Wednesday, July 17, 1991 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Eulogy to Angela Sidney
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I rise this afternoon on behalf of the government and my caucus to express my deep sense of sorrow and loss over the passing of Angela Sidney.
Angela Sidney was one of those rare members of our society whose contribution to the Yukon cannot be measured. Her gifts were many. She played an enormous role in preserving the rich heritage of the Tagish and Tlingit peoples of the Yukon. With her passing we have lost one of the last fluent speakers of the ancient Tagish language, as we have lost one of those vital links between our past and our present.
With her stories, what she called her wealth, Mrs. Sidney did much to make us all aware of the richness of Yukons past and the strong oral tradition of Yukons first people. We have gained a strong appreciation for the importance of storytelling in Yukon culture. Events such as the Northern Storytelling Festival owe much to her efforts.
In recognition of her work and its importance to the Yukon and to Canada, Mrs. Sidney was awarded the Order of Canada in 1986.
In 1988, she was present at the opening of the new Yukon College campus, here in Whitehorse. It was Mrs. Sidney who gave it the name Ayamdigut.
Today, I join other Members of this House, and all Yukon citizens, in expressing sympathy to the family of Angela Sidney. Our prayers are with them. Her stories are our wealth and the memory of Angela Sidney will live on with the stories she shared with us all.
Mr. Phelps: I, too, would like to add some words to those of Mr. Penikett with regard to Angela Sidney and to pay tribute to her. As Yukoners know, she passed away quietly last night. She was nearly 90 years of age.
Angela was a respected Indian elder and an exceptional Canadian citizen. She made many contributions during her lifetime to her family, to her people, to her clan, to her community and to her country.
As has been said, in recognition of this, she was awarded the Order of Canada, which was presented to her in April of 1986. It was given to one of the last living speakers of the Tagish language, a person who was actively involved in recording oral history and publishing books containing songs, traditional stories and Tagish and Tlingit place names in southern Yukon. In doing so, this prominent elder in her community has made a major contribution to northern linguistic and ethnographic studies and to the preservation of the native cultural heritage.
I knew Angela as a very intelligent person who was warm-hearted, with a keen sense of humour. She was very proud of her people and their traditions. On a personal note, she and her sister, Dora Wedge, along with her two brothers, Johnny Johns and Peter Johns, were friends of mine and my family for many generations.
I extend our condolences to the family. Mr. Speaker, she will be missed.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I take this opportunity to introduce to all Members the presence in the gallery of two distinguished visitors from Saskatchewan: my father, Steve, and my sister, Hope Sutton.
At 75, my father is almost retired from farming and, among other things, serves on the council for the town of Springside. My sister teaches in northern Saskatchewan, at LaRonge. I ask my colleagues to make them feel welcome.
Unanimous consent to proceed directly to Orders of the Day and to debate Motion No. 67
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The House Leaders have met and reached agreement on the order of business for the House during this special sitting. I will outline the nature of that agreement and request on behalf of the House Leaders, unanimous consent for its adoption.
First, it is proposed that we proceed immediately to Orders of the Day and that Government Motions be called. The Premier would then move a motion that has been circulated to all Members earlier today. Debate will then take place on that motion until all Members who wish to speak have done so. This means that, if necessary, we will sit past the normal recess time of 5:30 p.m. Immediately following the vote on the motion to be proposed by the Premier, I will move the normal motion respecting the adjournment of the House over an extended period. Once that motion is carried, a motion for the House to adjourn will then be moved.
I trust that I have accurately outlined the agreement reached by the House Leaders and request the unanimous consent of the House to proceed in the way that I have described.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted to proceed as previously agreed to by the House Leaders and as requested by the Government House Leader.
We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Motion No. 67
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move
THAT it is the opinion of the Yukon Legislative Assembly that:
1. the federal government, pursuant to the transboundary provision in its 1987 Comprehensive Land Claims Policy, has always affirmed that very limited amounts of land can be transferred from one jurisdiction to claimant groups in another jurisdiction,
2. this policy states that the range of benefits available to the group outside of the province or territory of residence will be determined by negotiation with the province or territory involved, and
3. the Yukon government has been involved in negotiations in good faith with the federal government and the Tetlit Gwichin to try to get a just and fair settlement, and
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly condemns the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development for violating the federal governments long-established transboundary claim policy; and
FURTHER, THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly urges the Prime Minister of Canada to intervene and to advise the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to comply with the 1987 Comprehensive Land Claims Policy regarding transbounday claims and to return to the negotiating table to achieve a negotiated agreement acceptable to all parties; and
FURTHER, THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly urges the Yukon government to initiate whatever measures are necessary to ensure that the Government of Canada acts in accordance with its 1987 Comprehensive Land Claims Policy regarding transboundary claims and negotiates a settlement with the Tetlit Gwichin that is acceptable to all parties.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier
THAT it is the opinion of the Yukon Legislative Assembly that:
1. the federal government, pursuant to the transboundary provision in its 1987 Comprehensive Land Claims Policy, has always affirmed that very limited amounts of land can be transferred from one jurisdiction to claimant groups in another jurisdiction,
2. this policy states that the range of benefits available to the group outside the province or territory of residence will be determined by negotiation with the province or territory involved, and
3. the Yukon government has been involved in negotiations in good faith with the federal government and the Tetlit Gwichin to try to get a just and fair settlement, and
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly condemns the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development for violating the federal governments long-established transboundary claim policy; and
FURTHER, THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly urges the Prime Minister of Canada to intervene and to advise the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to comply with the 1987 Comprehensive Land Claims Policy regarding transboundary claims and to return to the negotiating table to achieve a negotiated agreement acceptable to all parties; and
FURTHER, THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly urges the Yukon government to initiate whatever measures are necessary to ensure that the Government of Canada acts in accordance with its 1987 Comprehensive Land Claims Policy regarding transboundary claims and negotiates a settlement with the Tetlit Gwichin that is acceptable to all parties.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I rise to open debate on the motion before the Assembly - a motion condemning the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development for his unilateral action that imposed a settlement in transboundary discussions with the Tetlit Gwichin. This motion calls upon Canada to respect its own 1987 Comprehensive Land Claims Policy by returning to the negotiating table.
As all Members of this Assembly know, the Tetlit Gwichin signed the land claims agreement with the Government of Canada this past Saturday. Under normal circumstances, I am certain that all Members would wish to join me in extending congratulations to them on such an important historical occasion. Sadly though, this arrangement has serious implications for the Yukon and those implications will be debated here today.
For the Yukon, this is not an agreement at all; it is an imposition. Yukoners have been Meeched again. The federal government, through the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, imposed a settlement in an issue that should have been resolved through negotiations. The Minister, Tom Siddon, without the agreement of the people or the Government of Yukon, recognized ownership of 600 square miles of Yukon land to the Tetlit Gwichin. Mr. Siddon then had the nerve to charge that he had no choice but to take this action because the Yukon refused to negotiate a land settlement.
In my comments today I want to address three points: one, the claim of the Tetlit Gwichin in the Yukon; two, the participation of Yukon in the negotiations and three, the implications of this action by Canada.
First, let me stress that our anger and our concern is directed at the federal government and their abuse of process. We have no quarrel with the Tetlit Gwichin, nor with their claim.
The Yukon government has long recognized the validity of the Tetlit Gwichin claim. We do not deny their claim to historic and current use and occupancy of land and resources in the Yukon, especially in the Peel River basin, nor do we deny that they should have the right to continued use of that land and its resources.
Our support for this claim has been obvious because, for several years now, the Yukon government has participated in negotiations that were aimed at concluding a transboundary claims agreement. Where the Yukon has differed from other parties has been on the question of how best to ensure the continuation of Tetlit Gwichin rights in the Yukon.
The Yukon has never viewed land claims settlements as being strictly real estate deals. We believe that in order to ensure the success of such claims they must be considered enabling agreements. That is, they must ensure that aboriginal people have the right to protect their traditional lifestyle and have the ability to participate in the Canadian mainstream as they so choose. This has always been the Yukon governments position in negotiations with Yukon First Nations, and we operated on the same premise in our negotiations with the Tetlit Gwichin.
We have agreed, at the negotiating table, that their interests in the Peel River Basin should be protected so that they may continue their tradition pursuits. We have agreed that they should have the right to continue to harvest fish and wildlife in this area. The only possible restriction would be based on some future need to protect public health and safety or for conservation purposes.
We have agreed that the Tetlit Gwichin should have the right to use water and trees as they always have. They can continue to use logs for cabins, homes and fuels.
Since the Fort Mcpherson group trapping area was established in the 1950s, the Tetlit Gwichin have had exclusive trapping rights in the Peel River basin. We have agreed that this should continue.
We have agreed that they should participate in the management of resources in this area. To that end, we have proposed a process of guaranteed consultation between the Tetlit Gwichin and the Yukon government. This process is based on the directions given to government by the Sparrow court case.
We have also agreed that the Tetlit Gwichin should participate, in cooperation with the Na-Cho Nyak Dun, part of whose traditional territory they share, in the processes established for land use planning and development assessment.
The Yukon government believes profoundly that, through these and other provisions, the continued use by the Tetlit Gwichin of the Peel River basin will be ensured. Such protection of the interests of the Tetlit Gwichin does not require the selection of large tracts of land.
But this government recognizes that there are sites of special importance to the Tetlit Gwichin, sites of historic, anthropologic, cultural, spiritual or economic significance. Such sites include trapping cabins, fish camps, burial grounds, and so on.
The Yukon government has agreed that the Tetlit Gwichin be allowed to own such significant sites, giving them further protection. The criteria for selection would be similar to that for site-specific selections under the umbrella final agreement in the Yukon. In general, such sites would be a few hectares in size.
Members can see from these few words that the package the Yukon has put forward to the Tetlit Gwichin is a serious one, designed to both protect and ensure the continuation of their rights in the Yukon.
This government has been at the forefront in addressing the very pressing and vital concerns of aboriginal people in this territory. We have followed the same course in our dealings with the Tetlin Gwichin.
Let me now turn to the second point, which is the charge made by some, including Rick Van Loon, the senior ADM of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. The charge is that the Yukon government has been unwilling to negotiate a land amount.
As I indicated a moment ago, the Yukon has participated in transboundary discussions for at least a decade.
Indeed, the former Leader of the Official Opposition, the Hon. Member for Hootalinqua, in his role as chief negotiator for the Yukon, signed a framework agreement on transboundary claims in 1982.
The Yukon has been party to a number of negotiating sessions specifically in respect to the Tetlit Gwichin claim in 1984, 1987, 1988, early 1990 and since the beginning of this year. In all these sessions, we have participated constructively, honestly and in good faith.
We have sought to conclude a deal that is fair to the Tetlit Gwichin, to Yukon First Nations and to the Yukon as a whole.
I might add that throughout the discussions that took place last year and again this year, Yukon officials have taken the lead role in developing the principles upon which to base an agreement, as well as in developing a draft agreement. So, we have done far more than just occupy a seat at the table.
I would like to talk for a moment about the issue of land amount, or land quantum as they say in the negotiations. We have been working for several years on this issue and I want to give Members in this House a brief overview of some of the ground we have covered.
Yukon policy has always been that ownership of large amounts of land would not form part of a transboundary agreement. Other measures would be considered to provide the necessary protection of interests.
This policy is in line with that of the federal Conservative government and that of their Liberal predecessors. It was also known to the negotiators for the Dene-Metis claim, which preceded the Tetlit Gwichin claim.
The Yukon position received further federal government support in a letter written in February of 1990 by the director general of comprehensive claims of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs to the chief federal negotiators of both the CYI and the Dene-Metis claim. That letter stated that when settling transboundary claims, Only very limited amounts of land should be involved, with the guiding principle being the provision of what is necessary to exercise other rights, not the provision of substantial blocks. We should be aiming for a few square miles - not tens or hundreds or thousands. . .
This is exactly the position that we, the Yukon government, were taking at the negotiating table.
The letter went on to say, The Fort McPherson band should not be encouraged to think that they will receive anything greater than these specific sites.
In spite of this directive from the senior federal official in charge of comprehensive claims, the federal negotiator in the Northwest Territories continued to lead the Tetlit Gwichin to believe that they would receive up to 2,000 square miles in the Yukon Territory, a position that he had been personally promoting since 1986. It had, therefore, become increasingly difficult for the Yukon government to know where the federal government stood on this matter.
By January of this year, the Minister, Tom Siddon, was writing to me suggesting that the agreement should include amounts of land of approximately 100 square miles. This was the first indication that the earlier federal position had changed and that large land selections in the Yukon now had ministerial sanction.
When our negotiator went to the table this spring, the bottom line of the Tetlit Gwichin had become 600 square miles. As a starting point, the Yukon negotiators suggested a process that would identify the interests of the Tetlit Gwichin in the Peel River Basin. The parties could then consider means other than land ownership to protect these interests. This process was in line with that recommended in the letter from the land claims director general that I quoted a moment ago.
But it was rejected. Not only was it rejected, but the indication was made that the federal minister wanted to conclude the Tetlit Gwichin claim so badly, that he would consider imposing the land quantum without the consent of the Yukon.
This was confirmed by the Gwichin negotiator in media stories, following a meeting between the Tetlit Gwichin and Mr. Siddon in Dawson City at the time of the annual Gold Show.
This obviously begs the question: just who is refusing to negotiate the land amount? Just who is refusing to negotiate in good faith?
When two of the three parties to a negotiating process make a side deal at the exclusion of the third, you do not have a fair and open negotiating process.
With such a commitment by the Minister, there was no more need for the Tetlit Gwichin to negotiate this matter with us. They would get their land in spite of the Yukon. The negotiating process on the question of land had become essentially pointless. However, even when what Mr. Siddon was planning to do became apparent, the Yukon government continued to seek a negotiated settlement. Most parties presented with such an ultimatum would walk from the table. The Yukon government stayed because we are firmly committed to the negotiation process. What kind of message would we have sent to the Yukon First Nations if we had walked? We felt that it was important not to be open to the charge that we had abandoned negotiations, thus adding justification to the Ministers actions.
At the same time, we felt that we had to protect the Yukons interests. If a federal minister was in the mood to impose land quantum, he might well include other terms and conditions equally objectionable to the Yukon. No Member of the House who was present at the time wants to forget the example of the COPE settlement of a decade ago.
So, we continued to negotiate in hopes of reaching a fair agreement.
At this point, I should add that negotiations were made much more difficult by the imposition of a deadline. By late April, when the transboundary negotiations resumed in earnest, the dates for a ratification vote on the Gwichin final agreement had already been widely advertised. To meet this ratification date, negotiations had to be completed by early July. This further reduced the willingness of the Gwichin and federal negotiators to fully examine other options.
I categorically reject any suggestion, by Mr. Van Loon or others, that it was the Yukon that was unwilling to negotiate. We have been a willing and active party at the table for many years. We are prepared to go back to the table immediately. We only ask that the negotiations not be bound by artificial deadlines or by threats of ministerial impositions.
