Wednesday, June 3, 1992 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have a pair of returns for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have for tabling several legislative returns.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have for tabling the 1990 annual report of the Workers Compensation Board. This report was provided to the Members through the mail but not officially tabled.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Flood situation around the Yukon
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Given the high level of concern, I want to update the House regarding flood conditions around the Yukon.
As Members may know, due to the combination of heavy snow pack and warm weather, there has been some flooding and the threat of flooding continues in a number of communities around the Yukon.
The situation as of this hour tells us that, in Liard, water rose two inches overnight and could rise up to one inch an hour today, given the temperature forecast of highs up to 18 degrees. We expect to have three or four days before the water levels peak. Equipment is now on the scene in Liard and construction of a dike at Green Acres has begun. Construction should be completed well before peak water levels are reached.
The Emergency Measures Organization has transported over 10,000 sandbags to Watson Lake. Residents are now being notified as to where they can get sandbags to prevent any flooding that may occur. Mr. Rick Goold, the local EMO coordinator, is managing the situation in the Liard area.
In Carmacks, measures taken to date have prevented any serious flooding. Local EMO people, especially Mayor Earl Fields, the local EMO coordinator, should be congratulated for their speed and ingenuity in the situation there. Water has gone down about eight inches and continues to recede at a good rate on the Nordenskiold River at Carmacks.
The situation in Mayo remains stable. There are a few flooded basements, but no major flooding. The Mayo River dam is being used to assist in stabilizing water levels and plans are in place if flooding should occur.
Mr. Albert Drapeau is coordinating the situation in Mayo.
In Dawson, there has been some flooding of the Klondike campground road, and the campground remains closed.
In Rock Creek, the Klondike River still has nine to 12 inches to go before flooding levels are reached. Residents are well prepared for potential flooding. Carol Murray is the emergency measures coordinator for the Dawson area.
Chief Roger Kaye is in charge of the situation in Old Crow; the dump road is closed, but the river is receding. River jamming is no longer a threat.
I want to assure the House that the Yukons Emergency Measures Organization remains standing by, ready to support local emergency efforts, if and as required. EMO staff have travelled to a few of the communities to assist local planning and operations, but the emergency responses largely remain a local effort. Local EMOs should be congratulated for their fine organization.
Although there is still some concern, everything is very much under control and well in hand, thanks to our solid local emergency measures teams. We will continue to provide updates to the media, as required, each day until all flooding danger is over.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Russian visitors, treatment of by Customs officials
Mr. Lang: I would like to raise an issue that was just brought to our attention last evening. This was the question of how some international visitors from Russia were dealt with at the Whitehorse airport.
This is the second time we have had an incident with respect to international visitors being dealt with in a manner that was less than acceptable from the publics point of view. I have been informed that the wait for the airplane was from eight to nine hours, as opposed to a statement that I understand was made at noon today that it was only a four-hour layover.
We have to question what took place, in view of the fact that we have some very dissatisfied international visitors as a result of how they were dealt with.
Has the Government Leader ascertained why these foreign visitors were treated in this manner?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I thank the Member for the question. To my knowledge, this is the fourth such incident affecting visitors to this area from the old Soviet Union, or from Russia. It is an extremely regrettable event and cannot do anything to enhance our good name. The last time such an event occurred, we communicated directly to the federal government expressing our concern and we would be ready to do so again.
In answer to the Members precise question, though - which was: do I have any other information yet beyond that which was carried in the news media this morning? - the answer is I do not. From what I gather from the noon news, there was a statement from federal officials to the effect that these people were under suspicion or were subject to a search as a result of the events surrounding the visit of the Russian hockey team some months ago. Given our traditions of law, I think it is extremely unfortunate for any official to assume that someone coming from the same country is automatically therefore under suspicion.
Mr. Lang: I could not agree more with the observations made by the Minister in that respect.
I was also interested to hear the Minister say that there were not two such incidents, but that there were four incidents. Apparently, there are two incidents that the public has not been made aware of, that perhaps we could deal with at another time.
I was very concerned about how the Mayor of Whitehorse was treated with respect to this situation.
By pure coincidence, the mayor was at the airport, and I am told that he made inquiries to find out how he could assist these visitors and whether or not he could speak to the customs officials. The senior official was in a meeting with the Russians and I am told that the Mayor had to leave the-
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Lang: Is the Government Leader aware of how the Mayor was dealt with when he made those inquiries?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Again, I regret that I have no other information, other than the information that I obtained from the news media, at this point. As of this hour, I have not had the opportunity to talk directly with the mayor about his experience with the customs officials. I know from listening to the mayor on the radio this morning that it was quite a disturbing event for him.
Lawyers with whom I am acquainted have described the Immigration Act of Canada as a truly draconian law and the powers awarded to customs officers in our country, indeed in most countries, is quite incredible.
I want the Member to know that I take this incident quite seriously, and that we very much value the circumpolar relations that are developing with our community and the autonomous republics of the old Soviet Union, now part of Russia.
There are important possibilities for good relations on a cultural, social and economic basis, and we have recently had very distinguished visitors from that quarter visit with my colleague, the Minister of Education.
We do take the incident very seriously, and we will be again communicating our concerns to the federal government.
Mr. Lang: What has taken place is really unacceptable. I think this is a common feeling among all Members.
Will the Government Leader undertake to contact the local office and register the concerns of the Legislature? Will the Government Leader also take steps to contact the Government of Canada, specifically the Department of National Revenue, Customs to register our concerns with respect to this matter, especially in view of the fact, as the Minister has just informed us, this is the fourth incident?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The appropriate thing for us to do would be to communicate formally and officially with the federal Ministers responsible, in Ottawa. I am sure that the local officers have a fair amount of discretion in these matters and I am sure that they are, in the main, operating according to federal policies, using policy manuals and instructions from above, but there is some evidence of a pattern here concerning the treatment of visitors to this country, especially those from the former Soviet Union. This treatment of our visitors could cause damage to our relations with that part of the world. We do not want to see that happen.
Question re: Russian visitors, treatment of by Customs officials
Mr. Lang: This morning I was made aware that we are starting to get some airplane traffic through our airport from the former Soviet Union. Not only do they fuel up here and spend some money here, but at times they come to visit the community and spend a day or two here. Obviously, this is good for the general economy, as well as the foreign exchange.
The airplane that fueled up here yesterday took on in the neighbourhood of 30,000 litres. I do not know if that fuel was purchased from Totem Oil, or someone else. Money is being exchanged and jobs could be affected if airplanes start bypassing our airport because of this type of situation.
I am pleased that the Minister has indicated that he is going to contact Ottawa and go through diplomatic channels. I also think it would be of interest to get the various parties together to see what we can do to prevent this from happening again.
Would the Minister undertake to contact representatives of the city, representatives from within a number of his departments and representatives from the federal government to get together and see what procedures have to be altered to ensure that this type of occurrence does not happen again?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I thank the Member for that suggestion, which we will pursue.
There have been a variety of problems, of different degrees of seriousness. Many of the problems have related to some misunderstandings between Canadian and Russian officials about appropriate documents or documentation. For example, we had distinguished visitors from what was then the Soviet Union who came to the Circumpolar Health Conference a while back, and who had been detained in Anchorage. We had to send a Russian-speaking official of this government to Anchorage to spring them loose.
We had a problem with guests coming to the Arctic Winter Games. The Member may recall that someone, who was a long-term invitee, could not get into North America when they landed at Anchorage. In that case, I understand the problem was documents from the home country.
If you want to talk about all these incidents, I am sure they run into the dozens. The Alaskans have a lot of traffic, and there are some government-to-government problems in terms of documentation and exchanges of information. We should understand that that country has had a fair degree of administrative chaos in the last few months.
That is understandable, and we can try to deal with it. What is not understandable and not acceptable is that visitors to this country should be abused or ill-treated, or treated in a cavalier or unjust manner. I do not think this government would want to encourage or support that at all, and we would want ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: ... to make very strong representations, and we are willing to work with the city and others to do what we can about it.
Question re: Land claims
Mrs. Firth: I have previously asked the Minister responsible for land claims questions about YTG-owned buildings on land held by bands, or under negotiation in the land claims process. The Minister said the policy was that they would negotiate at the time of the land claims negotiation the proper responsibility and ownership of those buildings.
Has that taken place, now that the Vuntut Gwichin land claim has been tabled in the House, specifically with respect to the new Old Crow Learning Centre in that community?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me explain to the Member that the basic position of the territorial government would be that we do not encourage selections of land that are already alienated; in other words, land that is used or licensed to a third party. There are some occasions, such as in the Vuntut Gwichin agreement, where there is land being used for one purpose now by government that we may not need for all time. There may be a transaction down the road where that will revert to the First Nation.
I would have to take notice of the precise question about the land title with the learning centre or refer to my colleague, the Minister of Education. I do not have that information at my fingertips.
Mrs. Firth: I asked the question of the Minister of Education in the Government Leaders absence. It was land that apparently was claimed under the claims process. I am simply asking a general question with respect to a policy matter. Could the Minister tell us what the policy is and if this particular incident has been addressed since the negotiations were finalized with this First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I wish the Member had given me notice of the question. I would have been more prepared to answer her more precisely. As it is, I will have to take notice and get back to her.
I know there were discussions going on about that particular parcel of land. I cannot, from memory, recall exactly what the resolution of that matter was. I will get back to the Member.
Mrs. Firth: Could I ask the Minister about another issue with respect to the same policy; that is, the correctional facility that is to be built in Teslin. Is that presently being held up because of the negotiating process, or has a decision been made to go ahead with its construction?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We have not finalized the land chapter with the Teslin First Nation yet. As I told the Member, the starting position of the government would be that if we are going to invest substantial money into a property, we would usually want to own the land, have a long-term lease or some such similar arrangement. It is also common that a First Nation will express interest in having land that is traditional territory, and the site would revert back to them after a period of time. This kind of provision can also be made in the final agreements.
Question re: Tourism, Yukon Gold Explorers Passport
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Tourism, regarding the new Yukon passport program. I have received some complaints from at least two areas of the Yukon about problems that have developed with this new program. In the first case, on the Alaska Highway north, the facility where passports are stamped was closed and the tourist was unable to find out what hours the facility was going to be open. In fact, he was fairly upset that he could not get his passport stamped and he passed that information on at a lodge further up the highway; he was quite angry that we were operating a program and he could not get the proper information.
I would like to ask the Minister if he would post in each one of the passport Icentres a list of the facilities where stamps are located and their hours of operation, so that when tourists arrive at a certain facility they could find out where their next stop was to be and what hours it would be open, so that they could get their passport stamped.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I thank the Member for bringing forward these concerns. It is understandable that, in the first few weeks of a new program, there will be a few glitches and this program is no exception. A prime area of concern was with the museums that are participating in this program; obviously, not all of them opened up on the starting date of May 15, as did most of the visitor reception centres, but we have made arrangements for tourists to have their passports stamped at other locations in the community where the museums are not open. Failing that - and there have been a couple of examples where visitors could not get their passports stamped in that community - we are honouring their passport being stamped at the visitor reception centre when they arrive here in Whitehorse.
Mr. Phillips: The second incident that happened is one the Minister just described - it was a museum that was not open. The individual was told to go to the band office; they did so, and were told there that the person who knew where the stamp was had stepped out for a few moments and no one else knew where the stamp was, so the tourist had a problem.
I would like to ask the Minister if he would ensure that there would be a number of people in these various centres who would know where the stamps were and who could assist the tourists when they come in. The program is not going to work if tourists go away angry and cannot get their passports stamped.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Now that June 1 has come and gone, and all of the participating facilities are open and have people staffing them during the regular hours of operation, I do not anticipate any more problems of this nature this season. We will, however, bring it to the attention of everyone concerned for next years program.
Mr. Phillips: Just for clarification, the Minister said that the Yukon visitor reception centre will honour the spots anyone missed or could not get their passports stamped at. Is that going to happen in all visitor reception centres or will it just be in Whitehorse that passports can be brought up to date? Does the Whitehorse visitor reception centre have the stamps for each of the different areas? I know that the stamps are quite different and some of the tourists may want to have the individual stamps in their book.
Hon. Mr. Webster: As I say, now that all participating facilities are open to the public and passports can be stamped during regular hours, we do not anticipate any further problems in this regard. All passports will be stamped at each facility, where they are supposed to be stamped.
Question re: Windy Craggy
Mr. Devries: I have a question for the Minister of Mines and Economic Development. The Yukon economy is in need of further diversification, and one of the opportunities that is sitting on our doorstep is the proposed Windy Craggy mine. With copper being one of the most stable metals on the world market, this world-class deposit has the potential to be the one project that could bring some economic stability to the Yukon. I would like to ask the Minister if he has discussed with his counterparts in British Columbia and Ottawa the impact this project could have on the development of the northwest, with a view to keeping this project alive.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The short answer is yes. I have met with Minister Edwards of British Columbia and we have discussed the merits of the development. As the Member may be aware, the Minister has just recently announced a land use review process, which may take up to one year to complete. Clearly, we will be invited to be part of that process.
Mr. Devries: This project could also have a tremendous impact on the Haines Junction area and create hundreds of jobs for Yukoners. Has the Minister had any further discussions with the Haines Junction business community concerning this project?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have not had any recent discussions with the community of Haines Junction. However, I have discussed the matter with municipal council people, and I believe with representatives of the Yukon Chamber of Mines late last year.
I think that it is fair to say that there will be a fairly broad, public consultation process initiated by the British Columbia government surrounding the project, over the course of the next year. Everyone will be invited to make their views known surrounding their concerns about the project, both from an economic and environmental point of view.
Mr. Devries: One recommendation made at the annual meeting of the Council on the Economy and the Environment - which was also mentioned at the mine Ministers conference - was to encourage government to establish, in association with industry, public awareness programs regarding the importance of mining to the territory.
Does the government plan to try to use this process to encourage and gain public support for the Windy Craggy mine?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: At the mines Ministers conference, the matter was not only discussed in the public agenda, but it was also discussed in some detail among the federal Minister, representatives of the Yukon Chamber of Mines and me.
The matter of public education surrounding Windy Craggy was one of the items discussed in some detail. I will be meeting with the Chamber of Mines soon, to discuss what process the Chamber of Mines would like to see encouraged to ensure that an adequate public consultation occurs under the initiative of the British Columbia government.
