constitution Act, 1981 made no provision for a consent clause with respect to amendments or some other process whereby aboriginal peoples must be involved in a bilateral process relating to amendments. Finally, the Act did not go into detail or definition on what are aboriginal and treaty rights and how they should be more explicitly defined in the Constitution.
The Accord has dealt with some of these matters and kept others on the agenda. The Accord put forward the agreement that there must be at least three further constitutional conferences to deal with these matters. If we look at the Accord, we will note the types of things which still remain to be done— removal of the word “existing” from Section 35; a preamble which would deal’ with the general principles relating to
aboriginal rights; the definition of aboriginal rights; enforcement of aboriginal rights; the question of the amendment formula; self-government; repeal of Section 42(1)(e) and Section 42(1)(f); and amendments to Part III regarding equalization and the funding of aboriginal governments. Also the Accord provided for certain specific constitutional amendments, some to Section 25 and others to Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1981. These are principally concerned with the recognition of rights set out in modern land claims or aboriginal claims settlements.
With respect to the process—and the speaker just before me went into some detail on this—I would ask the Government to be more open and more forward in its dealings with aboriginal leaders and that the consultation process be one in which there is openness and frankness in positions and in discussing those positions. I would ask the Government to adopt the spirit which was clear in the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and treat these representatives as leaders of people who have been present on this continent for thousands of years, as people who before contact with the Europeans had governments, their own laws, cultures, languages, religions and economies and never willingly gave them up.
This Accord is an important first step, but there is still much to be done. As a Member of Parliament I look forward to working with the Government and my colleagues in the House and getting on with the job.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Are there Hon. Members who are rising to ask questions? Debate.
Mr. F. Oberle (Prince George-Peace River): Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to make a few comments on this important and historic procedure. The conference between the Government of Canada and the Provinces, the constitutional partners, partners in Confederation, together with the Indian people, set in place a process through which age old questions should be answered: what are the rights of our aboriginal people and what is their relationship to the other partners in Confederation, particularly the federal Government?
The resolution reached in March did little else than establish future meetings. Section 25 of the Constitution indicates that our Constitution is not to abrogate or derogate from any aboriginal rights or any other rights. The qustion which has been with us for 220 years this coming October concerns what these rights mean. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 was very specific about some of these rights, and of course our aboriginal people are saying that the treaties and the negotiations which took place at that time and subsequently were treaties and negotiations that were carried on within or between sovereign partners or equal partners.
Let me quote very briefly one Section of the Royal Proclamation of 1763:
And whereas it is just and reasonable, and essential to our interest and the security of our colonies, that the several nations or tribes of Indians with whom we are connected-
I emphasize the word “nations”.
—and who live under our protection, should not be molested, or disturbed in the possession of such parts of our dominions and territories as, not having been ceded to or purchased by us, are reserved to them, or any of them, as their hunting-grounds; we do therefore, which the advice of our Privy Council, declare it to be our Royal will and pleasure that no Governor or Commander-in-Chief in any of our colonies-
It continues but I do not want to spend too much time quoting these sections. This document founded the courts and is the basis of the argument which aboriginal people have laid before us throughouttime in favour and in support of the fact that they have been, and still are in a sense, sovereign people under the protection of the federal Government.
Many different things are expressed in the term “aboriginal rights”. By any definition, it clearly means the right to self-determination and self-government. This was made known to us in no uncertain terms throughout the hearings of the special task force which travelled across the country over the last year in order to advise the Government on necessary changes to the relationship between the federal Government and the Indian people. It was made clear that it also establishes the trust relationship between the federal Government and the Indian people.
That trust has been the source of much misunderstanding, misinterpretation and controversy. Trust means paternalism, a trustee and a dependent. Paternalism means dependency. It is this trust relationship that has rendered the aboriginal people in this country so dependent on the other forms of government which have taken over throughout the country, with the exception of the land which was set aside directly for the use of Indian people, namely the Indian reserves.
We have begun to look at the term “trust” and have attempted to break it down into different components. First, there is a legal tiust, the basis for which is in the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and in a number of arrangements and agreements. It is part of the treaties we have entered into with the native people. It is also part of a whole range, about a dozen or so, of international agreements and convenants to which we are signatories in terms of the United Nations and so on. Therefore, there is a legal trust.
