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Legislative Assembly of Ontario
June 5, 2006
Mr. Jim Wilson (Simcoe-Grey): I rise in the House today to condemn the McGuinty Liberals for waiting until day 42 of the Caledonia standoff to even acknowledge the situation as a provincial issue. To illustrate this, I will now read excerpts from a letter e-mailed to the Premier by a local resident:
"Dear Mr. McGuinty:
"Today is the first day that my children have been allowed to return to school. I am attempting to clean this past week out of my house and assess the physical and personal cost to this family. My husband took another day off work on Tuesday to attend to us, his wife and children, in an effort to assuage our fears and offer at least an ounce of comfort.
"Why, sir, as an elected official of the Liberal Party and the Premier of Ontario that we voted for, can you not offer the same?
"We don't expect that you would be able to move mountains to solve a 200-year-old dispute, but we do expect that you would, at the very least, try. You should speak to us, not the TV camera, not the reporter, not the microphone, not to history (you'll write your own). Speak to us, the people who entrusted you with power....
"I'm not sure how much more the people of Haldimand county can take. We have done what you've asked: We were patient, patiently awaiting information and direction from you. Not David Peterson, not Monte Kwinter, not David Ramsay, sir, you. In the absence of leadership, there is anarchy. And if saying nothing to the residents that live here is the best can you do, then your best is not good enough....
"Please respond. The silence is deafening."
I couldn't have said it better myself.
Mrs. Christine Elliott (Whitby-Ajax): I rise today in the Legislature, on behalf of the official opposition, to make exceedingly clear to the government just how badly the crisis in Caledonia has affected the everyday lives of community residents. To illustrate this point, I wish to read an excerpt from a letter addressed to the Premier from a concerned resident.
This resident writes: "Jobs have been lost in the community. This hurts families and the entire town. Children living near the blockade are sleeping poorly every night and are not able to play in their own backyards by day. Families as a whole are under tremendous stress and pressure, both emotionally and physically, as people of all ages are finding it very difficult to cope with the ongoing uncertainty of what will happen in this traditionally `safe and welcoming' community.
"Road and rail track closures are causing local businesses and industry in the surrounding communities to struggle to connect with suppliers and customers. The lack of access to Port Dover, Hagersville and Simcoe on Highway 6 is keeping people away from Caledonia in droves. Businesses in town are losing money at a rate that challenges their ability to stay open; townspeople have less income to spend, and visitors to the community are few and far between. The Victoria Day weekend is the traditional start of the summer business boom, and the roads and the towns are virtually empty of tourists and vacationers.
"It is not just the blockade itself that worries us. It is the safety of all that travel as well. Forcing detoured cars onto McKenzie Road, a two-lane winding rural route, has slowed the flow of traffic, both commercial and local, to a frustrating crawl....
"It is time for you to take action. Please make the time to struggle with the issue of the day."
Ms. Lisa MacLeod (Nepean-Carleton): Occupied land, roadblocks, hostile standoff: Does this sound like a normal day's activity in a small rural Ontario town to you? Unfortunately, these have become the mainstay activities in Caledonia and Six Nations. That's small-town Ontario, might I remind you, where soccer games, community fairs and kids playing hockey should be the rule rather than the exception. Children are living in fear, tensions are rising by the day and the only politicians who have taken a leadership role on the protest from the beginning have been Toby Barrett and John Tory. In fact, every day, citizens feel they need to speak to the opposition because they are getting nowhere with the McGuinty government.
One resident writes to Mr. Barrett, "This should never have happened and could have been avoided had the government done something three months ago when this started."
Another adds, "Too bad we haven't anyone else in government that cares.... Why are regular Caledonians omitted from negotiations and information -- I guess the government can't answer that either."
Never has the McGuinty government taken a direct management role to resolve the dispute at Caledonia, never has the McGuinty government taken the necessary steps to communicate to the residents of Caledonia and Six Nations, and never has the McGuinty government offered to seriously study land claims before chaotic and aggressive confrontations turned into occupied lands, roadblocks and a hostile standoff like we have today in Caledonia. Isn't it about time that soccer games, community fairs and road hockey were once again part of the normal routine in Caledonia?
Mr. John Tory (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Attorney General. On the website of your ministry, there's a good description of the unique aspects of your job as Attorney General, including reference to the non-partisan way in which many of your duties are carried out, uniquely. Among other things, it says on the website, "As chief law officer, the Attorney General has a special responsibility to be the guardian of that most elusive concept -- the rule of law." It goes on to say a bit later on, "It is the rule of law that protects individuals, and society as a whole, from arbitrary measures and safeguards personal liberties."
Recognizing the complexities of the Caledonia file, can the Attorney General comment on his responsibility to uphold the rule of law within the context of the various activities we've seen by people of all backgrounds in and around that community, including as recently as last night?
Hon. Michael Bryant (Attorney General): I'm going to refer the supplementary to the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs, but I'm happy to tell the member that obviously the Ministry of the Attorney General had counsel before His Honour Justice Marshall, when parties were summoned, and will continue to participate in that fashion as required as matters do come before the court. We obviously continue to work with other ministries and provide legal support where appropriate.
I understand the genesis of the member's question. I hope you will appreciate that the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs is addressing this matter, and in a comprehensive fashion, so it's really appropriate for the specifics that I know will come out in your supplementary to be addressed by that minister.
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Supplementary?
Mr. Tory: Actually, I'm not going to address the specifics, because I know those are difficult, in some cases, to comment on. But I want to say to the minister, by way of supplementary, that there are no easy answers as to how to resolve issues like the standoff at Caledonia and, in particular, the question of how it has been allowed to escalate into the public security threat that it has. There are people with different opinions, but I think in the end we know that Ontarians are no more knowledgeable today about the situation, its root causes and some of the resolutions than they were before. That is why we feel that a commitment on the part of this government, at the appropriate time, to call a full public inquiry would be useful so as to make sure we can find out in an impartial way how we got to where we are and, more importantly, how we can prevent these things from happening again, including making sure that we find a better way, if we can, to handle land claims disputes.
This is an incident that is not to be repeated. I ask the minister, will you commit here today in the Legislature to call a full public inquiry at the appropriate time into the Caledonia standoff so that we and all Ontarians are better able to deal with these kinds of situations in the future?
Hon. Mr. Bryant: I refer the question to the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs.
Hon. David Ramsay (Minister of Natural Resources, minister responsible for aboriginal affairs): I would say to the Leader of the Opposition, I can tell you now how we got here today. We got here today because of the slow, legalistic approach that the federal government has taken to the disposition of land claims in this country. We have a thousand of them outstanding right across this country, at least 65 or more in Ontario, and that's why we are where we are today.
As I've spoken to you in many other responses over the last few weeks, there was an exploration into this particular land claim and accounting claim over the last two years. Great progress was made, but many in the community didn't understand the progress that was being made and were frustrated and acted out on that frustration.
Mr. Tory: I would note that the minister didn't answer the question. I would note as well that while I suggested in particular that part of the terms of reference of any such inquiry could include a better way to deal with land claims disputes of this kind, every commentator, every person who is knowledgeable in the law, has also commented on the fact that portions of this matter are your direct responsibility: the enforcement of the law and a number of other aspects of this to do with transportation and other aspects of protecting the public interest.
What we've seen is a pattern of how these situations have developed over the years, have been allowed to develop over the years, from Oka to Ipperwash to Caledonia. I think we need to take a closer look at the land claims process, yes, but also at the other aspects of this that escalate over time. We've got to look at the heart of these conflicts and better understand them and how they unfold.
I ask you again, Minister, will you commit to beginning this process of better understanding by committing yourself and the government, at the appropriate time, to appointing a public inquiry to look into the Caledonia conflict, the issues involved, how we deal with land claims issues and the decision-making process --
The Speaker: Minister?
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: I would say to the member that what we're hoping for from the long-term working group with Barbara McDougall, the federal representative, and Jane Stewart, the provincial appointee, is to work on those various issues that have caused this crisis. We're asking them, once we get the community to normalcy, to start to work out methodologies of how we can work on land claims in a more timely manner, to work out the development processes in that Haldimand tract so that we have certainty they're going forward so our communities can grow. That's what we're expecting from that, and we expect that process to give us basically a prototype of how land claims across this country can be solved in a more pressing manner.
Mr. John Tory (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Energy. It has been brought to our attention that the Caledonia situation has begun to affect Hydro One's capability to replace large-capacity transmission wires within the hydro corridor that runs through the area in question near Caledonia. Could you please provide us with an update as to how this problem sits today, and could you also offer us any information you have pertaining to what could happen if this hydro project is not completed on a timely basis?
Hon. Dwight Duncan (Minister of Energy): I think the Leader of the Opposition is referring to the Niagara line reinforcement, which received OEB approval last year. It's something that had been contemplated for, I think, 10 years prior to its receiving OEB approval. No doubt the situation in Caledonia did slow down the timeline for completion. It was hoped it would be online on or about July 1 of this year. The last report I had was that it looks like it will be online approximately around the middle of July -- July 15, July 16, July 17, thereabouts -- assuming there are no more disruptions in the construction. It will provide an additional 800 megawatts of import capability to Ontario.
Mr. Tory: We could go down a number of roads about the 800 megawatts of import capability and so forth and so on, and we could also ask on July 15th of which year you'd have that ready, given that we've had some problems in that regard.
We are told, I say to the minister, that Hydro has about six weeks to complete this project, which is about the same timeline that the minister referred to. We've seen an article in the Windsor Star saying, "If the transmission line is not completed soon, there is a very real possibility residents of southwestern Ontario will experience power shortages and brownouts over the summer."
May I ask the minister: What is your plan, if there are delays because of some of what we've seen going on in Caledonia that cause that timetable not to be met, seeing that the standoff in Caledonia is nowhere near being rectified? Do you have a backup plan to make sure that the kind of situation described in the Windsor Star -- blackouts, brownouts and so on -- is not affecting people in the province of Ontario? What is the plan, and will it be in place in time for the summer peak demand if the project is not completed on time?
Hon. Mr. Duncan: I'll remind the Leader of the Opposition that this plan had been on the books for close to 10 years, for eight of which your colleagues around you sat and did absolutely nothing. I would refer the Leader of the Opposition to the ISO's press release of last week, which identified 600 megawatts of additional baseload generation capability and another 200 megawatts of wind generation capability, which we don't count as part of baseload because of the nature of peak-time use versus baseload versus intermediate and peaking capacity. A number of those windmills are in your riding. So the ISO reports that our 18-month outlook for power, even at peak this summer, is in very good shape compared to last year.
Mr. Tory: I'm assuming, from the fact it wasn't dealt with, that there is no backup plan in the event that the Caledonia project runs late. There is no backup plan and it's all part of the overall scheme, which says there is no plan generally in the case of energy.
Just on the same general subject area, reports reaching us today indicate that the transformer station near Caledonia, which was burned up a few days ago in an act of vandalism, causing power to be lost by thousands of people and causing a huge economic loss to that area, is being protected by one private security guard, whose car apparently was burned up last night. Minister, has a request been made to the OPP or other police agencies to make sure that this transformer station, which is also a vital part of power delivery to the people in this region, is properly protected so that we won't see any further incidents of vandalism involved with this power station? Have you done what you should be doing, through hydro and through OPG, to make sure that this transformer station is properly protected?
Hon. Mr. Duncan: Yes, we have. There are a number of protective measures that have been undertaken, some of which obviously we don't want to talk about in this environment. Yes, this is a dangerous situation.
Hon. Mr. Duncan: They laugh. This is a party that cut 2,000 megawatts of power when demand was going up. This is a party that froze prices, stifled new development, did nothing on renewables, did nothing on conservation, left a disaster. We're cleaning up their mess. They should stop laughing and take it seriously, because this is a serious matter. We're working to keep the power on and to undo the damage that that party left this province over the last eight years, and we're doing it effectively, according to the ISO.