Question re: Wolf Management Planning Team
Mr. Brewster: My question is directed to the Minister Renewable Resources.
Last night I attended a public meeting sponsored by the Wolf Management Planning Team. Other than the facilitator of the team, no one from the team was present to answer the publics questions.
I would like to know if other members from this team are going to answer questions from the people of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Although no members of the team were present at the meeting last night, the facilitator, who is a spokes person on behalf of all members of that team, was there.
In response to the Members question, my understanding is that some members of the team may be accompanying the facilitator, Mr. Bailey, to future meetings of the team for the purpose of having some public discussion.
Mr. Brewster: It was my impression that they would not answer anything, but just take the questions under advisement.
Why was the Yukon conservation and management plan released to the media and not to the Opposition critic of the government, or to other groups concerned, until two days later?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to inform the Member that I received a copy of the draft plan at the same time the Members opposite did. I first had a chance to view it at the same time that all members of the public did, which is when it appeared in Fridays papers of last week.
Mr. Brewster: How much are the people of the Yukon paying the facilitator of the Yukon wolf management team?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will provide the information to the Member opposite.
Question re: Abattoir
Mr. Nordling: Last March, there was an EDA news release announcing conditional funding for an abattoir. Several of the conditions were the securing of land, an environmental review and further funding. Could the Minister of Renewable Resources give us an update of this project? What assistance is his department providing to meet the conditions that were imposed?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Member is quite right. At that particular time in March, there were some outstanding questions concerning the acquisition of land. That question still remains up in the air. For a variety of reasons, the land originally selected by the proponents of the abattoir was not found suitable. They are looking at other potential sites. Once they have decided on a site, they can then do the necessary environmental review work. At that time, we will review further their funding requests.
Mr. Nordling: I would like to direct my supplementary to the Minister of Economic Development and ask what his departments position is with respect to the project and if they are assisting the Yukon Agricultural Association in meeting these conditions that were imposed?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not sure if the Member wants me to talk with my lands hat on or with my Economic Development hat on. I can tell the Member that I have met with proponents of the project. We discussed the problem of land tenure. This is one of the conditions imposed as a consequence of the EDA money that was granted.
My department has been working with the proponents in trying to identify option lands. Additionally, in my discussions with the association, there was the suggestion that other option lands may be examined that are currently titled to farmers.
At the same time, I spoke briefly on the subject at a meeting of the futures committee in Dawson a couple of weeks ago, in which an update was provided on the status of the abbatoir. I have agreed to meet with the organization again.
Mr. Nordling: The Minister answered my third supplementary question with respect to land. Now, I would like to go back to my second supplementary question and ask the Minister of Economic Development what that department is doing to assist with the other condition, which was further funding.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member recognizes, I am sure, that the funding that was conditionally provided through the EDA required that the association identify all the costs and associated revenues for the entire facility for the first five-year period. Clearly, there is quite a quantity of funds that has yet to be identified. There is something in the order of $500,000 worth of capital costs that have to be procured somewhere. I believe they are talking to the futures committee about that. There are operational costs that have to be addressed and revenues sought to cover those costs over the first five-year period of the operation of the facility before it is determined that it will be able to stand on its own.
The discussions are ongoing. The fact is that the funding is not completely in place, and so, based on the condition of the EDA funding, it will not flow until those conditions are met.
Question re: Tagish Road, BST application
Mr. Phelps: As this sitting is rapidly drawing to a close, I did have a couple of constituency matters I want to have addressed in Question Period so I am going to give the good Minister across the way in charge of Community and Transportation Services an easy time of it today, because he has had notice of the issue I am raising. It concerns the Tagish Road and the fact that the road was torn up for repairs where the BST section is between Carcross and Tagish, near Crag Lake. The understanding of residents in the area was that it was to be resurfaced this year. After it was torn up and just before the surfacing crew was to begin resurfacing the area in question, at the last minute, orders came from on high that they were not to apply BST this year to that section. Can the Minister explain what is going on?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member did raise the issue with me approximately a week ago, which afforded me the opportunity to make inquiries. I do not know where any orders may have come from about not doing the BST because that is not the presentation of information I received. There was a section of the Tagish Road that required the BST be removed from it and some stabilizing work done on it. The BST crew was not going to be in the area at all this summer - they had work elsewhere throughout the Yukon on a very tight schedule, as Members can appreciate, given the seasonal nature of laying BST - so there was no intention, to my understanding or knowledge, that the BST would be applied on the Tagish Road this year. That work is intended for next year, in addition to some extra BST work beyond the torn-up section.
Mr. Phelps: I had asked the Minister to check into this because, certainly, the very firm impression left with residents in the Tagish/Carcross area is that it was to be resurfaced almost immediately after the repairs were completed to the subsurface and that the orders came down at the last minute not to proceed, even though the crew was ready to start surfacing. I would like him to undertake to check into this and, if my version or the version I am given is somewhat correct, would he explain to me, perhaps after the sitting is over, just how it is that the highways department makes these last-minute decisions?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It is unfortunate that the Member may have a different view of the facts as I understand them. I can assure the Member that BST work slated for the Tagish Road is planned for next year, and will include considerable, additional BST work as a major project. We are able to provide this work because of the planning schedule, and particularly, the availability of the BST crew to do the work. In the interest of efficiency, cost and time wise - it would not make sense to pull the BST crew off other major sections of highways that they are working on just to do a short section on the Tagish Road. Next year, the department will be doing substantial and additional BST work in that area. I will double-check my facts in order that the Member and I will be able to share common information with constituents.
Mr. Phelps: I am sure the residents of the area share my curiosity with respect to the additional BST work.
Is it a firm intention of this government to start straightening, repairing and surfacing the road between Tagish and the Alaska Highway at Jakes Corner next year, as well?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would like to be able to give the Member a positive answer, but I honestly cannot. As the Member knows, we are currently beginning the budget process for next year. We will be planning our capital projects for next year over the course of the next couple of months.
Given the Members representation, I will give it serious consideration in our allocations for next year.
Question re: Wolf Management Planning Team
Mr. Brewster: I will try to ask the Minister of Renewable Resources a question again. I did provide notice on my last question, but still did not receive an answer. I do not know how I can get answers.
The wolf conservation management meeting was very interesting. Does the Minister feel that we need wolf conservation in the Aishihik area?
Hon. Mr. Webster: In first addressing the Members preamble, I would like to assure the Member that he always gets an answer to his questions. I would like to make it clear that the Member did give me advance notice of his question. Unfortunately, the information has not arrived yet.
With respect to the question on conservation of wolves in the Aishihik area, the mandate of the Wolf Planning Management Team is to provide us with recommendations for the conservation and management of wolves in the entire Yukon. For this reason, it is not being considered separately by this particular wolf-planning team.
Mr. Brewster: I did not get an answer. I knew that I would not get an answer.
During a recent survey conducted by the Department of Renewable Resources into the Aishihik caribou herd, the department attempted to locate 27 caribou that were radio collared, and only 20 caribou were located. Can the Minister tell me if this is true or not?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I know that we have recently conducted a survey for the very purpose that the Member stated. As to the exact number of caribou counted, I cannot say at this time.
Mr. Brewster: I will try one more question.
The Minister stated that in the Aishihik area there was a survival rate of nine caribou calves per 100 caribou cows, by the fall of 1991.
Since the department has been monitoring the herd in this area, can the Minister tell me how many of the nine caribou calves per 100 caribou cows are still alive?
Hon. Mr. Webster: That information would be part of the same survey results that I previously informed the Member I do not have at this time.
Question re: Policing conference
Mr. Nordling: I have a question for the Minister of Justice with respect to the policing conference that was held in Fort Selkirk.
The Member for Riverdale North was quite concerned about the cost of having a conference at that remote site. The Member said that if this government has millions of dollars to throw around, you can afford to go to these out of the way areas to do these kinds of things.
I understand that both the Minister of Justice and the Member for Riverdale North, who was so concerned about the cost, actually flew up to Fort Selkirk.
I would like to ask the Minister if she has an estimate for the cost of flying both herself and the Member for Riverdale North to Fort Selkirk and back, despite their asurances of frugality.
Hon. Ms. Joe: First of all, I would like to thank the Member for Riverdale North for accompanying me to the conference. I had invited the Member to come along, as my critic. I felt that this would be an opportune time for the Member to see what is happening within the aboriginal justice area.
I was invited to attend the conference at Fort Selkirk, in the RCMP plane. It was a flight that was already scheduled to go to Fort Selkirk to pick up individuals to come back to Whitehorse. No extra flight had to be scheduled as a result of our invitation to attend, and there were some extra seats on the flight, allowing the Member for Riverdale North to come along. There were no added costs for the Member for Riverdale North and me to attend the conference.
Mr. Nordling: I take it that the Minister and the Member for Riverdale North did not offer to make a contribution to the total cost of that themselves, given that it is coming out of the taxpayers pocket. They did receive the flight up there and back at public expense.
Hon. Ms. Joe: As I mentioned, there was no added cost. There was no special flight laid on in order for us to be there. The plane was going up; I was invited to go along, and I took the Member for Riverdale North with me. It was an opportune time to become involved in what was happening and the changes that were taking place. I am sorry I did not invite the Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek West. If I had known he was going to be so upset, I certainly would have.
Mr. Nordling: I was about to leave it at that. However, in view of the Minister of Justices concern, I would like to say that I certainly do not dispute the involvement of the Minister of Justice and the critic in that conference. I think it is a wonderful thing that they flew up together to see what was happening. My concern regarded ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to his supplementary question.
Mr. Nordling: ... the costs involved, as expressed by both the Minister of Justice and the critic. I wondered if they had done anything on their own to help with those costs, in light of the fact that they did ride the plane up and back?
Hon. Ms. Joe: It certainly was an education for us to be there to meet with the people. It is part of both of our jobs to meet with people of the Yukon, and that was an opportune time to do it. As I mentioned, there were no additional costs. I take part in a lot of functions in the Yukon that contribute to my involvement as an MLA and as the Minister of Justice. I am not sure whether or not the Member wants us to pay a certain amount of money for the flight up there, but it was an invitation. I feel that everything was in order, and that it was a very opportune time for us to be there.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No 73: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 73, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Penikett.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move that Bill No. 73, entitled An Act Approving Land Claim Final Agreements, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier that Bill No. 73, entitled An Act Approving Yukon Land Claim Final Agreements, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: [Introduction in Gwichin]
For thousands of years, aboriginal people thrived in this land we call the Yukon. They hunted and fished for food, sheltered their families, taught their children their legends and songs, listened and learned from their elders and made laws for their people. This was in every sense their land. As the book says: they were part of the land, part of the water.
All that changed with the arrival of the whalers to Herschel Island, the gold seekers to the Klondike and the American army, which engineered the Alaska Highway. Clans were alienated, wildlife habitat vanished, children transported to residential schools, families divided by arbitrary federal law, communities relocated, many settlements ravaged by alcohol, disease and despair and thousand-year-old, traditional ways of life were eroded.
In 1973, the chiefs of the Yukon First Nations, including the present Member for Tatchun and Mr. Speaker, the Member for Campbell, under the leadership of Elijah Smith, travelled to Ottawa and presented to Prime Minister Trudeau a list of grievances and a claim for a settlement. This was the beginning of the land claims process in the Yukon.
By debating today Bill No. 73, An Act Approving Yukon Land Claim Final Agreements, we take a big step on the final stage of a long journey. However, it is important to understand that we have not negotiated land claims and self- government agreements simply because the Yukon Indians have suffered a huge injustice but also because we have an ancient legal obligation to do so.
Our American cousins like to think of George III as the mad king, but he was not all that crazy, it seems. In his Royal Proclamation of 1763, he looked into the future and ruled that settlers could only obtain land in British North America by way of treaties between the Crown and the aboriginal nations. In 1870, the land in the Yukon watershed was transferred from Britain to Canada by an Imperial order-in-council. This order, known as the Ruperts Land Transfer, also conveyed the constitutional obligation to make treaties with aboriginal peoples from London to Ottawa. That, more than anything else, is why the Canadian and Yukon governments have been at the land claims negotiating table since 1973.
After 19 years, we now have the first of the final agreements we plan to make with each of the 14 First Nations in the Yukon.
It has been a long, hard, often frustrating process; one that has exhausted talented negotiators on all sides. Nevertheless, the parties have persevered, probably, in part, because they know there will likely be no more important political task in our lifetime. Observers may be forgiven for thinking that this journey will never end. There have been many false starts, so many pauses and significant closings - agreements in principle, umbrella final agreements, self-government agreements, and now band final agreements - that skeptics might be forgiven for accusing us all of being more interested in negotiating than settling. But, today we face the nay-sayers and show them the umbrella final agreement - the Vuntut Gwichin final agreement and the Vuntut Gwichin self-government agreement.
The two bills presented for debate today would give Yukon legislative approval to these agreements and, as agreed by the parties, we are proceeding now with legislation based on one final agreement so that formal legislation can be presented to the House of Commons later this year. Following passage of the federal acts, subsequent agreements will be given effect by orders-in-council.
To expedite the process, we propose an all-party special committee, to meet over the next few months to study in detail the Vuntut Gwichin agreements and other agreements reached in this period. The Yukon government proposes to give third reading at the next sitting of the Legislature, after four First Nation final agreements - Vuntut Gwichin, Champagne/Aishihik, Na-Cho Nyak Dun and Teslin - have been ratified. Once this work has been done, the federal Minister of Indian Affairs has indicated that he will go to Parliament with this package.
I will now discuss the elements of the agreements we are asking the House to consider.
Most of this information is not new. It has been public knowledge for months, even years, but I put the main points on the record again. In April 1990, the umbrella final agreement was signed by representatives of the Council for Yukon Indians, the Yukon and the federal governments. The UFA sets out the overall amount of land to be divided among First Nations, total compensation, economic development provisions and principles of wildlife, land and resource management.
The amount of land that will be shared among First Nations is 16,000 square miles, or 41,000 square kilometres. This land is called settlement land. There are three types of settlement land: category A lands, category B lands and fee simple lands.
Fee simple is the most common form of private land holding created by English law. It is land that you can rent, sell, buy or do with as you wish. Fee simple settlement land is basically the same as fee simple title held by individuals. Most fee simple settlement land will be individual lots in community subdivisions.