I would now like to speak to my third point: the implications of this action by Minister Siddon.
As all Canadians are painfully aware, our country is going through a constitutional crisis.
We, in this House and this territory, remember too well the ill-fated Meech Lake process. It was a back room deal in which the Prime Minister arm-twisted the provincial Premiers into agreeing to his agenda for the country.
Northerners and all aboriginal Canadians saw very clearly that his agenda not only excluded us, but could well have totally frustrated our aspirations for all time.
The original Meech Lake proposal, had it survived, would have meant that the Yukon would have had no control over its own constitutional development. That choice was unilaterally taken away, without even consulting us.
Now, we have been Meeched again. Without our consent, the federal Conservative government has acted in a manner that deprives all Yukon people of their democratic right to control their own future.
Since the late 1970s, the Yukon government has been on a steady track that has seen us assume more and more responsibility for governing the territory. While I do not want to prejudge this Legislature or any of its committees on questions of the constitutional development we must face in the next few months and years, I believe that this track could eventually lead to provincehood or something akin to it. At the very least, it would give Yukon people and their government the right and power to make decisions that affect our everyday lives. Following the settlement of comprehensive claims in the Yukon, it ought to have given us, not Ottawa, control over our land and our resources, in the same way that such rights and powers are enjoyed by Canadians in every one of the provinces.
For the most part, the federal government has said it supported this process, Meech Lake notwithstanding.
This latest insult to the territory is especially disturbing because it comes at the very time that all Canadians are desperately seeking a resolution of the countrys constitutional woes.
While many of us in this House may not support much of the Prime Ministers agenda, we do sincerely hope that his endeavours to save the nation, as a federal state, are successful.
Much of the rhetoric surrounding the current endeavour has been that the constitutional development process must be open and cooperative. To this end, we have seen events like the Spicer Commission, which became a sort of national constitutional encounter group. We have seen Joe Clark travelling the country to meet with provincial and territorial political leaders. We have seen parliamentary committees that have, or soon will, travel the country, seeking input from a wide cross-section of Canadians. We have seen a process that may well live up to its billing as open and cooperative. Then, boom, last Friday we saw the Yukon get Meeched again . . . boom . . .
We saw one Minister, by himself, blow openness and cooperation out of the window. Welcome back to the old ways. Welcome back to the bad old days. Welcome back to colonialism.
The Yukon very much wants to play a constructive role with other Canadians and other governments in the constitutional development of this country, but we cannot do that as long as the senior government in Canada treats us with the kind of contempt it showed us last Friday.
The essence of the successful democratic federation that we all want Canada to be is that all parts of the federation, whether large or small are afforded the same degree of respect and an equality of opportunity to participate. To do less is to threaten its continued existence.
Do not get me wrong. I am not suggesting that last Fridays action alone will bring about the end of Confederation, but it is a dangerous sign that the federal government is not sincere in its constitutional initiatives. It is a page from the old Meech Lake backroom deal approach to constitutional development. This in not the new leaf of cooperation and openness that we have been lead to believe was the way that things were to work from now on.
I fear that elsewhere in Canada, when it politically suits him, the Minister may claim that the Yukon government opposes the aboriginal rights of the Tetlit Gwichin. To say so, of course, would be a falsehood. This government apologizes to no one for its position on aboriginal rights and certainly not to the federal government. We were the first government in Canada to oppose extinguishment as a necessary condition of the settlement of aboriginal claims. We were the very first in Canada to argue for the entrenchment of self-government agreements. We have always been committed to negotiations.
Almost 20 years ago, I personally went over the mountains to help elect the first aboriginal northerner to the Canadian Parliament, who happened to be a Gwichin from the community of Fort McPherson. I will say this to the Honourable Mr. Siddon: I personally was fighting for aboriginal rights when the federal government was still ignoring them. I say now, and I believe, that Mr. Siddons decision made last Friday is truly divisive in terms of its impact on our community and indeed in its impact on the whole development of the territories.
Mr. Siddons decision is very divisive. With regret, I say it may have been deliberately designed to be so. Already, we have some Yukon First Nations protesting the quantum granted the Tetlin Gwichin, because, for the obvious reasons, it is greater than the land allocation bargained by them at the table after 18 years of negotiations. In fact, it is greater than the amount the Tetlin Gwichin itself asked for at the table. At the very last meeting on this subject, they tabled a wish list of land selections in the Yukon that totalled only 480 square miles. The Tetlin Gwichin asked for 480 square miles; the Minister gave them 600.
The Ministers decision is divisive and disturbing. It is unfortunately the case that Yukon First Nations with legitimate claims in the Northwest Territories and in British Columbia have never been encouraged by Ottawa to pursue those claims. What are they to think now?
As well, it has contributed to non-aboriginal fears in the Yukon about the future. Already anxious about the slow progress of Yukon negotiations, they have been given more cause for alarm by Mr. Siddon raising the possibility of the federal government unilaterally acting and carving up more of the Yukon to satisfy other transboundary claims, not by negotiation - which we are prepared to do - but by unilateral, federal option. Imagine what would happen if that were to happen with respect to transboundary claims from British Columbia. It is the home province of the Minister, a province that has, historically, refused to come to the table. In the immortal words of S.I. Hayakawa, who was born in that province, their position has always been that the land there was stolen fair and square and that was the end of it, until very recently.
Imagine the kind of response of Yukoners, when they have had a government that has been willing to negotiate, if they believe that the federal government will act unilaterally in the territories to satisfy needs that cannot, and will not, be met and which the federal government will not act to meet south of 60.
Mr. Siddon has even created confusion in the media. The Whitehorse Star, in reporting on this event, and in reporting on an interview with the Member for Porter Creek East, referred to extra-terrestrial claims. That is a subject I would be perfectly happy to leave in the hands of the federal Minister. I would like to state that very clearly on behalf of the Yukon government.
In a few months, Mr. Siddon will, no doubt, move on to other things, and we, in the north, will be left to deal with the consequences of his decision. This event will, in time, fade from the Ministers memory. For us, it will be recorded forever in the Hansard and in the journals of our community. We are not likely to soon forget.
Let me make a point about negotiations. Negotiations depend upon a large measure of social peace between the aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities. That has been my view of what has been necessary in this community, in order to conduct and see negotiations proceed. The type of social peace we have strived for in the Yukon has been seriously undermined by last Fridays decision.
Negotiations depend upon a relationship of trust between the parties. There has been a serious erosion of that trust, as a result of last Fridays decision. I predict the Yukon government will soon be asked to go back to the table to forgive and forget. I must say that that will not be easy. We shall now have to consider our strategies anew. One thing is for sure: we shall never forget what happened last Friday, just as we shall never forget the Meech Lake Accord.
Everywhere in the world democracy is ascendant. Everywhere colonialism is on the wane. Everywhere except northern Canada. Everywhere except the territories of Canada.
I want to ask all Members of this House to stand together to say that we, the representatives of the people of the Yukon, are a colony no more. We are not Lithuania. We are not Grenada. We are not the Mururoa Atoll. We are not some distant chunk of rock that the federal government can do anything it wants to, at anytime it wants. We are a real, living, breathing, democratic community with a popularly elected Legislature and a democratically elected government. We, not the federal Minister, represent the people and the territory. We, the people of this territory, with the First Nations of this territory, are the people who must make the decisions about the disposition of our land and our resources.
If we can, I want every last person in this House to stand at the end of this debate and be able to say, No more colonization. No more colonialism, no more back room deals and no more Meeches.
I want to say that we are happy that the Tetlit Gwichin have now reached a comprehensive land claim agreement with the federal government. We ask only that the Mulroney government respect our position and that they return to the table so that we can conclude a transboundary agreement through a negotiated process - a transboundary agreement acceptable to all parties.
Mr. Lang: I would like to begin by saying that we appreciate very much the fact that the Legislature has been reconvened to deal with what we see as a very serious issue affecting the Yukon over the long term.
The position of the Yukon Progressive Conservative Party is very clear. We have reiterated that policy in numerous forums while we were in government as well as in opposition.
For the record, I would like to read the policy of our caucus and our party. I will read from the document that was presented to the Yukon Comprehensive Claims Policy review task force in 1985 by the then Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, Mr. Phelps.
We take the position that benefits in Yukon granted to non-resident native groups should not include land or management rights, but should be restricted to monetary compensation, hunting, fishing and trapping rights based on current usage. Any hunting, fishing and trapping rights granted to non-resident native people should be taken from the Yukon Indians share of the harvest. We maintain that, where such claims are accepted for negotiations, they must be addressed and resolved with the groups involved prior to a final agreement of the Yukon Indian land claim.
Let us look back in history. Approximately 14 years ago, it came to the attention of the then Government of the Yukon Territory that the Inuvialuit of the Northwest Territories, through what was referred to as the COPE land claim, laid claim to 1,000 square miles of Yukon. At that time, the position taken by the government was that, in the negotiations of transboundary land claims, no land would be allocated in the negotiations for such claimant groups. That was the policy, clearly and unequivocally stated by the Government of the Yukon. It took years, a lot of time, effort and commitment, but the will of the people of the Yukon prevailed.
When push came to shove for the final decisions to be made with respect to that claim, no land was made available. For the record, we strongly feel that our political boundaries are sacrosanct. There is no way, in our judgment, that anyone, native or non-native, should be allocated quantums of Yukon land when they do not reside here. We are prepared to accept the principle of negotiating some harvesting rights, and we have proved that in the culmination of the agreement on the COPE land claim, as well as the group trapping rights that have been made available to the native people of Fort McPherson.
We agree with what the Government Leader has just stated with respect to the breach of trust the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has created by agreeing to the allocation of 600 square miles of Yukon land to non-residents of the territory. In our judgment, that is unacceptable.
It is ironic that we stand here today, discussing the allocation of 600 square miles of the Yukon, and not one of us in this House has a copy of that agreement. In itself, that speaks to how the present Minister of Indian Affairs views the Yukon and its political boundaries.
I speak of a breach of trust, in that the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, who is responsible for the Yukon Act, has a special trust responsibility to the people of the territory. He has violated that trust. That is unforgivable.
I want to speak for a few minutes about the implications of the decision, both from a territorial and a national perspective. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has stated to us that it is not that big a deal. It is only 600 square miles of the Yukon.
It is not just the 600 square miles or where it is located. It is the precedent. There is a minimum of five further claimant groups on the boundaries of the B.C./Yukon border and the Northwest Territories/Yukon border who have indicated, in one manner or another, an interest in Yukon land. The one that comes to mind is the Kaska Dene claim. They have filed an interest in 10,000 square miles of Yukon land. That is one of five possible future claimant groups.
With the decision made by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and the precedent he has set, the Yukon is going to be looking at some very difficult times when it comes to dealing with the negotiations of claimant groups that are filing in the Yukon.
One does not have to have gone to university or be a highly placed civil servant to realize that these groups, when they have seen the allocation of land to the claimant group in the northern Yukon, will be filing for land, too. We do not have that much land in the Yukon.
The question that comes to mind is that with these outstanding claims and the obvious policy of the present government of Canada, what is left for the balance of the Yukon? What is left for our children? What kind of Yukon are we going to have left - a series of large, private land holdings, with this Legislature strictly responsible for setting social policy?
Land is your future and your resources. If we in Yukon hope to ever attain equal rights with other Canadians as the eleventh province of Canada, we cannot tolerate the disposition of land through negotiations of this kind.
It is ironic, as the Government Leader pointed out, that the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development - who is a Member of Parliament for British Columbia - would make such a decision, knowing what the Province of British Columbia is facing in the years to come as far as outstanding land claims are concerned.
My question is very simple: would the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development even have considered making such a decision if it were the Province of British Columbia? I am here to tell you that I know the answer and that we all know the answer, and that the answer is no.
The sad part of the decision that has been made by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is that it is going to raise the expectations of the native claimant groups on the British Columbia/Alberta border. These groups have a very legitimate question as Canadians, as valid native land claims recipients; if you can do it in the Yukon and Northwest Territories, why are we not eligible on the British Columbia/Alberta border?
The bad guys are going to be the province of Alberta and the province of British Columbia, because they control the land. There has been a breach of trust here that is totally unforgivable, both from the Yukon perspective and also from a national perspective.
I want to turn our attention to the Government of Yukons participation. The Minister outlined to some degree its participation in these negotiations. It is our position that there have been a number of errors in judgment with respect to what we view the Government of Yukons actions as far as transboundary land claims are concerned. I want to refer back to a motion that was tabled in this House on October 23, 1985. It was moved by the Member for Hootalinqua and I want to read this into the record. It is moved by the Leader of the Official Opposition that this House urges the Government of Yukon to maintain the position of the previous territorial government that benefits in Yukon granted to non-resident native groups should not include land or management rights but should be restricted to monetary compensation, hunting, fishing and trapping rights based on current usage and further, any hunting, fishing and trapping rights granted to non-resident native people should be taken from the Yukon Indians share of the harvest and any such claims be resolved with the groups involved prior to the final agreement of the Yukon Indian land claim.
This position brought forward by our caucus through the Member for Hootalinqua was to ensure that there was continuity and consistency in the Yukons position on transboundary claims, in recognition of how important our political boundaries were and in recognition of the number of different claimant groups that wanted a piece of Yukon.
I believe there was an error in judgment that day when the government, in its wisdom, decided not to support that motion. I say that because now we have learned, through the negotiations in the northern Yukon, that we are no longer talking about the principle of whether or not land is going to be transferred - we are discussing how much. Quite frankly, we feel that has weakened our position.
I have another area of concern. It has come to our attention that an agreement in principle was signed over one year ago between the Old Crow Indian Band, representatives from the Dawson Indian Band and the Mayo Indian Band and the Tetlit Gwichin people. Our concern is that the Government of Yukon has had knowledge of the implications of what has taken place in the northern Yukon. It is our view that we should have been making public statements and formal representations on a consistent basis, not only to the Minister of Indian Affairs but also to the Prime Minister of our country, to ensure that the policy on overlapping claims would not reach the state they are in today.
We are also concerned that in the negotiations of the Yukon Indian land claim for the Yukon Indian people, commitments have been made without a clear understanding of the Government of Canadas position on transboundary claims. There is an agreement in principle that the Yukon Indian land claim will involve 16,000 square miles of Yukon.
Now, we are facing the reality that there is going to be far more land involved in the settling of land claims, in view of the transboundary policy decision taken by the Government of Canada. Similar to what was negotiated by the Member for Hootalinqua, when he was a negotiator, we feel that there should have been a clear policy, agreed to by all parties, with respect to exactly what the Government of Canada meant and intended to do on the issue of transboundary claims.
I want to turn my attention to the Council for Yukon Indians for a minute. I was very disappointed with the announcement that they would be supporting the claim, as agreed to by the Government of Canada and the Fort McPherson native organization.