They still smirk and laugh.
Mr. John Tory (Leader of the Opposition): I move that the Legislative Assembly call upon the government,
To recognize that the McGuinty government was made aware of the Six Nations' land claim issues at Caledonia in August 2005, yet allowed the situation to escalate to a full-blown standoff starting on February 28, 2006;
To recognize that the McGuinty government refused even to acknowledge the Caledonia land occupation as a provincial issue until day 42 of the standoff;
To recognize that the McGuinty government's Places to Grow Act was a catalyst in igniting the standoff, since it provides a legal framework for the McGuinty Liberals to designate any area of land as a growth plan area;
To recognize that the McGuinty government further provoked the situation with a regulation identifying the greater Golden Horseshoe area as the first area for which a growth plan will be prepared;
To recognize that the Premier's procrastination and failure to show leadership when it was most needed allowed this situation to escalate into a public safety crisis;
To recognize that the McGuinty Liberals have refused to compensate the OPP for the unforeseen costs incurred while policing Caledonia and to reimburse municipalities policed by the OPP that sent officers to Caledonia;
To recommend to the Lieutenant Governor in Council that a commission be appointed to inquire into and report on how absence of communication and lack of leadership by Premier McGuinty and his Liberal government allowed the Caledonia situation to escalate to a full-blown standoff and subsequently a public security crisis;
To accept recommendations from the commission directed to preventing similar chaotic confrontations when dealing with future land claim issues in the province, including recommendations with respect to ways in which we can improve dispute resolution in this area and enhance respect for the rule of law; and
To grant the commission powers under the Public Inquiries Act.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bruce Crozier): Mr. Tory has moved opposition day number 4. Mr. Tory.
Mr. Tory: I'm pleased to have the opportunity to move this motion, to initiate this debate today and to speak to the motion. I want to make four points. The first three are important, but I think the fourth is especially important. The four points are: the need to find ways to improve the land claims process; secondly, the need for a timely response on the part of governments when incidents of this kind arise and the shocking failure of the McGuinty government to respond in a timely fashion in this particular instance; thirdly, the need for leadership and communication on the part of the government of Ontario when incidents like this arise so that we don't have a crisis boil up before anything is done -- again, a shocking failure on the part of Premier McGuinty and his government in this instance; and finally, some comments on what I think is the most important issue of all that needs to be looked at by a commission and should be discussed here in the Legislature today, namely the importance of the maintenance of the rule of law.
Dealing with the first issue, the land claims process, I think it is apparent to all of us that we have to do better. We heard the minister this afternoon getting into the same old game of saying that really this is all the federal government's responsibility and the rest of us should wash our hands of it and have nothing to do with it and so on. I think this is the kind of thing that has made our First Nations fellow citizens and, frankly, the citizens of Canada tired of this game that goes on back and forth, as opposed to saying, "Let's put a bit of energy, effort and creativity into finding better ways in which we can deal with these land claim issues." How we could do better; how they could do better, meaning the people in Ottawa and meaning the First Nations people? We're all in this together at the end of the day, sitting down, discussing these things. I think there is not the need to point the finger of blame at any one person or another, but there's a need for us to accept our collective responsibility to make sure this process is done better.
Where is the harm in inviting, before an independent body or an independent investigator, experts and representatives on all sides -- First Nations, local governments, provincial governments, federal governments, business people, citizens who might have a view or two to offer on this kind of thing -- and to talk with them and listen to them on the matter of how we can take these land claims that have been around in many cases for hundreds of years, including the one that has led to the standoff at Caledonia, and find a way to do better? I would answer my own question by saying that there's absolutely no harm at all. There's never harm in calling people together under the watchful eye of an independent investigator and putting some of these questions on the table and listening to what all these people have to say as to ways in which we could do better.
I think we have to be proactive. The government of Ontario should be proactive in saying to the First Nations people, and frankly saying to each other, that 200 years, and in some cases longer, is too long to let these issues fester and it's time to see how we can find ways to do it better and make our suggestions, regardless at the end of the day who has the direct responsibility, to put our suggestions on the record as to how we, in Ontario, think we could do better and prevent these kinds of situations from arising which we saw at Oka, which we saw at Ipperwash and which we see today in Caledonia.
The second point: a timely response. One of the merits of putting an inquiry in place like this is that it will allow all of us to see and understand why so much time was allowed to pass before the McGuinty government did anything at all -- anything at all. They knew about this months and months before any kind of occupation or any kind of protest of any kind took place. There were information pickets on this very site, on the side of this very same road where the land is located, months before any occupation of the land began, and yet we see no action taken at that time or, if there's been any action undertaken at that time, we have no idea what it is because it's never been shared with the public.
Then the occupation of the land began months later. Still no action of any substance taken by Mr. McGuinty or his government until 60 days into the occupation -- 60 days of inconvenience, 60 days of mounting tension, 60 days of defiance of a court order. Maybe not 60 days of defiance of a court order, because I think it was obtained a little bit later, but the bottom line is, 60 days after the occupation began, finally we had Mr. Peterson sent in as a representative of the Ontario government: the first overt and obvious sign of any action being taken by this Premier, Mr. McGuinty, and his government of any kind whatsoever -- not at the time when the issue first came to light, which I think may have been as far back as some time in 2004, and of course it's been around frankly for 200 years; not when the information pickets were there; not when the occupation began. Sixty days later: That's when this government finally decided, when the heat was on, when it was approaching a full-blown crisis, that they would do something about it.
I'm not critical of what Mr. Peterson has tried to do. He was kind enough to brief Mr. Barrett and myself on what he was up to. There's no question as to the complexity of the assignment he took on, but questions still linger. What if he had been appointed last fall, in the fall of 2005, to sit down and begin the discussions he didn't begin until this spring? What if he'd been given that opportunity, David Peterson himself, to begin those complex discussions a lot earlier? Might we have never seen the blockade that did so much to raise tensions and did so much to disrupt the lives of people in that community and the relationship they've developed with each other over decades? What if he was appointed on day one or day two of the occupation instead of weeks and weeks into the occupation? Might we have headed off some of the ugliness that we saw in Caledonia where people were pitted against one another, where we saw power transformers burned down, businesses disrupted, schools shut down and so forth and so on?
What if this government had decided that this was a serious enough matter that related to the rule of law, to a dispute that was festering between different parts of the community, and had taken some action at an earlier time? How much less damage would have been done -- yes, to business; yes, to schools; yes, to the transportation system; and yes, to hydro, just to cite some examples -- but much more importantly than that, how much less damage would have been done to the social fabric of Caledonia and surrounding area and indeed the social fabric of Ontario if Mr. McGuinty and his ministers had decided to take some action earlier on, instead of just hoping, as they have done in so many instances, whether it be electricity or all kinds of things? We could talk about the crime wave last summer. What if they had decided, for once, to actually proactively take some steps to deal with a situation that was clearly spiralling out of control and had acted earlier? What would that have done to maintain that precious social fabric that exists and has existed for decades between the First Nations people who live in the area of Caledonia and the Six Nations and the others who have lived there together, side by side, for decades and decades?
On my visits there, I was struck by the fact that that was the issue that was of paramount concern to the people you talk to in both of those groups: How can we make sure we can go back when this is over, as it surely will be one day, to the kind of reasonably peaceful -- not perfect; what set of neighbours anywhere live in a state of perfection? -- but the reasonably peaceful coexistence we've had for decades? This government will never give us the opportunity to properly answer that question, because they dithered and they delayed and they failed to take action.
Three visits. You could see each time I went -- I went the first two times without any contact with the media at all -- that that fabric was being stretched further and further and that the damage was done, I would argue, simply by the passage of time.
That leads me to point three, communication and leadership. The one thing that you heard from people over and over again when you were there was that they felt completely abandoned on all fronts. There was no one there, and there hasn't been to this day. Aside from Mr. Peterson, who was sent down, there was no one in a responsible position, a minister of this government, who had the courage -- to my knowledge, unless they went down and have never told us -- to go down there and actually take the opportunity to see for themselves what was going on and listen to the people and maybe show that slightest bit of concern about the impact this was having among all of the residents of all backgrounds down in that particular area.
Mr. Peterson wasn't appointed for 60 days, but I will give him this: He at least had the decency to show up. He went down there and did listen to people and sat with them and talked with them, which is more than can be said for any member of this government, including in particular the Premier of this province, who should have been there, if for no other purpose than to say he cared about what was going on enough to see it for himself, he cared enough to go and listen to the concerns that were being raised by people who live there and who have lived there beside each other. I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that the Premier should have been there; the minister should have been there.
They're very fond, over on the government side of the House, of saying how much they fight for this group or that group, but the people on all sides down there -- I can tell you because I was there three times -- felt there was no one fighting for them. Least of all did they find that people in their provincial government were fighting for them when it came to addressing this issue.
I want to just say a few words about the fourth matter, which is the one I said was the most important. I don't think there is anything more fundamental to the society we have here, to the system we have here, to the values that we hold dear in this province and in this country, than the rule of law. In fact, I noted with interest in doing a little research on this yesterday that when Mr. McGuinty, the Premier of this province, was in China last year, he took the opportunity to give what would properly be characterized perhaps in two respects, as a bit of a lecture to people he was visiting with in China about just how important we find the rule of law in the province of Ontario. He said, "Canadian leaders have consistently accentuated the dual themes of engagement and respect for the rule of law." He was talking there about business and saying that business can only be done in a climate in which the law is understood and consistently implemented. Those are the words of the Premier of this province giving a bit of a friendly lecture to the Chinese about the rule of law and talking about how important it is to those of us here in the province of Ontario.
I would go so far as to suggest that a good deal of the conflict we see in the world today, some of the stuff that we all have been talking about in this House this afternoon, is, yes, related to democracy, and yes, it's related in part to a belief that we have in the free enterprise system and to human rights and so forth. But it is perhaps more so than anything else about whether people are prepared to embrace and buy into, as we have done in this society, the rule of law.
If you have a democracy where governments are elected and have legislatures to pass laws, and it's all very democratic, but then following out of that you don't have respect for the rule of law, what do you really have?
I read earlier from the Ministry of the Attorney General's website, where it was indicated that the rule of law and maintenance of the rule of law and the upholding of the rule of law is one of the most fundamental things that the Attorney General of Ontario is charged with. I would say the entire government, starting with the Premier and going all the way through, and indeed every member of this Legislature is here to pass laws and to reconsider laws and to hold people accountable, but at the end of the day, as well, to show leadership in upholding the rule of law.
I say with respect -- and it's not intended to pass judgment on anybody involved in any of this -- that we have allowed that principle to slide when it comes to how this matter has been dealt with, and others before it. We cannot have a situation where we somehow just leave everybody to fend for themselves when we have land that is being occupied after a court order is issued and we have public highways that are being blocked. If any of the rest of us did that, if we just decided to go out and protest high taxes or bad weather and sit down on Yonge Street, somebody would come along and say, "You can't do that," because it says in the law somewhere you can't do that.
This is a sensitive matter, but at the end of the day, you can't just say, "We're just going to go along and hope one day it all goes away." In the end, if people get that message, whether it's people here, in Caledonia, in Ontario or anywhere across the country, that no matter what's on the books or no matter what a court says, it's okay to do whatever you want, then where are we? What are people going to start to do in terms of conducting their own lives? If they don't like a law, are they allowed to just ignore it?
I understand and I've tried to be fair and balanced in my remarks in saying we've got to start at the root of this, which is finding better ways to deal with land claims. But we cannot allow a situation to prevail in this province, whether it has to do with a land claim or anything else, where the law is ignored, where the orders of courts are ignored, where people are left saying, "Let's hope for the best and let us know how things work out." We must maintain the rule of law. It is fundamental to what our society is built on. It is fundamental to why we are here. It is fundamental to why we have courts.