On category A lands, the First Nation has rights similar to fee simple title to the surface and fee simple ownership of the subsurface. Mining exploration will require the consent of the First Nations, and new mining developments will need to be negotiated with the First Nation. Public non-commercial access is allowed on settlement land. Commercial access is allowed on existing routes across settlement land, but any other use of the land will require permission. People who are not beneficiaries of that First Nation will need permission to hunt on category A lands. If permitted by law, hunting of migratory birds is allowed along the 30-metre corridor of navigable waterways without this consent.
Ten thousand square miles of land is the allocation for category A.
In category B lands, First Nations will have rights equivalent to fee simple for the surface and specified substances like sand and gravel. Public access and hunting are allowed without consent for non-commercial users. Provisions for commercial use are the same as for category A lands.
Mining exploration is allowed, but any new developments will generally require the developer to negotiate terms and conditions with the First Nation. Disputes may be referred to the surface rights board. Category B lands amount to 6,000 square miles.
It is extremely important to note that, for the first time in Canadian history, aboriginal title will be retained on both category A and B settlement lands. Settlement lands are further distinguished based on whether or not they are developed. This distinction is important in terms of access. The access provisions in chapter 6 of the UFA are applicable to under-developed lands only, which are the bulk of settlement lands. Developed lands are essentially occupied lands: residences, spiritual places and a reasonable surrounding area. Access to these areas is similar to access to private lands. In other words, trespassing without consent is not allowed.
As all Members know, each First Nation has a traditional territory - the area around their settlement lands, which they have used and managed for many years. The First Nation cannot exercise land based self-government powers on non-settlement lands in its traditional territory; however, economic opportunities and the right of subsistence harvesting are linked to the traditional territory. Additionally, the Renewable Resources council will advise on the management of resources in the traditional territory, which the council operates within.
First Nations will also have a key role in the development assessment process, land use planning and heritage resource management within their traditional territory.
The First Nation final agreements fine tune the provision of the UFA to integrate the special circumstances of each First Nation.
As all Members know, there are 14 First Nations in the Yukon. Each First Nation has its own culture, language and history. A First Nations final agreement outlines how much of the total amount of land and compensation that First Nation will be entitled to, and how general resource management practices will be applied. The final agreements also address specific requirements the First Nations may have, such as the protection of wildlife habitat or heritage sites.
Next to land, the conservation of fish and wildlife is the most important principle in the agreement. The agreements that we have set up a single wildlife co-management system for the Yukon. Since these agreements were first negotiated, they have been substantially amended only to reflect the Supreme Court decision in the Sparrow case. These provisions have been much debated in this House and I will not detail them further.
Yukon First Nations will also receive $242 million in compensation. It will be divided among the First Nations and paid out over 15 years. Three years after the legislation, all Yukoners - aboriginal and non-aboriginal - will pay the same taxes. The Indian tax exemption is traded for $25 million in compensation.
The fourth area of the umbrella final agreement is self-government. Details are not included in the umbrella final agreement because the federal government, until very recently, has not been willing to protect self- government agreements in the Constitution.
The model self-government agreement forms the foundation for each First Nation to negotiate its own self-government agreement. These legally binding agreements are the ones that will become law, and relate specifically to each of the First Nations.
It is necessary to understand that the agreements that we have negotiated are the modern form of treaties. Rights acquired and recognized under them are of the same constitutional nature as treaty rights, and will be protected in section 35 of the Constitution. They can only be modified with the consent of all the parties.
For the record, I would like to highlight a few significant changes to the umbrella final agreement since it was published last year. I ask Members to bear with me for a few minutes while I do so.
In chapter 2, General Provisions, provisions have been added to allow more expedient approval of amendments to certain specific provisions of the Yukon First Nation final agreements, through approval by the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs and the Yukon Minister responsible for land claims. The consent of the affected Yukon First Nation is, of course, still required. The purpose of this change was to allow amendments to land descriptions and other similar clauses to be approved by the Minister instead of having to get Cabinet approval from both governments. This change was important for the federal government as it is a complicated and time-consuming process to get a federal order-in-council.
In chapter 9, Settlement Land Amount, provisions have been added to allow for government and Yukon First Nations to agree to exchange settlement land for non-settlement land. This was added to allow for exchanges to be made after final agreements came into effect if both the government and the affected First Nation agree. One purpose of this clause was to allow for the land on which the Old Crow airport is located to be traded to the Vuntut Gwichin for other settlement land if the present airport lands are no longer required.
In chapter 16, the Fish and Wildlife chapter, a new schedule was added setting out how basic needs allocations for salmon will be established on the Yukon River Basin. The schedule describes the study that will be carried out over the next eight years by an independent contractor and involving Yukon First Nations whose traditional territories include part of the Yukon River drainage basin - all of the Yukon First Nations except the Liard First Nation. This schedule was added to define how the basic needs allocation for salmon would be determined. The previous draft of the umbrella final agreement was not clear on how this would be done. The basic needs allocation will be based on the average harvest of salmon by Yukon Indian people, plus 10 percent.
In chapter 9, Financial Compensation, there has been a change approving the calculation of the interest rate that Yukon First Nations receive when their financial compensation has been approved.
This change could mean that the Yukon First Nations financial compensation package is worth approximately $11 million more than under the previous formula. This change was made to bring the umbrella final agreement provisions more in line with the Gwichin final agreement and the Tunguvut Federation of Nunavut agreement interest rates.
In chapter 20, on taxation, the provisions have been changed so that section 87 taxation exemption buy-out is delayed for three years following the effective date of the umbrella final agreement. This change was made when the federal government insisted that Yukon First Nations taxation power, under their self-government agreements, could not come into effect for three years. This provision will extend the tax exemption currently in place on reserves in the Yukon and across Canada. However, the tax exemption will still be removed after a three-year period.
The current moratorium on the collection of income tax, which has been in place since 1978, will also continue during the three-year period. The buy-out of the application of section 87 of the Indian Act is the first in Canada.
Chapter 21, dealing with the taxation of settlement land, has been changed to reflect the power of First Nations to levy property taxes on their settlement lands. This change was made as a consequence of the model self-government agreement and provides for the powers that were agreed to, in self-government negotiations, and does not reduce the application of Yukon government or municipal property taxation powers.
Chapter 25, which deals with transboundary agreements, has new provisions added that deal with future transboundary agreements. The most important change is the requirement that any provision in the future transboundary agreement that affects a matter that is primarily within the jurisdiction of the Yukon government will require the consent of the Yukon government.
In addition, provisions in future transboundary agreements that address conflicts between Yukon First Nations final agreements and transboundary agreements will require the consent of both the Yukon and affected Yukon First Nations.
These conditions are a very significant addition to the umbrella final agreement that, previously, did not address the issue of Yukons powers in transboundary agreement negotiations.
In chapter 28, the implementation and training for settlement implementation was amended to allow Yukon First Nations to delegate approval authority for the umbrella final agreement implementation to their chief and council or other such body. This change was made because it appeared that the longer time frame for completion of the umbrella final agreement implementation plan would unnecessarily delay ratification of Yukon First Nations final agreements by First Nations and by the Yukon government.
Chapter 28, the implementation and training for settlement implementation, was also changed so that parties may agree that some parts of the implementation plan are not contracts. This change was made at the request of the federal government, which stated that it may not be appropriate for all parts of implementation plans, activities, tasks, costing, or other parts, to take the form of legally binding contracts between parties.
The legislation that we are bringing forward references the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation final agreement. I would like to briefly outline the highlights of that agreement.
The Vuntut Gwichin First Nation will retain 7,744 square kilometres of category A settlement land and seven kilometres of category B settlement land under the agreement and will receive $19,161,000 in financial compensation.
Three special management areas will be established by the agreement: a new national park in the north part of the Old Crow Flats, special management provisions for the Old Crow Flats area and a territorial park at the Fishing Branch River.
The federal government agrees to buy out existing oil and gas leases in the Old Crow Flats to protect the flats, the wildlife populations and the use of the area by the Vuntut Gwichin. Rampart House and Lapierre House will be protected as territorial historic sites under the Yukon Historic Resources Act, and other provisions are included to recognize the importance of other heritage routes and sites of the Vuntut Gwichin.
The allocation formula for moose harvest gives the Vuntut Gwichin the priority, while also maintaining the principle of a sharing agreement for the benefits of other harvesters.
The Vuntut Gwichin will have exclusive rights to commercial salmon harvesting for 15 years and a guaranteed allocation of commercial salmon licences after 15 years.
The Vuntut Gwichin First Nation has exclusive right to any new big game outfitting concession that may be granted in their traditional territory. The Vuntut Gwichin First Nation will have guaranteed allocations of licences for commercial tourism and commercial fresh-water fishing under the agreement, up to 25 percent of any quota that the government may establish.
Government and the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation will develop a plan together for the economy of their traditional territory. Government will also develop an employment plan aimed at ensuring a representative public service in the area. A plan will also be prepared to help the Vuntut Gwichin take advantage of economic opportunities arising from their agreement. The agreement provides for certain opportunities for the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation for contracts and employment related to heritage sites, forestry and the national park in the Old Crow Flats.
The government has agreed not to build a road connecting with Old Crow on the settlement land around Old Crow without the consent of the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation for a period of 20 years.
This agreement also sets out how overlaps with other Yukon First Nations traditional territories will be resolved and how conflicts with the Tetlit Gwichin in trans-boundary agreements will be resolved. As well, the agreement sets out how the Vuntut Gwichin will ratify their agreement, a process that will begin in the very near future.
Mr. Speaker, as well you know, one could go on at great length about the details of these agreements and the progress of negotiations over the last several years but the debate at this stage of the bill does not permit that. The measures before the House today are certainly among the most important we have ever had to consider, and they warrant very serious study. That is why we are recommending an all-party special committee to sit during the legislative recess in order to expedite the vital public business of studying this legislation before undertaking third reading at our next sitting.
Today, however, we are giving only second reading to these land claims self-government bills. Second reading in our parliamentary tradition means debate on the principle of land claims and self-government. After 19 years of negotiation and many years of debate in our community, I am confident that every Member of this House already knows how he or she will vote on these principles.
Debate on this question in this House in the past has often been heated. There have been many emotional exchanges and strong feelings expressed by all sides. In the years that I have been here, some Members have objected to all or part of the land claims process or agreements. It has even been suggested that aboriginal self-government is like apartheid, a view I strongly disagree with.
Critics in our system are entitled to express their views. They are entitled to organize whatever parliamentary objections or resistance they may choose to any measure brought by government. That is their right in our system. That is the right, indeed, of any citizen in our democracy.
I sincerely hope that anyone of this persuasion will also respect the right of a government that believes in the justice of land claims, that believes in the legitimacy of First Nation governments, and is committed to making every reasonable effort to pass this legislation while it is in office.
I have been pleased to travel to every corner of the territory to explain the land claims and self-government agreements. From the dozens and dozens of public meetings that I have attended, I know one thing for sure: Yukoners want these claims settled. They want the negotiations completed. They want the agreements legislated and implemented, and they - aboriginal and non-aboriginal Yukoners alike - want to get on with our life together. They want to get on with building this territory together. As Elijah Smith said in 1973, Together today for our children tomorrow.
One way or another, Yukoners are watching this Legislature today. They are watching to see if, in the words of one eminent jurist, We shall be liberal, generous and fair on this question. First Nations will want to know if this Legislature will honour the agreements that our government and their leaders have negotiated in good faith. Many Canadians are watching with interest as we deal with this comprehensive claim and self-government package as it is the first of its kind in this country. People everywhere will long remember what we say today. Our childrens children may well read our statements to discover how we recognized this new day for the Yukon. How did we recognize this new equality between peoples as well as individuals?
Are we now, as a community, prepared to respect both of the main cultural traditions of the Yukon? Are we prepared to agree to this new social contract between the original people and those of us who are relatively recent arrivals? Do we wish, as the public wishes, to get on with this great deed and to welcome the First Nations to their fair share of the benefits of this land and its resources? I believe that with these agreements First Nations retake control of their part of their lands and a large part of their lives, and that is a very good thing; it is the best thing that could happen to the territory.
In negotiations, nobody gets everything they want. This is as true for the Yukon government as it is for the First Nations but, taken as a whole, I believe these agreements are good for all of us and good for the whole territory.
In closing, I want to thank all concerned that it is finally getting done. Negotiators in this process, going back to the Hon. Member for Hootalinqua, have not always been complimented on the floor of this House for their work, but I want to take this opportunity today to pay special tribute to the chief negotiators with whom it has been my pleasure to work: Barry Stuart, Doug McArthur, Shakir Alwarid - I would like to mention every single person who has contributed enormously to the land claims process, particularly the employees of this government, some of whom are here today, but I will have to do that on another occasion.
I cannot let this day pass without, of course, paying tribute to the work of David Joe, Victor Mitander and many other people who have been central to the First Nations negotiating team.
As well, I want to pay tribute to the work of Mike Whittington, Tim Koepke and their colleagues. I would like to say thank you to Judy Gingell, Chair of the Council for Yukon Indians and the federal Minister, Mr. Tom Siddon, with whom I have had the honour of working to complete these agreements over the last several weeks and months.
Mr. Lang: We are very pleased to have before us the legislative proposals for the consideration of a final Indian land claims settlement in the Yukon. I think that it is safe to say that all Members in this House are seeking to find a resolution of the Yukon Indian land claims that is fair, just and equitable to all people in the Yukon, native and non-native.
Therefore, the question is not whether there should be a land claims settlement on behalf of the Indian people in Yukon, but rather, the question is whether or not we are being presented with a package that is workable for all of the people in the Yukon.
The package before us is not just a financial bill, it is not just a social bill, nor is it just a political bill; it is a social, political and financial contract that is not going to last for six months or five years; once it has been agreed to, it is going to set the stage for Yukons political, economical and social future for decades to come.
I submit to all Members of the House and to all people of the territory that the package that has, for the most part, been negotiated behind closed doors is going to have to bear very close and objective scrutiny to see whether or not it meets the objectives of this Legislature: that it be workable for all people of the territory.
In historical terms, Members on this side of the House were involved, as government, in land claims negotiations. In 1984-85, they came very close to a final resolution of the Indian land claims settlement under the able leadership of the then land claims negotiator and now Member for Hootalinqua.