If the Yukon Indian land claim, which the Minister just briefly touched upon, is going to work, it is going to depend, in good part, on the goodwill of the non-native people of the Yukon. I believe the people of the territory have extended that goodwill, and have said, Yes, we have to move forward; we will support the native bands in their efforts to come up with a fair and equitable settlement.
I submit that the Council for Yukon Indians should reassess their position on the claim in the northern Yukon and how it was done, because we must have the goodwill of the people of the Yukon if the Yukon Indian land claim is going to succeed. I say in all sincerity that that means that the land of the Yukon must be in the control of Yukoners, and we cannot support allocations, especially in that amount, to claimant groups along our boundaries, because Yukoners will no longer view the Yukon Indian land claim as fair and equitable.
If that trust is broken among the people of the Yukon, then it is not going to work.
I want to express my extreme disappointment, not only as a Member of the Legislative Assembly, but as a supporter of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. I joined the federal Conservative party, in Yukon, many years ago, in good part because it stood for constitutional development in Yukon and believed in the principle that the Yukon, at some given point, would politically evolve as the eleventh province of Canada. That evolution was under the leadership of Erik Nielsen, as we all know, for many years.
I recall that in 1979, when the Conservative government was first elected to office, the work that Jake Epp did, with the assistance of Erik Nielsen at that time, the sending of the famous Epp Letter, which basically gave us responsible government in the Yukon. The federal Conservative party that I voted for and I worked for came through with their promises and their commitments to the political evolution of the Yukon.
The decision taken by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development violates not only the trust relationship that he has as the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, but the very principles that the federal Conservative party stands for in the Yukon. If quantums of land are to be allocated to residents outside of Yukon boundaries, there is going to be no reason for the constitutional development of the Yukon.
Being in politics, we all know the hard work that supporters do to get people elected who support certain ideologies. We know about the hours spent stuffing envelopes, making telephone calls and about all the commitments ordinary citizens make in order to participate in a free and democratic society. For the most part, they do it because they believe in certain principles.
In this case, a very important principle of the Conservative Party, in my view, has been breached. Those people who gave their money, time and, most importantly, their hearts, have been betrayed. Money and time can be forgotten, but a betrayal of the heart can never be forgiven.
As all Members know, we helped draft the motion that is being tabled today. We feel that it is absolutely incumbent upon the Legislature to speak as one. We will be fully supporting the motion before us.
I also would like to recommend some steps that should be taken by not only the government, but also by us, as Members of this House, in view of the seriousness of the situation facing Yukoners. We, as elected Members, should be in touch with our federal counterparts, whom we know personally, to brief them on what has taken place and try to do everything we can to influence them to request that the Government of Canada go back to the negotiating table.
As Leader of the Official Opposition, I want to make this proposition to the Government Leader: I am prepared to be part of any delegation the Government Leader feels could be in our interest to go to Ottawa to try to influence those Members of Parliament who will be making the final decision. I will be discussing that proposition with the Government Leader at a later date.
Further to that, I think it is incumbent upon us, as well as the public, to write letters to the Prime Minister of Canada and the Opposition Leaders in the Parliament of Canada, voicing their opposition to this decision taken by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
I would further submit that the Government of Yukon should begin putting together a publicity campaign for the rest of Canada to explain our position and why the Legislature is taking the position it has.
Further to that, the Government of Yukon should be requesting the support of the Premiers of the provinces for our position on this matter. As I stated earlier, the precedent that has been set is going to have some implications to some of the provinces in Canada.
Further to that, I believe the Government of the Yukon should begin preparing a legal case and, if necessary, take whatever steps in the courts of Canada to try to prevent the implementation of this decision.
As I stated earlier, the people of the Yukon accepted that the Yukon Indian land claim was going to involve 16,000 square miles. If we accept the transboundary claims, as the new policy of the federal government indicates will be in place, we are going to see large quantums of land involved, over and above the 16,000 square miles that was presented to the general public.
As I stated earlier, the Yukon Indian Claim will no longer be seen as being fair or equitable. It is ironic that Yukoners, native and non-native, through their Legislature and through the Government of the Yukon Territory, only have control of just over 600 square miles. I know of what I speak, we had to fight for every inch of that land to be transferred to the Government of the Yukon Territory.
How can anyone accept the premise that what has been done in the northern Yukon is fair when 600 hundred square miles has been allocated to approximately 1700 to 2500 non-residents of Yukon to control; yet, 30,000 Yukoners have 600 square miles under their control?
It is our position that if we are not successful in overturning the decision made by the federal government, then the Government of the Yukon is going to have to reassess its position on the Yukon Indian land claim. No longer will the Yukon Indian land claim, as presented to the public, be seen as fair and equitable.
We have a tough road ahead of us. I want to assure the side opposite that we will extend our full cooperation and work closely with Members on that side of the House to try and overcome the decision that has been made about the Northern Yukon. The message that has to be conveyed throughout the Yukon and Canada is simple: Yukoners will not tolerate being tenants in their own land.
Ms. Kassi: First of all, I would like to welcome to the House today some Gwichin representatives who are here; Chief Roger Kaye; Stanley Njootli, our chief negotiator; and LuLu Tizya. I know that once the Kaskas tried to steal Steve Walsh from us, but we want him back. Welcome to the House today.
There should be no question, in anybodys mind that the Gwichin have a right to their own land and resources. The Tetlit Gwichin have used the upper Peel River Basin for many years and they should continue to do so.
I would like to take the Members of the House back to the time when the only people in the area were the Gwichin. There was a large caribou herd that migrated along the northern interior, keeping close to the edge of the trees and the vegetation for food and shelter. These caribou provided food, shelter and clothing for the Gwichin of that area. Back then the people used to travel with the herd so that they could maintain their food supply and provide for their families.
In the spring, the caribou travelled to the shores of the Arctic Ocean, to an area now called Alaska. A group of Gwichin decided to stay close to that area so that they could look after it. They settled around Arctic Village and are called Naysty Gwichin, which means people who are over the mountains. Over those mountains, as well, are the Venetie Gwichin, the Gwichcha Gwichin of Fort Yukon, Alaska and the Hun Gwichin near the Eagle and Dawson area and the Gwichin of Mayo, who are now called the Na-Cho Nyak Dun, a northern Tuchone name.
There was another group of Gwichin who decided to stay nearer the lakes, rivers and marshes in the middle and wait for the caribou to come past. These were called the Vuntat Gwichin. Vuntat means people of the lakes. In the winter, the caribou would travel inland to the eastern mountains and valleys of the big rivers. A group of these people decided to follow those caribou and reside in the place that is now called Fort McPherson. They are now known as the Tetlit Gwichin people. This means people of the shores of big rivers. The Gu Cha Gwichah, who are a little more inland into the Northwest Territories are the people of the bluffs, or called the Arctic Red River people.
This is how we defined ourselves. We were known by the place where we lived. We maintained our territories and took care of them, some a little better than others, and we always shared our resources. This land was called caribou land. We are caribou people. This was their natural habitat. The caribou, in turn, have provided for the Gwichin in the area. We are part of the life cycle of that caribou. Today, we have the Porcupine Caribou Management Board, which all our people are represented on.
Then, the borders came. When the Europeans came, they brought with them a law and order that was not part of the Gwichin, and not part of how we saw the world. They carved up the land according to their own rules and needs. People far to the east decided that a straight line should be carved into the land. On one side, they would be called Americans; on the other side, they would be called Canadians.
This line split the Gwichin nation. We did not understand how some white person would know where to put that line; neither did the caribou. They walked right over it, and so did our people. Later, they drew another line. This time, it was to create the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Once again, this line went straight through Gwichin land. It separated the Tetlit from the Vuntat by placing them in different jurisdictions. We did not understand why someone would want to do that to us, why someone would want to separate our communities into three different areas.
The white people in Ottawa were dividing us up into little pieces so they would conquer us. They were separating the Gwichin so it would be easier to control us, in the same way that they took away our children, denied us our language and our culture. Then, they carved up our land. In every case, it was divide and conquer.
Throughout all of this process, the people of the lakes stayed together. We were not conquered. We continue to use our language. We have maintained the use of our traditional areas, and we still do today.
The white people came into our land and took it without asking. Now, we are demanding that we be compensated for this. Thus, land claims.
We are asking that our traditional harvesting rights be protected. We are asking that some of our land be returned to the people of the Gwichin. The Tetlit Gwichin have asked for land that they have traditionally used. The Peel River Basin is where they have hunted and trapped for many years. This is their group trapping area and they have rights in that area.
This is a basic principle of land claims. We have a right to reclaim what is ours. We have a right to be compensated for what was taken from us. We have a right to have our lands and our traditional ways protected so that this will never happen again.
There was a time during the 1950s when most of the resources in the traditional Gwichin areas were depleted because the white man introduced poison for trapping. That area is now commonly referred to at the land claims table as the Old Crow group trapping area. During that time, our leaders got together and very wisely decided that that area would be left alone for many years so that stocks could be replenished there. A lot of this happened without our knowledge until they came closer to our villages.
The Vuntat Gwichin depended solely on the Old Crow flats area for many years until stocks were replenished in the Old Crow group trapping area. We are not going to let this kind of thing happen again. The Vuntat Gwichin will not allow anybody to enter our lands and do this to our resources ever again, no matter who they are.
On the Delta side, in the Northwest Territories, there has also been heavy pressure put on animals there. There are many big game outfitting camps and because the people there are allowed to sell their meat, a great deal of the stock has been depleted. In 1951, the Vuntat Gwichin invited the Tetlit Gwichin to use the Peel River area because a lot of their resources were being depleted on the other side. There was an agreement at that time. The Vuntat Gwichin are known among our people as conservationists. We know how to take care of our resources and we have done so up to today.
Therefore, it is our position that we will not allow any infringement upon our group trapping area. We want to have a major voice in all resource management in the Peel River area as well.
We have always known that all of our people are to share in the resources. We hunt, fish and trap to survive, and our elders continue to maintain this position. Therefore, the Vuntut Gwichin must have direct, major participation in wildlife management, land use planning, development assessment process and non-renewable resources in all lands in the traditional Gwichin area, which is now known as the North Yukon, or Northern Region. This includes all the land that has been selected by the Tetlit Gwichin.
This is not a new position, this a position of our people, long before land claims was even thought of. This position was agreed to by the elders of the Vuntut and the Tetlit Gwichin in the 1950s. The Tetlit Gwichin know that this is where we are strong. They know that we have always led the way in conservation. Now we want to reaffirm our position.
The Vuntut Gwichin will never let our people starve. The Gwichin all over Alaska and into the Northwest Territories will never let each other starve. For this reason, we will never sell any of our meat. Not even the horns of our caribou are for sale. We will not negotiate away the lands or the animals that support us. We will not let our animals disappear. This is our purpose to begin with. This is why we must be represented at the negotiating table at all levels.
During the recent transboundary negotiations we were not listened to. Why did the federal Minister not sit down with all the parties, all of the Gwichin, to come to this deal to reach a consensus, as he promised? Why did Mr. Siddon not come to Old Crow and talk with the Vuntut Gwichin and let us know exactly what he was doing? Why is it that claims are not settled on our side, within our jurisdiction, as well? Was it a tactic to keep our negotiators busy on this side and come up with an agreement on the other side? What is going on here?
I also believe that some of the tactics were that they would negotiate with one part of the Gwichin nation and not the other at certain times and maybe just negotiate with the third-party government and not negotiate with the whole nation.
Once again, this is the use of divide and conquer. This tactic is not going to work anymore. We see through his ways, and we will not sit by and quietly let him dictate to us any longer. I ask again: where will all this stop? Where will the federal Minister draw the line when it comes to dealing with Yukon First Nations? Why does he only give 300 square miles to the White River First Nation, saying there is no more land to give them, and he gave away our salmon to the Americans when he was the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans? He is doing nothing to block the American oil and gas leases in the Canadian Beaufort, and I do not see him arguing to protect the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou, either.
When we sit down and talk to him, will we be able to trust him? What back room deals will he be making behind our backs? We want our claims negotiated, not dictated to us. We want consensus, not proclamation. We want agreements, not disagreements. We want to be able to get along within these jurisdictions. We want solid, fair negotiations with a nation, such as the Gwichin, the Kaska, the Tlingit and all the nations that are involved here. We want solid negotiations with everybody within the nation. The Tetlit Gwichin have rights to a portion of this land, but the Vuntat Gwichin, who also use that area and have been the traditional caretakers of it, must have their rights to the area represented in the negotiations. Again, I stress, a major voice must come from the Vuntat Gwichin for resource agreements.
It is important the land claims issue be settled, that everybody be at the table together, that mutual respect for all positions be the guiding principle, and that a consensus be reached as a result of these negotiations.
On behalf of my chief and the people of Old Crow, I invite Mr. Tom Siddon to Old Crow as soon as possible to sit down with us, in good faith, as he promised, and talk to us to let us know what is going on here. This is the only way we are going to achieve success in negotiations of land claims in these areas.
Mr. Devries: I rise to speak in support of this motion as a very disappointed and concerned Yukoner. I am deeply disappointed in the federal government, not because they honoured a land claims agreement, but because, in honouring this land claim, they chose to ignore the sovereignty of the Yukon Territory.
The explanation that it is only a small portion of the land mass of the Yukon will not wash with the people I represent. That portion of land we are speaking about belongs to the people of the Yukon. We collectively should decide how to share it.
I am also disappointed by the lack of action by the present territorial government. This transboundary issue is not a new issue. It has been a component of the entire land claims picture for years. We on this side of the House have taken the transboundary claims by various First Nations people very seriously. We have asked questions and put forth motions on this issue only to have them glossed over and voted down.
The concern I addressed earlier on this issue is of the impact on the legitimate claims of the First Nations of the southern Yukon and on the non-beneficiaries if this claim is used as a precedent.
In southern Yukon, as of 1986, we have had the potential for the people of Fort Liard to negotiate a transboundary claim. There is potential for people of the Tahltan Nation to negotiate a transboundary claim. The Atlin Tlingit could potentially negotiate a transboundary claim. We know by the existing map, which the Member for Porter Creek has shown us, that the Kaska Dene want approximately 10,000 square miles in the southern Yukon. The question raised by these transboundary claims is: what would be left for Yukon First Nations and Yukoners who are not land claims beneficiaries?
We must ask ourselves if this agreement by the federal government is going to help us in any way present a position or argument against the Kaska Dene claim from the B.C. Lower Post natives. I say it will not. What the federal government is doing today with the Tetlit Gwichin claim is only going to exacerbate the problems with other transboundary claims.
What about the Kotaneelee gas fields, from which the revenues are desperately needed to make us more economically independent? Much of this area is being claimed by the Fort Liard and Nahanni natives. What about the outstanding claims surrounding Treaty Eleven, signed over 70 years ago?
What the feds are doing here today is only the tip of an iceberg. There is no doubt in my mind that the land giveaway by the federal government is a sign of the potential erosion of YTG as a legitimate government, a government we have all worked hard to establish.
Yukoners must ask themselves today, should we just stand by and allow the action of the feds to put in jeopardy the past 20 years of land claims negotiations? I say no. Now is the time to speak out.