I'd just say, in that regard, that I think there's a lot to be desired in terms of how this government has managed that aspect of this and in terms of how this entire matter has been managed. That's one of the other reasons why I think it is crucial that we have an independent investigator who can look at this most important of principles and say, "How can we do better at upholding and maintaining the rule of law?" There is nothing more fundamental and nothing more important to the role we play here to pass laws than that people and our society then have to agree on a consensual basis to follow and uphold them.
The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?
Mr. Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): This motion really is tailor-made to the McGuinty government's growing list of failures with respect to Caledonia and Six Nations. I hear concerns on two fronts: lack of leadership, leaving people on the ground to take the reins; and secondly, a bad job at communicating -- communicating with all sides, essentially. The result is that people feel they are being treated like mushrooms.
I went behind the barricades on the third day. I have previously raised this issue at Queen's Park with the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs. I contacted the federal Ministry of Indian Affairs. I went to Ottawa. I took material to the Governor General. From all branches and all levels of government, I continue to be stonewalled. The federal minister said this is a provincial issue. The provincial minister said this is a federal issue.
On April 12, the provincial minister reversed course and took ownership of Caledonia as a provincial issue. He said in this House, "We'll be playing a lead role." But by June 3, that same minister, the minister for aboriginal affairs, reversed himself and said, "The province has done all it can do to solve the problem in Caledonia and Six Nations. Now it's time for Ottawa to step up." That was last weekend. But on May 24, Ottawa had previously said the occupation is provincial.
So here we are in the middle. People in Brant county, Haldimand county, Caledonia and throughout Six Nations are caught. They have walked through and suffered 97 days now of confusion and time lost, and both levels of government continue to point the finger at each other. Rather than tackling the important issues, this government waits for them to explode. You blame the federal government, you hide behind a political friend, then you admit failure and leave a total vacuum of leadership and communication.
However, the problem remains. At 1:30 this morning I watched a very large barn burn down on highway 6. That's one mile south of the barricade. Questions are out there: Who torched it? Who do we call to find out? Again, we remain in the dark. Lack of communication and lack of leadership has exacerbated these problems.
We all are striving to determine what is driving this. The Places to Grow legislation was mentioned by Mr. Tory. I feel that is one catalyst. The greenbelt is leapfrogging growth out of the Golden Horseshoe. People at the occupied site, people behind the barricades tell me of their concern with four million people coming down to the Niagara-Hamilton-Toronto area within the next generation. I know elected Chief Dave General has reports of five million people. That's a lot of new subdivisions; that's a lot of garbage; that's a huge impact on water quality. A mass of subdivisions is envisioned being built on the full eastern boundary of Six Nations and on the northern boundary.
People see reports of Brantford booming. They know of reports of another 200,000 people coming to the Waterloo region. Again, all of this population growth is along the Grand River within that six-mile tract on either side. This is obviously a threat to hunting and fishing -- for example, carp, urban squirrels or perhaps the Norway rat. It's seen as a threat to people's culture, to their way of life, and a threat to generations hence.
There are other drivers: land claims, of course; a perceived lack of respect; lack of recognition; lack of having a voice; racism -- I've witnessed racism -- and I could go on. There will be future incidents. As occupied site spokesperson Janie Jamieson has said, "Caledonia will be precedent-setting up and down the Grand River."
What this motion suggests are tremendous voids in leadership and communication. There is evidence. I've already mentioned how the McGuinty government initially responded with finger pointing before taking ownership only after day 42 and then dropping ownership on day 95. On May 9, I put out a warning about the prospect of the lights going out. On May 22, the lights went out. On May 9, the minister said, "I am not aware of an expansion of the area of occupation," but it is the minister's job to be aware. The perimeter had moved at that time to north of the river.
Once the Argyle Street barricades came down, the Premier attempted to communicate from a media studio in a city somewhere. Again, we heard the suggestions that the Premier, at that time, was a day late and a dollar short. It was seen as an attempt to take credit for someone else's success. It was seen to fan the flames: "Why won't the Premier thank the people of Caledonia and within Six Nations for doing what he couldn't do at that time: getting together on the ground, on the street, and getting those barricades down?"
Communication: I continue to get so many e-mails. I've sent out close to 2,000 e-mails just from my office -- phone calls and letters and faxes and conversations constantly in garages and shops up and down Highway 6 and at Ohsweken. People are asking, "Are the negotiations still on?" Maybe they are; nobody really knows. There's a deafening silence which leads to speculation.
What is the McGuinty government offering in these negotiations? We get the odd snowball answer along with some heckling from the Liberals, but no real response. Is Burtch still on the table? Was it offered? Was it taken away? Why was it taken away? If land is being offered, are area MPPs being informed of what's going on? Again, we're kept in the dark. How do these land claims impact Brantford? How does it impact the Waterloo region, let alone Caledonia?
Rampant confusion: In addition to disrupting of communities, traffic issues remain an ever-present disruption to business. When ministers are sometimes allowed to answer, we don't get much of an answer and we hear nothing from those who are muzzled. Because they would be forced to answer -- and this is one theory -- as Minister Ramsay has. They would have to acknowledge that they as well are in the dark and really don't seem to know what to do.
We know this is a law and order issue. This past week, Ontario Superior Court Justice T. David Marshall ordered all parties to come before his bench to provide answers for why court orders have not been enforced. There might be a good reason; we don't know. There's no communication. There's no leadership. We have no idea. Again, people in the communities affected can only speculate.
I've seen the total breakdown of law and order on both sides of the barricade -- on all sides, I will add. I've seen symptoms of frustration about being left in the dark, seeing no leadership from government, broken deals, and 97 days of disruption.
I will be supporting this motion. I've seen the failures; I've heard the silence. We haven't seen any elected members of this government in Caledonia or the Six Nations area as yet. John Tory, as we know, has visited on three occasions. It's time to figure out just where the wheels fell off this whole response from the McGuinty government to the Caledonia-Six Nations issue. To vote against this resolution would continue to ignore the reality of the situation, and it's a reality that very clearly cannot be ignored for long.
Mr. John Milloy (Kitchener Centre): It's a pleasure to participate in today's debate. I'm the first member of the government who will be speaking to it, but I know there are a number of members, including Minister Ramsay, who are anxious to speak about this motion.
I had a chance to review the motion over the weekend and was quite frankly shocked by its contents. I guess I was shocked because when it comes to issues surrounding Canada's aboriginal communities, Canada's First Nations communities, I'd always thought there was a consensus that existed here in this Legislature, here in the province of Ontario: first of all, a genuine concern for the plight of Canada's aboriginal peoples. I think all of us who have had a chance to be involved in public policy have been disturbed and at times shocked by many of the challenges that our aboriginal communities face in terms of poverty, in terms of access to education, in terms of access to opportunities. Canada is, unfortunately, a country which is not vacant of the problems of racism and other maladies which affect the way in which aboriginal peoples are treated. There is a whole range of issues with which I think we as public policy-makers have to be extremely concerned.
Tied up into all of that is the whole issue of land claims, the fact that many aboriginal groups across this country have very legitimate claims upon pieces of land. They have the right to question treaties that have been signed in the past and to ask for them to be clarified, to ask for negotiations to be undertaken to make sure that those claims are resolved. These claims, as we all know in this Legislature, go back many, many hundreds of years, and addressing them is not an easy task. Courts are involved, commissions are involved, negotiators are involved, and it takes a great amount of time, a great amount of patience, a great amount of fairness in order to reach justice. But I think that we all agree in this Legislature that when it comes to these claims, they need to be settled, and they need to be settled in a way that is fair to all sides.
The second background assumption I had was that everyone thought that what was going on in Caledonia was a very unfortunate situation. I think all of us have been disturbed by what we've seen in the media, by the tempers that have flared, by the roadblocks, by the rising tensions in that community. I don't think anyone across this province is not anxious to see the standoff come to an end. I always thought that everyone wanted to work for a peaceful resolution of the Caledonia situation. I think all of us in this government have been working with all parties to facilitate this peaceful resolution. I want to congratulate Minister Ramsay, the Premier and other members of cabinet for what they've been doing to try to facilitate this resolution in Caledonia.
I come to the point of why I'm shocked, then, with the motion that has been put forward. I'm shocked because I thought it would have been the view of every member of this Legislature that we need to put aside some of the partisanship here, that we need to put aside some of the back and forth which underlies a lot of the day-to-day things going on in this Legislature, that we recognize how serious a situation it is in Caledonia, that we need to rise above this partisanship, and that we need to work together to find a peaceful resolution. Once in a while, I think it's time for issues to come to the surface where all parties appeal for some calm and appeal for everyone to sit down and find a way to work forward.
This motion is attempting to divide this Legislature. It's attempting to divide Ontarians. Perhaps more shocking about this motion is that not only is it placed in some sort of a vacuum and not only does it deny the very long history that surrounds the Caledonia situation, but it also ignores the role of the other major partner in these discussions, the federal government.
The current dispute in Caledonia, like so many disputes across this country, goes back over 200 years. In fact, the current round or current phase of negotiations about a series of land disputes goes back to the early 1970s, with the current set of talks going back over two years, when the province, the federal government and representatives of the Six Nations sat down to begin to discuss some of these particular issues; in my understanding, two of the 29 outstanding land claims of the Six Nations reserves. These are claims that are primarily between the federal government and the Six Nations reserve, but Ontario has consistently taken a leadership role in these discussions and has certainly called on the federal government to join us in being front and centre. We've appointed David Peterson, a highly respected former Premier, to help us out in terms of some of the discussions and negotiations that are going on right now in Caledonia. At the same time, we've asked Jane Stewart to be the provincial representative in sitting down in some of the talks that are underlying some of the issues that are going on within Caledonia. We've offered $500,000 in interim assistance to businesses in the Haldimand area in order to help them deal with some of the challenges that have come about due to this dispute. But most importantly, we've continued to talk, we've continued to negotiate and we've continued to work for a peaceful resolution, because that's the only way forward. I think all of us have seen far too many instances in the past when tempers have reached the boiling point and where a misstep on one side has led to tragedy. What we need to do is continue the negotiations and continue these discussions. I think we're starting to see progress there.
Other things which I find more than a little passing strange about the Leader of the Opposition's motion that he presented today involve the whole issue of the Ontario Provincial Police. Let me say at the outset that I have been very proud of our government's relationship with the OPP. We have continued to recognize the need for an arm's-length relationship with the police force and have allowed them to make the types of operational decisions that they feel are necessary, depending on the situation. In the Leader of the Opposition's motion, he makes some rather bizarre claims about the need for compensation for the OPP. Now, the OPP has assured the government that they have sufficient resources to provide policing in Caledonia while also maintaining their other provincial responsibilities. Neither the OPP nor municipal police services who have provided backup to the provincial police have requested additional funding of the government, and the government of course would support such a request if and when it's actually made. As I said at the outset, the government continues to leave the deployment of OPP officers in the hands of the OPP commissioner and our senior staff.
The other aspect of the Leader of the Opposition's motion that I find passing strange, again, is his ridiculous suggestion that somehow this is tied to the Places to Grow Act. As I said, this is a dispute going back over 200 years -- the current phase of discussions going back over 30 years. The history of the Places to Grow Act doesn't go back as far. In fact, it's rooted firmly in the work of the Central Ontario Smart Growth Panel, which was established in February 2002 by the previous government under then-Minister Chris Hodgson and chaired by Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion. The recommendations of the panel included developing and passing legislation to support smart growth planning. Indeed, when the Places to Grow Act was first tabled in the House on October 28, 2004, my colleague the member from Erie-Lincoln noted, and I quote, "In many senses, many parts of this are simply a red ribbon tied around good Conservative ideas."
The Places to Grow Act is a separate piece of legislation which was brought forward to deal with many of the planning issues in southwestern Ontario. To throw it in as some sort of red herring, as the Leader of the Opposition does, I think downplays the importance of the ongoing negotiations between the province, the federal government and Six Nations, which span many years. Furthermore, the Ontario growth secretariat has engaged Six Nations and consulted with them on the proposed growth plan since April 2005. While the proposed growth plan will not apply specifically to First Nations reserve lands which are not subject to Ontario's land use planning system, the underlying objectives of the plan align with and support the objectives of Six Nations to ensure better land use planning.