I make this point to emphasize that I think the public and all Members want a resolution of this issue on behalf of the Indian and non-Indian people of the territory.
At second reading, we are speaking to the principle of documents that were tabled in this House at midday, two days ago. The tabled documents exceed 800 pages, and we indicated to the Minister that it would have been our preference to have left the documents at first reading stage in the proceedings of the bill. One cannot deal with the umbrella final agreement in isolation from the other documents that were tabled, because they are all inter-related; they all have commonality, and they all have information that is complementary to one another. Quite frankly, in some ways, it is unfair to ask Members who have not been involved in negotiations behind closed doors to stand up and give reasoned, logical presentations in this House, specifically respecting the two documents on self-government.
I want to make it very clear that it is not our intention to hold up the bill in second reading. We recognize the importance of this legislation to the Indian people of the territory and also, to the public as a whole.
The bill before us is going to have significant impacts and implications on all Yukoners, native and non-native, and the various communities and families throughout the territory. What is being asked is going to have some very serious long-term consequences for all of us. It is of the utmost importance to each one of us as Members of this House to evaluate, as objectively as possible, the documents before us. We support the formation of a special committee of this House. We feel that it will create the public forum that is so necessary for all Yukoners to be able to view these documents and try to understand the implications on the Yukon and individual Yukoners, both native and non-native.
We feel it will be absolutely essential that the committee to be struck by this House later today in our proceedings have expert witnesses from the federal and territorial governments to make clear to all Members of the House and the public the full financial implications of these agreements to the First Nations of the Yukon, the formula financing agreement and the municipalities.
I also submit that this committee will have to call for expert witnesses to ascertain the constitutional implications of the changes that are going to be required to the legislative authority of the Government of Yukon - the Yukon Legislature, which is the peoples forum.
A number of general questions will have to be answered during the course of the coming months, and I want to leave you, Mr. Speaker, with a number of them that come to my mind. For example, will it be required that the governing bodies of all of the First Nations be duly elected through the process of one person, one vote? I think the native people of the Yukon have a right to know that. Does the full force of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms apply to all Yukoners, native and non-native, once a land claims settlement has been finalized? Does the umbrella agreement and the self-government agreements grant taxing authority to the 14 First Nations, which is presently the exclusive domain of the Government of Yukon? If so, how is it going to affect the Yukon peoples ability to continue to finance government programs presently administered by the Legislature for all of the people of the Yukon, native and non-native? How does this agreement affect our municipalities, not just financially, but also from the point of view of the general laws of application, and how is it going to work? Do we have a long-term agreement concerning the formula financing between the Government of Yukon and the Government of Canada, which is so critical for the people of the territory, to continue to have the programs that are being provided through this Legislature?
How does this agreement, when implemented, affect proceedings before the courts? Will all Yukoners, native and non-native, be treated the same?
Do the people of the Yukon agree to the following principle: when a law is passed by a First Nation, and this law is in conflict with a law passed by this Legislature, should the law of the First Nation supersede territorial law? This question will have to be seriously considered by the people of the territory and by the Members of this House.
What is going to happen to the Department of Indian Affairs when a land claim agreement is implemented?
Another area that is going to have to be duly considered, watched and scrutinized very closely is the present constitutional talks, as well as the final agreements that are reached around those tables. Obviously, there could well be some effect on the agreements that have been tabled in this House.
As you can see, there are many questions that are going to have to be answered with respect to the package before us prior to the public debate taking place in this House. I share, in part, some of the concerns expressed by the Government Leader. For the record, I want to say that every Yukoner should feel free to express their views on this contract, these documents, this legislation - call it what you may - whether these views are shared by all or none of the Members of this House or that select committee.
We are not just talking about the rights and privileges of the Members of this House or those people who are in the audience today; we are talking about the rights, privileges and futures of our children. I concur that the document before us is probably the most important legislation we will have to deal with in the course of this term. Each and every Member in this House has a duty and a responsibility to deal with it wisely, properly, and at the same time ensure that the compromise reached is in the best interests of the Indian people and the rest of the public. If we do not go into the special committee hearings without that attitude, the public is going to become very, very cynical.
We are living in a very historic time, not just in view of the constitutional discussions in Canada and the debate that is encompassing us on a daily basis, but with the issue on which we are going to have to make a final decision in the life of this House. We are going to set the stage for many years to come.
I want to conclude by saying that we are here to help. We are here to see if there are weaknesses in these particular documents and, if there are, then it is our duty, obviously, to bring forward ideas about how to remedy them.
As Members of the Yukon Party, we will be here to serve, and we will do our duty to the best of our ability.
Ms. Kassi: First of all, I would like to welcome the Yukon First Nations who are here in the House today for this occasion. There are some important Vuntut Gwichin people who are not here with us today because of the death of one of our elders the other day, Martha Kendi. They would also have liked to have been here today.
There are some important points I would like to make first, in order to help explain some of these things for our people back home. Today is just the start of the process, as we keep hearing today. Implementation will not commence until after four First Nations sign their agreements, this Legislature passes Bill No. 73 and Bill No. 92, and the federal government passes their legislation. This is another beginning of another process.
I would like to thank my grandfather - I think about him a lot today and have during the last few days - for teaching and showing me the traditions of our people, the Vuntut Gwichin. It is the way of our ancestors that has brought us to this point in our history, and I know many of our people also think of their ancestors.
It is because of their wisdom, the wisdom of the elders that we learn from, that we know this is the correct way to go. In those days, nobody told us we were right or wrong in our beliefs. Nobody gave us the right to do these things and practice our ways. Nobody allowed us to have our own land, and nobody signed away our rights. This is the first principle of inherency.
The signing of the documents that have allowed this legislation to come forward before us today is one of the last stages toward formal recognition of this right.
In the time before contact, this land was not known by anyone else but the people of the First Nations.
We were the caretakers, the proprietors. We lived in harmony with the land and with all the living things that inhabited this earth.
There was no ownership of the land, because we belonged to the land. Mother Earth allowed us to take up residency here, so that we might survive. We were also given the responsibility to take care of her, to give back to the earth what we took out of it, so that our children would also be able to survive.
We shared what we had with those who needed it. If there was famine in some parts, feasts would be held so our people would be taken care of. We have our traditional lands where this happens.
This is an area of the north Yukon that was described to us by our elders. We know this land as we know ourselves. This land is the reflection of who we are as a people. This land is where we come from, and it is where we will return. The people of this land are at home here. The land and the people are one. We are interchangeable, and we are indistinguishable.
As the land changed, so did our people. We adapted to the different environments and conditions. Our forefathers and foremothers were able to survive for thousands of years, through ice ages, famine, sickness and through drought. This was possible because, when the land changed, the people changed, because we are a part of it.
When the white fur traders and explorers came to our area, we welcomed them. There was no need to exclude them from our world. There was plenty of land and food to share with them. We shared our ways of hunting, our shelters, our knowledge of the foods on the land, and this was good. They learned a great deal from us and, in turn, we learned from them.
This is how it has always been. This was not uncommon or unnatural for us. We were happy to share our resources, our ways and our knowledge. There was no reason to sign a treaty or anything, because everyone understood that this was our land, and our rights to the land were not in question. Nobody would take it away from us and nobody would be allowed to. Supposedly we were protected by the laws of Ottawa and London, England. This was understood and our lives continued.
In the recent years, it became obvious that, as our country grew and developed, not everyone agreed with these principles. Not everyone who came to our land knew the laws that must be obeyed, the spirits that must be obeyed and the respect for the earth and everything on it. This made it very difficult for us from time to time. We knew what was occurring and that it was not always correct. We started seeing changes in the land that we had no control over. There were activities they were not in tune with and were not in tune with this land. These powerful forces came from the outside. It became obvious to us that something was out of control and that our lives were in danger.
The people who were making these changes were not from here, but from another place. They started to ignore us and force changes on us that we did not want. They started to trap out our lakes and empty our rivers of fish. They dug up the mountains for gold, cut down the forests for fuel, boats and homes. Then they tore through our land with bulldozers and left a wake of disease, the likes of which our people had never seen before or since. They started to limit our movement and our freedom to go about our business in a way that was comfortable and known by us. We were told that our gods were not real and that to pay homage and give gifts to them was not only wrong, but illegal.
There were times when we were not allowed to communicate with each other; however, the words of a language are only one way of talking. There are many other messages that go along when one is speaking to someone. All of this was forbidden to us. Not only were we not allowed to use our own words, we were denied our songs, the subtleties of our languages, the gestures of our dances, the spirits embodied in our masks, the meanings of our special holidays, the power of our potlatches and, most of all, the respect and pride of being an Indian.
They put us into villages or reserves where they wanted them, but not where our people had met and congregated in the past. These reserves had no meaning for us, and they were separate from the white community. They wanted us close by for their convenience, so they could keep an eye on us. In the majority of the communities in the Yukon, however, we were placed on the other side of the river.
We were forced into a dependency on money that we were unaccustomed to. In the past, we had no need for banks into which money could be deposited for use in the future. Our future was dependent on how we managed and protected our resources. This was our security because, without the resources that we gathered from the land, the water and the air, we would not survive.
Before 1948 and the building of the highway, we were economically independent. We had the skills and the ability to survive and provide for our families. We had our own governments. Many of our people, however, left the traplines in pursuit of this easy money. After a few years, when the money ran out, our traps turned to rust and our traplines became overgrown.
The term non-status Indian was created and implemented. To many of us, this is a disgusting and racist word; it is also contradictory. How can someone be an aboriginal and not have any status? It was nothing but bribery. We were the first and only people here. We were considered to be savages back then. But, we have come full circle and have left these things behind us.
When this legislation is passed, we will legally be recognized as who we are - the first people of the First Nations, of this country. The signing of the land claims and self-government agreements has been a testament to the value and spirit of negotiation and consensus, and a belief by all three parties that aboriginal people have a right to be recognized in this manner.
It recognizes the fact that we have the ability to determine our own future, that we possess the power and the right to conduct our lives the way that best suits us, and that this power is something that has been given to us, not by any government, but by our ancestors and our creator - the creator who has given us strength and guidance over these thousands of years to bring us to this day today.
I am very proud to be Gwichin today and I am very proud of the fact that the Vuntut Gwichin have been the first to sign this agreement; it is under our name that this legislation is being brought forward. Our people have long awaited the day when other people recognize what we already know: that they would respect the land that belonged to us; that justice would be in accordance with our own laws; that the prevailing culture and traditions would be Vuntut Gwichin; that our children would be educated in a traditional way; that it would be our system of resource management that would guide the proper use and development of any of these resources; that our language would one day be the primary language spoken among our people in our community; that our culture would no longer be practised - it would be the culture; that this time that has just passed would be recorded in history as a time of cultural famine when we almost disappeared but did not; that the beliefs of the Vuntut Gwichin everywhere would be the guiding principles upon which we live; that our children would be secure because they would have access and control over their lives; and that this would become the normal way of being for the Yukon First Nations.
What we have now before us is the opportunity to regain this knowledge, to establish these principles in law, to use them to guide us and our children in the future, and to provide our people with the opportunity for our elders to teach us the things that are important to our nations.
Only we know this and only we can determine what is good for ourselves. We are the best judges of what is important. We trust our negotiators and our leaders and know that they have done what is right for our people. The people whom they represent have given them the authority to speak on our behalf. Our prayers have been offered every day and we know that they have been guided by the spirits of our land and by our ancestors from the other side.
The negotiation of these land claims is the most significant event to happen since our people first saw the white traders coming up the river. Constitutionally, it is the most important thing since the Yukon first became a territory in 1898.
The legal basis for the treatment of aboriginal people dates from the Royal Proclamation of 1763, when the British Crown said it would settle in a fair and just manner with the First Nations before expropriating our land. I heard that comment so many times from Dave Joe.
On July 15, 1870, the Government of Canada took over responsibility for the territories under the Ruperts Land Transfer. It said, and I quote, Upon transference of the territories in question to the Canadian government, the claims of the First Nations to lands required for the purpose of settlement will be considered and settled in conformity with the equitable principles which have uniformly governed the British Crown in its dealing with the aborigines.
Not only did this mean that Canada took over responsibility for the lands, but it constitutionally entrenched a promise to negotiate a treaty or land claims with the First Nations. This was all supposed to be done before opening up our home lands to settlement by non-natives. Since there was a great deal of money to be made from the furs and the gold fields of the Yukon, the Government of Canada ignored this requirement and has given our land away without any lawful authority.
When the 12 chiefs of the Yukon Native Brotherhood went to Ottawa in 1973 with our statement of grievances and our approach to the settlement of land claims - the document Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow - it was taken very seriously.
This was the first time in Canadian history that people of native ancestry made such a presentation. It was based on the principle that we have the legal and inherent right to self-government, and that we have a legitimate claim to occupy our own lands.
This past century is like a sickness that has come into our village and taken its toll on our people. We have lost some very good people in this illness of alienation. Many have gone on, taking much wisdom and knowledge with them. These past 19 years are just the closing chapter of the long story that we will tell our children.
However, as in many stories, it is always the ending that is the best and most important part. This will be a story full of joy and sadness, hardship and peacefulness, of pain and pleasure, of feast and famine; in short, it will be a story of our life.
People sometimes talk about the 19 years of negotiations that have passed as if they were too long a time. Yes, it has been very long and we are now facing the home stretch, but because this document is so important, it is probably a good thing that it has taken this long to come to an agreement - there is so much at stake.
In terms of our history, this is only a short time, but a vital time, because never before has our entire existence been threatened the way that it was. Today as we gather here, we are able to see a positive time in our history fast approaching. We know that today is only significant because it helps us determine what tomorrow will be like.
Our elders told us not to give up, not to quit and to live up to our commitment to continue this process. We must not give up, and we will not. This process will continue long after we are all gone from this time. This is the process that will pull the Yukon Territory together toward equality, fairness and a just society. We must celebrate, feast and heal ourselves. We must leave behind the devastating past that has haunted us for the last few years.
In the history of our people, this is but a short time. The horrors of it will pass with time and with healing.
Sometimes, I think we have given up too much in order to achieve these things, but I am encouraged when I look back and see how far we have come and the progress we have made in the past little while, just to get to this point.
