First Nations Financial Transparency Act (Bill C-27)

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, it seems that we are in a rather circular argument. Members, including myself, have stood and pointed out that first nations’ leadership, including the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, a number of first nations chiefs and a resolution passed in 2010 by first nations, have said that they are prepared to provide, and want to see, accountability and financial transparency.

When we make that point as an argument against heavy-handed top-down legislation, the minister says that first nations support this legislation because of the 2010 resolution. It is clear that the first nations do not, as a body, as the Assembly of First Nations, support the legislation. They do want to move to financial transparency and accountability. Therefore, we are in something of a dialogue of the death going on here.

I ask my hon. colleague for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte this. Does he not think we need to be clear that while everyone wants to see transparency and financial accountability, we will not get to it by ignoring the inherent rights of first nations in our country, granted under treaty obligations and constitutional protection?

Hon. Gerry Byrne: Mr. Speaker, I applaud and thank the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands because she underscores the fact that there is a strong potential, probability even, that much of this act will be subject to judicial review after the fact.

First, there is a duty to consult. There is also a duty to respect the inherent right of first nations to engage in business practices in a way that is not arbitrary and not subject to uniquely them and not to anyone else in terms of the conduct of regular business. Quite frankly, I am not a lawyer, but I think there is a more than probable reality that there will be a legal challenge under an arbitrary provision of law that actually imposes a different standard on a band-owned business than any other type of business.

In return, I ask the government this question. Before we get into any sort of judicial or legal review, since it is the one that suggests the Auditor General of Canada should review its performance on red tape reduction, will it allow the Auditor General to review whether Bill C-27 is consistent or contrary to its own expectations of itself before passage of the legislation? I think we already know the answer.