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Feb 02 2013

Aboriginal Canadians

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

Government Orders

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Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Aboriginal Canadians

 

Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP)  moved:

 

That the House, recognizing the broad-based demand for action, call on the government to make the improvement of economic outcomes of First Nations, Inuit and Métis a central focus of Budget 2013, and to commit to action on treaty implementation and full and meaningful consultation on legislation that affects the rights of Aboriginal Canadians, as required by domestic and international law.

 

 

Mr. Mike Sullivan (York South—Weston, NDP):

 

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak on what is an excellent motion from the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.

 

My riding does not have a reserve in it, but there are first nation people in my riding. I have met with them and talked with them. In fact, a couple of them put on a Remembrance Day sunrise ceremony this past November to honour first nation soldiers who had fought for Canada in wars overseas. It was held at an ordinary school in my riding, Bala Avenue Community School. It was to remind the children in the school that everyone is in this, that we are all together. It was a moving and wonderful ceremony.

 

Another constituent has asked me on several occasions about whether it would be possible to create a native language immersion school in Toronto, because there are 10,000 native children in Toronto who need an education. We can manage to have immersion schools all over the place for the French language, as one of the nation-to-nation languages in the country, but we cannot seem to put together the wherewithal to build language education for first nation children.

I discovered as a result of my investigation that there are such native language schools at the reserve in Six Nations. They teach their kids Mohawk and Cayuga in an immersion setting from junior kindergarten all the way up to grade 8. It is wonderful. I will talk more about that later.

It is clear now, from this issue coming forward and from the events in Southern Ontario and all over Canada, that the whole issue of the relationship between the government and first nations, mostly about money but also about land claims, has proven to many first nation people across the country that there is a problem. There are people talking about whether or not it is discriminatory on the part of the government to provide less for first nation people than it provides for others and whether it is discriminatory on the part of the government to not fund education the way it should.

 

The Idle No More protest has created a grassroots manifestation of the frustration that has gone on for many years in first nation communities. I am talking about dozens and dozens of years since the first obligations of the treaties and it started to become clear that the governments were not going to honour some of those treaties. It is not just the treaties but the care and control of the government of the first nation people that has failed. The governments have been paternalistic, punishing and prejudiced in their behaviour toward first nation people. More recently, this government is showing its paternalistic and punishing nature with the bills it brought forward to force first nations to report in a new and different way all the money they take in and earn, because someone somewhere did not like the way it was being done. It is paternalistic and punishing, and that needs to stop.

 

There are some who would suggest that there is a sense of disdain for native issues among some in the Conservative caucus. The events this week by the member for Ottawa—Orléans and Senator Brazeau, in a fundraiser, showed some of the potential for contempt we are hearing. I hope and pray it is not widespread among the Conservative caucus, but there are those out there who fear that it is.

 

With that context, I went to visit the Six Nations reserve as a result of my quest to see if we could create a native language school. I discovered when I was there just how hard it is to educate children on this reserve. Whether it is in native languages or not, it is extremely difficult. They told me that they receive about half the money from the federal government that the provincial government provides to teach children off reserve.

 

It is roughly $10,000 per child that the provincial government gives, and the federal government gives, according to the band council on the reserve, around $5,000 per child. When they question this, the government says “Well, you can pay your teachers less.” Those who are living on reserve do not pay taxes, so that limits the teachers they can get to those on reserve. It is a sense of paternalism. It gets worse, though.

 

When they created this native language school, they did it not completely independent of the federal government, but as a adjunct to the federal government. They did it with fees from the parents. So it is like a private school in that the parents have to pay to send their children to this school.

 

However, small business people in the community have decided to contribute, to donate space to that school. So what did the federal government do when it discovered that space had been donated to the school? It deducted the value of the space from the contributions it made on behalf of the children of that school. It clawed back a donation.

 

Imagine if any school board in this country tried to do the same thing. If the kids were out there selling chocolate-covered almonds to raise money for a trip, and the school board said “If you raise money, if there is a donation to the school, we are going to claw it back”, that would be unheard of. It would not ever happen.

 

On the Six Nations Reserve, that is exactly what goes on. It is shameful that this kind of attitude takes place. It is shameful that the Six Nations Reserve cannot, with full funding from the federal government, provide whatever kind of education it wants to provide.

 

The Six Nations Reserve is in southern Ontario. It is in the bread basket of Canada, and yet there are 325 homes without running water. How did that happen? How is it that we have a lack of running water in homes in southern Ontario, only on a reserve?

