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Legislative Assembly of Canada
June 2, 2006
Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, all Canadians are deeply troubled by the ongoing conflict about land related issues in the Caledonia district of Ontario.
Yesterday, the Ontario Superior Court judge seized with this matter, Justice Marshall, took the extraordinary step of convening a hearing on his own and specifically asked for the presence and participation of the Government of Canada within two weeks.
I understand that the Minister of Indian Affairs said he will cooperate with the court. Could I ask the minister, does that explicitly mean that he will comply with Justice Marshall's invitation, and who will be representing the Government of Canada in court on June 16?
Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): Mr. Speaker, Mr. Justice Marshall yesterday requested the attendance of a number of parties at his chambers. The federal government was not one of the parties that was asked to attend.
I indicated yesterday that the government will be fully cooperative with Mr. Justice Marshall and as the hon. member well knows, the Government of Canada has been a participant at the tables discussing a resolution of the claims process.
The Government of Canada is being well represented by a former foreign affairs minister and I have full confidence in her ability to deal with the situation.
Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Ontario judge, Justice Marshall, is obviously deeply concerned about Caledonia. He obviously believes the involvement of the Government of Canada is indispensable and that the government's involvement so far has been inadequate. It is also clear that Justice Marshall thinks the situation is urgent.
Within the two week timeframe now identified by the Ontario Superior Court, what specific ideas or initiatives will the Government of Canada bring forward and, failing that detail today, what is the process by which the federal input will be developed and exactly when?
Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has dealt with similar situations, so he understands the sensitivity and gravity of a situation such as this.
In terms of the process, let me be clear. The Government of Canada has been represented at the table by Barbara McDougall, a former foreign affairs minister, and Ron Dearing, a former chief of staff to a Minister of Indian Affairs.
Mr. Dearing, in particular, has spent the last 48 hours negotiating and Ms. McDougall would be at the table today for another negotiating session. The process is, frankly, working. We are committed to it and we will continue to pursue it.
Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in dealing with public policy issues, issues which touch people's lives in very intimate ways, the building of ongoing effective relationships is crucial. Relationships between aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples are often particularly delicate and also particularly essential.
By appearing to walk away from such an initiatives as the Kelowna accord, the federal government's relationships with aboriginal Canadians have been damaged.
When the court hearings resume on June 16 with respect to Caledonia, what will the Government of Canada specifically propose to begin rebuilding the relationships in this dispute, which have obviously been so badly damaged?
Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that I do not accept the premise of the question relative to either Kelowna or the relationships between the government and aboriginal Canadians. Aboriginal Canadians are working well with the government. They are pleased by the budget.
We have solid working relationships with the Assembly of First Nations and all of the other aboriginal organizations with whom the Government of Canada deals. They have said that they wish to continue to work in a respectful way with the government. We are pleased with that.
In terms of Caledonia, we are at the table. We are negotiating in concert with the Government of Ontario, which has important responsibilities in this area. We will continue to make progress.
Mr. David McGuinty (Ottawa South, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, 10 years ago, our government created the procurement strategy for aboriginal business, which has been a great success. The strategy was renewed in 2001 and in 2003. It is up for review this year. However, according to documents I obtained from his department, the minister is preparing to quietly abolish this measure, without warning, without consultation and without reason. He is sabotaging the very essence of the Kelowna accord.
Will the minister explain why promoting the success of our aboriginal communities is no longer one of the government's priorities?
Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the procurement strategy for aboriginal business continues to be government policy.
I can assure the member that the inferences he is making about future policy direction are not accurate and as part of our commitment to continue to work with aboriginal Canadians and consult with them, we will continue to deal with that.
The department which I represent, in particular, is a strong proponent of aboriginal businesses, the development of aboriginal initiatives, and the creation of employment for aboriginal Canadians. We are continuing to make progress in that area and I can assure the hon. member that what he suggests is not correct.
Mr. David McGuinty (Ottawa South, Lib.): It is too bad the facts, Mr. Speaker, do not actually match the minister's rhetoric.
Treasury Board guidelines continue to require that the government minister do business with aboriginal enterprises and the minister's own website strongly encourages aboriginal businesses across Canada to apply for PSAB contracts.
First we learn that an aboriginal company in Winnipeg is cut off after nine years of successful service. Now, without notice, without consultation and without any reason given, an aboriginal company in my own riding is put at risk, jeopardizing over 100 jobs, $40 million in business, and internal documents confirm our worst suspicions.
Not only has the government thrown out the Kelowna accord but now it is actively undermining successful aboriginal--
The Deputy Speaker: The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
Hon. Jim Prentice (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is not correct in his comments. We continue to work with aboriginal Canadians. As I have said, the initiatives that we are pursuing relative to aboriginal employment, searching out where there are major job creation opportunities and where we can create initiatives with aboriginal Canadians on the creation of aboriginally owned businesses, are very clear.
In particular, I would point out for the benefit of the member the socio-economic fund, the $500 million that was announced in the budget, for aboriginal Canadians to create opportunities north of 60.