I think everyone recognizes that the events at Caledonia have been serious. I think all of us are disturbed at what we've seen on our nightly newscasts or read in the newspapers. All of us are looking for a peaceful resolution. Unfortunately, in so many instances, peaceful resolutions are never easy. We're talking about issues that go back for many years, many decades. We're talking about very complex issues involving different orders of government. I think we have to thank everyone who's involved for their patience. We have to continue to encourage them for goodwill.
In terms of the resolution that's before us today, I think we have to call on all members of the Legislature to put aside the partisanship and the back and forth which sometimes muddies the water here. I think all of us need to stand and support the efforts of Mr. Peterson and the other negotiators at Caledonia, first of all to disarm the situation there and then to deal with some of the underlying problems that go forth.
I think the motion that has been put forward by the Leader of the Opposition does nothing more than sow mischief. It contains a number of red herrings. It doesn't recognize the historical realities of the situation and it certainly doesn't recognize the role that has been played by this government in taking leadership.
I will not be supporting the motion, and I call on my colleagues to vote against it as well.
Mr. Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): You can tell by the member from Kitchener Centre's comments that he wasn't here when the Liberal Party was in opposition when he talks about partisanship on these kinds of issues. He should review the history and the opposition day motion put forward on Ipperwash by the Liberal Party of Ontario.
I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the debate on the motion of the Leader of the Opposition, John Tory, dealing with Caledonia, the longest-running native occupation in memory. As someone who was on the receiving end of questions and accusations surrounding the occupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park from the then Liberal opposition, it truly saddens me that once again we find ourselves in a situation that in many respects is significantly more serious than Ipperwash. The positive distinction with Ipperwash is that we have not had a fatality at Caledonia, and thank God for that.
However, what we have witnessed at Caledonia should be disturbing to all caring Ontarians. We've seen violent clashes between Caledonians and native occupiers, a bridge being burned, roads torn up and a transformer station knocked out, plunging thousands into a power blackout and costing $1.25 million in repairs. We have also seen public roads and a railway spur blockaded. Yesterday, as unbelievable as it might seem, a security guard's car was torched and police officers who drove, mistakenly, into the occupied area were escorted out of what a Six Nations spokesperson described as a no-go zone: a no-go zone for Ontario police in the province of Ontario.
The McGuinty government's reaction to the occupation, the violence, the blockades, economic losses and the deteriorating relationship between native and non-native populations has been to offer the occupiers property worth millions of dollars, to blindside the developers of the occupied property with a development moratorium that they had to read about in the newspaper and, of course, to blame others.
The regrettable reality is that the good citizens of Caledonia are reaping what Dalton McGuinty and his Liberal colleagues sowed in opposition with their attacks on the Harris government, and by implication the OPP, in the aftermath of the Ipperwash shooting. For years, McGuinty and his acolytes in the media implied that Harris and his cabinet colleagues, with the complicity of the OPP, somehow encouraged officers to attack the occupiers, resulting in the tragic death of Dudley George.
As someone who was there, I knew the accusation was completely false, but McGuinty, sensing political blood and not recognizing implications down the road, carried on the attack right into the current government's now multi-million dollar inquiry into Ipperwash. As a result, Mr. McGuinty has hobbled himself and his government in terms of approaches to the Caledonia situation, and he has also handicapped the OPP.
Their failed April attempt to enforce the injunction was a politically correct exercise sending in ill-equipped and for the most part untrained officers to deal with a powder keg situation. The result was a huge humiliation for a wonderful police force, the OPP, when they were forced to retreat with their tails between their legs. Who can fault the OPP? They knew, based on past words, that they couldn't count on the McGuinty government to support them. That was reinforced in question period the day after the botched raid, when the Premier put on his three-blind-mice routine: didn't know anything about it, didn't want to know anything about it and wouldn't commit to anything to address it. In Premier McGuinty's office it appears that ignorance is bliss, or at least safe political territory.
At the end of the day, the Caledonia occupation is all about failed leadership. Mike Harris, despite his faults -- and we all have faults -- was a leader who felt strongly that laws had to apply equally to all Canadians, and that to do otherwise would seriously undermine the rule-of-law principles that this country and this province were built on.
Mr. McGuinty in opposition, however, took a different approach, and with the prospect of short-term political gain went down a path that opened the door to future confrontations, with Caledonia, I fear, being just the start.
Constitutionally, aboriginals in Canada have special rights, but those rights don't extend to breaking the laws of our country and our province. Mr. McGuinty has clearly demonstrated his inability to deal with the Caledonia situation, unless it involves negotiating concessions that could provoke further Caledonias. First Nations leadership, we should mention, has also been missing in action in Caledonia -- an absence that undermines respect for their efforts in other areas.
This is an extremely difficult and volatile situation, and we hope and pray that today's motion will encourage all parties to work towards a speedy resolution that is fair to all and doesn't preclude the laying of appropriate criminal charges at the end of the day.
Hon. David Ramsay (Minister of Natural Resources, minister responsible for aboriginal affairs): It's a pleasure to rise in my place in the Ontario Legislature today to talk about an issue that has certainly taken up a lot of my time and a lot of the time of the Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat of the province of Ontario.
The Premier of the province, Dalton McGuinty, many other of my cabinet colleagues and hundreds of government of Ontario officials have been working -- many of them literally night and day -- putting their heads together to come up with solutions to this particular challenge.
This is a very complicated issue, and from all the events that have transpired over the last two and a half months now, it is quite evident, I think to everyone, how complicated this is, just going back as little as last night when a police car made a wrong turn, and how that got quite a few of the residents of the Six Nations quite excited as they saw a police car come in where normally that car wouldn't venture. It caused a bit of excitement then. I think the public appreciates the tension that's there on both sides in this area and how difficult this is. As I've mentioned, literally hundreds of people in the Ontario public service have been working as a team on this.
I think I'd start with a bit of the history here. There's ancient history to this and there's recent history. I think everybody understands the context -- the ancient history, if you will, that in 1784, it was the British crown that granted the Haldimand Tract, which was described at that time as six miles either side of the Grand River, from the mouth of the river that opens into Lake Erie all the way up to the headwaters, which start around Orangeville. The idea of that reward for the contribution of the Six Nations in fighting the American rebels during the Revolutionary War was that they would occupy some of that land and that they would receive value for the disposition of that land as the settlers came into that part of Ontario. A trust account was to be established, and they would be credited with the disposition of that land.
The dispute really is an accounting claim, by and large. While there are some particular parcels that are involved in a land claim, the overall dispute is an accounting claim. The claim made by the Six Nations is: Were they properly credited with all the value of the land that was transferred from that tract? It was a gift from the crown at the time.
There are some particular land claim issues there, and about 28 of them have been a focus over the last few years. We acted upon a letter we received in the summer of 2005, where we accelerated the process of exploration of these claims. A couple of the parcels, the Six Nations asked to go to litigation, and that gave us the opportunity to give those some special attention. So we've been working on this issue, trying to resolve this issue, over the last few years.
Chief David General of the Six Nations had been telling us and many in his community of the progress that was being made, but there were many in the community who didn't appreciate that progress and were getting impatient. I think what exactly happened was that this spring, when the showpiece model home in the subdivision of Douglas Creek Estates sprang up -- and it's basically right at the end of one of the roads leading to and from the Six Nations reserve -- it was just something that was in your face and it got many of the people on the reserve quite excited with a sense that their land was being lost to this.
I think people have to understand that this development was only given approval when all the procedures were followed and everything was passed, one of those being that the chief and council of Six Nations had signed off on the development of Douglas Creek Estates going forward. To have gotten to that point, an archaeological study had also been executed and completed and passed satisfactorily. So there were procedures in place that have been established down there in the Haldimand Tract in regard to development, and those procedures were followed. But what we had here was a segment of the community that didn't accept the process that was ongoing and didn't want to see development going on in the Douglas Creek property.
Some of the background to this -- and this is why this particular dispute has some very particular matters attached to it that are unique to this First Nation. Traditionally, Mohawks have a hereditary style of government, a style of government based on hereditary chiefs. But in 1924 the federal government imposed upon First Nations in Canada a first-past-the-post electoral system, very similar to what we have here in municipal, provincial and federal elections. By and large, most First Nations accepted that electoral system to elect a chief and a council who would then hire a band administrator who would administer, just like our municipalities do, funds that the bands have. In this case, this was imposed upon First Nations because primarily the resources that are managed by First Nations are monies that are transferred from the federal government to First Nation communities. This electoral system was imposed upon this First Nation at gunpoint by the RCMP, so there is a bitterness there about that imposition of this so-called democratic system of government.
While we consider it one of the most and best democratic ways of selecting a government, this strikes against the tradition of Six Nations and of Mohawks in general. So there never has been a full acceptance of this electoral system, that we commonly participate in as non-native residents of Ontario. With that, you have maybe 12% of the population partaking in these elections, and you have various people competing for the jobs of council and chief. So there is not a broad engagement by the population in the electoral process, and this makes it very difficult to govern there.
In fact, what has happened since the Douglas Creek Estates dispute is that the elected chief, David General, and the council have delegated authority to the Haudenosaunee chief the responsibility of at least dealing with the disposition of the Douglas Creek property, and how that's going to be dealt with. Right now there's some shared responsibility between the elected chief, David General, and the Haudenosaunee chief, Allen MacNaughton. So there is right now some shared jurisdiction. Part of what we and the federal government wanted to do over the last few years too was to assist the community in working out a governance model that would be acceptable to both levels of government and the people of Six Nations.
That's one of the underlying complications in this issue. There are various players involved representing Six Nations itself, so it's not a simple negotiation, as one might find within the business world, for instance, when a multinational corporation sits across a table from its union, where the procedures and structures of that organization are very clear to both sides and there are direct lines of responsibility. This is a very different negotiation.
In fact, I know part of the frustration that people find is the timeliness of these talks. That is because of the extreme democratic nature of Mohawk politics and of First Nations politics right across this country. When we, in our first-past-the-post electoral system, get elected and an executive is sworn in, we basically have responsibility in each of our ministerial roles to govern the province. In First Nation communities, leadership will consult, some would say to a fault, back to the people who sent them there so that there is always consensus being built. It's a very different system in that while governing, even as a majority government, we'd like to find consensus and work with stakeholders, at times we will make a decision based on our authority that might not have the acceptance of everyone involved. That is very contrary to aboriginal governance; they work very differently. That takes time, so we will see great pauses in the negotiations, for days, while consultations are led by the leadership of the other side with their community.
That's another complication. I think that lack of understanding of that political system builds frustrations in the non-native community. But it's something that I think we have to appreciate and, as I have instructed our team, something we have to accommodate for. We're doing that because the goal here that we have as the Ontario government led by Dalton McGuinty is to find a peaceful resolution to this.
The other side of this -- so far I've just addressed the aboriginal side of this. I want to talk about the residents of Caledonia, who have been severely impacted by this dispute. I know everyone in this chamber has been aware of the efforts that we have made as a province in working towards returning the community to normalcy. We've had some success, but not total success, in doing that.
As everyone knows, about three and half weeks ago now, we appointed former Premier David Peterson to be the lead in the short-term negotiations. He has done a tremendous job in doing that. Since he has taken over that responsibility, we have seen the removal of the Argyle Street barricade, which was the most disruptive of the three barricades that had been in place. That's the one that basically blocked the main traffic of the main street, so that the stores along Argyle Street were not easily accessed. Of course, we saw how many of the businesses had lost their traffic by up to 50% and had suffered losses accordingly.