I ask the federal government, is this your response to the Government Leaders request for devolution and eventual provincehood? I wish to reiterate that I support this motion, and I urge the feds to take notice of this critical predicament in which they have put Yukoners.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I stand in support of this motion, and I urge the Government of Canada to re-evaluate its decision to, once again, treat the Yukon as a colony by imposing its solutions to issues that should have been resolved at the negotiating table.
As the Premier stated in his opening remarks, the Government of the Yukon has recognized and supported the validity of the Tetlit Gwichin claim. The Yukon government is well aware of the rights of those people to use the land and resources of the Yukon. The Peel River Basin has special significance to the Tetlit Gwichin people, and the Yukon government recognizes the historical value of the Peel River Basin area to those people and their right to continue to occupy and use that land and its resources.
For the past 10 or so years, the Yukon government has been negotiating a transboundary land claim agreement. The Government of the Yukon has faithfully been at the negotiating table, working out details that would guarantee the Tetlit Gwichin people the continued right to harvest fish and wildlife, use the waterways, retain their exclusive trapping rights in the area, and participate in management of resources, et cetera.
The Government of the Yukon has been at the table, negotiating in good faith. We were under the impression that the Government of Canada was also negotiating in good faith. Unfortunately, we were not prepared for the fact that Mr. Siddon, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, would violate the policy of his own government, but I suppose that we should not be surprised. At least I am not surprised and neither are many other aboriginal people. So many promises and treaties in the past have been broken time and time again by representatives of the Government of Canada. So many times in the past, various governments of the day tried to chip away at our culture and our traditions. Many people will say that is all in the past, honest mistakes were made. This is a new era of openness and consultation.
Mr. Joe Clark recently visited the Yukon, expressing a desire to listen to the concerns of the people in the Yukon. Mr. Spicer zoomed in and out of the territory expressing an interest in truly listening to and consulting with the people of the Yukon, and now Mr. Siddon, in direct opposition to the transboundary policy, has once again confirmed that talk is cheap.
How can the Government of Canada say on the one hand that they are at the negotiating table to obtain a just and fair settlement of land claims for all aboriginal people, and then on the other hand give away 600 square miles of land at the snap of Tom Siddons fingers? Is that how the federal government negotiates a fair and just settlement? Is that how the Government of Canada plans to settle native claims across Canada? Will they go in and start saying, You will get this and that, without taking into consideration traditional lands, hunting and fishing areas? That is not negotiating an agreement; that is dictating what the agreement will be.
I wonder if the Hon. Mr. Siddon is aware of what the word negotiate means. The Oxford dictionary defines negotiate in the following manner: confer with another with a view to compromise or agreement. Nowhere in the dictionary does negotiate mean ignore what is on the table, divide and conquer the parties at the table and come up with whatever deal pops into Mr. Siddons head at any given moment.
I find it most distressing that the federal government cannot be trusted to negotiate in good faith, but sadly it seems the trends of the past continue.
The Government of Canada ignored the Yukon Territory in its deliberations and decisions that led to the Meech Lake Accord. The Government of Canada disregarded the rights of aboriginal people and women in the Meech Lake Accord. The Government of Canada declared that unless all 10 provinces and the federal government agreed, the Yukon Territory would never receive provincehood and now Mr. Siddon, a representative of the Government of Canada, is dictating, not negotiating, the terms of this transboundary land claim.
We have been warned, we have been threatened and we have been treated as a backward cousin by the big city boys. Once again, a representative of the Government of Canada decided to write his own rules regarding negotiating tactics.
I urge the Prime Minister of Canada to prove he wants to build a stronger Canada by dealing openly and honestly with all its citizens. I urge Mr. Mulroney to provide some guidance to Mr. Siddon and to ensure that Mr. Siddon no longer violates the Government of Canadas long-established policy on transboundary claims.
Finally, I urge the Prime Minister to ensure that the 1987 Comprehensive Land Claims Policy regarding transboundary claims is adhered to, and the federal government returns to the negotiating table to reach and negotiate an agreement that all parties can accept.
Mr. Phillips: This is a very significant debate. All Members have come back to this House to express their very strong concerns about the recent actions of the federal government. The decision by Tom Siddon and the federal government has betrayed the trust of all Yukoners and eroded our faith in the land claims negotiations.
The land claims process has had many ups and downs over the past 18 years. Many Yukoners are losing their patience with this process. Eighteen years is a long time to wait for a solution, for both native and non-native Yukoners.
In the past several months, we have been given some reason for optimism on a settlement. That settlement has to be a fair settlement for all Yukoners, and many questions are now being asked about how fair that settlement will be.
Enormous trust and responsibility has been placed in the hands of the Council for Yukon Indians, the Yukon government and the federal government. Over the past two or three years, we have been told by the federal government that the maximum amount of land involved will be only 16,000 square miles. We were always led by the federal government to believe that transboundary claims would not include large tracts of land in the Yukon.
This unilateral move by the federal government is a serious breach of trust in the whole land claims process. The Yukon has become a pawn in a very big chess game. A federal election is on the horizon, and the public opinion of this federal governments efforts to settle land claims is low. I believe somewhere around 75 percent of the Canadian public, in a recent poll, said the federal government was not doing enough to settle land claims.
Yet, it appears, in Mr. Siddons mind, that it is time to ignore all existing commitments to governments or to any other jurisdictions, and put a few land claims notches on Mr. Siddons belt. Land claims are too important to play cheap politics with.
It is no wonder there is so much distrust of, and lack of faith in, todays politicians. I had an opportunity a few weeks ago to sit down with Mr. Siddon and ask him what his approach was with regard to the Yukon. He told us that we should have better communication. He said he would consult with us on issues that would affect the Yukon. He told us how much his government had done and was going to do with regard to devolution to the government of the Yukon. He told us that we had to be involved in decisions that would affect our future. It seems now that either someone told him to get a few settlements signed or he has a very poor memory.
It seems that the federal government has developed a new definition for the term consultation. Many Yukoners, and I would say the vast majority, have put their faith in the current land claims system. Mr. Siddon has betrayed that faith and that trust. Mr. Siddon and the federal government, in my view, have ignored their own conditions, which were set out in the umbrella final agreement in section 25.
How can we trust this Minister any longer? What else will he arbitrarily change to suit his governments future political ambitions? It seems this Minister has forgotten the title he has before his name. He is the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. He has ignored the fact that it is his responsibility to represent all Yukoners, native and non-native. Yukoners have accepted the concept of a fair deal for Yukon First Nations and have supported the land quantum agreed to by all parties. This new land giveaway by the federal government is over and above that quantum. Six hundred square miles of the Yukon was taken from us with a like it or lump it attitude. It is arrogance and disrespect in the worst sense and should not be tolerated by any Yukoner.
The land that this Minister has given away was land that was to be held in trust for all Yukoners futures. This move by Mr. Siddon has changed the tune of the land claims in the Yukon and is an extremely serious precedent. This move has the potential of undermining the whole Yukon land claims process.
Although I am giving my wholehearted support to this motion, I would be remiss if I did not express some concerns I have that, I believe, have led up to the events of today.
The federal government made the decision to sign off 600 square miles of Yukon unilaterally, but I have to say that it should not share the whole burden of this move. We, meaning the Yukon government, have been remiss in laying out clear and concise guidelines at the table on transboundary claims. As a result of not having a clear position on this issue, we have left the door open for the federal government to make the decision it made last Friday.
In 1985, the Leader of the Official Opposition, the Member for Hootalinqua, presented a motion asking us to set out those policies and guidelines for transboundary claims, and the side opposite, namely the Government Leader, told this House, and I quote, I must respectfully submit to the House that this motion before us at this point is premature, and we cannot support it at this time.
The side opposite voted that motion down. In hindsight, that was an unfortunate mistake. I believe that if we had a clear position on the table at this time, the problem we have today would not have risen. I will be examining this issue in some detail in future sessions, so let me get back to the motion at hand.
They say that history has a way of repeating itself. I would like to remind Members that it is not the first time that the federal Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has betrayed a trust and responsibility to Yukoners. It was on Halloween Day, 1978, that the then Minister, Hugh Faulkner, signed an agreement giving COPE land rights to 15,000 square miles in northern Yukon, including the outright ownership of up to 1,000 square miles of Yukon land.
The Yukon government of the day, headed by the previous Government Leader, Chris Pearson, expressed Yukoners anger and rage at this unilateral federal action. It took years of protesting, and often bitter negotiation, but the Yukon government ultimately arrived at a compromise that Yukoners could live with. This will be the yardstick by which this Legislature, and this Yukon government, will be judged.
I have heard it said that the Yukon boundaries do not mean anything - the Member for Old Crow mentioned the boundary issue here today - because they were only established in 1898. I beg to differ with this point of view. If Yukon political boundaries do not mean anything, then neither do Canadas. Yukoners are proud of their territory, and we are very proud to be Canadians.
Yukoners, native and non-native, have fought and died in two World Wars to preserve these boundaries. They fought to maintain Canada and to maintain Yukon. Next year, in 1992, we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Alaska Highway. The Alaska Highway was built to defend Canada from attack from a foreign invader. To say that Yukon boundaries do not mean anything is an insult to all Canadians.
I want the federal Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and his deputy minister, to get the clear message from todays debate that Yukon boundaries are sacrosanct and, if you mess with the Yukon, you do so at your own political peril.
I talked earlier about the significance of the precedent this move will set. I have some serious concerns, as does the Member for Watson Lake, about the implications of the southern Yukon and other transboundary areas. It is no longer a question of if the Minister will unilaterally cut a deal with non-Yukon native claimants, but when he will do it. We cannot let this happen.
We have assembled here today in this special session to send a very clear message to the federal government and the Prime Minister of Canada that this Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has a direct responsibility to Yukoners and cannot undermine our land claim process with unilateral decisions.
We all have to stand up and be counted on this issue. There is too much to lose.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I welcome this opportunity to say a few words today on this very important matter dealing with a transboundary claim by a non-resident First Nation. It raises many questions and many concerns in the minds of Yukoners.
The first question is the very legitimacy of the claim itself by the Tetlit Gwichin. As you know, the Yukon government has long recognized the validity of the Tetlit Gwichin claim. We believe that they should have the right of continued use of that land and resources. The Yukon government has participated in negotiations for almost a decade now with the purpose of concluding a transboundary land claims agreement that recognizes the Tetlit Gwichin right to this land.
I heard some remarks made today by the new Leader of the Official Opposition that he does not quarrel with the legitimacy of this claim, although their party has a different position than that of ours. We believe that they should have access to land, whereas the official Opposition believes that they should be compensated with money and harvesting rights, instead of the right to the land.
The second question in the minds of many Yukoners, and which has been raised in the House today, is that of the amount of land; the land quantum itself. As you have heard today, as addressed by the Premier, the Yukon policy has always been that ownership of large tracts of land would not form part of the transboundary agreement.
This policy was in line with that of the last two federal governments. It is my view and certainly that of most Members of this House, and of First Nations in the Yukon, that the 600 square miles is too much. It is unacceptable to me, unacceptable to the elected representatives of this Legislature, to Yukon First Nations and I believe, to the majority of Yukon people.
The third area that I would like to speak briefly about with respect to this agreement also relates to the concerns about the use of land in the area that is being claimed. It is my understanding that the lands identified by the Tetlit Gwichin within Yukon are all contained within the Fort McPherson group trapping area. Presently, that group trapping area is used for trapping exclusively by the Tetlit Gwichin. Thus, I would not foresee any significant changes in the management of fur bearers in the area.
Land selections by the Tetlit Gwichin may be made to address needs for hunting, fishing, trapping and habitat of protected areas. The selection made for these purposes must be intended to conserve the fish and wildlife and special places that are of concern not only to the Tetlit Gwichin but Yukoners as well. In the use of the Tetlit Gwichin settlement lands, I am concerned that the public right of access be maintained for wildlife harvesting within the Yukon. I am also concerned that the concerns of First Nations with overlapping areas in the settlement area will be addressed. We have heard some comments today from the Member for Old Crow about the area under claim by the Tetlit Gwichin having some overlap with that of the Vuntat Gwichin, and it may raise some trapping concerns. I want to be assured that the concerns of both the Na-Cho Nyak Dun and the Vuntat Gwichin will be part of any management decisions concerning wildlife management in that area.
With respect to waterways and corridors, the importance of river transportation along the Peel River system cannot be overstated. Trappers, hunters, wilderness travelers and others all use the drainage for their own particular pursuits. In order to be able to enjoy the use of the land, access must be maintained. I want to emphasize that Yukoners rights to the economic opportunities in the growing field of wilderness guiding - and non consumptive enjoyment of wildlife - must not be precluded by this claim.
We have seen the previous claim, as the Leader of the Official Opposition already mentioned - the Inuvialuit claim - which granted preferred use to members of that First Nation of the northern Yukon national park. That has almost been interpreted as exclusive use, which has denied access to Yukon outfitters. I do not want to see that repeated in this particular situation.
At this time, I have received a number of complaints by Yukon outfitters who have not been able to use parts of the Peel River system, which is a beautiful area, involving the Ogilvie, Hart, Bonnet Plume and Wind Rivers. All of these drain into the Peel River system and the Northwest Territories. Through a licensing system established by the Northwest Territories, it is very difficult for Yukon outfitters to operate in the Yukon. I want some assurances that Yukon operators will be guaranteed access to those rivers in that drainage system.
The major question, of course, before us all is that of the process involved in arriving at this settlement. There is no doubt in my mind that Members of this Legislature and most Yukoners are very unhappy with the process. A decision was made at the negotiating table that was not consistent with the negotiating agreement we have with the federal government. It is obviously not a fair and just one. This decision was not made with the input of our duly elected and democratic Yukon government. It is obvious that, in this situation, I am calling on all Members of this House to support this motion and call upon the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs to return to the negotiating table to negotiate a settlement, involving the Government of Yukon, that is fair and acceptable to all parties concerned.
Mr. Nordling: I am speaking to this motion both as a native-born, third generation Yukoner and as the elected representative for Porter Creek West. An emergency debate has been called on the issue of an apparent agreement between the federal government and the Tetlit Gwichin to award them a proposed 600 square miles of land in the Yukon Territory.
We stand today before the Legislature without really knowing exactly what has happened. The Government Leader has given his version of events which, in my opinion, is highly suspect and, no doubt, slanted to make his point. The acting Leader of the Official Opposition has said the Minister has violated a trust and that is unforgivable. As he also said, we do not have a copy of the agreement; we do not know exactly what went on at the negotiating table; and we do not know how final any agreement is.
I do not know what the possibility of having a witness or someone from the federal government speak to Members of the Legislature was but, apparently, there was a decision made not to have someone, or it was impossible to get someone. In any event, in my opinion, we are somewhat in the dark over the exact events that have led up to this emergency debate.