Strangely enough, reasoned decisions in our courts would argue that there is no legal trust but rather a political trust which the federal Government has with the Indian people. Not being a lawyer, I find this very strange. How can there be a political trust which is exercised by the Parliament of Canada and the Government of Canada when the people who are the dependants of this political trust cannot exercise any political power? That is overstating the fact somewhat, but before 1960 Indian people could not vote. They had no exercise of political rights. How can there be a political trust when the dependant has no control over the politician who exercises the trust?
In today’s circumstances, Indian people have the right to vote, unlike the apartheid notion which we find so abhorrent in other jurisdictions. Since 960, Indian people in Canada can vote. It took a little longer in Quebec before the right to vote
was granted, but that is only 23 years ago. Now they have some political power.
What does this really mean? They are not electing themselves a government because the Secretary of State, the Minister of Public Works, the Minister of Supply and Services, the Minister of National Health and Welfare or the Minister of Labour have no jurisdiction over Indians. The Indian people do not elect themselves a government. When they vote in a federal election they elect themselves a trustee, but they have no right to name the person who is to be the trustee. All they can do is name the Government which in turn will appoint their trustee.
The Indian Act rests under the jurisdiction of the Minister in charge of Indian affairs. He is the trustee, the parent. It is on him that the Indian people of this country are dependent. He is the Minister of labour, Minister of health, Minister of education’ and Minister for all other services which the Indian people receive from the federal Government. Everything is channelled through this Minister, who spends $1.2 billion a year for services to Indian people.
There is no accountability to the Indian people by this Minister. You can argue all you want, Mr. Speaker, but even though the Indian people have the right to vote, they are not equal. That privilege is totally meaningless to them because they are not electing themselves a Government but a trustee, and they have no input as to who thattrustee will be.
The trust can be broken down into different categories. There is the certain trust that relates to political rights, the right to vote andrall other matters of a political nature. Then there is the trust that relates to the so-called social contract; health care, education, health and safety, housing and so on. There is a third category, a crucial category. It relates to the land and the resources about which the Indian people are arguing and which are guaranteed to them by the Proclamation of 1763. That is their very special right to the land and resources of all of this nation which have not been ceded to any federal or provincial powers or have not been purchased. That is the trust which the federal Government and other Governments have in terms of assuring that Indian people will always have the right to adequate resources plus an adequate land base to pursue their traditional lifestyles.
That is a promise that will be exceedingly difficult to keep. The treaties grant the Indian peoples the right to live their traditional lifestyle—to hunt, fish and gather as long as the grass grows and the wind blows and the sun shines. In a global sense, the land base and the natural resource base in shrinking very dramatically. It will be exceedingly difficult for us to live up to this trust and obligation that we assumed when we entered into the treaties with the Indian people, treaties of peace and friendship, and proclaimed the Royal Proclamation in 1763 ensuring these kinds of rights.
The committee which has been travelling across the country and holding hearings has been looking at all of these matters. There is no doubt that the new approach is crucially important. We have assumed an entirely new obligation through the patriation of the Constitution in terms of coming to grips with the definition of the term “aboriginal rights”, what the trusts mean, how the trusts have been honoured and how the obligations have been satisfied.
It is the work of this committee and the ongoing constitutional conference to come to grips with that. We must restore the rights of Indian peoples, and come to grips with the definition of what these rights mean. Recommendations must be made which will lead to redressingall grievances and the fulfilment of unfulfilled obligations connected with those trusts.
I do not have to state that the social conditions are deplorable. They have earned us the condemnation of people throughout the world. They cannot understand, as I cannot understand, how it is possible to have such an important segment of the population live in such deprived and deplorable conditions. The aboriginal people do have special rights. These rights require a special relationship within Confederation and a special relationship with the federal Government. Indian people, therefore, have not been too excited by the prospect of seeing provincial Premiers sit in on these constitutional talks, because by their interpretation of the covenants and treaties we have entered into and the Royal Proclamation of 1763, it is the federal Government and indeed the Queen herself that is responsible for their rights.
