Northwest Territories Devolution Act

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, as it is the first time I have taken the floor this morning, I would particularly like to pay tribute to the hon. member for Western Arctic for his leadership on this file. The Green Party was able to put forward a number of amendments in committee. They were also defeated. I would also thank the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North, who took the fight there.

I am very disappointed by this bill, as I know all members on the opposition benches are. We want to see devolution for the Northwest Territories and the rights and the process that have gone on for some years.

In response to the question asked of my colleague from Surrey North by the parliamentary secretary, of course they had eight years to bring forth the part that we all agree on. What we do not understand is why it is being shoved down the throats of first nations in the Northwest Territories: the Tlicho, the Sahtu, and the Gwich’in. Why on earth would the government take apart these regional boards? They have worked well.

My question for my hon. colleague is what is it that the Conservatives cannot understand about the numerous Supreme Court decisions that explain clearly that first nations have constitutionally enshrined rights that require the federal government not only to touch base, but also to engage in specific detailed constitutional consultations? What about the Supreme Court decisions in Delgamuukw, and Haida? What is it about them that the Conservative Party cannot understand?

Jasbir Sandhu: Mr. Speaker, my colleague asks why the Conservatives do not respect the decisions made by the Supreme Court. It is not only that they do not respect these decisions, which we saw in the House during the last Parliament where they were making laws that constitutional experts said were unconstitutional, but also the very stakeholders the legislation would affect.

I agree with the member on the changes we do agree with. We agree with the devolution of powers to the Northwest Territories, but the Conservatives bring a poison pill in the changes to the boards under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act without any consultation, or at least without hearing from the people on the ground in the Northwest Territories whether they want these changes or not.

The Conservatives fail to see the very changes they are proposing and how these are going to affect the ability of the local people to make their own decisions.