Now we have, in essence, created a media battle with the federal government. To a certain extent, they have been used, over the last few days. It is obvious from the articles I have read that the media is not clear as to what has happened, or is happening. They do not have the name of the band or the spelling correct. They have talked about extra-terrestrial claims, not just in quoting the acting Leader of the Official Opposition, but also in an editorial.
My hope is that this is not for the medias benefit, or that we are not using the media in this emergency debate for political posturing - political posturing by the Government Leader so that he can be all things to all people. I think that is the problem that we face. I think that is why we are in the position we find ourselves in today, because this Yukon government has tried to be all things to all people and is now caught in its own trap, so to speak.
The Government Leader was quoted in the media as being livid. Well, what did he expect would happen? The Yukon government was at the negotiating table. Apparently, we were warned and told that if the Yukon government would not stay at the negotiating table and negotiate there would be an agreement without the Yukon government. I think that the position of the federal government is still that the Yukon government negotiating team is welcome back and that with respect to land in the territory they will have a say of what land it will be, where the land will be and perhaps even how much it will be.
We have not seen the agreement, we do not know what has been signed. We do not know what the Yukon government negotiators said and did at the negotiating table, and therefore, we really do not quite know what we are doing today.
I do not know if this is what is called damage control. I do not know if the Government Leader and his negotiating team blew it. I do not know whether the federal government called their bluff and perhaps the Government Leaders negotiating strategy blew up in his face and he has now called the Legislature together to try to pass it off by attacking the federal government.
My sense is that what we are seeing today is a Government Leader who does not know exactly what to do. He is justifiably upset that the federal government is giving away what seems to be a large chunk of Yukon land without our agreement. My concern is that the solution of the Government Leader is to create an emergency and bash the federal government. That makes me uneasy because it is typical of the NDP, and it is a typical political manoeuvre. When in trouble, bring a vicious attack on someone else. We see it all the time in the House. When the government or any of the Ministers are under pressure, they attack what was done by the previous government. It makes me concerned that this issue of the settlement does not transcend political boundaries and philosophy. Yukoners are tired of this type of action. They want the Yukon government and this Legislature to take a clear position.
We have to look at what has happened from a federal point of view, also. It is nice to bash them, but from Mr. Siddons view, it seems that he simply said to the Yukon government that if it does not stop kicking him in the teeth, he would simply stop listening. Apparently the strategy of the Yukon government has been to continue kicking the federal government and the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs in the teeth.
If the Government Leader did not expect this to happen, I am surprised. If he did not expect it to happen - and by this I mean the awarding of a tract of Yukon land to a transboundary claimant - there must be a rethinking of the whole process and the aim of the settlement of land claims.
Apparently, the Tetlit Gwichin wanted over 2,000 square miles of Yukon land, so it is not surprising that there is an award. As the Government Leader pointed out in his speech, the aim of a land claims settlement is to protect the traditional lifestyles and pursuits of the aboriginal peoples and to allow them to participate in the mainstream of society.
In considering that, we come to a division within this House. How relevant is the Yukon/Northwest Territories boundary, drawn by the white man less than 100 years ago? How relevant is that to the traditional lifestyles and pursuits of aboriginal peoples? We want to stand up and speak with a united voice. The government says that it is not that relevant that we recognize the Tetlit Gwichin have a right to land in the territory, that the question is just quantum. The Official Opposition says they do not think that there should be any land given, whatsoever.
Now, the question is, what do we do? I think we have to be fair and realistic. My understanding, from what has been said and information that I have received, is that the exact number of square miles that the Tetlit Gwichin are to get has not been agreed upon. The other understanding that I have is that approximately 600 square miles is proposed, and that would be negotiated with the Yukon Government being fully involved.
We are talking about a corner of the Yukon that is not being used by a lot of other Yukoners, and my submission is that it does not set a precedent with respect to other transboundary claims. All we have to do is make the position clear that we accept that claim but, in other parts of the Yukon, the land is being used by Yukoners and is not available.
It is difficult to see how the Legislature is going to work together and present a united front, once we get past criticizing or bashing the federal government for the process. We all agree that we dislike the process and the heavy-handedness that the federal government has used in this case, but after that there does not seem to be a meeting of the minds as to where we will go. I suspect that this fall, the issue of whether any land in the Yukon should be given to transboundary claimants will be argued, so we are not about to settle that issue.
The Government Leader, in his speech, said that he wanted to deal with three points: the claim of the Tetlit Gwichin for land in the Yukon, the participation of the Yukon in negotiations and third, the implications.
The big concern is the implication of this agreement and the process. I do not think that there is any question that it has been accepted that the Tetlit Gwichin do have a valid claim to land in the Yukon. That is in the agreement and it is in the policy that has been in effect for a number of years. The participation of the Yukon in negotiations is unquestioned. I think that the Yukon can participate, however frustrating that participation will be.
My big concern, as I think the Government Leader expressed and Members on this side expressed, is with the implications. For that reason, I have no trouble supporting the motion as it is written, as I am sure it will be supported unanimously, but I would like to express my real and urgent concern regarding the serious constitutional implications with respect to the right of Yukoners to self-determination. What has happened in this instance is that we have taken a large step backwards. Although I think that the present government can take a large measure of responsibility for that, it certainly is a concern. I am concerned with the principle involved with that rather than the issue of the quantum of land in the northeast corner of the Yukon Territory.
There is concern for Yukoners. As was pointed out, the Yukon has a duly elected parliament. If it is not recognized by the federal government and unilateral action is taken and huge tracts of Yukon land are allowed to be given away, there will be a moral outrage in the Yukon. By taking unilateral action as it did, although to a certain extent understandable, the federal government has seriously affected the rights of Yukoners to be masters of their own destiny. It is a major blow for Yukoners. At the very least, we have a right and a bedrock claim to expect our federal government to exercise a degree of loyalty and support for Yukoners and their duly elected government.
This is a crisis. If this crisis tells our present government anything, it is that they cannot have it both ways. One cannot, on the one hand, bash and blame the federal government for anything that goes wrong and, on the other hand, take credit for anything and everything that goes right.
This government and, in fact, no government, can ever be all things to all people. The fact that we, as a government, are more or less insulated by federal handouts is no excuse. There is more than ample evidence to indicate that we could have long since reached a negotiated settlement and been part of the signing process. The same applies to our federal Member of Parliament, who has not taken a position on this, other than to try and be all things to all people. She has criticized the process but has not dealt with the principle or the underlying effects of the claim.
I think that Yukoners are being misled to a certain extent, and the media is being used when an editorial is written entitled Siddons Bombshell. It was not a bombshell. We have seen it coming for a long time. There was a motion on the Order Paper concerning this very issue. We could have stood up then and raised a united voice, so it would not happen. Here we are, after the fact, trying to right what may turn out to be a far-reaching wrong with respect to constitutional development in the Yukon. My submission is that the reason no one spoke sooner is because we hoped it would happen without our having to take any position, or take a stand, or get up and say, Yes, we, the Yukon government, recognize and will give land to transboundary claimants. It is better to let it slip through with a small area of land and blame the federal government for doing it.
I hope it is not too late. I hope there is still time to learn from our mistakes. Make no mistake about it. This governments failure to act may well have put in motion forces and events that call into question the very relevance of our democratically elected government. The question is: who really Meeched whom? Perhaps we have done it to ourselves, and we had better do a little backtracking and working together, if we are going to get ourselves out of this.
My concern is that we are the architects of our own dissatisfaction, and that is the issue that is going to have to be dealt with by this government in the next few months.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: We have heard most eloquently from the Premier and some other Members about the many examples of exclusion that we, the people of the Yukon, have endured at the hands of the federal government over the years. This issue goes far beyond political posturing.
Although Yukon people have steadily negotiated progress over many years toward responsible government, we are once again reminded of our colonial status. We thought we had progressed from being a colony governed by Ottawa, with reins some 4,000 miles long. Then, in one fell swoop, Mr. Siddon, the federal Minister of Northern Affairs, demonstrated that he and his government still consider us no more than a colony and a property of Ottawa to be disposed of as he and his cabinet see fit.
When miles of the Yukon can be signed away by a federal Minister without negotiation, no matter how justifiable the reason - and make no mistake, the Tetlit Gwichin do have a claim - then we have reason to worry and a reason to feel dismayed.
Make no mistake about it, we have experienced a serious setback in our quest for a place in Canada. It is a sad day when a recognized jurisdiction in our country is treated so arbitrarily by a Minister of the federal cabinet. What was Mr. Siddon hoping to achieve? No doubt he can show off the feather in his cap. He can say he has been the Minister responsible for settling a land claim in Canada, but the feather in his cap is a feather of opportunity, not a feather of wisdom, courage and truth. Mr. Siddon has been part of a land claims settlement, but at what cost?
Perhaps the provinces in this country need to sit up and take notice. If our rights are dealt with in such a cavalier fashion, they, too, may be at risk.
We support the traditional rights of the Tetlit Gwichin. We have no quarrel with this perspective. We take issue, however, with the process.
The disdain with which the federal Minister and his government have regarded the Yukon is unparalleled, even in the shadow of Meech Lake, where the federal government actually developed a legal argument that the Yukon government did not exist and so could not challenge Meech in court.
I support this motion. We are speaking for the future of the Yukon. We cannot let this injustice go without protest.
Mr. Brewster: When I came in here, I was quite mad. It took me three days to realize that I could talk in here and not use words that might get me thrown out of the House. I do not have long to go and I would not like to get put out now. However, my sense of humour came into it. After nine years I have found my first politician, the Member for Porter Creek West, trying to be on both sides of the fence. He is trying to defend the gang down in Ottawa. Maybe he has a Senate job promised. I never thought of that. Maybe it is the new partys platform. I hope they print it. I cannot understand what he said. Of all the hogwash. Imagine making statements like that.
He said that this would not set a precedent. That is funny, because I asked a certain person who is very knowledgeable in land claims whether or not, if this went through and people in the south decided to claim, and it went to court, the judge would say that a precedent has been set. This person could not guarantee that a judge would say no, so there is a precedent there. I do not understand why the Member for Porter Creek West would say a thing like that when he is a lawyer.
I am very disappointed to even have to come back here. It is a crime that we have to come back and defend ourselves because of one Minister who has been telling us that he is now going to run Yukon. But now he has a whim, or maybe he has got a promise that he is going to be voted in somewhere, I do not know.
Everybody has been very nice and polite around here today. Although the Government Leader once in a while calls me a gentleman, I hope he does when I am through here; he may not.
Number one, I think that the Minister is a traitor to the Yukon - an absolute traitor - and I have no problems saying that. I think that if this was Yugoslavia we would charge him with treason. We would probably get away with it; over there they shoot them right away; they do not fool around. In fact, I know that he will go down in history if he keeps disassembling the Yukon, not as the Great White Father, but as the man who destroyed one of the greatest parts of Canada.
How can he, knowing what the 16 Members of this Legislature think, turn around and arbitrarily go that way, and just say that he does not need us around any more.
Maybe we are wasting the taxpayers money being here. Maybe we should not be here; maybe we should go back. A little later, I will go back to 1898 and show you what Northern Affairs Ministers have done to us, but I would like to make one thing very plain. If we sit in this Legislature and we are just bum boys of the Northern Affairs Minister, I want out. Now let him tell us whether we are or are not, or whether we are going to run the Yukon.
Let us go back into 1898. The Yukon is a little gold mine that everybody likes to give away. I am holding a book called the Boundary Hunters. I am just going to give you an idea of what other people think of us Canadians. This is Secretary of State Hayes comments on the decision when we lost any chance of getting a seaport: The newspapers do not seem to get the rights of the Portland Canal. There are two entrances to it, like this, with two little islands in it. We agree the boundary shall be by the north channel instead of the south, which gives them those two little islands on the other side, which are worth nothing. That is all poor Canada gets by the decision, and I do not wonder why they are furious, but as William Thompson used to say, it serves them right if they cannot take a joke.
That is the first time that the Yukon got worked over and took it on the chin. That is only the start.
We can go on to other things. We had to have a British Lord to help settle that. We do things well here. We do not have anybody from the Yukon or anywhere else. We have to have a Lord, and this is what they say about him.
On the British side, there were a multitude of issues, many of them conflicting. How much support would be given to the Canadian claim at a time when there was urgent need to restore good relations with the United States? We are a little gold pot, so we will give away a little bit. Then, we are a good friend to the United States, but we do not need to worry about the Yukon. Incidentally, that was long before I was here.
This is what the Canadian members on that board said. Throughout the arguments, Lord Armstrong did his best to remain neutral and keep his distance from both sides. Increasingly, the Canadians worried that he had been suborned by the Americans. The formal sessions were one thing, but what about all those social functions and country weekends. Somehow, Clifton Sifton, the Canadian Cabinet Minister, serving as British agent, cabled the Prime Minister, I think the Chief Justice intends to join the Americans, deciding in such a way as to defeat every one of our points.
They succeeded, and that was the start of it. This sounds quite familiar. I will start another book, and it will be the same thing. Every time that something has happened, the Yukon has lost.
This book starts on the Yukon constitutional foundation. The first statement that is really interesting is one that is made by Mr. Justice Sissons back in 1962: The Yukon is still a Crown colony. I agree with him. We are still a Crown colony right now. The legislation and administration are controlled by the Dominion government. I agree. That is not what they tell us, but I agree that is there. There is no argument. That is the way they are doing things, and that is the way things are.
On November 3, 1976, the DIAND Minister, Warren Allmand, addressed the Yukon Legislature. He offended the Members by referring to them as councillors. The Minister of Northern Affairs did not even know that they were legislators. Incidently, when he came up to open the Kluane National Park, the Minister could not even pronounce the name. But, he is the Minister and he knows all about it.
On April 21, 1982, the Yukon Administrator, Bert Law, refused to pass legislation in here under the instructions of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Once more, we have some more. Away we go again.
Later on, we had another example of where they refused to sign another bill. Mr. Chris Pearson, the then Leader of the Government, called an election. They won that election, but no one in Ottawa caught on. People were pretty loyal. People put them back in. One of the things they won that election on was pointing out that Ottawa had usurped this House. That is the way things go.
The federal government signed a land claims agreement. The federal government completely broke that agreement and they have ignored it. They have also breached the umbrella final agreement. In other words, the federal government does what it wants to do, and even when it initials things, we have no faith in it, because we are not sure whether it is going to be done or not.
I bring forth these points only to show that things have not changed. Northern Affairs Ministers of any political party, as long as they sit in Ottawa, will continue to ignore this Legislature unless we do as they like. The minute that we cross them, that is the end of it.
Take the salmon issue. It is funny how this issue has been settled all across western Canada and along the coast, but not in the Yukon. The federal government holds up the salmon issue as a little jewel so that when it wants something down south it can say, We will give you more salmon.
What about the oil in the Beaufort Sea? Is the federal government fighting very hard to defend us against the Americans who are coming in there? Probably not. There is probably a secret deal where they will get something down south and the Yukon will get nothing.
If Mr. Siddon does not reassess this decision, I am firmly convinced there will be very little left of the Yukon for anybody to live in.