Because of that, we have stepped in. It was over a week ago that my colleague the Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Joe Cordiano, went down to Caledonia. He established a fund with the county for $500,000 to help the businesses that have been hurt in that area. They've had severe losses. I know many of them were on the brink of bankruptcy because of these sustained losses. So there's been that. We have established two $50,000 funds to the county to do some work at their end, one of them to market Haldimand county and to work on economic development plans for that region. We have been working with both sides, because both sides have been impacted by this.
I would also say that I know the members of the assembly here are aware of the long-term working group that the federal and provincial governments have put together. We're very pleased with the co-operation of Minister Jim Prentice, my counterpart in Ottawa, for his appointment of former cabinet minister Barbara MacDougall to represent the federal government at this long-term table. We have also appointed a former federal cabinet minister, Jane Stewart, who is the former Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs in Ottawa. Both of these negotiators bring tremendous experience to the job.
We're at a point now where we think that Ontario has probably exhausted all the tools that we have available to us to solve the short-term dispute. We see, as the long-term working group commences its discussions, that the short-term dispute is naturally evolving to that table, and probably rightfully so. That table is preparing to take on and address that. Obviously, the crux of all of this is the final disposition of Douglas Creek.
That brings me, obviously, to the other injured party here, the Henning brothers, owners of the Henco development company. They are the developers of this particular property, who are hoping to build 600 homes on this property as Caledonia is expanding to the south, a rapidly growing community southwest of Hamilton.
The Henning brothers realize now that the value in the property is not what it was once and have entered into negotiations with the province, and we continue to talk to them about the property. In the interim, we have given them some capital as bridge financing to make sure that they do not go bankrupt. We've also worked with the builders that had been associated with the developer, who were planning on being partners with the developing company to build those homes there, to help them out because they obviously have been in severe financial jeopardy too.
We've been trying to address all the concerns of the community and the various players there. We've also set up a working group called the alliance. This is a working group of business people in Caledonia, municipal representatives and other community representatives. There are daily meetings going on between government officials and this alliance group in order to communicate to the community exactly what's going on on a day-to-day basis. One of the concerns that was brought to our attention very early in this dispute was that because of the negotiations going on, a lot of people didn't understand what progress we were making, what was going on and what was being asked of us. So we've established this alliance working group where we communicate on a daily basis with this group, and have also set up an 800 number with this group so that the public has access to information as news breaks here.
We're doing everything we can and I think that's the message I would want to get out today to the people of Ontario, that we are marshalling all the resources we have in the provincial government. We are partnering with the federal government and certainly asking them to continue to be a partner with us at the table. As we get further down the road on the long-term working group, it will in the end be the tools the federal government has that will see the resolution to this dispute. It is only the federal government that has the tools to resolve an outstanding land claim that needs to be brought to the table. They are there, and we are certainly encouraging them to continue the work with us, as they have been. I think in the end we are going to get through this.
I would ask the members, and I suppose especially the official opposition, who today have brought forward this resolution, to have patience. I find it passing strange, as their ex-leader had once phrased in this House, while we are in a dispute and not at resolution yet, to be talking about a post-mortem about the situation. But they've decided to do that today. I suppose our time might have been better spent here in working together, all three parties, in trying to find a resolution to this.
This not a partisan issue. This is not a political issue. This is a challenge faced by both the provincial government and the federal government as to how best can we settle the outstanding claims by aboriginal people that this country faces? As I said earlier in question period, there are over 1,000 outstanding land claims in this country and many of those have been outstanding for hundreds of years. It is time that all levels of government get together. I think what is going to come out of the long-term working group here in Caledonia, for Ontario, is that in the end we are going to design and develop mechanisms to better expedite these outstanding land claims. If one could, in the future, look back at where we will finally resolve this issue, I think what we're going to be able to say, if there is some good that has come out of this dispute, is that in the end -- and I'm hopeful this will be the case -- we will have developed an expeditious approach to solving outstanding land claims, at least in Ontario, and hopefully, through that, maybe develop a prototype that could be used right across this country.
This is something that really has to be resolved. It's a nagging problem that nags this country. It holds our aboriginal people back. It prevents them from truly sharing in the economic wealth of this country and it has got to be resolved. This particular dispute in Ontario has brought this to a head. We have to deal with it now. I think, in the end, we will get this resolved and we'll all be the better for it.
Mr. Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): I'm pleased to be able to make a few comments today supporting our leader's opposition day motion.
First of all, I want to say to you that I understand what a difficult situation Caledonia has been. I want to thank our leader, John Tory, who has visited Caledonia at least twice and has made this a very high priority as he has tried to work, I think in a non-partisan manner, to try to bring resolution to this.
I'd like to make a few comments today in support of the Ontario Provincial Police, who appear to be, as one police officer mentioned to me two weeks ago, the meat in the sandwich. I say that because we've had a number of officers present at Caledonia since February 28 of this year. At times, in the vicinity of 200 officers have been present at Caledonia. It's been a tremendous, tremendous burden on the Ontario Provincial Police's budget. I wanted to make sure people are aware that this is a budget where the field and traffic division had already been cut by $31 million this year. So trying to find that $31 million, as well as finding the costs that are associated with Caledonia, would be important for the government not only to address but, if the government wants to work in a non-partisan manner on this issue, I'd like to see some answers come back to this House on what these costs are.
There is no question these costs are affecting the OPP budget. They're affecting municipal police forces and of course they're affecting the general officers in the Ontario Provincial Police because, as one officer told me last Friday, they're tired. This has gone on a long time, over 100 days now. It's having an impact.
One thing the minister could come forward with would be to provide that information to this House. For example, what has it cost? I have seen nothing to date. He says it's all part of the overall budget and it's not having any impact on anything else. I don't buy that, not when I talk to officers from across the province. They seem to have a different opinion than the minister does on it. I can tell you that -- my guess right now -- it's costing close to $3.5 million out of the Ontario Provincial Police budget every month that this goes on. I'd ask that the minister, if anyone has any more accurate information than that, come forward with that and provide us with the detailed information, because it is having an impact. I just want to know that in a busy holiday season like we're about to embark upon -- we've just finished the May 24 weekend and we've got the long weekend coming up in July, which is one of the busiest days of the year -- we have the officers on our highways and we have the officers near our provincial parks. There are often literally thousands and thousands of people at some of these provincial parks. We need to have that police presence, and I want to make sure that those officers are available in the summer months. Right now, I think they're going to be more tired than ever and that we won't see the numbers we would normally see.
I was very concerned when I asked a question, even today, on the terrorism attacks, because I think it shows a sense of leadership. The minister refused to answer the question or the supplementary. He went on about something with Norman Inkster, that he didn't fire them. The question was, what additional resources were they providing? Then, when I asked him the CISO question about the $1.76 million, he said he hadn't made any cuts. I acknowledged that but I asked him, was he going to make the cuts next May, May 2007, and he refused to answer the question. This is no longer question period, because we certainly don't get any answers anymore, answers to anything. That's what's kind of sad about the place. You look for honest answers and you look for accurate answers and you get nothing out of it. That's very disappointing.
This issue at Caledonia, the blockades etc., what I'm hearing from people from across my riding, which is almost 200 km from Caledonia, is, where's the leadership? Where is the leadership on this issue? We have not seen the Premier at Caledonia. We have not seen any cabinet minister at Caledonia. We've never seen the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. We've never seen the Attorney General. That's a sense of leadership. We've got a crisis here, we've got a situation that I think needs true leadership, and Dalton McGuinty is nowhere to be seen. At the same time, they're asking us to pass Bill 56, the emergency management act, which gives more power to the Premier than ever. We're supposed to listen to that, when the guy is lost in action? He has hidden under his desk or something, somewhere. He will not visit Caledonia. That is disgraceful. There should be a cabinet minister's presence weekly at Caledonia until this thing gets resolved. At least it would show some faith that the government actually cares about this particular issue and cares about the Ontario Provincial Police, who have become the meat in the sandwich, as I said earlier, on this very difficult issue.
I will be supporting this resolution and I support my leader for his leadership on this file. There's not a lot he can do at times, but at least he can bring to the attention of the public that we're seeing absolutely no leadership whatsoever at Caledonia from Dalton McGuinty and his cabinet.
Mr. Gilles Bisson (Timmins-James Bay): It's unfortunate that we have to be in this Legislature, debating this particular motion. Let me explain why. We never should have been put in this situation in the first place. This is a long-standing problem with First Nations, not only here in Ontario but across this country. Whenever it comes to resolving the grievances or issues that First Nations have had for many, many years, before federal and provincial governments, it has always been pretty well much the same: a federal government missing in action, that's indifferent, that quite frankly has followed a policy of assimilation and a policy of neglect to where First Nations, no matter where they might reside -- in southern Ontario, northern Ontario, BC or wherever it might be -- find themselves always in a position of being basically without. I represent, as do other members in this House, many First Nations. I represent mostly Mushkegowuk Cree and the Ojibways of the central Ontario area around Timmins. I can tell you, for those of you who have been into those communities, that you will see a lot of poverty. You will see poverty in those communities like you see probably in many other places of the world where poverty exists. I always remember being at a conference one time with parliamentarians -- I forget where it was, somewhere in Europe -- and a Canadian senator stood in the middle of this assembly of legislators from across the world and was admonishing the European countries for their treatment of people in Third World countries and was talking about Canada being the upstanding example. I just reminded the person afterwards that if that was truly the case, then we should be able to point to First Nations communities as being the example of how Canada is a leader when it comes to dealing with people fairly. The senator recognized the error of his ways and found that Canada has nothing to say in regard to admonishing anybody else; all we have to do is look at our First Nations.
Why are we here with Caledonia? It's much the same story as is the case of most other First Nations. The federal government, first of all -- and there's blame to be sent to both sides, but I'll start with the federal government because at the end of the day you would think the federal government would have some interest in resolving this -- has not listened to the grievances that have come from the Six Nations community for many years now. Then, as is normally the case, First Nations for a long time would never look to the province for a solution to some of their problems. I believe they should be looking to the province for many of their solutions. I'm going to get into that a little bit later. Why? Number one, because they are Canadian citizens, and Ontario citizens in this case; two, we do have jurisdiction. We're the ones who do planning, who do development -- all those things are municipal in nature. Three: In many cases, we've signed the treaties.
It always amazes me when I listen to governments of all stripes in this place, specifically in the Legislature here, turn around and say, "Oh, well. That's a federal responsibility," and I know full well that we, as a province, signed on to the treaty. You say to yourself, "Well, if the provincial government was there on signing and the crown was representative of the federal government on signing and the First Nations signed in good faith, why would the province not accept its role?" There's where we go further into the Caledonia situation.
Caledonia is nothing new. What has happened in this particular grievance is one that has been long-standing. Anybody who lives anywhere near Six Nations or anybody who knows anything about what goes on will recognize that this issue has been around for a long time. They have been looking at trying to resolve this for many of the reasons that the Minister of Natural Resources laid out in his debate. Hence the problem: Nobody has listened. It's the same old game, right? The feds bounce the ball to the province. I heard Prentice and I heard Harper say, "It's a provincial responsibility." Then I hear, coming from the Legislature, from the Minister of Natural Resources and the Premier, "It's a federal responsibility." And we pass the ball back and forth. In the meantime, it's like playing hot potato: Nobody wants to catch it.
Meantime, the communities in and around the area of Caledonia are in the situation they're in with the blockade, and it's not fun for them. I can attest to that. More importantly -- or as important, I should say, to correct myself -- the First Nations have not had their particular grievances resolved.
All I say is, listen, let's all recognize something here in Ontario. The federal government's missing in action. I'd given up on them a long time ago. If I had to wait for the federal government to resolve any of the issues in our First Nations on Timmins-James Bay and if every time I was approached by communities in my riding, I was to say, "Oh, that's a federal responsibility," there wouldn't be a brand new school in Fort Albany. We wouldn't be doing many of the things we're doing when it comes to health care, as far as building an integrated health care system on James Bay. We're actually going to transfer it over the province, where we know how to run health care, and the federal government doesn't. You can't wait for the federal government because, quite frankly, they're indifferent. They don't care.