We have been in this position before, and we were disappointed when it did not go through. We listened to our elders, and they were always right, so here we are again today. We are very close to having our rights entrenched into the Constitution of Canada. It has been a long, hard struggle. We are a quiet people and like to keep to ourselves, for the most part, but we have chosen to expose ourselves to the world, in order to explain and demonstrate why this is so important to us.
This has taken its toll. The families of the negotiators and chiefs were often jeopardized by the amount of time spent apart. There has been a great number of compromises that had to be made. As we begin to live with these agreements, we will come across things we will disagree with. There will be resentments and arguments. We must realize that this will happen and learn to be patient with one another and trust the process. It is impossible and, perhaps, not even important to tally the number of people and amount of time put into getting to this point. This is made evident by the sheer volume and comprehensiveness of these documents before us.
We must offer up our thanks and prayers to each and every one of the people who participated in it. I would like to give special recognition to the wives, grandmothers and children of our chiefs and negotiators. They need to be thanked for their willingness to lose their husbands to this process, becoming single parents for long periods of time.
Grandfathers, husbands and mates also need to be thanked for supporting the negotiators and the women who are emerging as leaders in the aboriginal community today.
I am honoured to speak on behalf of the Vuntut Gwichin and of the Gwichin nation across the north, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank our own people as well in my language.
[Translation from Gwichin: Today in this Yukon government house - they call it - we talk about the land claim; for 20 years now, we have talked about a land claim. The other day, Sunday, May 31, at 12 oclock midnight, our Chief Roger Kay, Stanley Njootli, Steven Mills, Gregory Charlie, Colin Biersto - the white man who worked for us - and the government signed it.
Chil luk nye. When we talk about our land claim I often remember our ancestors past. I remember an early meeting that included Chitze Peter Moses, Chitze Elias Gwahlati, Chitze Neil McDonald and Big Joe Kyikavichik.
My uncles and past chiefs of council have passed on: Peter Benjamin, Peter Lord, Charlie Able, Abraham Peter and Lazarus Charlie. They are happy; I know it. We thank them, but thank you is so little.]
I would also like to recognize our people who are working with us today, and our elders back home: our elders Shitsuu Sarah Able, Charlie Peter Charlie, Stephen Frost, Johnnie Able, sheehkaii Ellen Bruce, dinjii chit John Joe Kay, dinjii chit Robert Bruce, Sr., chitsii Moses Tizya, Kenneth Nukon, Peter Benjamin and Alfred Charlie. Dinjii Khaihkai Roger tsat yah nijilzhii kat - [Our Chief Roger Kay and those who stand with him.] I also thank Stanley Njootli, Grafton Njootli, Alice Frost, Steven Mills and Gregory Charlie, for being there to see it through to today, as well as the people who helped us so much to negotiate these agreements: Victor Mitander, who worked for years and years on this claim; Dave Joe, who always brought his sense of humour and integrity with him, and who was always there when we needed some legal advice and he continues to be by our side; Dave Porter, who spoke on our behalf many times in this Legislative Assembly; George Henry, who, I am glad to say, is back with us again; Albert Peter, Cheryl McLean, Mike Smith, Georgina Sidney, Dorothy Wabisca; many other people who are responsible, such as Lu Johns-Penikett, Judy Gingell and the executive of the Council for Yukon Indians, both past and present; all of the people who worked at the Indian Centre for the past 20 years and we kept them so busy, some of whom are here today - I cannot name everyone, but I know Dietmar Tram and Lulu Tizya are here.
I would like to thank the federal and territorial negotiators; and from my people I would like to say to the Hon. Tom Siddon that we will express our sincere thanks to him when the federal legislation goes through in the fall.
I would like to save the honour of the closing thanks and give it to Chief Jim Boss, who set the ground for us and who started this process; and also to Elijah Smith, who continued the process up until recently - we will never, ever forget.
In closing, I would like to quote one of our negotiators, Victor Mitander, The settlement of claims will mark an historic watershed between the era in which the First Nations most basic human rights were routinely ignored and the new era in which our rights in and to our homelands have been detailed and entrenched in the Constitution of Canada. For all Yukoners, native and non-native alike, the settlement of the claim will mark the coming of age of the Yukon Territory. Mahsi cho.
Mr. Brewster: I can say that I am very pleased to see at last, after 19 years - although some people tell me that it is 20 years and some people tell me 18 years, so somewhere along the line we have lost a couple of years - that we are now close to agreement. I, too, agree that we should not have taken that length of time to get to where we are.
It has been a long road and it is has been very rocky for everybody - every culture, every MLA in this Legislature, all people outside and the negotiators. It has been a very rocky road. In fact, I think it was probably worse than the Alaska Highway, and that is pretty bad.
I am not going to speak on the principle of this too much, because, first, it has taken 19 years to get where it is today. There are 800 pages and I have only had most of the documentation relating to this legislation for about two and one-half days; I am not going to think that I am an expert in two and one-half days. Therefore, I will make some general comments on this and I promise you, Mr. Speaker, I will sit down and start reading the 800 pages as fast as I can.
I would like to point out - although we should celebrate, and I agree that we should - that one agreement with one First Nation really is not the final conclusion of this settlement. There are many more agreements that have to be made with other First Nations and I hope that those agreements come along very fast. I hope that any hurdles that we have in the meanwhile can be settled quickly, in order to have the other First Nations sign their claims and settle.
I sincerely hope that after all of these years of negotiation this government does not try to push this legislation through before we have thoroughly discussed it with the people of the Yukon through the special committee that the Government Leader is forming.
There are many questions that have to be answered and there are many things that have to be understood. To be understood, these agreements have to be written in plain language, not the language that some of the negotiators, whom I think are lawyers, would use. People would be spending most of their time in a dictionary to find out what they are saying.
However, I have a lot of faith in Yukoners, and although at many times Yukoners disagree, that disagreement seems to melt away quickly. I feel that the majority of Yukoners are very fair-minded and that they will all do their best to understand this complicated document. These agreements and legislation are changing a whole society. Just what it really means for the Yukon, only time will tell. We will have to test the waters to see what happens.
There will be mistakes in this document. There is no way that a document as great as this can be prepared that will help just one society without mistakes. Some things just do not work and they will have to be discussed again and again and again. At least we have made progress on this, though. I hope that all people in the Yukon keep an open mind on this.
In closing, I would like to remind everyone that, by tabling this legislation, the Legislature has taken one small step forward. Other First Nations have yet to sign the agreements, and it is very important that the remaining First Nations explain to their members, before they sign, just what they are getting into. Many of the elders - like me - have a very hard time understanding some of the language that has been used in this agreement.
I also hope that the federal government does not get mixed up in politics, legislation and elections and mess things up, as they, too, have to sign this agreement. After 19 years of hard work, I certainly hope that this never happens.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will be comparatively brief. I believe that the Premier has laid out the principles of the bill very well. He has provided the history behind the land claims process and has explained the significant features of the land claims agreement.
The Member for Old Crow spoke very eloquently about the spirit behind the discussions, behind the talks and behind her people. I will not attempt to repeat some of the remarks that she has made because I cannot match her eloquence or her passion, as much as I would like to.
This is an important occasion in the life of our Legislative Assembly. It is an honour to be present to acknowledge the moment. To give approval in principle to the land claims agreements not only marks the end of a long period of negotiations - 18, 19 or 20 years since the beginning of this legislative approval process - but it also signals the beginning of a new era for Indian people and for the entire territory.
Participating in the negotiation process has been a high priority for this government. It has invested a lot of political energy and a great deal of resources to ensure that all parties have the greatest chance of success. So many people have been involved and so many people have invested their heart and soul into this project that, I suppose, in retrospect, it could not fail.
Governments have a clear, unequivocal legal obligation to come to terms with First Nations people on developing a new social contract and providing for new economic opportunities. However, it was much more than a legal obligation that brought people to the negotiating table month after month and year after year, and maintained the generally cooperative spirit that is essential to its success.
It is an impressive event in this world of turmoil and confrontation to establish a new, social contract through negotiation without serious confrontation and litigation. This, I believe, demonstrates the maturity and humanity of all those people who have been involved.
It also shows, as a model to other civilizations, that people of different traditions, cultures and languages can live productively together, without one group subjugating the rights of others. It officially recognizes the fundamental legitimacy of the traditions and cultures of people that are rooted in centuries of Yukon history. It respects the wisdom of the elders and demonstrates real faith in younger generations to work constructively and cooperatively for the betterment of all people in this territory.
I support this bill, because it will provide for the greatest opportunity for the continued health of the rich aboriginal traditions and culture. It will provide for self-determination for Indian people, which will ensure that the future of their civilization is very much in their hands. I also support this bill because the land claims agreements outline a rational and civilized way for all people to work together for the benefit of all.
There will be certainty over lands and resources, a single land use planning system, and a single development assessment process. There will be a better wildlife management system, which will include, in some ways, quite a revolutionary provision that ensures the survival of fish and wildlife species - the animals themselves. There will be more decision-making powers for the public, which is consistent with our drive for a more rigorous democratic system. Decision-making will be brought closer to those people who are affected by the decisions. There will be new economic opportunities and greater attention paid to social and community developments.
There are many benefits; the list is long. There are many historic accomplishments wrapped up in this one bill. To approve it in principle today is the right and just thing to do.
As the Member for Mayo, I would like to thank the elders of the Na-Cho Nyak Dun, the council and Chief Robert Hager for their supreme patience and the inspiration and energy they have brought to the negotiations. I would also like to thank all the other people in the Mayo district for their support, understanding and generous spirit.
In the Mayo area, the need for cooperation has been echoed by all people, and they can be justly proud of this moment. There is a lot of work to be done. There are First Nations final agreements to negotiate and ratify; then there is the implementation of the claim itself. However, I believe the goal is worth every bit of the energy we contribute.
I would like to thank all negotiators for their hard work. I would like to thank the Premier for the energy he has applied to this particular project. I would like to thank all Members of our caucus and all the Members of the Legislature, who have provided support to this project, and I would like to thank all people of the territory, especially First Nations people, for the energy and the spirit they have applied to this project over the last 20 years. Again, I feel it is an appropriate conclusion to a very difficult history. This moment should be cherished in the annals of the Yukon legislative history, and I am certain our comments today will be remembered for a long time to come.
Mrs. Firth: It is a privilege for me, as a Yukoner, to be a Member of this Legislative Assembly firstly, and particularly to be a Member of the Assembly on such an historic occasion.
I rise today to speak about the principle of the bills before us: An Act Approving Yukon Land Claim Final Agreements and the First Nations (Yukon) Self-Government Act. Although I may personally have many questions about the details of the agreement, I will not be raising them today because my personal feeling is that this week should be a time of celebration and congratulations. That celebration and congratulations should be extended to all of the people who have been working on the land claims process for so many years and particularly to the aboriginal people of the Yukon who have, through many, many years of patience and dignity, fought for something they believed in. They have been the ones who have made the great achievement today and I think that achievement should be recognized. There should be special recognition and attention to the Vuntut Gwichin who have led the way for the native people of the Yukon Territory. I congratulate the Member for Old Crow who has stood in this House and represented her people for the last seven or eight years - and represented them well.
I know there are many questions outstanding in the minds of many Yukoners; constituents have expressed concerns to me, and I know there is more work to be done. More decisions have to be made, more compromises to be reached and more cooperation has to be sought. I think all Yukoners will have more confidence, as a result of what has happened here this week, that we will be able to make those decisions, that we will be able to reach the compromises and that we will be able to have the cooperation that is necessary to finalize these land claims agreements.
As Members of this Assembly, we are going to be debating a motion this afternoon with respect to having a committee made up of all parties in this Assembly to further examine the 800 and some pages of the agreements. As a Member of this Assembly, I hope to be on that committee and to have the opportunity to become better informed about the agreements, because I feel it is my responsibility to do that in order to pass the information on to my constituents, the people whom I represent.
I am anticipating that there is going to be a lot of hard work ahead of us - ahead of all of us as Yukoners - in order to complete this process that has been started. I agree with the Member for Old Crow, who suggested we should have a special holiday to designate this and I am sure she will be following up on that.
My advice to all of us who are going to be involved in finalizing this great process, and to the Premier who has taken the lead role in providing information to other Yukoners with respect to land claims, is that the information that goes out now to Yukoners should be clear and direct, and it should answer their questions. I totally agree with some of the comments that have been made in public by the leadership of the Council for Yukon Indians that this not be made into a political football, that our discussions be constructive and fruitful, and that there be a consensus reached, as opposed to parties or individuals taking opposing points of view. It is going to be very difficult to achieve that, because there are going to be people in the Yukon who have opposing points of view with respect to the fine details of the land claims settlement.
Again, my advice is that, if there are direct questions, we should give direct answers. As some of the other Members have mentioned this afternoon, the answers should be in language that all Yukoners can understand, so they can grasp the full meaning of this.
There have been few inquiries to our offices with respect to the announcement that was made this week. When it was made, I thought it was a great day and that the public would be talking about it and phoning to ask if they could see it. However, I have not had a lot of inquiries about it, so I started phoning some of my constituents to see why everyone was not excited and commenting on this announcement. The comments that I heard were reflective of those revealed in the survey that was done on Yukon people with respect to the land claims negotiations and self-government. People did not feel they had enough knowledge about self-government. In our deliberations as a Committee, we have to take that into account and make every effort to get more information out to the people of the Yukon.
The Government Leader must be wondering about that, because he has had public meetings. I know the turnout at some of them was not great. We hear the comments from our own constituents that they are tired of hearing about land claims discussions.
On the other hand, they say that they still do not have enough information about self-government; they do not have enough knowledge about what the whole process is about and what effect it is going to have on the lives of all Yukoners. I think we have to be patient, as the aboriginal people were patient in negotiating these claims for so many years. We have to be patient and we have to be persistent in trying to get that information out to Yukon people so that the settlement of the land claims is received in a positive way and can be a positive development for all Yukon people, as opposed to one that is mired in confrontation and animosity.
I will finish by again extending my congratulations to the aboriginal people. This is their week to celebrate, and I think we should all be aware of that and recognize that.
Mr. Joe: It is a great honour for me to rise today to help celebrate the land claims legislation. I welcome all of the people who are gathered here. It is also an honour to offer thanks to all of the people who worked so hard, not just on this land claim, but in making sure that aboriginal people have and maintain the recognition that we deserve.