It is really strange when the Prime Minister of Canada runs around the globe condemning South Africa and others. We were a colony of England and we fought violently to get out. We became a country in our own right. Yet, here in Canada we have a colony. It is the Yukon. We do not amount to anything. They can close us up tomorrow morning and we can go. They cannot do that to a province. Perhaps that was the mistake we made; we did not become a province when some of us wanted to.
I think that too many of us are being too polite. I am not a very polite man and probably never will be. I will speak the truth. Meech Lake was another issue. I asked that this Legislature as a whole go down there and sit on the Prime Ministers doorstep until he recognized us. But people said it could be done peacefully. We were saved by the Premier of Newfoundland and Mr. Harper, from Manitoba. They saved us from being put out of the constitutional process forever. We wanted to sit here and be nice little boys instead of getting at it.
I have told this little story before, but I think it fits this situation very well. My grandfather used to say this to people who asked him whether they should go ahead with something or stand back. It is a very simple saying. He used to look at them and say, Look, if you want to bark with the big dogs, stop piddling like a puppy. The big dogs are barking in Ottawa and they are biting. We had better start barking and biting back or we are not going to have anything left.
It was plain to me at the briefing - and I appreciate the government giving that - that the people who were there were uncomfortable because they did not know anything. I am not blaming this government. Nobody had seen anything. It was plain that they were trying to talk about something they were not sure about. I appreciate the fact that they tried. It is really tough. Some of us knew Friday and today is Wednesday. I thought we were a pretty modern country. I thought they could have faxed something to us in no time. I seem to remember someone asking for a fax, but maybe it went via China. I think the Prime Minister is in England right now settling the worlds affairs. Perhaps he should be settling his own affairs at home.
In all seriousness I am going to say that I am very, very regretful that I have to sit in this Legislature, probably for my last time, and see the Yukon insulted and hurt in this way. I will never forgive Ottawa, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs at any time and at any place. I quite understand now why their percentage in the polls is at 11 percent. It should be zero.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I want to begin by saying that I was quite fascinated by the oration of the Member for Kluane, who so colourfully made his views known and spoke so bluntly, as he usually does on any issue facing the House. I want also to say that I was most informed by the Member for Old Crow who so eloquently and succinctly provided us with an aboriginal perspective on the long history of her people versus the rather short history of national and international boundaries. Speaking for myself, the history lesson was very educational.
The Premier provided ample evidence of our support for the validity of the Tetlit Gwichin claim to certain rights - rights that transcend those of imposed boundaries, and other speakers have expressed similar support for specific rights of the Tetlit Gwichin to the Peel River Basin. I do not think that is the issue here today.
I believe that this government has shown excellent leadership in dealing with the legitimate rights and pressing needs of First Nations people. That commitment and the principles governing that commitment to a land claims settlement in the territory has been extended to our approach in transboundary negotiations.
As was previously outlined, that commitment includes support for the Tetlit Gwichin of specific areas that are of significant importance to them. That, too, is not the issue before us today.
The issue before us is one of process, the process by which an agreement is reached. As stated earlier, the federal policy was that the extent and details of transboundary benefits were to be negotiated with the province or territory involved.
That is negotiated. As we have heard, last Friday, Mr. Siddon, in a desperate attempt of what would appear to be an effort to bolster his declining political career with an achievement at someone elses expense, took unilateral action and imposed a settlement. That is not negotiation; that is an imposition.
I would utterly reject the allegation by the Member for Porter Creek West that, somehow, todays session is a political exercise for media benefit. I am rather disappointed in the shallow interpretation by the Member.
What I heard the Member saying is that he supports Mr. Siddons unilateral action because Siddon must have had some kind of reason to do it. That kind of colonial mentality is where we came from historically, not where we have come from lately, nor is it where we are headed.
Our track record in open consultation, discussion and negotiation on matters such as devolution, financial affairs and a multitude of issues, has never supported the heavy-handed back-room side dealing that was demonstrated by Mr. Siddon and supported by his friend from Porter Creek West.
Having represented Faro as an MLA, I have some knowledge of what the word negotiate means and what it implies. Sometimes the process is smooth, but most often it is very hard-nosed. It can be tough slugging, and sometimes one party will suspend negotiations. In formal labour management circles, there could be things like strikes and walkouts, but eventually a settlement is reached. It is only reached by people getting back to the table and negotiating a settlement that is agreed to by the parties involved.
The Yukon has always been willing to negotiate in good faith. We did not walk away from the table. Simply put, Mr. Siddon folded the legs and took the table away.
In doing so, he revealed his own ineptitude as a negotiator, and he betrayed a trust - Members have spoken to that. He has taken negotiations not to new heights, but to new depths.
I was astounded to learn that the Tetlit Gwichin tabled a list of land selections that totalled some 480 square miles. Mr. Siddon, desperate to conclude the claim, countered with an offer of 600 square miles. By analogy, I have no doubt that the steelworkers in Faro would have wished Mr. Siddon to be Curraghs representative. In response to their demands for $3.00 per hour, he would have said $4.00 per hour and not a penny less.
It must be emphasized that negotiations, and not impositions, will satisfactorily resolve a land claims settlement. Also, as noted, the sensitivity of constitutional affairs in the country today warrant a special approach to land claims, certainly not the kind of approach that was demonstrated last Friday, especially in transboundary claims.
It has been pointed out that the mood across the country, as we are so acutely aware, and even of the world, is growing toward an insistence on democratic principles of governments, for consultation in decision-making, on an ever-increasing desire and willingness to assume responsibility and control of matters that affect our everyday lives. This unilateral action last Friday flies in the face of those attitudes and principles.
As was stated by a Member previously, we need consensus, not proclamations; we need agreements, not disagreements. In short, we need settlements that are negotiated, not dictated.
I believe that Mr. Siddons actions are unacceptable, and I join others in this Legislature in calling on the federal government to return to the table to negotiate an agreement that is acceptable to all parties.
Mrs. Firth: I rise today to support the motion that has been brought forward by the Government Leader, and to speak specifically with respect to what the solution is going to be to this dilemma.
I think the debate we are having today is very positive and constructive, although it has its fair share of fed-bashing and NDP-bashing in the context of the debate. However, I do strongly believe that it is a positive exercise. As Members representing the public, we have a responsibility to be here debating this event. In doing so, we can help make the public aware of what the substantive issue is and what the problem is, and that we have a solution to that problem.
I want to begin by saying that I would have been very pleased today to have seen the federal Minister, the Honourable Tom Siddon, here to tell us why he has done what he has done. If we could have adjusted the sitting so that he could have come as a witness to Committee of the Whole, I think it would have been a beneficial exercise, as only he can answer to us for what he has done and why he has done it. I have been in touch with his office. I have received information as to what happened and why.
Many of the Members have raised the issue of the agreement, and how none of us have seen it. From my understanding of the issue, there is no agreement. It does not exist. Nothing has been signed. What happened was that the federal Minister was in the process of signing the tripartite agreement between the federal government, the Tetlit Gwichin First Nation and the Government of the Northwest Territories. At that time, the question was put with respect to the Yukon land that was going to be made available through the settlement to the Tetlit Gwichin, and it was then that the Minister gave a verbal commitment, which he now considers to be his word, to the Tetlit Gwichin, that they would receive 600 square miles of Yukon land.
In checking with the Ministers office, I have also been advised that there is on file an agreement with respect to the Tetlit Gwichin. I was provided with a clause from that agreement that simply states that the Tetlit Gwichin shall, by virtue of this agreement and settlement legislation, be vested with the title to - and then there is a blank with XX in it - square miles of settlement land, having the rights, obligations and liabilities equivalent to fee simple, reserving therefrom the mines and minerals and the right to work the mines and minerals.
It was explained to me that I could not have a full copy of the agreement, because it had not been approved by the Government of the Yukon Territory and the Government of Canada, and it would be inappropriate for the Government of Canada to release it to me at that time. However, they suggested that we obtain a copy from the Government of the Yukon.
I hope that one of the Members who has yet to speak could address that issue because we, on this side, speaking specifically for myself, are in the dark as to whether agreements exist or do not. Perhaps one of the Members who is going to speak after me could address that and tell us whether there is some kind of agreement, and whether or not the Members could be provided with it so we can help become enlightened and better understand what the issue is.
The Government of the Yukon has defended its position very strongly with the presentations that have been made by the Members. I think they have done so with all the best intentions and purposes. We have to recognize them for that. The federal government is going to be presenting its defence and position, and I would be very interested in hearing that from the Minister himself, as opposed to any of his officials.
I have heard the comments from the Indian people. They have expressed their concerns about the settlement. The Member for Old Crow spoke and asked why the Old Crow settlement was not done first, as opposed to this one. I have heard other expressions from Rose-Marie Blair-Smith with respect to the White River Band and the Burwash Band having some concerns about the quantum of land they are getting, as opposed to this quantum of land that is being given to the Tetlit Gwichin.
There are also Indian people who are agreeing with the settlement, and I think more with the principle that the Indian people are entitled to some claim on those lands. I think that is evident by the comments by Judy Gingell, the Chair of the Council for Yukon Indians, and some of the chiefs, for instance Robert Hagar from Mayo, who is also agreeing with the settlement and the principle of the settlement.
With respect to land claims and transboundary claims here in the Yukon Territory, I think that the previous Conservative government had a different position on transboundary claims, however that position has changed with the new government. The previous position was that no land should be made available. The position now is that there will be small quantities of land. I believe, in the Yukon Indian land claim umbrella final agreement, when they talk specifically about transboundary claims, they say that large amounts of land will not be part of these negotiations.
We are now talking about land being part of the negotiations and those are the rules of today. Whether all Members of this Legislative Assembly agree with that or not, those are the rules that we are operating by today. All three parties have agreed to those rules: the Government of the Yukon, the Federal Government and the Indian people of the Yukon. That is what we have to deal with, whether we philosophically agree with it in principle or not, that is the basis under which we have to operate.
I guess now we have to determine what message we are going to give to the public so that they can better understand the issue. I detect some concerns from Members who have spoken previously that because we do not have all of the information, we are at a disadvantage as to what is specifically contained in the agreement and whether it is going to include surface and sub-surface rights. We have heard some say that it does not and some say it does, but until we have that information I think that we have to be very cautious as politicians that we do not stir the pot and create more divisiveness among the people of the Yukon. We do not want to create false concerns or false anxieties with respect to this issue.
We have all agreed today on whom we think the guilty party is with respect to the problem that we have right now. I am in agreement with other Members who have stood up and spoken out against the decision that was made by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. He was the party who was guilty of breaching trust, of unilaterally making this verbal commitment for this 600 square miles of land without talking to the Indian people. I know the Old Crow Indian people were not aware of it. Nor did he talk to the Yukon territorial government about it, which represents the people of the Yukon.
We are united in our condemnation of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and we are united in our feelings and impressions that we will now have a great deal of difficulty trusting him or being able to have any confidence in further negotiations that are going to come forward.
Some other Members have mentioned our status within confederation and whether we should have fought harder for provincial status, so the Minister would not have been able to do this. There have been objections expressed that we are continuing to be treated as a colony. I think that the Ministers actions have simply reminded us that we do not have the same control that the provinces do over their destiny and resources. It does remind us that, in a sense, we are still a colony. It will be up to us to stand up and determine whether or not we are going to change that status and that position.
The questions I have to ask, and the answers that I am looking for, specifically because of the last paragraph of the motion, are where do we go from here, and what happens now? What do we do? Is there a way to salvage this situation? I know the Government of the Yukon is going to be called in and asked to sign this land disbursement. Is the government going to sign that? From the comments that have been made today, I do not see how they can.
Then, the 1987 claims policy is not going to be fulfilled. The last paragraph of the motion says that the Legislative Assembly urges the Yukon government to initiate whatever measures are necessary to ensure that the Government of Canada acts in accordance with its 1987 Comprehensive Land Claims Policy regarding the transboundary claims. I have to ask myself what that means. How far can we take that? Does that mean some extremely active lobbying activity? Does it mean looking at court action? I think this is something all Members of the Legislative Assembly must determine.
The Government Leader spoke today about assessing the strategy and what was going to happen. I would like to get some reassurance from him. I, too, am very concerned about the actions of the Minister - I have to get used to saying I instead of we. As my colleague from Riverdale South would say, I have to get rid of that turtle in my pocket and refer to myself as I.
I would like to know if the Government Leader, or those Members who are going to speak from the government side, could give us some indication of what they feel the strategy is going to be. I am certainly prepared, as a Member of this Legislature, to operate within the principles and rules of the land claims umbrella final agreement, as it is today, and to assist, if the Members want assistance, in lobbying Ottawa to see if we can make some changes.
In talking to constituents in Riverdale South, a lot of people generally do not have an understanding of exactly what has happened, other than the concern about the whole land claims process in general. I think we should be responsible, as legislators, in making sure that the issues are expressed clearly, without a lot of political posturing, so that the message we are sending has its basis in common sense and logic. It must have clarity, so that people can understand it and are not put in the position where they have to choose sides, but where they are being given a reasonable solution by the people they have elected to represent them.
I will just finish by saying that I appreciate the opportunity to put my opinions on the record, and I look forward to seeing how we are going to arrive at a solution to this dilemma.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I rise this afternoon to lend a voice in support of the resolution before us. I have listened with great interest to all Members who have spoken this afternoon on this matter, and I have noted the details of the Members arguments made before us this afternoon.
While I must say that I do appreciate the support given to the resolution by all Members who have spoken, I am a little disturbed by the rather brazen support of the federal Ministers position by the Member for Porter Creek West.
I find it puzzling, to say the least, but I will not clutter my remarks with a critique of his comments.
I sincerely believe that what is not at issue before us now is whether the Tetlit Gwichin have a legitimate claim in what is now the Yukon Territory, based on historic use and occupancy. I believe they do. I believe the government has also tacitly admitted that they do through the recognition of the Tetlit Gwichins trapping area in the northeastern Yukon.
I also believe - although it is not the main issue before the Legislature this afternoon, nor specifically addressed in the motion - that the Tetlit Gwichin have claim to some land to support hunting and trapping activity in the Yukon. In my opinion, to believe otherwise would be to ignore northern peoples history and to dismiss some of the fundamental precepts upon which the aboriginal land claims are based.
What is specifically at issue today is the arbitrary manner in which some of the features of the Tetlit Gwichin claim have been decided. What is specifically at issue is that negotiations and consensus building have been discarded by the federal Minister and replaced with a paternalistic, arrogant approach to resolving this claim.
Members will understand that this approach is reminiscent of the one taken by the central government earlier in this century that originally imposed a social and economic order that so profoundly offended aboriginal people and ultimately led to the land claims negotiations during our generation.
In this corner of the world, we have come to respect true negotiations as the civilized manner through which people provide redress to old wrongs and create a new order that respects all people.
Those who would take comfort in a decision made by the federal Minister in this instance must be prepared to accept that they may become victims themselves of the same arbitrary decision-making process in the future.