I listened to Jean Chrétien and I listened Paul Martin make all kinds of promises to First Nations and say, "Oh, Lord, we love you. Let us give you a hug. Be part of our advisory committees. We love you; we're going to do all kinds of things for you." They've done what every Liberal/Conservative government has done in the history of Canada, which is basically ignore the issues of First Nations. In the case of Caledonia, to a large extent, that's exactly what the federal government did here and that's exactly what Dalton McGuinty has done as well.
What should have been done -- well, it's like being a Monday morning quarterback. I can sit here and analyze every play that's going to happen in the first game of the NHL playoffs with Edmonton. When Edmonton wins, I'm sure I can sit back and analyze every play and pretend that I know how they could have got more scores and how they could have saved themselves in a couple of situations, but that's easy to say. I think what we can say safely is, what it takes is action. It takes an engagement on the part of the province. I can't speak for the federal government because I'm not a federal legislator, I'm not an MP. Quite frankly, they've been missing in action for too long. It takes action on the part of this province to say, "There's a problem on Six Nations when it comes to this issue. We know that this thing is going to come to a boil. Let's sit down and let's try to find a resolution to this before it comes to a boil."
What those solutions are would have been a matter for -- we can sit here and debate this for the next hour that we have and second-guess what could have been put as far as recommendations for resolving this thing way back when. I'm not going to get into the detail of it. All I'm going to say is, you go there and you say, "There is a problem. Let's try to fix it."
We deal with that on a monthly basis, at least, in the James Bay. Both my federal colleague, Charlie Angus, and I deal quite a bit with First Nations in regard to a number of issues. For example, this last week you would have seen in the media where Jim Prentice, for some reason, decided there was no agreement that was signed between the government of Canada last fall and the community of Kashechewan to relocate that community. Don't ask me why Jim Prentice did that. I thought it was the stupidest thing. There is an agreement by the federal government that's signed with the First Nations that they were finally going to relocate that community to higher ground, and Jim Prentice all of a sudden started doing the dance of the seven veils and started making all kinds of comments and suggestions that would slow down the process.
I can tell you, the community of Kashechewan -- which has now spread out from Thunder Bay to Hearst to Sudbury to Timmins to Kapuskasing to Cochrane and Greenstone and a number of other communities -- was quite upset, and a number of them wanted to get on the buses and they wanted to hold a blockade. The potential was, we could have had blockades in each one of those communities as of this weekend, but Charlie and I got on the phone and we met with the band council and we started having some discussion. We said, "Hang on a second; there are some other things that we can do here. We think that Prentice has messed up. He didn't realize where he was going, like most other ministers of Indian Affairs, who never really understand what they're doing."
Charlie went back and had a chat with Prentice on Friday and started to put the pieces back into the box. On Sunday morning, we met with the band council. We were on the phone with a number of different people who were calling both Charlie and me, Chief Leo and Deputy Chief Rebecca and others, and we dealt with it. We said, "Hang on; let's cool our jets here. Let's realize what's happened. The minister has made a very fairly large tactical error, and we need to find a way to put this thing back together again."
I'm confident that we seem to be going in that direction as of this morning. From conversations I've had with my federal colleague, Charlie Angus, we're certainly going in the right direction to getting the federal government to recognize that there was an agreement that was signed with the First Nation, and we're going to move forward.
How does that relate to Caledonia? My point is this: We sat down and we talked. We didn't wait until this thing became a powder keg. I would never do that, because I think at the end of the day it would put me in an untenable position as a provincial member of Parliament. But if I'd sat on this thing last Thursday and had said, "Oh well, what happens, happens," and didn't take the time, along with many others, to sit down and to build the good will that we have over the years, the city of Timmins, the community of Cochrane and Kapuskasing and Hearst and others who've been with First Nations on the James Bay, building those relationships so there is trust, this thing could have blown up into a powder keg.
My point is, and I know my good friend Mr. Levac feels the same way I do: You sit down and you talk to people. And you know what? Sometimes that can be very tough. I'll tell you, I've been at some community meetings, I don't care if it's aboriginal or non-aboriginal, in Kapuskasing, for example, back in the early 1990s when they were going to lose their only employer, Kimberly-Clark, I remember going into that community with Len Wood and Shelley Martel and talking to people. I remember that at one point they blockaded us in the community. They blocked the highways going in and out of Kapuskasing until such time that a solution was found.
I wasn't threatened by that. I took the view -- and so did Shelley and Len -- that we had to understand that these people were mad, they were losing their only employer, and the provincial government representatives were there and they wanted to have some answers to their questions. Yes, it was tough; it was hard. They yelled at us, they screamed at us, they were pretty tough on us, but at the end of a fairly long meeting, people started saying, "Well, at least they're listening." That's the first step.
We couldn't tell them then and there in that meeting that we could do X, Y and Z, because we didn't have the authority to do that. Shelley was the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Len was the local member and I was her parliamentary assistant, and we didn't have the authority. We said to them, "We've heard your concerns and we're asking you not to blockade the road. We will go back to Queen's Park and we will work with the provincial government in order to try to find a solution." A few months later we found a solution and Kapuskasing was saved.
Let's remember, it's not only First Nations that put up blockades. I've been on a number of blockades over the years. In fact, I was on a blockade last fall in regard to the closure of the mill in Opasatika, where the OPP was called in to deal with what was a blockade by the unemployed workers who were losing their jobs: community members, grandmothers, children, teachers, chamber of commerce types, mayors and others who were on the -- are you pointing at me? Okay, you're trying to get the attention of the page. I'm sorry. I was wondering why you wanted me to go down and see you, Sergeant at Arms, as I was talking about being on a blockade, being a former RCMP guy.
But anyway, my point is, I was on that blockade where the citizens of the Kapuskasing-Opasatika area closed Highway 11. That's the major transportation route for all goods and services going across Canada at that time of the year because normally toward the fall and the winter, we stop using Highway 17 for truck transportation and we move north. My point is that the road was blockaded. And do you know what the OPP did? They didn't come in with their clubs and start bashing everybody on the head. They did what they always do. They tried to calm the situation down. After a period of time, people decided they'd made their point and moved on.
So I'd just say to people, I know this is frustrating, what's happening in Caledonia. God, I know. I've been on both sides on these things. I've been blockaded in on a couple of occasions and I've been on the blockades, both with First Nations and non-aboriginal people, on various issues. The point is, the OPP has to do a job of maintaining the peace, but not inflaming the situation. If we're going to get mad at somebody, let's not get mad at the OPP. They try to do their job as best they can.
I think we need to take a look at where the problem lies, and the problem lies with both federal and provincial governments, and in this case, the provincial government, which failed to recognize there was this problem brewing in the Six Nations for as long as it was. Then finally, after the First Nations felt nobody was listening and it wasn't going anywhere, they put a blockade up. The blockade was up for how long? Sixty-some-odd days, 50-some-odd days before the altercation came with the OPP. Where was the provincial government in all that period? It's not as if we didn't know. I know the good Minister of Natural Resources probably got daily briefings from his staff on day 1, day 2, day 3 of the blockade. Why did it take 50 days for the government to respond or try to find a response or 60 days to appoint David Peterson?
It seems to me we had to enter into dialogue, and if we waited for the federal government, we'd wait another 120 days. Imagine, if you will, being a First Nations person living in Peawanuk or Kashechewan or wherever it might be. You sign a treaty with a government 100 years ago -- they've been waiting for 100 years for the government to honour their treaties. Talk about patience, and they've been pretty good about it. They have not done anything that is out of the ordinary or outside of the law. They've been pretty decent about it, but every now and then people do get frustrated, and out of that frustration at times comes what we see in the form of blockades.
I wanted, while I had the opportunity in this debate, to talk a little bit about what I think the policy should be that should lead us away from the Caledonia situation that we have now. I think one of the first things we have to do, all of us -- and I commend the local member, Toby Barrett. From what I can see, he's been fairly active in trying to talk to both sides and bring people together and is actually listening to what's going on. The first thing I suggest to any member -- and I'm sure we all do, but just the obvious, maybe for the reason of the debate -- is that, really, we need to play our roles locally and get to know not only who the leadership is in our communities but also who the movers and shakers are, because far too often it's not the leadership that move these things along; sometimes it's others who have far more influence.
I remember going into a community -- I forget which one it was. It might have been Constance Lake or Moose Factory; I forget where it was. I was at a community meeting and it was one of the first times that I'd been elected, representing this particular riding. I was expecting the chief to get up and do like we do on municipal councils: "I'm the mayor and I'm speaking out and this is where we're going." It took about two seconds to figure out that it's not the chief who runs this half of the time, it's a whole bunch of other people in the community, based on their tradition. Sometimes it's the women who have a large role in making these decisions, by not even saying a lot, just by sort of every now and then prodding the crowd in a certain direction. Sometimes it's the elders, sometimes it is the band council or a few leaders within the band council. Sometimes it's radicals. I've been at some meetings where I've been considered a radical when I was in the labour movement. Sometimes it's the radicals who push things along.
But that's okay, there's nothing wrong with that. My point is, the first thing we've got to do, as local members and as municipal politicians and federal members, is to know our communities well, because at the end of the day, we're the people on the ground and we can then provide advice to either provincial or federal governments, whatever House we belong to, as far as finding the response.
What's the next thing that we have to do to prevent such things as Caledonia? First of all, we need to respect our treaties. In the case of Caledonia, it depends on what side of the story you find yourself on. I thought the minister made a fairly good demonstration of what happened as far as the evolution of what happened in the Six Nations. Depending what side you're on, people interpret it different ways. But the first thing we need to recognize is that we've not done a very good job federally or provincially recognizing the responsibilities we have in dealing with First Nations. I know most members in the House who have had a chance to travel into many of the First Nations communities see just how deplorably poor they are as a people and just how run down their infrastructure is. You have to ask yourself a question: How can we in Ontario today have communities as poor as that, considering how rich we are as a province? It just doesn't make any sense.
The best example is Attawapiskat. Attawapiskat is going to have the only diamond mine in operation in Ontario, the first diamond mine south of the northwestern territories. It's a huge deposit; it's extremely rich. Just to put this in perspective, De Beers is spending over $1 billion -- I say it again, over $1 billion -- to develop this project, and good for them. But take a look at the community of Attawapiskat. Twenty people per house. How do you survive in there? In some cases, there are people who live in tents 12 months a year. One particular individual -- I don't want to use the last name, because I think I got it wrong. Moses and Margaret and their family for two years lived in a tent in their backyard with their two young daughters. Why? Because there was no housing available for his family. He has a very large family. I think there are about nine or 10 kids, and the oldest kids are married now and have kids and they're all piled into one house. So there was something like 20-some people in this house. Moses and Margaret decided to take the two young girls out, who were at the time about 8 and 9 years old, and live in a tent in his backyard as a way of providing some calm to his children so the two youngest girls could study and learn and do well in school and grow up having an opportunity to compete with other kids.
How do we in Ontario, in Canada, allow somebody to have to put their children in a tent to provide for housing in this day and age? How do we do that? Take a look at Attawapiskat again as a good example. The road infrastructure in that community -- go into that community. Go into 100% of communities -- I won't even say 99% -- in the NAN territory, in Treaty 3 and probably Robinson-Superior. There is no pavement on any of the roads. As people drive up and down the roads with their ATVs or four-by-fours or whatever it might be, there's dust being blown up in those communities all the time. Dust is just permeating across the communities on any sunny day. That is not a healthy thing for people to live in.
Sewer systems -- did you know that there were no sewer systems on the James Bay coast until we came to government in the 1990s? Imagine that: People didn't have a sewer to flush their toilet or empty their sink until 1992 or 1993 in the communities of James Bay, Fort Albany and north. Can you imagine that, in our time? Water -- they didn't have potable water. Most of them don't have potable water. But Attawapiskat just recently, as of about two or three years ago, got potable water in their community. How do we allow those kinds of things to happen in First Nations communities, given that this province and this country are so rich? There's something immoral about it.