This has come in the form of land that has been transferred to First Nations, the right to govern ourselves, and in compensation. It is very important to realize that we never lost this right; we never gave it up to anyone else.
What this means is that we never said what we wanted for ourselves. We were not allowed to do this. It was always someone else taking control of our lives.
In 1973, when I signed my name to the document Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow, it was the first time that, as a people, we sat down and put our thoughts and beliefs into an official paper.
When we took this to Ottawa, it was accepted. Since then, a great number of people have worked very hard to keep the principles of this statement alive.
We are here today to celebrate the completion of negotiations for the Vuntut Gwichin final agreement. It is not over yet, and there is still a great deal of work to be done. We must continue to work together on this very important matter. We must take our time to make sure that this is the agreement that we want for our people.
We have been very close to this point in the past and have realized, at the last minute, that there were things that were still unclear. We knew there were parts that were not right for us.
We pray that the negotiators will have the strength and skills to complete what they have set out to do, that they will listen to the elders and take guidance from them, and that they will continue to have pride in what they have accomplished.
Before closing my speech, I want to say a few words about my great friend, Elijah Smith.
Can you imagine today that, in 1973, we were in Ottawa. Elijah Smith used to tell me this is where we will have to go. You should take care of them like little kids, he said.
There was something that really touched my heart today. Someone mentioned Elijah Smith. I am sorry that he is not here with us today, but look at all the people who are here in the gallery. Elijah trained them all, and his words should never be forgotten.
That is all that I have to say. Thank you very much.
Mr. Phelps: It is a very tremendous occasion that we are speaking upon today. It is a very important time in the history of the Yukon and of Canada. As I was sitting here pondering exactly what I would have to say to the people, I was thinking about the history of the claims and about some of the things that have been said by the speakers before me.
I want to say that this is a movement that goes back many years. The Member for Old Crow mentioned Chief Jim Boss and his attempts in 1902 to start a land claims process, and many other people in the interim made starts, false starts and failures before we finally came to the last series of processes that began with the tabling of the famous document Together Today for our Children Tomorrow.
I think that it is worth mentioning that two of the people who were heavily involved on that occasion are here in the House: the person who spoke before me, the Hon. Member for Tatchun, and you, Mr. Speaker.
In speaking with you this morning at coffee, Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased to hear that you would have a few words to say on this subject, later on this afternoon.
I was also thinking of some of the other people I personally knew who were involved way back in the beginning of this current new era, with respect to aboriginal rights and how the federal government treated those rights. Percy Henry was among that party of chiefs; Dan Johnston, the chief of Carcross at the time; Joe Jacquot, Johnny Johns and Elijah Smith were also involved at the time. Many of those people have since passed on. Many others, who were intimately involved in the processes over the last 19 years, have departed. The Member for Old Crow spoke of many of the very significant people who have contributed from her First Nation, many of whom are known to me and highly respected by all who were involved in the process. Today, we do think of some of those people.
I was thinking of my own personal experience. I have been involved to a minor degree in land claims negotiations from time to time, and have dealt with some of the federal negotiators in various capacities. I was trying to think of all the federal negotiators who have been involved in the process since it started. I can remember back to the days of Commissioner James Smith and the 1973 process. The first federal negotiator back then was a lawyer from Victoria, a Mr. Hutchinson. The first time, I was a Member of this Legislature, when I was asked to become involved in the negotiations for land claims. I must say that I was dealing with the subject from an abundance of abysmal ignorance at the time. Mr. Hutchinson thought that he would have the land claims negotiations wrapped up in about five or six months.
I can remember the day he came here for Rendezvous and tabled the unilateral position of the federal government. It was an agreement in principle, and he was totally surprised at the scorn and derision he received. Fortunately, Rendezvous was well attended and kept his name somewhat out of the papers and the news.
After he gave up and went on to other things, there was Digby Hunt. He was followed by John Naysmith. I recall very clearly, at that time, being involved in the Alaska Highway gas pipeline hearings in 1977. I can recall the expert testimony that we received at the commission in those days. John Naysmith was assuring us that the process was coming to an end and would be settled within the year. We were basing a lot of our recommendations on that expert advice. He was followed by Maurice Aked, then by an MP in Ottawa, Dr. Holmes, then Dennis OConnor and finally by Mike Whittington and Tim Koepke. There have been a cast of people representing that party over the course of the last 19 years. Of course, the major players for CYI and YTG have changed and gone through a lot of people since Commissioner Smith and then I was on, for a short period of time, and George Shaw and Ken McKinnon, Barry Stuart, Chris Knight and Shakir Alwarid - those are some of the people just from that party. There have been more people than one could mention associated with and negotiating important issues for CYI and for, of course, each of the First Nations involved.
I want to say a few things about the process itself, because we do tend to stand here and talk about the land claims negotiations as if it was something very mystical and important. Really, during those 20 years, many people lived their lives around the negotiations. Certainly, in the seven years that I was involved almost continuously, a lot of good friends were made.
A lot of life was lived and a lot of humorous things happened during that time - again referring back to when the Member for Old Crow was talking about all the people who were left behind while negotiations went on. I can recall several people who were away while their wives had children. I remember Gordie Steele, Vic Mitander and others; I, myself, got married in the process - I met my wife through the land claims. So, it has certainly had an impact on our lives - and an important one, I hasten to add, in case my wife reads the transcript, which I am sure she will.
We had some tough negotiations. We stood united with regard to problems from groups outside Yukon. We struggled together, for example, to get a fair settlement on the Porcupine caribou herd Management agreement. There were all kinds of interesting and at times emotional sessions with the Inuit on the COPE agreement, and we often had incidents at the table when we met socially now we can think back and laugh about some of them. I recall one of the negotiators for the federal government, for example, when asked how he had been chosen by the federal government to lead its team in negotiations, stating that he had been chosen by a computer, which was amusing to most of the rest of us around the table and we wondered who was programming the computer. That was something he never did live down.
We also enjoyed common fellowship with a good many of the very prominent, historic figures who started the process - people like Elijah Smith, to whom the Member for Tatchun has already paid tribute; Johnny Johns and Joe Jacquot, to name but a few.
There is no question, echoing the words of others before me, that the process becomes exhausting. People have made a lot of personal sacrifices and, I am sure, there have been many, many such sacrifices since I was involved, nearly seven years ago. Sometimes I am amazed that I still see people who have managed to stick it out and stay with the process, such as Victor Mitander and Dave Joe, because they have certainly had their ups and downs, and have certainly had their patience tested, from time to time, by a lot of people.
Nonetheless, it has been an historic journey thus far. In years to come, I think that all who have been involved will look upon it - to use a description of Hemingways - as a moveable feast. There was a lot of joy, a lot of laughter; we met a lot of people in unusual circumstances. I think most people in the Yukon, and particularly people who have lived here for any period of time, have been touched directly, in one way or another, by the process and have certainly known or have been involved with, directly or indirectly, some of the very numerous players.
I do want to emphasize, though, that we had a lot of enjoyable times. I do not want to get into some of them because they would be embarrassing to others, and I would be opening up a can of worms - they would have a few stories to tell about me. I think of times, such as the all-night poker game in Elijah Smiths room in Ottawa, when he was one of the losers for a change, and he looked around the room, which had been rather used and full of ashtrays, and so on, in despair, so a couple of us stayed behind to help him clean up. I can think of all kinds of occasions when we enjoyed Stanley Cup games and went to see entertainers. I think it has been, for those of us who have been involved, from time to time, in its way, a rich and fulfilling process.
Others have already talked about what the principles are that are contained in the bills of which we speak, and it is interesting that they are numbered 73 and 92.
I think that it is important to say a few things about land claims, and my observations thereon; it is a very important and historic time, as everybody is saying.
I hope that most Yukon Indian people realize that land claims are not a panacea, but once claims are implemented they will certainly provide a lot of tools with which people and nations can build sound futures. However, I sometimes fear that there is a feeling that land claims is like waving a magic wand, and all of a sudden all of the ailments in our society and in our rural communities will be resolved, and that is not the case at all. This will provide us with the tools, but we will be dependent upon the initiative of all peoples and all of the leaders of our young people coming up - people being trained and people working hard. This will assist us; it will not by itself resolve all of the social and economic problems that we must, as a community, help people face and overcome.
I also join with others in cautioning that this is not over yet. It is not done yet. We thought that we had an agreement back in 1984. We thought that we had an agreement with Digby Hunt in 1976, and I am really very hopeful that this time our hopes and hard work will be rewarded by a ratification; I am particularly concerned about the federal government.
It always seems that these things come to a head and almost get resolved, when the winds of election are in the air, the winds of change, and there always seems to be an urgency to try to get this resolved before the federal government goes to the polls.
In the short time that I was involved, I certainly shared the experience of the rise and fall of government. I think that the negotiators for the Council for Yukon Indians and the federal government and some of us from here were very surprised with what happened in Ottawa when the Joe Clark government fell.
This came as a bit of a shock to us because we had to reschedule a whole bunch of meetings and figure out where we were going from there. I really hope that we are almost there. Certainly, there is a tremendous amount of goodwill, not only here in the Legislature, but goodwill throughout the Yukon from all people. It certainly would seem from observations that one makes from the media, and everything else, that there are people right across Canada who want to see us come to grips with some of the problems that our First Nation people face. A good deal of people feel that the tools that will be provided, by a settlement such as this, will go a long way to assist First Nations in taking control of their destinies, collectively, and individually, as well.
I would like to add my sincere thank you to all the negotiators, particularly the most recent ones, who have brought the process to its current state. I am particularly pleased to see that - I am going to have to be careful. I share Danny Joes problem with the pronunciation - the Vuntut Gwichin, the old people of Old Crow are first. They were always willing and ready to negotiate and settle. We came awfully close in 1984-85 and they were very disappointed with the outcome. I enjoyed working with the people and the elders that the honourable Member for Old Crow has paid tribute to. I always enjoy returning and visiting with many of those people when I am able to do so.
I have concluded most of the points that I want to make in this address. I support the bill in principle. Over the following weeks and months, there will have to be a very objective and careful examination of all aspects of the 800 pages that the committee will be looking at. We will have to encourage First Nations people and others to get involved and try to understand the agreements as soon as possible. There are certainly a lot of Yukoners who have a vague understanding about land claims, but they really do not have much of an understanding of what is entailed in the package that will be discussed here. It is a real problem to get people to take the time to become involved in understanding this agreement. Land claims has been on the front pages of newspapers time and time again and many people are tired of the process.
It is important that we get Yukoners involved again, once they understand that there is hope that, perhaps with some changes, this could very well be the final package that will be entrenched and serve as an important and very large part of the Yukons constitution for the future.
I am pleased that you, Mr. Speaker, and the Member for Tatchun are here, and I am pleased that you intend to speak. I thank the Member for Tatchun for his words before me. I again congratulate all involved and repeat that I am very pleased to be able to say these few words at this time.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Much of what we are doing today, in speaking to the principles of this bill at second reading, as already noted by previous speakers, is very much the result of the wisdom and the vision of leaders such as Jim Boss and Elijah Smith, among others. Since the formation of the Yukon Native Brotherhood in 1970, and the preparation of the document Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow in 1973, we have been awaiting the introduction of this legislation to the Yukon Legislature.
The objective of the legislation now before us is to give effect to the Yukon land claims settlements, to meet the legal, moral and ethical obligations of the Yukon to Yukon First Nations. It should be clear that a claims settlement will benefit all Yukoners - non-aboriginal and aboriginal. Among other benefits, the resolution of claims will introduce certainty into many fields of endeavour, facilitating the achievement of the social, economic and environmental objectives, as reflected in the Yukon economic and conservation strategies.
Some of those fields are the responsibility of my ministerial portfolios, as well as being subjects of personal interest, and I want to take this opportunity to briefly review the principles of this agreement, as they relate to the fields of endeavour in renewable resources and heritage.
In the area of land-use planning, claims settlement will establish First Nations as major land owners in the Yukon. In recognition that such ownership creates a significant and ongoing interest in participating in land-use planning, First Nation final agreements will set out planning criteria and procedures to ensure that responsible development proceeds in a manner that will accrue the maximum benefit possible to all Yukoners.
Under special management area provisions, we will undertake to incorporate the rights and interests of Yukon First Nations with non-aboriginal Yukoners when government creates new parks, sanctuaries, wilderness or other special areas.
With respect to water, a reconstituted water board will have one-third of its members nominated from Yukon First Nations. Other nomination procedures will ensure that non-aboriginal and industrial interests are fully represented on the new board, which will serve as an adjudication mechanism for the resolution of water disputes throughout the Yukon.
Negotiation of the transfer of jurisdiction over forestry from the federal government to the Yukon is now underway. When this process is complete, the Yukon will have greater control in the management of its forest resources. Sustainable use and integrated management will be the key elements of our management policy. Claims settlements will provide us with the necessary tools to ensure that we proceed in a manner that respects the significant and ongoing interest of First Nations in preserving and utilizing forests, as well as meeting our respective social and economic objectives.
Within two years of the effective date of settlement legislation, both federal and Yukon legislation will be enacted to establish a development assessment board and give effect to the development assessment provisions, as outlined in the UFA. The board will be responsible for reviewing major projects to assess their effect on the Yukon environment, economy and society. While the inclusion of these provisions within settlement agreements will ensure the protection of First Nations interests, that is only one side of the picture. Along with protection comes responsibility on the part of all parties to work cooperatively to ensure that development proceeds in an environmentally responsible manner.
The development assessment process will set out rules and procedures that will clarify environmental protection and mitigation requirements for all Yukoners, while also simplifying the existing review process.
With respect to fish and wildlife, there are three resource management principles that this government has pursued through the Yukon land claims negotiations. These have been referred to as the three pillars of Yukon fish and wildlife management. The first is conservation. The management and harvesting of resources will be guided by the principle of conservation.
The second is shared use. Resources and harvest opportunities will be shared between Indian and non-Indian people of the Yukon.
The third is a one-management system. Indian and non-Indian people of the Yukon will manage fish and game together, through a single management system. District Renewable Resources councils and the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board will be the public management bodies.
In the heritage area, this agreement will establish certainty regarding ownership of First Nations historical artifacts and ensure the preservation and protection of burial sites.
Through the agreement, the government is committed to ensure the preservation and conservation of the First Nations heritage and to assist in the repatriation of heritage resources that have been removed from the Yukon.
