Northwest Territories Devolution Act

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor for his presentation. However, I could not help but reflect as he spoke at the beginning of his speech of when Newfoundlanders joined Confederation, which is in a lot of ways the opposite of devolution. I know a lot of friends in Newfoundland and Labrador who think that if the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans had not been put in charge of the cod stocks they might be fishing still, and I happen to agree with that.

However, in this case, in the context of devolution, which is supported by all sides of this House, we are seeing an additional piece, which makes Bill C-15 not unlike an omnibus bill. It is a completely different package of changes that would basically undo treaty negotiations.

I have cited other opinions from the Tlicho First Nation earlier in my speech today, but this started with Grand Chief Eddie Erasmus and four other chiefs voicing how they regard the changes to Bill C-15, and I quote:

…the very kind of sharp dealing and dishonourable conduct in the implementation of a modern treaty that the Supreme Court has unequivocally declared it [the federal government ] may not engage in.

I would ask my colleague for some comment.

Is it not a terrible shame to be put to a vote on something we all support, devolution, but include this unconstitutional affront to first nations?

Scott Simms: Mr. Speaker, I certainly do agree.

I think in this particular case, and in many cases, we have seen submissions here from people who find that the federal government’s assault on local governance is an absolute affront. Again, I go back to the principal beneficiaries, not just of the resources but of the whole land, and whether the management of the land is looked after by those locally. In this particular case, the member mentioned Grand Chief Erasmus, who brings up some valid points.

What bothers me though is that all of this is encapsulated in one particular piece of legislation. I spoke on that, and on another part of the bill, the water management, which should also be spun into different legislation. There is a possibility of that. I realize it takes time, but it is the responsible thing to do. I agree with the member’s assessment, and the assessment that many people have within the aboriginal groups, who certainly have their own issues with this.

I hope that the three parties here, the aboriginal groups, the Northwest Territories governance, as well as the Conservative government and its particular department, work this out in the near future. I do not know if it will be worked out within this legislation. However, it certainly is a shame that we do not have those extras put aside, whether they be spun off into different legislation or not.