I just say to all of us here in the Legislature that we've got to stop passing the buck over to the federal government and playing the blame game. At the end of the day, you know what? Those communities will remain poor and have poor infrastructure as long as we play that game. I say we as a province have to recognize that these are Ontario citizens. If the federal government is not prepared to do what needs to be done, then we need to step up to the plate, either to pressure the federal government to do what is their responsibility or to negotiate agreements from the federal government with the consent of First Nations. And I say that only with their consent should we transfer some of those services back to the province, where they're better served.
I'll give you a couple of examples. Health services on the James Bay: We're in the process now of basically transferring the federal hospital, the nursing stations, over to the province. It's been a 10-year effort to get this done, and finally we're in the final throes of the final agreements to allow that to happen. Now, why I'm such a large advocate of this particular initiative is that I've seen first-hand, as you and others have, the conditions of health care in many of our communities in the James Bay and other First Nations communities. But I recognize one thing: When I go to James Bay General Hospital in Fort Albany and I go to the James Bay General Hospital in Attawapiskat that are run by the provincially run James Bay General Hospital, there are wings of a hospital with an emergency ward, acute care beds, some long-term-care beds, nursing staff, doctors who rotate in, and we provide a semblance, at least, to First Nations of health services.
That's not to say anything bad towards Weeneebayko. They try as hard as they can. They run the hospital in Moose Factory. But all the other communities are run by nursing stations. Now, those nursing stations are staffed by hard-working nurses who really try hard to do their job, so this is no reflection on them, but they're not resourced to the degree they need to be. They don't have beds, for example. If a person has to be held in a community before transport, they've basically got to be put in a holding room that's akin to what you would see in a medical clinic; that's basically what they are. They don't have what we consider a hospital in those communities. So this initiative of finally the province sitting down with the federal government and saying, "We're prepared to allow the transfer of that hospital to the province," is going to be a good thing for James Bay over the long run. Why? Because we do it better. We are the deliverers of health services in Ontario, not the federal government. The federal government doesn't have the ability to do so; it's not their bailiwick.
What we need to make sure of in that agreement is that in the end, the federal government holds on to its fiduciary responsibility and transfers on an annual basis the dollars they would have to pay otherwise to provide health services in those communities. They have a signed treaty. They do have a fiduciary responsibility. What we should be doing is saying to the federal government, "Listen, if you're indifferent and you don't want to do this, tell us. We as a province are prepared to sit down with you and First Nations to figure out how we can do it in the context of a provincially run service." We, quite frankly, should give most of that transference to First Nations governance. That's a whole other issue.
I'll give you another example: education. In many of our communities there are some good examples. In Moose Factory, Fort Albany, the grade schools are very well run. As a matter of fact, this morning we had young people from the Peetabeck Academy here as part of their grade 8 class. They're doing a great job. It's a brand new facility. Kids like going to school there, more so than in other communities, because they have some pride in the school. It's a brand new school that's been there for about three or four years. There's an infrastructure for them to learn in. In Fort Albany, I would argue, there's also a little bit more housing. It's a little bit easier for children to study at home.
But when you go into other communities, that's not the case. In Attawapiskat, children are still in a portable school and have been for three or four years now. Why? Because the main school, the J.R. Nakogee primary school, has been contaminated with diesel fuel. The federal government says, "It's okay. Keep on sending your kids there. One of these days we'll get around to building another school." Kids started getting sick. They were coming home nauseous; they were coming home with all kinds of stomach cramps, diarrhea -- you name it, they were getting it all. The staff were getting sick.
You know, First Nations people are very forgiving. People should remember this. For a long time, they put up with it and put up with it. Minister after minister would go to the community or meet with the local education authority or the band council and say, "We'll build you a new school." "We'll build you a new school." They heard the story over and over again. Finally, the community said, "Enough is enough. Our kids are getting sick." So they shut the school down, and only then did the federal government say, "We're going to do something." You know what they did? They built portables. That was their solution. They spent as much money to build portables as it would have taken to build a brand new school. Talk about stupid. I say "stupid" with a capital S. That's the federal government and the Department of Indian Affairs, INAC, when it comes to dealing with this. So they're in a situation now where they are sitting in portables and finally we're in the final throes of getting a new school on the primary side. But this community has had to go through hoops and hoops and hoops, and thanks to the leadership of the local education authority, Steve Hookimaw and his board, and Michael Carpenter, the band chief, they have done a really good job of pulling the community together and doing what's right. But they've been doing it for years.
My point is, you wonder why we've got blockades in Caledonia? I'm surprised there are not more blockades around all over the province when you take a look at how First Nations are having to deal with issues in regard to how they're left behind. You prevent a Caledonia by paying attention to the problem and saying, "Let's deal with this problem before it becomes a powder keg," the same way we have to deal with the problem in non-aboriginal communities. I've told you about the school in Attawapiskat. Can you imagine if you had a school in downtown Whitby or downtown Sarnia or wherever it might be and the kids were coming home sick because they were getting contaminated by diesel fuel underneath the school? Can you imagine what would happen if the provincial government and their school board didn't respond to that? We would be out behind the blockades. It wouldn't take more than five minutes and we'd be out there, demanding from our provincial politicians and school board representatives, "We want action." If we didn't get action, do you know what we'd do? We'd get on the buses, come to Queen's Park and protest around this building. We'd ask for meetings with the Minister of Education. We're much better at getting attention to our problems than First Nations are. Are we surprised that they put up a blockade? I'm not surprised. This issue has been around for a while.
I want to give one more example, because it's one that's currently going on in Peawanuck, actually Weenusk First Nation up on the Hudson Bay. This is really nuts. This is the Department of Indian Affairs at its best. There's no hydroelectric grid up in Peawanuck, all right? The minister knows that. He's been up there a couple of times and knows Chief Mike Wabano and others well.
Here's a good one. There's no electrical grid. In other words, there are no hydro wires coming into or out of the community. You have to generate your electricity directly in the community by way of diesel generators. I might have my years wrong, but up to about seven, eight years ago, INAC, the Department of Indian Affairs, said, "We're going to give the community what it costs to generate electricity." That was part of the agreement when they build a community. So each and every year, up until about seven years ago, the band council got funds to run the generator and have fuel flown in, because that was the only way you could bring in fuel up until recently. We had a bit of a winter road last year, but up to now -- as a matter of fact, we probably only brought in about 20% of the fuel because the winter was so mild, but that's a whole other story. You have to fly in the fuel all the way to Peawanuck. Just to give you an idea how far that is, flying from Timmins to Peawanuck is about the same as Timmins to almost Philadelphia. That's about the distance. It cost about $600,000 a year to maintain that diesel generator for the community.
So INAC said seven years ago, "We want to change things. We want to make it so that local residents pay for electricity directly. We're going to cut your allocation from $620,000 a year down to almost $300,000 -- $270,000. The band council said, "Well, we'll try as best we can, but recognize, Minister, that 90% of the people who live in our community are on welfare, and to buy food -- there's no store in Peawanuck -- they have to have it flown in from Zudel's in Timmins. It costs about 1,500 bucks a month to get your groceries, just for basics. People's welfare cheques are about 1,400 bucks. We don't know how people are going to pay, but we're going to try."
So they get new transfers of $275,000. In year one, they run a deficit. Why? They can't collect the full amount of money from the residents because the residents don't have the money. Year two, the same thing. The band has then got to take funds from other parts of its budget to offset the deficit on the hydro side. Eventually, that puts them into arrears and into a deficit situation as a band council. INAC then comes back and says, "You're bad managers. We're going to put you under third party administration." Now all of a sudden it's the band's fault. Tell me how that happened. But anyways, here it gets better.
The community finally says, "Listen, we can't afford to pay for the generation in that community. So, INAC, you take the generator back. We're not doing it anymore." INAC said, "Not a problem. We'll have somebody else, a third party manager, come in and manage the electricity." So they called for tender and hired a company called Pritchard Industrial, out of Manitoba, to come in and run the electricity.
Here's the deal. Pritchard gets $650,000 a year from INAC to run the electricity system. Does that number sound familiar? It's the same $650,000, with inflation, that the community used to get for running the electricity plant that was cut down to $275,000. INAC said, "We're going to give Pritchard $650,000 to run the electricity system and, by the way, Pritchard, go and collect money from individuals for their hydro." Now Pritchard is getting the $650,000 that the community should have gotten in the first place, and if they had, we wouldn't have a problem. They wouldn't have been in a deficit situation and people wouldn't have fallen back in arrears, but now we have the same old problem.
Last year at this time, or in July, a whole bunch of "Disconnect" notices went out in the community. Charlie Angus, myself and our staff worked with community and social services and others in order to make arrangements through welfare to do some payback scheme of 25 bucks a month to try to satisfy the bills somewhat and we got everybody reconnected. Guess what's happening. They're coming in next week to disconnect the electricity on probably 60% of the homes in Peawanuck. Go figure.
We wonder why blockades go up in First Nations? It's a recipe for disaster. It can't work. You've got a federal government, for God's sake, who I think is purposely underfunding communities to make them fail, and then we wonder why First Nations get mad and put up blockades every now and then. I repeat, if it were us, we would have been out on the barricades a long time ago. Can you imagine what a community that's non-aboriginal would do? They wouldn't put up with it. They would say, "Enough of that." At least we have an opportunity -- we can throw our governments out. With the First Nations, they're so few in number that they don't affect the election in any great way, so they find themselves not having the satisfaction of being able to change the government every now and then.
I say to the government, don't pass the buck anymore. If you want to avoid the Caledonias of this world, you've got to sit down and talk to both parties. You've got to sit down and find out what the grievance is. In a case like this, where there is sufficient doubt that there is a legitimate grievance -- nobody is going to tell me there's not sufficient doubt in this case. You might argue some of the technicalities; you might argue the greys and the whites. But the point is there is enough sufficient doubt, as you look at the documentation on what happened on the whole land grant issue dating back from the 1700s to where we're at now. There is enough doubt that they have a good claim. If that's the case, why are we playing with this?
We should be trying to find a way to resolve this issue so that we're able to deal with it in a way that is fair to the First Nations and fair to the local communities. Instead, what do we do? We wait. We throw the ball in the federal government court. We point the finger at the federal government and say it's their fault. Then, at the end of the day, we allow this ticking time bomb to continue and eventually something happens. In this case, the OPP, for whatever reason -- we can get into that or others may want to get into that -- rushed the barricade one day and what happened, happened. We found out that that wasn't too productive. Finally, the provincial government decided it was going to appoint a facilitator or negotiator, Mr. David Peterson, in order to try to find a resolution to this. My view is that that should have been done a long time ago and, unfortunately, it was not done.
I say to the residents of Caledonia, both to the non-aboriginal and aboriginal people of Caledonia, I understand what you're going through is difficult, because I've had to live that on both sides of the blockade. I've been in and I've been out; I've been on both sides. But the key is that at the end of the day we all have to live together. It doesn't help anything when either First Nations or non-aboriginal people are hurling insults at each other or doing whatever that might aggravate the situation, because this issue will eventually resolve, and when it resolves, we are all going to have to live together. The best way to do that is to sometimes hold our tongue, keep calm and urge the provincial government -- that's where we should be putting our energy, from both sides -- to do its job towards trying to find a resolution to this particular issue that is going to satisfy both parties.
At the end, both parties will not be completely satisfied, but that is the process of trying to find a settlement. You never have both sides totally satisfied. It's like bargaining. I bargained for years on behalf of the Steelworkers and later with the Ontario Federation of Labour. A good agreement was when I left the table and they were both pissed at me. That was a good agreement. Because it meant that I got a whole bunch from the employer, the employer felt that he didn't have to give as much and, at the end of day, there was a give and take on both sides. When both sides are feeling that at that point, you know you've done a fairly good job of finding the balance. If one side is totally happy and the other side is unhappy, it would tell me that there's not been very much of a compromise.
