First Nations Drinking Water (C)

Motion: That the House call on the Government of Canada to address on an urgent basis the needs of those First Nations communities whose members have no access to clean, running water in their homes; that action to address this disparity begin no later than spring 2012; and that the House further recognize that the absence of this basic requirement represents a continuing affront to our sense of justice and fairness as Canadians.

Mrs. Cheryl Gallant: Mr. Speaker, on the topic of consultation that the member opposite referred to, in the summer of 2006 the expert panel held a series of public hearings for first nations across Canada, hearing from over 110 presenters and receiving more than two dozen written submissions.

In April 2007 a joint workshop was held between federal officials and the Assembly of First Nations technical water expert group to engage technical experts on the government’s proposed option, incorporation by reference, and allow the experts to identify issues and challenges that would need to be resolved in order to effectively implement this option.

From May to July 2008, INAC, Health Canada and Environment Canada met with regional first nations organizations, the Assembly of First Nations and provincial territorial officials to prepare for future engagement sessions on a legislative framework. First nations expressed support for continued discussions on the development of legislation and regulations.

From February through March of 2009 a series of engagement sessions were held with first nations communities, regional first nations organizations and provincial-territorial officials, and these sessions offered a forum for participants to suggest solutions and recommendations on how to best address the existing regulatory gap for drinking water and waste water in first nations communities.

In 2009-10 the federal government met with first nations chiefs and first nations organizers to discuss specific regional issues raised during the engagement sessions held from February to March 2009. During these sessions, key elements of the draft legislation were shared in deck format.

In the same spirit of co-operation that was afforded the member to share her time during this debate, would she be willing to co-operate with the government in helping–

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

Ms. Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, it is not an easy matter to conduct the kind of consultations that meet the standards of Supreme Court of Canada decisions, such as in Delgamuukw, Weyerhaeuser, Haida Gwaii First Nation, and challenges to consultations.

We can invite first nations to provide briefs and hold meetings, but if it has not started with a fundamental respect, and some of these meetings may have been well-intentioned and met the standard, the reality of consultations with first nations is that they are government to government. They are not merely a matter of taking briefs on board as if we are dealing with NGOs. The consultation mechanism must start with a sign-off with the Assembly of First Nations as the body that represents the chiefs and councils of first nations across Canada, and must be engaged in a respectful government to government relationship. That will bring better results.

In answer to the member’s question, yes, I am more than happy to do anything I can to help. I think we should work together.