The agreement also establishes a cooperative management model for the management of the Yukon heritage resources, which is also reflected in the Historic Resources Act. Yukon people, both Indian and non-Indian, will manage heritage resources together, through a public management body, which will be known as the Yukon heritage board.
In summary, a fair settlement of claims, which recognizes the prominent role of First Nations in the Yukon social and economic development, effective management of resources and the provision of good government for all Yukon people are our governments objectives. This settlement legislation will enable us to fulfill our legal and moral obligations to Yukon First Nations. At the same time, we are enshrining our common conservation, preservation and development goals and ensuring integration of management regimes for water, forests, land, heritage resources, special places and for the fish and wildlife that are so very important to us all.
I first arrived in the Yukon on August 1, 1973, the year this Yukon land claims settlement process began, which, coincidentally, is the number of this bill before us. Little did I know at that time that today, almost 20 years later, I would be involved in seeing an end - or at least almost an end - to this process. I am very proud to be playing a role as a legislator in that process.
As a Yukoner since 1973, I know that the road to this point has been a long and trying one, as the Member for Old Crow has pointed out so eloquently in her speech this afternoon. The dedication of all parties and the extreme effort by the negotiators are now coming to fruition. We owe a great debt of thanks to these individuals.
It is now time to look to the future with a spirit of fairness and justice and implement the agreements that have been negotiated between Yukon Indian people and the rest of us who have come to know the Yukon as home.
Mr. Devries: I also am proud to be able to speak in support of this motion. As are my colleagues, I am pleased to see this process slowly achieving its objective, which is to obtain a land claim that is acceptable to all people of the Yukon.
Much has been said with respect to the technical terms of these bills, and I will not pretend to fully understand them.
I often like to think back to the time when I first arrived in the Yukon, about 17 or 18 years ago. One of the first things I heard about after arriving was about the native land claims and that negotiations had been initiated. Although I have spent most of my life working alongside natives, I was still quite naive about the whole process. My first season in the Yukon bush was spent working alongside half a dozen or so members of Mr. Speakers community. They basically taught me how to be a big game guide.
I still recall times during that first year when there were campfire discussions that turned toward the land claims issue. Now, I do not want this to be taken out of context because, over the years, opinions change. At that time, however, the native guides themselves referred to the land claims issue as not knowing what the fuss was about - it was kind of a non-issue with them. One has to understand that most of these boys, although very educated in the ways of the bush, were uneducated in the complexities of the issue. As a few years went by, I found it interesting to note that the discussions turned more toward where they seemed to develop a bit of a resentment toward the white mans domination over their lives.
This became relevant, especially with one guide because, after the outfitter had received several complaints, he was left with no other option than to not re-hire the guide, as he had developed a habit of not being very civil to his hunter, who basically was his employer.
After that, I left the guiding business for several years and worked in town. I then had the opportunity to return to guiding about six or seven years after I had arrived in the Watson Lake area. Again, there was a change in the attitude among the guides, and basically, I worked with the same people. The guides were becoming much more supportive of the land claims movement. To put it more accurately, they were in support of seeking some control over their own lives and their land.
The people I am referring to may or may not be the norm, but what I am trying to say is that as the claim comes closer to becoming reality, people who would have been opposed to the claim 15 or 20 years ago - whether they are native or non-native - are starting to accept the idea as they gain a better idea of the claim and start to recognize that the claim is in the best interest of everyone that these issues be resolved.
One very seldom runs into people who do not seem to agree that a land claims settlement is in everyones best interest, and I will agree that there is always a few extremists around. Overall, I think that attitudes have changed considerably from the time when I first arrived in the Yukon.
With respect to the native side of the picture of the First Nations people, I have also spoken to some people who are very nervous and skeptical about the changes to take place, and rightfully so. All of a sudden these people are being faced with a situation where having been governed by this archaic Indian Act, and I cannot understand why there was not a rebellion sooner with regard to this act.
For example, in the last few weeks, with regard to the situation in the Liard River Indian Band and the referendum issue that has come up there, I have had the opportunity to review this act with several members of the band, and I cannot believe that anybody has been forced to live under this act for so many years.
All of a sudden some of these people are getting nervous about the fact that they are going to be making decisions for which they will be held responsible by their children - and rightfully so. We all do that every day and I think it is very unfortunate that, up to this time, the First Nations people have not had the opportunity to make decisions regarding their own future. That is very sad, but this act gives the First Nations people those opportunities.
I also want to go on record as saying that I have received some representation from members of the Kaska Nation that they are very concerned about not having had the opportunity to be full participants in the claims process up to this point, partly because of friction within the leadership.
People have expressed concern about the effect on the natives of mixed native ancestry and I hope this can be clarified when the committee goes around to the communities. We have many Kaskas in the Watson Lake area who have married Tahltans and members of other communities. From what they and I have seen of it, the agreement seems a little vague and there could be some potential problems. Already there have been some hiring problems in the Watson Lake area this summer with the native joint-venture companies.
As much as there seem to be a lot of options available to the bands on the choice of leadership and council, there does seem to be little direction on resolving that conflict within some of these documents; but by the same token, I recognize the fact that that matter does have to be resolved from within each native community itself. Again, I feel that the resolution of these issues is being hindered by this archaic Indian Act.
I look forward to debating the act further and getting a better understanding of the various issues.
I feel that today is a day of celebration and we have to look at the more positive aspects of this claim. Realistically, I feel that I am also a beneficiary of this claim and that it is in my interest to settle it because, as much as I own a lot in Watson Lake, I now question whether anybody ever had the authority to sell me that lot.
Once this land claim is settled, then perhaps I will be the rightful owner of my lot.
There will also be many new economic opportunities. We have already seen the success of the Kaska-Northlands joint venture and the Sa Dena Hes mine. There are also various other ventures that have been undertaken by bands. I must admit that when some of these joint ventures first took place, there were several people in Watson Lake who were skeptical. I was one of those skeptical people. The majority of the people are quite pleased with what is happening now.
In the past we have seen people within the bands with a vision. These people had no way of making their vision come true. With the passing of this act, the First Nations people will have the right to attempt to make that vision come true. I think that is great.
With this act, it is my hope that we can all recognize and accept our differences and work together for the common good of all Yukon people.
Motion to extend sitting hours
Hon. Mr. Webster: Pursuant to an agreement reached by the House Leaders and pursuant to Standing Order 2(7), I move
THAT the Assembly be empowered to continue sitting after 5:30 p.m. for the purpose of completing the business before the Assembly today.
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Motion to extend sitting hours agreed to
Hon. Ms. Joe: It certainly is a very exciting day for me. I have seen a lot of things happen in the last 19 years. I have actually been a part of some of the changes that were made. I do not think that I can physically explain the feelings that are going through my mind. Certainly, after almost 20 years of waiting, hearing promises, discussing options, making compromises and reaching consensus, I am proud to be a part of a government that has brought this historic legislation into the House at this time.
On Monday, when the land claims and self-government bills were tabled and visitors and legislators in this House applauded, I felt a lump in my throat as I thought about the long fight behind us and the hopeful future for Yukons First Nations. This is a time in history I am very proud to share with First Nations people.
In years to come, when children are being taught in their schools, one of the dates that they will have to memorize will be this historic day, the day that this Yukon Legislature passed the land claims and self-government bills.
When the same children are asked what impact this legislation had on the First Nations people of the Yukon, they will answer that, for the first time in many years, the people of the First Nations were given control and direction over their own destiny. It was recognized that First Nations had the authority and the right to govern their settlement lands and provide services for their people. After suffering many injustices for so many years under the Indian Act, First Nations governments will now be recognized as the legitimate government of and for First Nations people.
The First Nations people of the Yukon are just now beginning to heal from the many injustices they suffered: residential schools, physical and sexual abuse, alcohol abuse, a high suicide rate and a legal system that was not only racist in many cases, but also totally ignored the traditions of the aboriginal cultures. A lot of healing is taking place and communities are being rebuilt on a foundation of hope. This legislation provides that foundation and the spirit of the people provide the hope.
This is such an exciting time for the First Nations people of the Yukon and, in fact, all citizens of the Yukon. This landmark legislation has set a precedent that, most likely, will be used for other jurisdictions in Canada that also seek to finalize their land claims issues. Once again, the Yukon Territory is on the leading edge, leading other Canadians and other aboriginal nations, and showing them that, with open minds, sincere hearts, and a willingness to deal fairly, they, too, can solve their land claims issues. It can be done. We have done it, and so can they.
At long last, First Nations people will be responsible to protect the rights and freedoms of First Nations citizens. At long last, First Nations people will be responsible for their own assets. They will be able to establish their own laws and deliver their own programs, if that is their wish.
Citizens of First Nations will finally be able to provide programs and services to their people that are designed to meet their cultural, social, health and educational needs. These are rights that most Canadians have enjoyed for 125 years. Some of these are rights that have been denied generations of aboriginal people for the past 125 years. It is my hope that these rights will not be denied to First Nations people any longer.
I know there has been a lot of opposition to land claims. This has been a long, tough battle. Tempers have flared, accusations of apartheid have been bandied around, racist statements have been made, but the spirit of the aboriginal people did not weaken - the spirit of people like Elijah Smith, Angela Sidney, Johnny Johns and many other respected elders. Their spirits were strong, and their hope never faltered.
Yukon aboriginal people knew they had a legitimate claim. They knew they had to take back control of their resources. They knew they had to protect their traditions and culture for future generations, and the only way to do that was to take back the right to their lands and the right to self-government. They were not alone. Many non-native citizens of the Yukon had the same vision.
This New Democratic government had that same vision, and now that vision is a reality.
There are many individuals here today who played a major role in coming to this historic decision. Many of those people have worked long and hard and have showed much commitment. I would like to thank all those people. Many of them were named by the Member for Old Crow, when she made her presentation.
The respect they have gained throughout the long period of time is evident all around the Yukon. Our own people who made a large contribution to coming to this conclusion today have also spent many long years, hard times and long hours working to achieve this goal.
Finally, I would like to extend my congratulations to the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation people for being the first to complete their final agreement. I know they worked long and hard toward achieving this goal, and I know they are excited and full of hope for the future.
I have seen the Member for Old Crow speak over and over again about the rights and expectations, hopes and dreams of her people. It should be a very proud day, not only for us and for her, but also for the people of the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation.
I am full of hope that things will proceed on the positive note that it is proceeding on now.
Mr. Nordling: This is a pretty tough spot to be in, being the twelfth in a series of sixteen political speeches. There have been many speakers before me and there are several speeches left to come, before this afternoon is over. And, as a Legislature, we are going to be addressed by Judy Gingell, the chair for the Council for Yukon Indians, once our remarks have been concluded. I am looking forward to that address and am pleased that Judy Gingell has been in the gallery with us all afternoon, and is still there despite the time and all of the speeches that she has had to endure.
Many of the individuals involved in land claims negotiations have been named and thanked, so I will be brief. I am pleased to be here today to address the principle of this bill, Bill No. 73 - as the Member for Hootalinqua mentioned, No. 73 to reflect the year in which negotiations began. The act is entitled An Act Approving Yukon Land Claim Final Agreements. The act itself is very short - three pages in total - and simply provides for the approval of final agreements and makes those agreements paramount to all municipal and territorial legislation where they are inconsistent or in conflict. We have not seen all of the final agreements as yet and a special legislative committee will look more closely at those agreements and report back to the Legislature.
That does not, however, take away from the significance of this day. This is a day of congratulations, specifically to the Yukon First Nations who, through their patience, pride and perseverance have achieved well-deserved recognition and acceptance as equal partners in their own land.
With Bill No. 73, we will be providing a mechanism and a legal basis for entrenching the rights and the obligations that have been negotiated.
Today I am proud to be a Yukoner, proud to have been born and raised in the Yukon, and I am proud to be a Member of the Yukon Legislative Assembly at this time. It is indeed a an historic occasion.
In conclusion, I would like to say that I hope that other final agreements are soon reached, and that Tom Siddon and the federal government will get caught up in our enthusiasm and give speedy passage to the required federal legislation.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not sure if being the thirteenth speaker is symbolic of anything; however, I would ask Members and Judy Gingell, the chair of the Council for Yukon Indians, to bear with me.
I agree with Members before me who have spoken eloquently about the importance, background and significance of todays debate.
The significance of the legislation before us is indeed historic. The process of putting into law the principles of the land claim, which have been established and formally negotiated over a 19-year period, I think is one that is long overdue.
I also share the tribute of others to those who have contributed to this monumental occasion and particularly, the people of the Vuntut Gwichin.
I remember when I first arrived in the Yukon in the late 1960s. As a teacher at Christ the King High School, I witnessed the residential school syndrome.
I remember how, generally, aboriginal students were withdrawn from classroom activity, but I also remember how the students from the same communities would cluster and share each others company. I remember also how, if we managed to win their trust and confidence, they would tell us about their families, about their childhoods, stories they had heard from their elders, and about their love of the land. That was many years ago, but it was apparent to me that something was not quite right; today, with this legislation, we are closer to making things as they should be.
If anything about this legislation and this occasion is significant to me, it is that the underlying principle of empowerment will be enshrined into law, even though it should never have been lost. The land quantum, the financial compensation, the special provisions on economic development, on employment and training, on fish and wildlife management and the self-government agreement will all contribute to the empowerment of First Nations as they restore their rightful place in Yukon society. The certainty that is provided to all Yukon people by finally resolving this long outstanding obstacle to development will, I believe, mean a lot to the reality of living and working together. The financial compensation to Yukon aboriginal people alone, of some one-quarter billion dollars, will be a major boost to economic activity - whether in capital projects, in training, or other investments.
The determination of settlement lands and the rules by which they will be held will be one of the more positive features for future development. The land base of the First Nations will no doubt be utilized to encourage economic development in every community - and that could involve third parties.
It could involve economic ventures in all resource sectors; but again, the self-determination principle underscores First Nation settlement land use.
Conversely, we can expect enhanced economic activity as the settlement provides certainty over the entire land mass and resources of the Yukon - certainty that will encourage economic growth associated with all land-based resources, whether in agriculture, tourism, mining or in forestry.
I am pleased with the effective veto power of the Yukon government over transboundary agreements intruding into our area as a jurisdiction. This is a very supportable principle, giving an important measure of certainty to our own economic activity and future.