It is the federal Government that has this special trust responsibility and it is the federal Government that is responsible for them in the sense of a “dependent nation status”, so to speak. This is a term that is used in other countries, such as the United States where the idea of a domestically independent nation is entrenched in the Constitution. This gives Indian nations, for example the Navahoes, a sovereign jurisdiction within a certain framework of powers and jurisdictions, but makes them dependent. on the Government of the United States for a number of things that a small and weak nation cannot look after for itself.
The courts in Canada have been mute on this subject. It has not been tested in the courts to the satisfaction of the Indian people and thee is very little jurisprudence to assist the ongoing constitutional talks and committee discussions in defining these terms. However, it is clear that the term “aboriginal rights” as it is now entrenched in the Constitution must be defined in future, not only by the courts but also through the political process.
There is no doubt in my mind that Parliament and the Government has a role to play in defining the term “aboriginal rights”. What does the term mean? How will it help us to redress some of the injustices of the past? How will it help the native people of this land to achieve a standard of living and self-determination which is equitable and fair and comparable to the standards enjoyed by the rest of us in this land which is blessed with such riches and favour?
These are just a few thoughts, Mr. Speaker, that I have had on the subject. As you know, we are very much in favour of having this process accelerated and having these matters dealt
with in a most expedient manner. There is no doubt that the Indian people have a right to participate in the process that will lead to the necessary changes. There is no doubt in anyone”s mind. today that we must break down the paternalistic system which. has rendered the native people so dependent on the white man’s institutions and culture, which is in many cases alien to their own traditions and cultures. There is no doubt that Indian people must be given equity even in terms of the covenants that have been signed and the international standards to which we have agreed.
We must come to grips with the fact that Indian people have certain tights which are in addition to those that we enjoy in a democratic and free nation. These rights, of course, relate to their aboriginal rights, to the fact that the Indian people were here 8,000 years ago as we now know. At that time they had a system of self -government with their own culture and religion. The white man did not discover a virgin land. The land was populated by people with their own institutions which in most cases functioned well. These people have never surrendered the right to the land which they possessed since time immemorial, nor did they surrender the right to look after their affairs and therefore the right to self-government.
We look forward with some anxiety and with a spirit of co-operation to these talks which will begin again certainly within one year of March 16, 1983, and we in this Party have prepared ourselves to make whatever contribution possible to bring these talks to a just, reasonable and expedient conclusion.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Are there any Hon. Members rising to ask questions? The the Chair recognizes the Hon. Member for Sarnia-Lambton (Mr. Cullen).
Hon. Bud Cullen (Sarnia-Lambton): Mr. Speaker, I know there are other Hon. Members who want to participate in this debate so my comments will be short. I hope to be allowed to add something to the debate today.
The Minister has indicated that as this is the first proposed amendment to the Constitution, it will be an historic occasion. I would agree with him that it will be an historic occasion, but only if the federal and provincial Governments are prepared to follow through on what is held out at the present time as great promise.
In my view, there is much in the proposed amendment to encourage native peoples but there are many things to discourage them. I would hope that the native peoples particularly would not lose patience as we in the House sometimes lose patience with the slowness by which things happen. It is probably presumptuous of me to suggest that they must have patience, because if any group has displayed that particular trait, it has been the native peoples who over the years have seen many of their rights taken away as a result of legislation like the War Measures Act and as a result of an unthinking white population that moved into areas in which they had no particular jurisdiction and no particular right.
I believe I was fortunate because very early in my childhood my parents saw fit to point out to me that our native peoples, particularly those in northern Ontario as I am from the Sudbury area, took such pride in their heritage. Hardly one occasion went by where the natives were not present putting their particular culture, their dances and their religion, on display. They taught us much about their language and the respect; they had for themselves, and particularly the respect they had for their environment. So I grew up with a profound respect for our native peoples.
Subsequent to that, when I left high school I had the opportunity to live in the Northwest Territories for a couple of years where I met Inuit and northern Indian populations. Here again, if for no other reason than sheer survival, they were able to carve out for themselves a livelihood, something that we would have been hard pressed to do without the talents and skills and dedication that they brought to that particular project.
Having grown up with that kind of respect for these people, it was only natural that when I first came to Parliament I saw fit to serve as a member of the Committee on Indian Affairs and Northern Development. I could detect at almost each and every meeting of that Committee the frustration experienced by people who came before us when we would say to them: “Yes, we want to change that Section in the Indian Act that discriminates against women; yes, we want to do something but we have agreed that we will not amend the Indian Act until the whole of the Indian Act is changed.” So many of the wishes and aspirations of the native peoples were crushed as a result of -delay. This is one of those things that illustrates the phrase “justice delayed is justice denied”.
