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Legislative Assembly of Canada
April 27, 2006
Mr. Gary Merasty (Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to commend the Saskatchewan legislature, Premier Calvert, opposition leader Brad Wall and all members of the assembly for passing an all party motion calling upon the Conservative government to honour and implement the full scope of the Kelowna accord.
The Kelowna accord is not only about the fiscal commitments but also about the successful negotiations of the accord in setting a high water mark in the relationship between the federal government and aboriginal Canadians.
Prior to the 1970s, federal-aboriginal relations could best be described as 'ad hoc crisis response', with aboriginal issues largely ignored and the federal government responding to a crisis. From the 1970s to the mid-1990s, the relationship changed, perhaps best described as adversarial. Aboriginal Canadians used the courts to advance and protect their rights. It was a time also marked by conflicts such as Oka and Ipperwash. The courts said, 'Enough is enough'.
The Kelowna accord was the culmination of the efforts by provincial premiers, the federal government and especially the aboriginal leaders themselves. I call upon the government to stand up for aboriginal Canadians.
Mr. Pierre Poilievre (Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board, CPC): Mr. Speaker, this government has gone to lengths to exclude those particular aboriginal organizations that have self-government agreements with the federal government. The decision of the Prime Minister and our government to subject the others to treatment by the Auditor General does not contradict any self-government provisions whatsoever.
I do not understand why the Liberal Party would not want these billions of dollars in expenditures to be subject to the same accountability as other expenditures made by this government and paid for by taxpayers right across the country. Why is it that she wants to shield all of those billions in spending from any scrutiny by the Auditor General? Is it because she knows that under the previous Liberal government there were expenditures that did not actually benefit the aboriginal people? Is it that money was wasted in that area just as it was wasted on the gun registry, in the HRDC boondoggle and in the sponsorship program? Is she afraid to expose to scrutiny the actions and mistreatment by her Liberal government toward aboriginal people and to the taxpayer?
Hon. Anita Neville: Mr. Speaker, the question from the member opposite is quite remarkable. It really underlines the lack of understanding of the relationship between first nations people and the Government of Canada.
I am astounded at his comments. He said things like "treatment of the Auditor General", "shield" and "money wasted". What the member opposite does not understand is that only 2% of first nations communities are self-governing. What the member opposite does not understand is that an audit process is currently in place. I mentioned in my comments about 168 reports a year. Does the member know any other jurisdiction that has to file 168 reports, often for $5,000, $10,000 and $20,000 contributions?
It is time that the member understood that one does not impose on first nations governments. One does not tell first nations governments what to do. One consults with them. One comes up with a common understanding of what the issues are and what the responses will be. What the member must understand is that it is incumbent on his government to be responsible in return to first nations people to ensure that their social, health and economic concerns are addressed. What astounds me about his comments is the total lack of understanding of what in fact goes on in first nations communities and what is happening in the realities of today.
Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo-Cowichan, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I was saddened to hear that we have to talk about the Garden Hill First Nation and the second tuberculosis outbreak in two years. This adds to a litany of events in communities across Canada, such as Caledonia, and another evacuation in Kashechewan. It goes on and on.
We bandy around the word "accountability". We talk about accountability yet we have had decades of Conservative and Liberal governments that have neglected and have not fulfilled their obligations around first nations communities. I would like the member to comment on specific steps that must happen immediately to make sure that first nations from coast to coast to coast are at the table in a meaningful way to get what they deserve in Canada.
Hon. Anita Neville: Mr. Speaker, first and foremost the member referenced the matter of Garden Hill First Nation. Unequivocally there has to be a medical assessment of every member of that community to see how far the tuberculosis outbreak has spread.
On the other items, first and foremost there has to be a consultation with the leadership in the aboriginal community. The Assembly of First Nations has been open. It has been part of the discussions with government over the years. To impose this kind of legislation on them is indeed shortsighted.
The most important thing the House could do would be to ratify the Kelowna accord and the dollars committed and booked by the previous government for the Kelowna accord. The Kelowna accord provides hope for aboriginal communities from coast to coast to coast. I have visited with many. They are waiting to train further health officials, for education and for the plans that will lead to economic development and opportunities for them.
Unequivocally, the ratification of the Kelowna accord by the House would be an important transformative change for aboriginal peoples in the country.