To encourage this dictatorial approach, even when it is convenient, ought to offend everyone in the territory and in the country who have come to depend upon negotiations and consensus building as a way of resolving disputes.
We accept that negotiations - and land claims negotiations in particular - always involve tough and sometimes painful discussions. Negotiations usually involve compromise if positive or satisfactory conclusions are to be reached. Negotiations always involve the need for our generous understanding of the needs and the rights of all parties to the discussions.
There is no acceptable alternative to negotiations if our objective is to live and grow together with goodwill, mutual respect and understanding.
I would like to share a brief history of this claim as it affects the people of my district, and to put it in a context that may help Members understand what is at stake.
The Tetlit Gwichin are essentially the same people as the Na-Cho Nyak Dun. The Peter family, the Hagars and Moses families all have immediate family members who were born and raised in Fort McPherson. Probably more than 150 people in Mayo have family ties with people in the Northwest Territories. Many of the people who are now residents of Fort McPherson were living in the Yukon and were encouraged to move to the Northwest Territories by the federal government for administrative purposes as recently as 50 or more years ago. Some families moved to the Mayo district, and in particular to Mayo itself, in order to avoid being relocated.
I think that Members should all be aware that there is a huge overlap of traditional territories retained by the Tetlit Gwichin and the Na-Cho Nyak Dun. To expect that there is no legitimate claim in the Yukon is not realistic. One can now understand the Na-Cho Nyak Duns reciprocal claim, soon to be filed in the Northwest Territories - a claim that will be tabled for similar reasons and will recognize their traditional use and occupancy of land in that territory.
There is no doubt that there is a claim. What the features of the claim are, however, are matters that should be negotiated. The federal government, with a recognized constitutional duty, must participate. The Tetlit Gwichin and Yukon aboriginal people must participate, and the Yukon government, as the legitimate representative of Yukon people, must participate in every sense of the word and in every detail of the negotiations.
To this date, the Yukon government has treated the negotiations sincerely and honestly and wishes to continue to do so. The federal Ministers actions offend my sense of how the north and the Yukon should develop. The colonial attitude and contempt for the Yukon Legislature and government that Mr. Siddon has shown is profoundly disturbing. For the future health of aboriginal land claims negotiations, for the promotion of trust between Yukon people and between Yukon people and the federal government, in the name of respect for our own Legislature, this federal decision should be reversed. The federal Ministers actions is not the Yukon peoples way to reach settlements or to come to agreements.
Mr. Phelps: I am pleased to participate in this debate, which is an extremely important one with regard to the involvement of this part of Canada. I will be strongly supporting the motion as it reads at this time.
The area surrounding the subject of aboriginal rights, particularly with regard to transboundary claims and the negotiation of those claims, is a very complex area. It is an area that involves a number of complex issues.
In fact, if one were to attempt, for example - although far be it for me to be the person to do this - to design a university course on the subject of aboriginal rights, I suspect that one would want to devote a considerable number of sessions to the area of transboundary claims. One simply could not do justice to the complex issues that make up this small part of aboriginal rights and the negotiations of aboriginal rights with a one-, two- or three-hour, or even half-day, seminar.
I wanted to say that at the outset because I think it is extremely dangerous to try to oversimplify a complex subject matter. I believe that many of the problems surrounding aboriginal rights issues - problems that have become a legacy of our generation of Canadians - have arisen because of the tendency of so many to oversimplify the subject matter. This is a tendency that has resulted in disastrous government policies, abysmal media reporting on aboriginal rights issues and a great deal of confusion regarding aboriginal rights issues among the general public.
When such a situation exists - and it does - and politicians make decisions that are a knee-jerk reaction to public opinion polls, the result is often a crisis, such as the one that brings us together in these chambers today. I suspect that part of the Ministers action can be attributed to reasons I have just given, and in particular some of the recent opinion polls which, unfortunately, are a reflection of the thoughts of an extremely confused public across Canada about these issues.
Having said all of this, I have now the temerity to speak on at least a few of the issues here and now.
I want to talk about a couple of things that confront us. The first thing that I would like to say is that there are a lot of ways to negotiate land claims. There are a lot of different ways in which transboundary claims can be addressed in negotiations. I think that is self-evident to everyone. What is important to appreciate here today is that certain choices are made at the outset of any negotiating process when it involves land claims. These choices must really amount to fundamental principles that become the foundation of the negotiations that take place. The fundamental principles are the foundation of the model that is developed in order to settle claims in the regions of Canada. The problem is that if, half-way through or all the way through a set of complex negotiations, unilaterally, one of the fundamental principles is yarded away, then the usual result is that the entire structure must collapse.
I am getting into this, because it is essential that we all appreciate what has been going on with respect to certain aspects of not only transboundary claims in Yukon, but with regard to the consequences of what has occurred.
Quite some time ago, the negotiators confronted certain choices about how to settle, once and for all, aboriginal rights and claims in the Yukon.
There were various choices. One problem was that one of the many goals of land claims is to achieve certainty, that once we have settled aboriginal rights, we have a settlement in our hands and know where we stand with regard to the fundamental issues that are dealt with in an agreement. We have long known that there are numerous groups who reside outside our boundaries who have legitimate aboriginal claims within the Yukon. Those are known as transboundary claims.
The problem was that, at some point in time, we had to make certain decisions. Were we going to put off resolving the claim with resident Yukon First Nations until we had resolved, with each of the non-resident claimant groups, fundamental issues such as quantum and location of land, management rights, harvesting rights, and so on? That was clearly an option, and a very rational and logical way to approach things.
The downfall and shortcoming of that approach was that we would be, more or less, forced to wait until we had come to grips with each of the non-resident First Nations and settled those claims, so we could have certainty with regard to such things. One example is land quantum.
We decided that we would take a different approach in the Yukon. When I say we, I speak from my personal knowledge as a negotiator at the time, in conjunction with the federal negotiator and the chief negotiator for CYI. We made a choice. We wanted to proceed with the Yukon claim and not be held to ransom, so to speak, by the vagaries of what might happen in the NWT and by the position that was firmly entrenched in the Government of British Columbia that it was not going to even get into land claim negotiations in the foreseeable future. In fact, they denied that aboriginal rights existed in British Columbia.
Accordingly, we came up with some fundamental principles regarding how we would proceed. These fundamental principles would provide the building blocks and foundation for getting on with the job. In simple terms, that was to agree that we would get a firm commitment from the federal government that we would proceed with the Yukon claim on the basis that any land that was going to be provided to any non-Yukon resident First Nations would be provided to them from and by the lands that were granted to Yukon First Nations.
At that time, as you can see in the agreements we had in 1984, the hunting quotas that might be allocated to non-resident First Nations claiming hunting rights within the Yukon would come from the quotas within the CYI, or Yukon First Nations, agreement. The same would apply to certain management rights and the right to sit on boards within the Yukon, governing how resources in certain areas of the Yukon would be utilized in the future.
As I have said, this was not the only way the issue could be addressed, but there was certainly a great deal of thought and complex issues put into it. I, in the employ of the government of the day for the Yukon, spent a considerable amount of time in Ottawa one year assisting in getting a document through Cabinet, whereby the government of the day in Ottawa, which was a Liberal government, endorsed that policy. That was the policy, as the Minister responsible has said in his opening remarks today.
I do not want to dwell on this at length, but there was a certain logic to the land part of it.
For example, we had a situation where the Tlingit people of Teslin had a very large claim into northern British Columbia. The problem was that there was no way that we could resolve that issue, if we wanted to get the job done in the Yukon. This was partly because B.C. was not prepared to go to the table.
It seemed to us that, given this policy and firm building block, what would make sense in the future was that, if and when the people across the border from Teslin, primarily the Tlingit people of Atlin, were to settle their claim and get some land, then, when it was all over, those two groups could enter into agreements and exchange lands. They would do it themselves. I felt, as did all the people who were involved in the negotiations at the time that, of necessity, was the way we would have to proceed, and that was the way the issues would be resolved.
Let us look at the current situation with regard to the claimant group from the Mackenzie Delta. Clearly, the intention was that the northern First Nation groups would have ample land to be able to then sit back and work in the future and negotiate with the NWT groups, exchanging some lands, management rights and harvesting rights, and so on. That was how we were going to proceed. That was a very fundamental building block of what has since occurred.
We then proceeded to come up with a global figure of land that would be acceptable not only to the claimants within Yukon, but to the non-beneficiary residents of Yukon, as well as to all the parties at the table. That quantum has varied over time. Certainly, it was made very clear, and I have always understood, and I am sure that the Minister responsible would agree, that this building block was in place for the 16,000 square miles.
The transboundary negotiations then could take place between individual First Nations, as it often does between ranchers or outfitters over areas and so on and so forth.
What happens, though, when this underpinning is removed, as it was on Friday by the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, is that the entire land claim negotiation in Yukon is placed in severe jeopardy. Any concept of certainty, of land claims removing a cloud or clearing the title to some lands in the Yukon is out the window. You see, we could be in a position where we settle the Yukon First Nations Land Claim and things have just started. Not only have they just started, but we have a precedent whereby the Minister can unilaterally give land to other claimants who are non-residents.
Consider Watson Lake; Watson Lake is now under claim, of course, by the resident First Nation of Liard. Watson Lake is part of approximately 20 to 30 percent of the Yukon that is contained within Treaty Eleven, a treaty that was signed back in the 1920s, between Canada and the First Nations of the Mackenzie. That Treaty covers the entire watershed, of course, of the Liard River Basin, north of the British Columbia border, and would go over approximately to Wolf Lake up as far north as approximately as the road to Cantung, and would include the area, just for example, aside from various areas of importance to the mining industry, the gas fields at Kotaneelee, and so on. That treaty has never, ever been dealt with.
There is no position on that treaty. It just sits there. We know, however, that, somehow or other, the government has decided to negotiate a comprehensive claim with the same people who are signatories of that treaty. In addition to the problem of entitlement under the treaty, which has never been received and no firm or real analysis as to how to deal with the treaty itself has happened, suddenly those groups along the Mackenzie that were signatories to the treaty have a claim in the comprehensive claim to these areas of southern Yukon.
If one lives in or near Watson Lake, there is the local resident First Nation with a claim. There is a treaty, Treaty Eleven, which covers everything around it. In addition to this, there is a claim yet to come, in a formal way, I suppose, from all of the signatories of Treaty Eleven, plus a comprehensive claim by the Kaska Dene of northern B.C. Added to that is a lawsuit filed by that First Nation group that casts a severe cloud over title to a very large area of land surrounding Watson Lake. That lawsuit, as most of us know, has not gone very far, but there it sits. In addition to that, we know there is a claim from the Tahltan that would give them, if accepted, claim to an area that is, I take it, somewhere between Teslin and Watson Lake.
The public has patiently been waiting 18 years for a land claims settlement. A lot of people say that we should just get it over with. It is that expectation that the Government of Yukon has been trying to meet. It tried to meet it, in part, with a host of other issues that surround land claims, by building the claim on the transboundary foundation, which are the principles I have just spoken about.
Now, suddenly, the Minister has simply taken that principle as over. What is the significance of this to Yukoners? I have listened patiently to many speakers, and with a great deal of interest to most. I think it is important that we understand the significance of what has happened, because two things have happened, really. The foundation has been torn asunder. But it is not just that. We have a situation where Canada has fundamentally breached the agreement between the parties with regard to process. This agreement is extremely clear and has been in place for a considerable period of time. It states that the Government of Yukon is a full party to negotiations with regard to any land claims within the Yukon, whether or not they are claims made by non-resident First Nations.
At this point, I want to say a few things about how we achieved that, because it was not easily won. Some of the problems we have with the federal government are clearly not partisan in nature. There is a colonial mentality down there that is buttressed by the attitudes of the majority of the senior bureaucrats in the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. That is something that is not new. It is a legacy of the past that we, somehow, still have to live with.
When land claims first started in the Yukon, there was no way that the Government of the Yukon was a party. That was the adamant position, interestingly enough, of CYI up until around 1980. When I was briefly in politics in the 1970s, and an MLA at that time, I remember the fight we had to get one of the elected Members from this House to be allowed to even sit in on the negotiations. I happened to have been the person who was chosen back in 1974, and there was no question that we were not really wanted at the table.
The federal government seemed to have an attitude that they had better try to keep us onside, and that was about it.
In 1979, when a fairly significant number of advances were made in self-government in the Yukon, the government of the day appointed me as their negotiator, and the first job we had was to try to set up a process whereby we had a significant voice, so we could defend, at a local level, the rights of all Yukoners, and try to make sure it was fair. We had a terrible battle.
We refused to join in the negotiating process, and they tried to start without us. They finally caved in, and we finally got a Memorandum of Understanding. This made the Council for Yukon Indians upset, which is understandable. At that time, we came to the negotiating table without full party status at the talks. It took us a while to achieve that, but what very readily became apparent was that the model we were negotiating for Yukon included all kinds of issues and agreements that were within the jurisdiction of the Government of Yukon.
The concessions were being made by the Government of the Yukon, and the model would never work without the full participation of the Yukon territorial government. There was no way that the model, much of which is still intact in what we have today, can work if YTG says, sorry, you are not part of it. That is something that took a while to get through to the feds, but it was certainly fully understood and appreciated by the negotiators for First Nations within Yukon fairly early on, certainly by the time that the first agreements on hunting, fishing, trapping and land use planning were signed in December of 1980.
I am going to be saying a few things here that are perhaps a bit controversial. I want to make it clear that what I am saying is mine. I am not really trying to reflect what the party position is. I am not speaking as the critic of the Opposition, but I want to say a few things, because I really feel that this is an extremely critical day.
What has happened with regard to the actions of the federal government are absolutely critical to our future and to the future of land claims.
I am concerned that what has happened is totally undermining the process. I must say that I am a little concerned that not enough people fully understand just how serious this crisis can be.
The real issue is what can be done and how far this government ought to go in trying to put things right. Back in the early 1980s, we were able to reverse most of the harm that was done in a similar situation when the COPE agreement in principle was signed, not only without us agreeing, but without us even having an opportunity to negotiate or talk at the negotiating table. I know we had to take some pretty drastic measures to finally overcome what a lot of people thought was lost forever.
The issue is whether or not Yukon wants to be involved in the negotiating process where one party is simply flagrantly breaching the process. That is the issue. The issue is not narrow. It is not just whether or not, as the Government Leader said earlier, you walk away from the table or whether or not you walk away from the negotiations regarding the transboundary claim of a group of people. The issue is whether or not we are prepared to be part of a process where one party is breaching the entire process.
I hasten to say that what I am saying is intended to convey some of my impressions and some of my thoughts as an individual. I know that some of it may not be too popular and be roundly attacked when I am finished.