 

Fourteen months ago when the member for Kootenay—Columbia was up speaking on first nations issues, I asked him about these 325 homes. He said:

 

Mr. Speaker, we will ensure and work toward making sure those people at Six Nations get drinking water to those 325 homes…. The infrastructure that is required to be placed into those homes has to be done through whatever means is required: putting pipes in the ground, ensuring they get to the homes, ensuring they are hooked up to the water system, and ensuring they are hooked up to the waste water system.
I am confident that this will occur very quickly. It is unfortunate that it has taken so long, but I can assure the House that our committee and the minister will ensure that it happens sooner than later.

Nothing has happened. That was 14 months ago. That is typical of the government of the day. “It is a priority for us”, I hear them say over and over again in answer to questions, but it does not get done because it is not really a priority. It was not in the budget. It is not in the plans. It is not in the priorities of the government. However, the government members sit there and say it is a priority, but they do not actually do it. It boils down to money.

 

The other big problem at the Six Nations Reserve is the land claims issue. It has been festering for many years, and in Ontario, in Caledonia, we saw the manifestation of frustration on the land claims issue in 2006 when a group of native protestors took over a housing construction project and occupied it, preventing houses from being built. They claimed that the land was disputed, and that issue is still festering. That was in 2006. That was seven years ago and it is still there.

It is not just seven years. It has been dozens and dozens of years that these native groups and first nations communities have been saying, over and over again, that their land claims have not been respected by governments, not just the Conservative government but also Liberal governments before them.

 

That needs to be done, on a nation-to-nation basis. What also needs to be done by the government is a real commitment to dollars. The Liberal government froze the funding for first nations activities, like education, at 2%, and the government has not changed it. It found enough money to increase the budget for the ministry of defence by 44%, but it can only find 2% for first nations. There is something wrong with the priorities of the government, and we want to change those priorities.

 

 

Mr. Chris Alexander (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, CPC):

 

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member for York South—Weston looks at the record of this government since 2006 he will see much greater increases in financial commitment to first nations.

 

As part of this debate, I would simply ask the hon. member if he would acknowledge some of the achievements that have been made by first nations in their communities, thanks to federal government funding. Quite frankly, some of his colleagues have not done so.

 

There were 10,000 new homes built and many thousands of new homes renovated. There was increased funding for child and family services by 25%, not to mention the skills issue: there were 700 projects, not single, individual initiatives, but projects for whole communities and whole classes of young people, linking aboriginals across Canada with job training and counselling services. Some 400 land claims have been concluded since 2006.

 

Would the hon. member opposite acknowledge this as significant, substantial progress? Yes, it is progress the government needs to multiply. Would he agree that it is not simply a question of dollars? Without accountability—

 

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin):

 

Order. The hon. member for York South—Weston.

 

Mr. Mike Sullivan:

 

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member opposite has reminded us that there has been some tinkering by the government, yes, but tinkering is not what is necessary.

 

What is necessary is a 44% increase, like the ministry of defence has received over the term of office of the Conservative government, the ministry he is purportedly representing. That is not what the native affairs department has received. It is not what natives in Canada have received. They have received some tinkering around the edges.

 

If one builds 10,000 houses, which is part of the regular process, but one needs to build 80,000 houses, there is something wrong with the message. If there are 427 students on a reserve who cannot get a post-secondary education because the money is not there and they are waiting, there is something wrong with that picture.

 

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Lib.):

 

Mr. Speaker, whether it is today’s leader of the Liberal Party or a former leader, former prime minister Paul Martin, the Liberal Party believes there needs to be a comprehensive approach in dealing with first nations and aboriginals.

 

Former Assembly of First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine has argued repeatedly for the implementation of the Kelowna accord. He had called the deal a breakthrough for his people. This is not something, as the member’s colleague indicated, that Liberals did on their deathbed. Former prime minister Paul Martin was halfway through a four-year term. There had been 18 months of round tables and consultations that led to the Kelowna accord. However, because the NDP was eager to vote with the Conservatives to cause an election, the Kelowna accord died. That is the reality.

 

The question I have for the hon. member is: Does he have any remorse or regret? Will he at the very least acknowledge we need another comprehensive accord that is going to deal with first nations issues today?

 

Mr. Mike Sullivan:

 

Mr. Speaker, deathbed conversions are not needed here. The Liberal government had 13 years of majority rule, and only in the last year did it come up with something. Only in the last year did it put its mind to something, and that is the problem. That same Liberal government froze the amount of money that had been flowing to first nations people, and that freezing has continued to this day.

 

As I said, there are 427 kids on a reserve who cannot get post-secondary education because they have run out of money.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://mikesullivan.ca/aboriginal-canadians/