I say to the members in the House and to the government that we should learn from what has happened in Caledonia. From that, we should then figure out that we cannot allow these things to simmer as long as they have. Let's do our job in being able to find solutions before they become the powder keg that Caledonia has become.
Mr. Dave Levac (Brant): At the outset, I have to apologize to the House for my rather odd-sounding voice. My allergies have been acting up all weekend. I'm going to try to make it through. I hope it sounds that I'm not allergic to this place. It's more like trying to recover from it, so I apologize for my voice.
This is a rather difficult time for me to stand and talk about this issue. I've lived it all my life, in terms of being associated with First Nations people, particularly Six Nations. I grew up in a place called Eagle Place in Brantford. We had the residential schools about a block away from mine. In sports, I played with and against First Nations people and learned an awful lot about their cultures, became friends with an awful lot of them, went to school with an awful lot of them, and found a slow but steady understanding of what the Six Nations and First Nations people believe, and their belief structure.
I do want to talk a little bit about the past so that I can set the context of my comments. We've been challenged with an opposition motion that -- if we peel away some of the comments that are made inside of it plus some of the debate that's being offered, there's a challenge inside of it that I believe is genuine. But I have to make sure that I make it clear that we'll be peeling away some of those comments.
The leader of the loyal opposition said at the very outset that he wanted to stay away from finger pointing and he wanted to stay away from the accusations. We immediately read the resolution and find out that what he's talking about is pointing the finger back at a situation that has been ongoing for 208 years, and wants to lay it squarely on the lap of the Premier and the minister responsible in this particular government. I find that to be unfortunate, because if we take a look at it and analyze it and take it apart, we'll find that there's been some pretty strong leadership and there have been some comments that have been attributed on that side to us, and there have been some comments directed in this, that because they say it, it must be true. In terms of "because they say it, it must be true," it's about what you want versus what we believe has been happening here. I want to bring that to light.
Here's what I would propose: that we take a look at the opposition motion, and we ask the simple question. We refuse to acknowledge that the Caledonia land occupation was a standoff. First of all, that's just not accurate.
Second of all, that the government's participation in the development of Places to Grow was a catalyst to igniting this problem, when we do know for a fact that the minister who was responsible for Places to Grow, along with the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs, consulted with the First Nations people and continues to consult with the people of the First Nations to deal with how Places to Grow can be beneficially addressed by the First Nations people. So another part of the motion needs to be peeled away.
Another one is that the McGuinty government provoked the situation with regulations identified in the greater Golden Horseshoe area. So in other words, we came up with three pieces of legislation to provoke -- and again, I want to peel that one away. There was no intent to provoke. There were consultations going on with our First Nations brothers and sisters, and I was sitting in some of those meetings. So I can attest to that as a fact, that elected Band Chief David General -- I arranged a few meetings with the minister myself in order for us to make sure that the First Nations issues were brought in front of Caledonia. There was an awful lot of action that was already taking place in front of Caledonia that quite frankly peels this onion back down to where it should be. I want to come to that in a moment, and I will do that. We will be peeling that onion back to talk about the specifics. I could probably speak for an hour, but my voice is probably not going to take it.
That the government allowed the situation to escalate, and that we need to have somebody to direct us, and that we refuse to compensate the OPP: We put out on the table several times exactly what the situation is with the OPP. We're not going to engage in directing the OPP. That's not how government works, and it's not supposed to work that way. You don't stand up in the middle of a place, you don't call Gwen Boniface up and say, "Hey, Gwen, get those First Nations people out of here." You just don't do that. Quite frankly, they have operational procedures that are already in existence to take care of that problem. They've already made it clear that they're continuing to deal with the budget inside of their own budget in a way that is going to take care of that. This government has already stated clearly that they would consider and receive the request if the OPP, or even the municipal police services, if there has been a strain on their services -- the backup is coming from Toronto and Hamilton -- that they would speak to the government and they would engage in that discussion about how to take care of those disbursements.
If we peel back the onion, there is an intent in here that I do accept. That intent is a very simple one: that we negotiate. I'd like to clearly announce that I've been sitting at the table at Caledonia unannounced, and I haven't been beating my chest about it. That's the other thing that the members of the opposition seem to be saying: If they don't see something and if they don't realize that something is going on, it must not be happening and it must be wrong.
I want to thank the member from Timmins-James Bay in terms of his sensitivity to what it is that we should be doing, except for one thing I would disagree with him on: I don't think that we should be describing this strictly as a provincial issue. We still need to get the federal government to the table. I think you said that, but I think what's important for us to recognize is that there have been statements by the First Nations people themselves that make it quite clear that they believe they want to be speaking to the federal government. Here's a quote from Confederacy Chief Allen MacNaughton, who was asked by the elected band council to be part of that negotiation, so the elected band council and the Confederacy are working together on this: "It's tough," he said. "I'm still getting the impression that they," the federal government, "want to do as little as possible. They don't even want to be here and wish we would just go away. You have to realize that the federal government -- and I don't know a lot about the provincial government, but the federal government has a lot to answer for."
I want to suggest to you that there are ways we can do this. There is the two-row wampum. There's actually a wampum built that's made that tells us what this is. There's a symbolic river, and the two white rows down the middle of the wampum are the paths that represent the canoe and the ship of the First Nations and the white. They would work together, side by side: When your ship is in trouble, I'll help you; when my canoe is in trouble, you'll help me. It's that we live we beside each other in a fair way. The wampum was handed over and accepted, which means that they accepted this as the philosophy that we should live by. We can live harmoniously. Joseph Brant and his quotes in the past made it quite clear that the deals he was making were on the premise of making sure that his people could keep taking care of themselves.
I think what we have to do is recognize very clearly that the teams that the opposition member talks about are already in existence. We do have Jane Stewart and we do have Barbara McDougall. We do have a table that's been set together to bring all the stakeholders together. The Confederacy is there, the clan mothers are there in advice, and the province and the federal government is there. And Prentice, to his credit, is trying to make sure that we can navigate this once and for all. You've got two sets of negotiations going on: that is, the immediacy of Caledonia, the blockades, and the long-term commitments. So we have a historical opportunity to make things move forward.
The other thing I'm suggesting to you is that I have met with some of the officials that the ministries have set forward, and they are nothing but superlative in terms of the negotiation process: John Burke and Dick Saunders, and, to his credit, Ralph Luimes, Ken Hewitt from the Caledonia business side, John Periversoff from the OPP and the elected officials. They've all told me that they were extremely impressed with how the provincial government has responded to the needs of the people of Caledonia. They are telling us that they were really proud of the fact that the provincial government has stepped forward to engage in this conversation and to make sure. It's unfortunate that on this particular motion, they wrapped it up in that stinky onion piece. If we had to peel this away and moved into the exact thing that the member said -- that he wasn't going to be pointing fingers and using it as nothing more than a political tactic to try to bring embarrassment to this government. We can solve this problem once and for all. My challenge to all of us is to get there, because everybody wants it and we've got to take the action.
Mr. Tim Hudak (Erie-Lincoln): I'm pleased to rise in the debate on the resolution standing in the name of the opposition leader. As I begin, I do want to recognize Nancy McBride, who has joined us and is patiently sitting in the members' gallery. Ms. McBride is Toby Barrett's guest in the gallery. She's one of the many fair-minded community people who also hopes for leadership in resolving the dispute in Caledonia. She was kind enough to deliver a folder of letters today to the assembly, some of which were used in the assembly. I thank Ms. McBride for taking the time to be with us and to listen to the debate.
No doubt, as I had heard from my colleagues, native and land issues are complex. They're emotional. The process to resolve land claims should be clear, have set targets and move forward on a timely basis. That does not change the fact that we have, as a fundamental basis of our civil society, the rule of law. We have been a successful country because of the fair and consistent application of the rule of law. Perfect? Certainly not. Are there legitimate grievances by First Nations over past poor treatment and ongoing issues, as some of my colleagues have brought forward? Absolutely. But at the same time, we must adhere to the rule of law as a fundamental. The Legislative Assembly of Ontario cannot condone lawlessness. The government of Ontario cannot condone lawlessness. But the government's total absence from the stage effectively undermines the rule of law and sends a very troubling and disquieting signal.
I understand the frustration felt by First Nation citizens and by other Canadian residents as well about land claims, the awful historical mistreatment of aboriginals, the slowness of land claim resolutions. And I believe that I can understand the visceral reaction by some to the depth of these past injustices. I had the opportunity, as Minister of Northern Development and Mines, to see first-hand some of the sad, desperate and disgraceful circumstances on reserves in the province of Ontario today. But still, I cannot condone lawlessness: prolonged barricades set up by various groups, police cars set on fire, hydro stations going down, digging up highways, a riot involving members of the Caledonia community First Nations. How upsetting, these images we see on TV while we watch: It's not the Ontario that we're accustomed to. I was absolutely shocked not to hear Premier McGuinty or even a senior cabinet minister express that. It took them a long time to respond to these shocking and saddening images.
There are ways in our country to express this frustration without breaking the law. No doubt our government has a duty to support an environment for free political protest without coercion. However, the government also has a duty to speak out against actions when they cross the line, and the government has a duty to ensure that the rule of law is upheld. If respect for the law dissolves and is undermined by government inaction, one wonders how the law can possibly be enforced against a future dispute. This kind of selective enforcement sends disquieting signals, and certainly sends a troublesome signal to other individuals or groups, that the way to get the government's attention and to get your way in the province is to break the law. As my colleague from Leeds-Grenville, sitting next to me, said, the law should apply equally to all Ontarians.
So here's the question I hope this inquiry could explore: At what point did Dalton McGuinty decide to override the rule of law? When did Dalton McGuinty decide that he would determine when the law should be enforced and when the law should not be enforced?
I want to commend the Ontario PC leader, the member for Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey, for taking the time to visit Caledonia, to hear directly from all citizens in the area on a number of occasions. In contrast, Dalton McGuinty seems to be hiding under his desk. Toby Barrett, the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant, should be commended for his extraordinary leadership and fortitude, constantly in the community and strengthening the already significant trust that local residents have in their MPP. I've seen the sadness in the MPP when the community in which he has lived for his entire life is ripped apart at the seams.
The Attorney General occupies a special position above partisan politics. He has a special obligation to defend the administration of justice and to uphold the law. Then the member for St. Paul's, now Attorney General, on September 25, 2001, said in Hansard, "I can tell you on behalf of the official opposition, we have to do everything we can to enforce the rule of law and let everybody know -- yes -- that everybody has to obey the law."
Mr. Runciman: Hmm, what a change.
Mr. Hudak: As my colleague said, a complete change. Now we hear the opposite from the Attorney General.
The judiciary cannot enforce its own orders. The judiciary cannot compel respect for the courts. The Attorney General must do this. But bizarrely, we have seen the spokesperson for the Attorney General in court arguing why the court's orders should not be obeyed -- the Attorney General himself effectively undermining respect for the province's laws. I wonder if there has ever been an instance in the history of Ontario, the legal history of Canada, where the Attorney General took the position that it was okay for a superior court order to be ignored.
Lastly, as far as it goes for Premier McGuinty, he is absolutely absent from the field. It's incredible that the Premier has not stood in this House to communicate to the citizens of Ontario, First Nations and others alike about the status of the dispute and his plan. Sadly, it's a pattern we've seen. When it comes to closure of the coal plants and the pending energy crisis in the province, gun violence last summer or the closure of the Michigan border to garbage with no backup plan, this Premier has no plan.
One last question for the Premier: I wonder what the view is like from beneath his desk.
The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?
There being none, Mr. Tory has moved opposition day number 4. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour, say "aye."
All those opposed, say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it. Carried.