I recently read with some interest an article in Macleans magazine that had to do with politically correct thinking. It went on about how many of our academic institutions and many members of the media, politicians and the public at large are really afraid to speak out on a number of issues because they may be taking a position that is not politically correct. Smokers seem to feel that if they say anything in their defence, they will be treated in a very vile way by the majority of people. People who have independent opinions about aspects of apartheid and what is happening in South Africa may get the same thing. The list goes on. It seems to me that, unfortunately, this concept of political correctness extends, to a large degree, across the country on the aboriginal rights issue.
I was fundamentally astounded that Chief Justice MacEachern, who handed down the recent case in B.C., was subjected to being denounced as a racist for a very well thought out, sincere and perhaps even brilliant piece of juristic writing. It was dismissed in that way. Even Macleans, who gave us the cover story on the problems of political correctness in our society, dismissed that landmark decision with a very tiny paragraph.
I guess what I am saying is this: if the very real threat of our not participating in the negotiations of all land claims in the Yukon were not there and were not realistic, firstly, we would never have achieved any kind of status at the land claims table. Secondly, we would have not gotten anywhere with COPE. We would not have a North Yukon. We would not now be the owners of Herschel Island. We have absolutely no kind of claim to the off-shore oil and gas revenues. There would be nothing but a hollow joke in the northern accord for us. There would be no problem if the north boundaries, as between Canada and the United States on the Alaska side, or as between the Yukon and the Northwest Territories to the North, because we would have been cut-off forever.
We obtained full status when we finally had to make a decision, and I am not suggesting that this be taken lightly and I am not calling for it now, but it has got to be considered and debated, and I hope that it is - the very unpopular and difficult-to-sell decision to walk out of land claims back in 1982 and 1983 for about five months. The walk out was on the basis that the federal government had breached the agreement with us and we could not unilaterally proceed without the federal government coming back to us and amending the situation.
Speaker: Order please. I would like to remind you that you have three minutes remaining.
Mr. Phelps: Thank you Mr. Speaker.
It seems to me that of all of the array of weapons in our arsenal, when we stand toe-to-toe with Goliath, the federal government, the only one that really is significant is the one that has to do with our participating in a land claims settlement under these circumstances. The issue in my view is one that has to be carefully discussed and carefully thought through, but it seems to me to be very clear that we are right now on the slippery slope downhill to a situation where the end result could be far worse than acting in a very strong and sincere way now to redress this very critical wrong that has been done to us by the federal minister.
With that, I will conclude my remarks. I would really hope - and my hopes do not always come true in this regard - that my remarks are carefully represented not only by people within this House but by the media as well. The issues are complex. I feel that it is time that people in the Yukon be given the opportunity of full debate about opportunities relating to land claims without being afraid of not speaking in the politically correct manner.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the Member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I thank all Members who have spoken in this debate today. There are many moving and heartfelt speeches on both sides of the House. I want to compliment the speech by the Member for Old Crow, which was a truly moving address on behalf of her First Nation and indeed the Gwichin people from Alaska through the Yukon to the Northwest Territories.
I want to begin by responding briefly to some of the remarks made by the former Leader of the Official Opposition, the Member for Hootalinqua, who has considerable experience on this subject and whose views on these questions I have listened to carefully for a good number of years. I want to start by agreeing with his central proposition that these are indeed extraordinarily complex questions and to deal with them in a simple-minded way, as sometimes happens in the media, is to do them a disservice. To misunderstand a complex critique of a complicated question, simply because it cannot be reduced or distilled into a slogan, is also to do a disservice to well-meaning and well-intentioned intelligent people who have legitimate concerns about particulars, or implications, of some of the things that have happened.
I agree with the Member for Hootalinqua in this, in particular. I am absolutely convinced that the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, Tom Siddon, has no real understanding at all of the implications of what he did last Friday. I am absolutely convinced of that.
The Member for Hootalinqua talked about the model that he had developed for achieving a certain kind of certainty in the process, particularly the certainty of quantum, and the desire to find some mechanism to allow us to reach final agreements here without having to wait for all the transboundary claims to be addressed. He stated that the object was to get the federal government to make a firm commitment that the land to non-residents that might come in a settlement would come from the total land quantum of the Yukon. He talked about how the previous federal government agreed. That was the old policy.
Reference has been made several times today to the 1985 debate, in which the former Leader of the Official Opposition and I were the only speakers. I have recently had the opportunity to reread that debate. It is interesting because I think there was a measure of respect between the two participants of the debate for the difficulty of the question. It is all very well for Members earlier to have spoken about mistakes being made because we did not observe or vote the right way on that policy. I think, as the former Leader of the Official Opposition understands, that everything changed, in terms of federal policy, with the Coolican Report in 1987. I well remember the phrase in the Coolican Report that caused me the most concern. It was the statement in which he proposed that there should be no limit whatsoever on the provisions of settlements of transboundary claims. That was Murray Coolicans proposal to the federal government. I think that began to unravel the principle that the Member of Hootalinqua had been trying to construct.
I had suggested in that 1985 debate, if I remember correctly, that another way of resolving it would have been to have some sense of reciprocity. It was something the former Leader of the Official Opposition touched on with respect to the claims of the Teslin Tlingit. If there was some real reciprocity between jurisdictions, that would bring a different, but still essentially effective, kind of discipline to the negotiations, as well.
We have not ever had that. It is fundamentally important to understand that it is all very well for a federal Minister to talk about the legitimate interests of First Nations from outside of our borders for land and resources here, but the federal government has never given any kind of indication to Yukon First Nations that they can or should try to pursue the kind of claims the Ross River Dene have, the Na-Cho Nyak Dun have, the Teslin Tlingit have or the Kaska at Watson Lake have or any of the other groups. Where is the sense of fairness in that? One cannot have it both ways. Unless the Yukon First Nations have basically been told that they can pursue their claims outside the Territory, why the hell should we sit quietly by and let everyone else around us pursue claims here - and as the former Leader of the Official Opposition said, to never to have any certainty or finality in negotiations - when Yukon First Nations have traditional interests, occupancy and residency that are not pursued.
The Member for Hootalinqua talked about the Yukon territorial government being a full party to the negotiations and the struggles to achieve that status. I think and hope that he would concede, in a small way, that this government has contributed to completing that process. The irony, of course, is that, now when it suits us, we occasionally hear the suggestion from one of the other governments at the table that one of the prices to pay for being a full party is that we should actually share, in a large way, the costs of this settlement. The last time I heard that, I was impolite enough to suggest that, with the formula cuts, perhaps the people of the Yukon had already paid for the whole of the Yukon settlement by one method of counting.
The Member for Hootalinqua is quite right with respect to self-government agreements, or even in the implementation of claims. As a purely practical proposition, it would be extremely difficult for the federal government, which has unilaterally made this decision, to implement these things unilaterally, and to try to do so would create, I think, very, very painful circumstances in this territory.
Having said that, I want to say to the Leader of the Official Opposition, I want to think very, very carefully and very long and hard about the implied proposition he made to us, which is to leave the table. I want to say to him in all seriousness that our Cabinet - and I would invite discussion from other Members of the House on this point - would want to think and talk through our options very carefully as we try to work our way through this crisis.
A couple of Members, who I fear were over-simplifying, have referred to the government as having made mistakes. I want to speak to that point. They did not make it clear what they thought the mistakes were.
If the suggestion is that we made a mistake in not walking away from the table, then I want to respond by saying that I think that would have been a tragically stupid mistake in the context of the negotiations that we have just been through, and I will tell you why. Nothing would have given the federal government a more perfect excuse to do exactly what they have done, and perhaps even with a larger quantum of land, than if we had walked away. I understand what the Member for Hootalinqua is saying, but I also understood that we were into a different strategic and tactical situation in the last few months than we had been in before.
We had a choice between walking and talking. We decided to talk. We talked and talked and talked, which is all that you can do at the negotiations.
The suggestion has been made that maybe we should have taken a firm position of absolutely no land under any circumstances. I am not a lawyer, but I think I can make pretty good common sense arguments, if not legal arguments, that there are all sorts of property rights well established by the Tetlit Gwichin in the Peel River Basin. Even if you could convincingly argue that the Inuvialuit should not be entitled to any land here, if we had taken a simply pig-headed, blunt, absolute final position at the table that there should be no land at all for the Tetlit Gwichin, I think it would have had the same effect as our walking away from the table. It would have given the federal government another excuse, if they needed one, to do what they have done.
I want to say something about negotiations. Negotiations, especially between more than two parties, such as three-cornered negotiations or multi-party negotiations, can only ever succeed if every single party to those negotiations is committed to that table as the forum for producing a successful result. If, as the Member for Hootalinqua has said, any one party to the negotiations believes that one or the others is doing a deal behind their backs, the negotiations will break down. There is no possibility of success when that happens.
The minute Mr. Siddon suggested, or hinted, to the Tetlit Gwichin that he had a deal for them in his back pocket, if he could not get a deal at the table - those negotiations were, in essence, doomed.
We tried and tried - and I make no apology for that. We are committed to negotiations. We think that is the way to go. We think the Minister has made a very profound mistake.
Earlier, a Member suggested that we did not know whether or not this was final. We know what Mr. Siddon has said on that subject. He has said that it is final; no further discussions. It is only if this address we make, essentially to the Prime Minister, is persuasive, that we may be able to re-open the question.
I am not betting a lot of money on it. I am not going to mortgage my house on the possibility of that happening, but I am going to try and get that message across, because it is very important to the future of the territory.
It has been suggested today that we may have made a mistake because we have not communicated clearly enough with the federal government about this. I have to tell the Members opposite who said that: nothing could be more wrong. We have repeatedly communicated at the level of negotiators, at the level of officials and at the level of Ministers on many occasions. Going back through a series of negotiators, we have sought assurances that we understood what the federal policy was, the federal policy that I articulated earlier today and re-articulated in the letter that I quoted from Mr. Potter. We believed that federal policy meant something, and we acted in good faith on the basis of that policy.
This is not the policy the Member for Hootalinqua succeeded in extracting from federal levels, but the policy post-Coolican. At the political level, I know how many calls have been made by the Opposition, and I know that Members opposite have had a chance to speak to the federal Minister about this, but I know other federal Ministers have been spoken to.
I did not make it public at the time, but when Mr. Clark was here, talking to us about the constitution of the country, I laid out this potential situation to him very clearly, and told him, as the number two person in the Government of Canada who is trying to pull the country together in a constitutional crisis, that there would be terrible consequences, in terms of our intergovernmental relations and the prospect of working some of these things out and the kind of harmony we want to see here, if his Cabinet colleague, Mr. Siddon, proceeded to do what he was clearly contemplating. I know for a fact, for reasons that I cannot reveal here, that that matter was dealt with by Mr. Clark with Mr. Siddon. I know the message was received.
There have been representations to many Members of the federal Cabinet. There have been representations made to the Prime Minister and to Mr. Clark. There have been repeated representations made from both sides of this House to Mr. Siddon.
The question asked by the Member for Riverdale South is a fair one: where do we go from here? The message coming from todays debate will be communicated to the federal government by every means we can use. We can look for some kind of response from the Prime Minister. However, as the Members opposite have indicated by the movement of their heads, we should not be overly optimistic about the prospect of any happiness on that front.
I have said that we are going to have to reassess our strategies. We will be doing that in the next little while. I will be discussing with my colleagues and, when we can, with Members opposite, some of the suggestions that have been made today by a number of Members. We will discuss with the new Leader of the Official Opposition options about how we can respond, including the idea of lobbies, mail campaigns and other such things. We will consider those things and consider how we can best get our point across.
I would like to say to the Member for Hootalinqua that, while I understand the proposition he made at the end of his speech, it is a step I would contemplate with great trepidation. I think he would understand why. It is that our priority remains the settlement of Yukon First Nation claims.
I cannot say yet how these events over the last few days have affected or will affect that process. I think that will become clear in the next few weeks. The Member for Hootalinqua has invited us to consider what he calls drastic measures. I think, intellectually, and in terms of thinking through these things, we have to consider all options and all possibilities.
I do know, as someone who enjoys reading and learning about the experiences of other jurisdictions and other places in the world, and as an amateur student of history, that history teaches us that social arrangements that are imposed from the top by a distant power, no matter how well-intentioned they are, never last.
If you want a perfect example of that, look at the period of reconstruction in the United States following the Civil War. As a result of a well-intentioned federal decision, for a brief period after the Civil War there were black senators, black governors, black congressman, black officials in government in the southern United States, but because these were arrangements that were imposed from afar, they did not last and the backlash and resentment against these arrangements produced a situation that was a horror story for the Afro-Americans in that region - Jim Crow laws, lynch mobs and so on.
The only reason that I make that point is that I believe in negotiations. I believe that only through negotiations do the parties to the arrangements, the interested parties, come to any sense of ownership about the solutions. Only when all the parties affected have some sense of ownership about the solutions will the solutions endure. Imposed arrangements are always resented and will always be resisted.
The timing of the Ministers decision could not have come at a more unfortunate moment. This summer, we were facing the possibility of getting final agreements from the four First Nations in the Yukon Territory, of getting a ratification vote this fall, and seeing settlement legislation going through Parliament. In a rather cynical and condescending way, the Assistant Deputy Minister of the department was on the radio earlier this week suggesting that the Yukon government was saying that this would affect negotiations and that it would be up to them if it does. With respect, I must suggest that that gentleman could not be more wrong.
I said earlier today that negotiations depend on trust. The federal decision has eroded the trust that is needed to reach conclusions.
I am someone who has spent a lot of my political life - as have many other Members of this House - trying to see the Yukon First Nation land claims settled. I am going to be working very, very hard to achieve that goal, but I know that the events of the last few days have made that immeasurably more difficult.
I thank all Members who have joined in the debate today and who took the opportunity to participate publicly in a discussion of this subject. I look forward to the further discussions of a private nature we will have with other Members of this House as the Government of Yukon tries to work through the difficult and complex situation we are now in. We will work toward a resolution that hopefully will bring a renewed commitment from the federal government to the negotiating process and a new realization of the potentially tragic consequences - for us - of what the Minister did last week.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the questiono? Are you agreed?
All Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the motion carried, nemine contradicente.
Motion No. 67 agreed to unanimously
Special Adjournment Motion
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move
THAT the House, at its rising, do stand adjourned until it appears to the satisfaction of the Speaker, after consultation with the Premier, that the public interest requires that the House shall meet;
THAT the Speaker give notice that he is so satisfied, and thereupon the House shall meet at the time stated in such notice and shall transact its business as if it had been duly adjourned to that time; and
THAT, if the Speaker is unable to act owing to illness or other causes, the Deputy Speaker shall act in his stead for the purpose of this order.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader
THAT the House, at its rising, do stand adjourned until it appears to the satisfaction of the Speaker, after consultation with the Premier, that the public interest requires that the House shall meet;
THAT the Speaker give notice that he is so satisfied, and thereupon the House shall meet at the time stated in such notice and shall transact its business as if it had been duly adjourned to that time; and
THAT, if the Speaker is unable to act owing to illness or other causes, the Deputy Speaker shall act in his stead for the purpose of this order.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
The House adjourned at 5:43 p.m.