We now have an opportunity to show good faith, and I hope that when the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) and the First Ministers meet, the good feeling that is shared by all in the Chamber here today will be evident. Everybody wants to do that which is right..I hope we will see fit to do so.
I would say to the native peoples that they must remember that we are often dealing with a constituency that has no sense of history and, unhappily and all too often, very little knowledge of history. So the people of this constituency judge a situation as the result of what happened to them last week, or something they saw occur two years ago, or a bad experience as a result of one dealing with a native person. Their whole decision making process is framed around that particular type of criteria. rather than the criteria of history. The history of Canada should move every Canadian person to do a little studying and reading about the splendid history of our native peoples.
I do not want to misquote, but I believe one of the Catholic Orders said something to the effect that it is better to light a candle than to stand and curse the darkness. While individual Members of Parliament, to their credit, have been lighting thosecandles across the country, I want to say a particular word of appreciation to the late Hon. Bob Andras who had a very short stint as Minister responsible for Indian Affairs. The statements he made 14 or 15 years ago when he held that portfolio gives some sense of the feeling he had for the native peoples and how he was trying to hurry up the process before it
became “too late”, in his words. He gave us a springboard from which we were able to launch what is taking place today.
I do not think any of us who were in the House when the late Hon. Arthur Laing was here will forget the sense of frustration that he felt all too often when he was prepared to give local autonomy, when he was prepared to make money available and when he visited individual reserves and said: “We have to find the money to do this. We will worry about the jurisdiction later but let us get the work done. This is what the local people want so let us find the money for it.” He was the kind of Minister who took the initiative.
The Hon. Member for Notre-Dame-de-Grace-Lachine East (Mr. Allmand) is a former Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and he has not set down the torch. He is not the kind of individual to back away from a tough assignment even when it seems particularly unpopular. I am proud to call him an associate because his heart and his mind are set on helping the people. He does not do this in-a grandfatherly or patronizing way but almost as one of our native peoples. It is a pleasure to count him asia colleague in the House of Commons.
As individual Members of Parliament we must take care that abuses do not occur that would dispel the good feeling that exists in the House today. I think particularly of the War Measures Act which was used in the 1940s to move the Chippewas of the Kettle Point reserve from a great piece of property on to a very small piece of property. They were paid chicken feed for the property and some of the money they were paid was used to cover the expenses of the move. That was clearly an injustice and it took almost 40 years for the Chippewas of Sarnia and of Kettle Point to right that particular wrong. I do not think it can ever be corrected, Mr. Speaker. If it took 40 years to correct that, we can understand the frustration in the native community. Let us give them the local autonomy that Arthur Laing spoke of, but we must also give them a sense of meaningful participation in the discussions to be held in the future.
I hope the Ministers will commit themselves to making at least one major change on behalf of our native peoples at each conference. Only in this way will they be able to show good faith. It is not good enough to have one meeting and agree to have another. We are saying to the native people that we want to do something to right so many of these wrongs. We can only do this if the Ministers make the commitment to the native peoples that they will make certain that such and such a thing is done, not that they will have another meeting.
The native peoples have an awesome responsibility to make reasonable claims. I am not certain that I can define the word “reasonable”. They must recognize that in order to get something through the political process, the moderates have to be convinced. If they are not moderate in their approach, they will lose the support of the people who want to help but who are at present sitting on the fence wondering which way to fall. If they are given something they can hold on to it will be easier to get things done in the future.
Money must be made available, of course. The Member of the New Democratic Party who spoke mentioned that research funds must be made available. In this day and age no one can operate without funding and the money must be made available to the native peoples as a right. It should not be suggested that there is a conflict of interest as a result of the federal Government or the provincial Government making funds available; the money should have been available to the native peoples a long time ago. If they are to be able to hire people to do the proper research and to set forth the changes that they want, then the money must be there for them.
The bands must take concerted action. It has often been complained that the native people cannot make up their minds because one group says one thing and another group says another. Of course they have different approaches, Mr. Speaker. They must make an effort toward a concerted approach, however, with the understanding that when there is a B.C. problem, a northern Ontario problem or a northern Canada problem, someone will take the initiative and the leadership. A concerted approach will be effective. If the demands are seen by the moderates in Canadian society as being strident, they will not be as effective. A concerted approach will receive support and backing on all sides of the House and then perhaps we can do something which perhaps should have been done more than 100 years ago.
Hon. Jake Epp (Provencher): Mr. Speaker, the amendment to Canada’s Constitution which is before us today, has my support and I am pleased to say a few words in support of it and to offer advice on the direction that should be taken within the Department and also in preparation for the next conference.
I think it is important to call to mind the event which led us to this juncture in our history. The Special Committee on the Constitution, after much discussion, debate and compromise, agreed to incorporate into the proposal at that time an amendment which became known as the aboriginal rights amendment. Because of the lack of time today, I will not go into the history of the events that surrounded that amendment after the resolution left the Committee. Suffice it to say that, through the leadership of the aboriginal people of Canada, their supporters, and I would say the underlying goodwill and sense of fair play of many Canadians, the aboriginal rights amendment was placed back in the resolution. That was necessary and I am pleased that it took place. That event has allowed us to take what are sometimes faltering steps forward in the recognition of the rights of Canada’s aboriginal citizens.
The amendment before us today does the following things, Mr. Speaker. First of all, I believe it reaffirms the entrenchment of aboriginal rights, if it needed the reaffirmation. What is needed in preparation for future conferences is discussion and a great measure of patience. All too often I think there has been a lack of patience in the dealings that take place between theaboriginal peoples, the Department of Indian Affairs and
Northern Development and various federal Governments. Despite the length of time that has elapsed in dealing with matters relating to the aboriginal peoples, patience and understanding have been lacking not only between the partners who were negotiating, but often in t.he larger Canadian community.
What is needed is an explanation of what. is happening in terms of this amendment and, equally important, what is happening in the community of Canadians of aboriginal descent. Personally, I am enthusiastic about some of the changes I see. The stereotype image of Canada’s aboriginal peoples, which unfortunately is still resident in the minds of many Canadians, must be changed. I suggest that this is the task not only of the Indian leadership but also of Parliamentarians.
I want to emphasize again that the underlying factor for Canada’s aboriginal peoples, the so-called people with status, is set out in Section 91. I want to urge the federal Government and the aboriginal people to see to it that the federal responsibility as its relates to Section 91″ and the Indian people of Canada remains intact. That is of paramount importance in any discussion of future changes. What this amendment does, Mr. Speaker, is put forward the fact that there will be conferences held at regular periods of time, not only to have discussion, but I hope to put the imprint of approval on discussions which took place before the conference. I am convinced, as I view federal-provincial conferences, that it is much more important to put the imprimatur on past discussions and decisions rather than it being a conference held in the light of the media where bargaining is taking place right there on the floor. We are now at a juncture where I believe we have defined at least the parameters of the areas which need discussion. What we now need to do is define the issues. I believe the First Ministers’ conference, along with the aboriginal leadership, as is called for in this amendment, could verify those discussions and that preparatory work. However, I do not believe that this House is correct in emphasizing only constitutional amendments.
During the period of the Government of the Right Hon. Member for Yellowhead (Mr. Clark), the concentration which our Government placed on aboriginal people centered around some very practical manifestations of the fact that there must be examples or models of success, in order to start to change the stereotype which was so resident among many Canadians. The emphasis must be, surely, that while constitutional amendments are of value, while these issues are of vital importance—and my colleague, the Hon. Member for Kingston and the Islands (Miss MacDonald) has given much leadership, for instance, on the question of Section 12(1)(b) of the Indian Act—there are matters which other Canadians take for granted in their daily lives which have to be addressed by the Department. These are decent housing; education—how can we talk about a future for Canadians if we do not stress the opportunity for education—jobs and theself-reliance and independence which comes from jobs; and opportunities, identified not always paternalistically by the Department but rather by the Indians, its leadership and its people. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I believe, if these conferences are to be a success, between now and those dates we must show the larger Canadian community that there are models of success, that there are good things happening among Canada’s Indian community.
Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I would hope that there would be that kind of attitude within the Department of Indian Affairs, as I hope will be recommended by the committee on self-government. I would like to commend the members of that committee, as well as the chairman, the Hon. Member for Cochrane-Superior (Mr: Penner). I do not sit on that committee, but generally we on this side of the House would agree on the type of leadership being given to that committee in trying to resolve problems and give advice to this House. My colleague the Hon. Member for Prince George-Peace River (Mr. Oberle) and my colleague the Hon. Member for Wetaskiwin (Mr. Schellengerger) are Hon. Members who have spent a lot of time trying to address the real issues, not only of self-government but how in a practical day to day manifestation can the aboriginal people of Canada take over the same levers of leadership which the rest. of us take for granted in the communities in which we live. That has been the focus of these Hon. Members and I commend them for it. Therefore, if I can give any advice, Mr. Speaker, I would hope that the members of the Department of Indian Affairs would look at the kind of direction which the committee on self-government is giving, not as a threat to the Department but rather as an opportunity to Canadians.
I would hope that the Department would not look upon these efforts as being a threat to dismantle the Department. I am one who has been in charge of that Department for a period of time and I am absolutely convinced that we can largely reduce both the cost of administration and the size of that Department. If we truly believe in self-government, let us give it to the leadership which the Indian people are developing. Of course, there are risks, but let us do it. Let us not procrastinate any longer.
What is happening is that there are two towers of bureaucracy which have developed. One is the traditional Department of Indian Affairs bureaucracy. As the Indian leadership is developing, so is their administration developing. We have these twin towers of administration which now must be sustained. However, we will never, I suggest, have sufficient funding for housing, for education and for economic development if we sustain these two bureaucratic towers. I say to you, Mr. Speaker, let us take some of these risks. I hope over the next period of time before the next conference that the practical matter will be addressed as to how we can not only better serve Canadians of aboriginal descent, but that these people can take their rightful place in leading their own people.
The other piece of advice I would like to give to the federal Government is to suggest that it take its role seriously. At the next conference the Federal Government should not act only as chairman but should act under the responsibilities of Section 91. It should tell Canadians and Canadian Indian leaders what the Government’s position is and how it sees its relationship to Canada’s emerging Indian leadership. If that is done, then I
believe the amendment which we are today hopefully passing will be the harbinger of changes which all of us want to see in that community.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The Hon. Member for Kamloops-Shuswap (Mr. Riis).
Mr. Nelson A. Riis (Kamloops-Shuswap): Mr. Speaker, is it appropriate for me to say a few words in a speech as opposed to a question or a response?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The Hon. Member has been recognized.
2020;-1 Mr. Riis: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Hon. Member for Provencher (Mr. Epp) for allowing me to say a few brief words on what is becoming a most historical day for Canada’s aboriginal people. I would like to encourage the Government to consider three or four points when it returns once again to the table with the leadership of the aboriginal peoples of Canada. I believe the Government should lay out its position clearly before the conference so that the participants of the conference will have a clear understanding of how the federal Government of Canada perceives the next number of years of this transition period.
I believe there is still a considerable amount of confusion in the minds of aboriginal people in terms of understanding clearly the present position of the federal Government, and just where the federal Government sees this process moving in the next number of years as the inevitable dismantling of the Department of Indian Affairs takes place.
I would like also to encourage the federal Government, Mr. Speaker, to recognize the differences, when it comes to concerns over aboriginal rights, between the Métis and Inuit peoples. It should recognize that not only are their concerns different, but they come to the table with different histories and different concepts of what their role in the future may be in terms of their rights.
I would like as well to encourage the Government to be sensitive to the concerns of native women’s groups when it comes to discussing the concept of aboriginal rights. Too often we have seen their concerns ignored or (perhaps glossed over during these very important discussions.
Also, Mr. Speaker, I would like to encourage the federal Government to ensure that the various players during this very important period of time have adequate funds for the preparation of their submissions so that, indeed, we can ensure that the highest quality of discussion takes place at these ongoing and most important meetings coming up in the immediate future.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: It being 1 o’clock p.m., pursuant to Order made Thursday, June 23, 1983, the motion is deemed to be referred to the Standing Commitrtee on Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
I do now leave the Chair until two o’clock.
At 1 p.m. the House took recess.
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