These bills before us are long overdue; but, they begin that final step of establishing, in law, the principles by which First Nations will take charge of their own affairs, and the extent to which they choose to do so. These bills will help finalize the certainty of land and resources for all of us. I believe it is incumbent on us to carry this process forward. It is also incumbent on us to support the important and profound changes introduced. These changes will provide a better Yukon for all of its people.
Mr. Phillips: Two of the last speakers before me were concerned about the speaking order. I think the Member for Porter Creek West said he was twelfth and there was a concern from the Member for Faro who was the lucky thirteenth. I am fourteenth. After we finish speaking, Judy Gingell, the Chair of the Council for Yukon Indians is going to speak. Although I did not have much input into the speaking order today, I can only assume that they saved the best for last.
It is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak to this land claims bill that is before us. As the buddy MLA for Old Crow, it pleases me immensely that Old Crow is the first First Nations to have completed its final agreement and start this historic process. I know that everyone was having trouble saying the band name, Vuntat Gwichin, so I am not going to attempt it. I will just stick to Old Crow.
I want to congratulate the chief and council, the elders and all Old Crow people on a job well done. They are leading the way with this agreement. It has been a long time in the making, and I trust that, after 20 years of negotiations, it will not take another 20 years to implement the agreements we have before us. It would be a tragedy for all Yukoners if that happened.
The concept of self-government is a very important one for First Nations and for all Yukoners as a whole. There will not be one citizen in this territory who will remain unaffected by the agreements before us today. It will be in place for us, our children and our childrens children. It is an agreement for the future.
That is why we, in this House, have a special duty and obligation to scrutinize the land claims bill that is presented to this House, to ensure that they are truly proposing a workable model for Yukoners, working and living together in the future. The various negotiating teams have done their best to present us with a model that they feel will meet this objective. Now, it is up to the membership of the 14 First Nations, which must ratify their individual band-by-band agreements. It is up to us, as well, as elected representatives of all Yukoners, to make sure that the land claims settlement agreements will empower the First Nations citizens to run their own affairs and yet, ensure that the settlement has the backing and support of non-settlement Yukoners.
The settlement agreements must be clear and concise. They must be understood by all Yukoners. There can be no loose ends in these agreements. All questions must be asked, and there must be clear cut answers. It must be remembered that this settlement is to enable Yukon First Nations citizens to run their own lives. It should not be an agreement that will end up in the courts, being interpreted by a lot of lawyers.
In my consideration of the land claims bill, I will be inquiring as to how the final agreements will affect Yukon First Nations citizens. Secondly, how will they affect non-settlement Yukoners? Thirdly, how will those agreements affect governments - federal, territorial and municipal?
For example, will First Nations citizens - in particular, Yukon Indian women - enjoy the protection of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Will First Nation laws prevail over those of the Yukon government and the Government of Canada? Does the structure of the settlement provide certainty for Yukoners in ordering their lives, businesses, and for governments in the future? Do the agreements provide Yukon First Nations citizens with the incentive to participate with other Yukoners in the Government of Yukon, as well as in their own structures? Will the agreements encourage active and equitable participation by First Nations citizens in their own governments?
I could go on and on, but now is not the time to raise questions. This is a time for rejoicing. Later, there will be time to ask questions and receive answers. Today, my heart goes out to the people of Old Crow and other First Nations citizens, as we proceed along the historic trail to finally settling the Yukon land claim agreement.
I congratulate all those people who have worked so hard in coming to this agreement, and I wish them all the luck in coming to a quick conclusion of the other band-by-band agreements.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: It is with great pride and considerable emotion that I rise to speak. Today is an historic day for all Yukon people and all Canadians, who believe in equity, fairness and the inherent right for First Nations people to self-determination. It is an honour for me to be here today.
In retrospect, I was a relatively young woman when this all began. Today I am a grandmother many times over. After 19 years of negotiations, I believe that we are all overjoyed that the land claim is in its final stage. With this claim, and self-government agreement with the Vuntut Gwichin, the Yukon continues to lead the country in precedent-setting legislation. I believe that self-government agreements will change and improve life in the territory, especially in the area of health and social services, juvenile justice and housing.
This means that communities will have the option to control and administer their own programs and set their own priorities for their own people and their own children.
We as a society are slowly beginning to realize that there is more than one way to achieve a healthy society. Our current way may not be the best or the only way. I believe that returning programs to the people will have a positive effect on the health status of Yukon people for years and years to come.
Healing, and the development of an overall wellness of body, mind, spirit and emotions, can be achieved when there is an empowerment of, and an assumption of responsibility by, local people and local communities.
Communities will be able to determine their own priorities according to their own needs and cultural traditions. First Nations have already taken initiatives to heal their communities and promote renewal of culture and language.
The Champagne/Aishihik Band has been delivering a child welfare program to meet the needs of their children, their families and their nation for many years. Other communities have developed protocols with health and social services, and are continuing on the road, working toward taking responsibility for their own people.
I strongly believe that health and well-being is intrinsically tied to social, economic, political, environmental, educational and spiritual factors. This is why the land claim agreement, which contains a government commitment to negotiate self-government, is so important. This holistic approach to well-being is one that I wholeheartedly endorse and I congratulate those who have brought us this far in the process. I believe this agreement will benefit all Yukon people, First Nations and non-native alike. At its best, it will be a model of a harmonious relationship. I look forward to a future where, in partnership with the First Nations on a government-to-government basis, we will work together to realize our common goals of social harmony and social equity to preserve our own unique Yukon way of life that is so important to us all.
Unanimous consent requested to permit the Speaker to address the Assembly
Hon. Mr. Webster: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: A point of order to the Government House Leader.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The House Leaders are aware that you, Mr. Speaker, would like to address some remarks to the second reading of Bill No. 73, entitled An Act Approving Yukon Land Claim Final Agreements. On behalf of the House Leaders, I would request the unanimous consent of the House to waive the provisions of Standing Order 4(1) in order to allow the Speaker to do so.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
I would ask the Deputy Speaker to take the Chair at this time.
Deputy Speaker assumes the Chair
Mr. Johnston: It, too, is an honour for me to stand in my place and speak a few words about Bill No. 73.
It is an historic moment for me and I am sure for my colleague from Tatchun. We were two of the 12 chiefs who took our concerns to Ottawa in 1973 and we are here today to speak once again on the importance of this bill. We are proud that the things we worked so hard for back then are now in place here today.
Nobody would have predicted that it would take 19 years nor that we would be fortunate enough to stand here today in this House and speak to it.
I am also very proud that it is the same principles that we presented to Prime Minister Trudeau that have guided our negotiators throughout this long process.
But because this process took so long, it has allowed our people the opportunity to work together. It has brought many good people together around the negotiating table to share, compromise, explain and understand what it is that the Indian people want.
We have been guided by the title of the document we took to Ottawa, Together Today for our Children Tomorrow. When we stop a moment and listen to that statement, this is indeed the true meaning of what we are doing. It is a title, but it is also a very important statement to remember.
I am sad, however, that some of the chiefs who travelled with us back then are no longer with us today. They have gone on to the other land and I am sure they are proud today as well.
Native people have gone on many journeys since the white man came to our land. We have travelled some of these roads together and we have come a long way because of this cooperation. But there has also been a great deal of despair because of this relationship.
We must never forget these things, but we must not dwell on it any longer. It is in the past and now we are looking toward the future so that our children will have a safe and secure world to grow up in.
I hope that the legislation set out today will be the tool for our children to make a better life for themselves. Our young people are our future leaders. This will be their opportunity to provide for their children. Therefore, we as leaders today, must encourage our young people to continue with this process, with these same principles, on into the future that awaits them.
I would like to thank the Members of this House for allowing me the opportunity to speak today. This is a very important moment for our people and I pray that God will continue to bless us and guide us as we complete this process.
Thank you very much for letting me speak. Gunalsheesh.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Before I ask the Clerk to poll the House, I would like to remind Members that they are to respond with a simple agreed or disagreed. Any other comments are not appropriate during division call.
Mr. Clerk, would you please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Agreed.
Hon. Ms. Joe: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agreed.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Agreed.
Ms. Kassi: Agreed.
Mr. Joe: Agreed.
Mr. Lang: Agreed.
Mr. Phillips: Agreed.
Mr. Phelps: Agreed.
Mr. Devries: Agreed.
Mr. Brewster: Agreed.
Mrs. Firth: Agreed.
Mr. Nordling: Agreed.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 15 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 73 agreed to
Bill No. 92: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 92, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Penikett.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move that Bill No. 92, entitled First Nations (Yukon) Self-Government Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier that Bill No. 92, entitled First Nations (Yukon) Self-Government Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As we have had the chance to debate the principles of self-government before, I will speak only briefly to the Vuntut Gwichin self-government agreement. The agreement has been completed by the negotiators for the three parties and will come into effect once all three parties have ratified the agreement and federal and territorial self-government legislation has been enacted.
It is based on the model self-government agreement reached on November 29, 1991, which has been public for some time.
Some modifications have been made to address issues specific to the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation or concerns of the negotiating parties of the model self-government agreement.
Numbering of the sections of the agreement may have changed from the draft model self-government agreement to the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation self-government agreement.
The agreement defines the authority of the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation to make laws to govern its own land and people. Most important of all, it replaces the Indian Act and recognizes the Vuntut Gwichin First Nations authority to choose its own governing structures and operate according to its own constitution. It provides a way for government programs to be transferred to the First Nation when, and if, the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation wants to take on a particular program area.
It provides flexibility for Vuntut Gwichin First Nations to take on responsibilities at its own pace. Until a First Nation passes its own law or transfers a program responsibility, government laws and programs continue to apply to Vuntut Gwichin land and people.
It outlines funding responsibilities and mechanisms under self-government and specifies that the funding for self-government will be provided by the federal government to the First Nation.
The Yukon Government will provide any cost savings realized as result of Vuntut Gwichin First Nation taking over programs and services previously provided by the Yukon Government.
Self-government powers are within the Canadian context. Federal laws will remain paramount over Vuntut Gwichin First Nation laws until such time as the First Nations and federal government agree otherwise.
The Canadian Constitution and any future amendments to the Constitution will apply to the First Nation. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms will apply to the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation barring any future court decision, or amendments to the Canadian Constitution to the contrary.
The Vuntut Gwichin First Nation constitution also provides for the rights and freedoms of its members.
The Vuntut Gwichin First Nation laws will apply to the First Nation generally, First Nation citizens or settlement land as defined in the First Nations final agreement.
The public will have access to Vuntut Gwichin laws in a registry of laws to be set up by the First Nation.
If there is a conflict between the self-government agreement and the Vuntut Gwichin final agreement, the final agreement will prevail.
The Vuntut Gwichin will have the authority to administer justice on settlement land, after the First Nation and governments reach an agreement, detailing the areas for which the First Nation will assume responsibility. Authority over the administration of justice does not include the power to make laws regarding criminal offences.
The justice agreement is to be negotiated within the next five years, with a possibility of extending the time period to December 31, 1999. In the meantime, the Yukon justice system will handle any offences arising from First Nation laws.
The Vuntut Gwichin First Nation will have the ability to levy taxes on settlement land three years after the self-government agreement comes into effect. As I mentioned earlier today, the three-year delay corresponds with the initial application of government taxation on Vuntut Gwichin First Nation lands and people. If the First Nation wants to share tax room occupied by the government, it must negotiate an agreement with government. The First Nation government will be exempt from taxes to the extent that it performs public functions in providing goods and services to its citizens or residents on settlement land. In cases of emergency where a situation on settlement land threatens non-settlement land, government can take action to deal with that emergency. Either government or the First Nation can act to deal with emergencies where a non-native resident on settlement land or a First Nation citizen off settlement land is in danger. This agreement contemplates an implementation plan and a financial agreement that will be completed before the self-government comes into effect.
Earlier today, the Leader of the Opposition indicated he had a number of questions about self-government. I believe that most of those questions can be answered when we meet in committee and have detailed discussion of the measure. Some of them, I may be so immodest as to say, I think I could answer myself today if we had time.
It has fascinated Members of this House who have been talking about this subject for a long time, that self-government seems somewhat mysterious and even threatening to some people.
Nobody has any concerns at all when we talk about a self-governing society, such as the Law Society or the Medical Association. Nobody seems to be bothered that a doctor or a lawyer can be self-governing, but they do seem to worry about an Indian chief.
In simple terms, the self-government agreements that we have in the Yukon involve the power of First Nations to make three kinds of laws. The first law deals with their own internal affairs - First Nation constitution, their own administration, procedures, methods, elections and so forth. The second one deals with the powers over their lands under the settlement. These are powers similar to those enjoyed by a municipality or a county anywhere in Canada. They are not strange or unusual powers at all. The third deals with areas where they will share powers with the territorial government in the provision of health and social services.
Self-government is what it says it is: the power of people of the governing body - in this case, the First Nation - to govern their own people in their own lands; it is a power enjoyed by Canadian citizens everywhere, except those who lived under the Indian Act, which, by law, treated aboriginal people in this country as if they were children.
The passage of this legislation will bring an end to that ignominy. Self-government is not a new idea; it is a very old one, but it is an old one that is having a new day.
For the most part, the implementation of self-government in the Yukon will not affect non-native citizens at all. It will not affect any of their rights, privileges or powers they enjoy as Canadians or Yukon citizens. I believe that self-government for First Nations in the Yukon, particularly the First Nation of the Vuntut Gwichin, will change their lives immeasurably, and all for the better.
Mr. Lang: I have a couple of comments. I know it is getting late in the day, and we are looking forward to hearing what the chairperson of the Council for Yukon Indians has to say.
We are supporting the bill that is before the House in second reading. As I indicated, when we began the debate, there is a great deal of information here that has to be evaluated and analyzed, and it is going to be done by a special committee struck by this House.
I want to send my congratulations to the people of Old Crow. I had the opportunity to work in Old Crow one summer a number of years ago. I worked with many of the people the Member for Old Crow talked about, as well as some of the elders who have passed away.
It is really too bad that those people who have worked so hard are not here today to take part in the celebrations on behalf of the people of Old Crow.
On the subject of the formation of the special committee - and I know the Member for Hootalinqua has an amendment to the motion - we feel there are other agreements that have to be in place for the committee to begin its work looking at what the implications of the self-government agreements are to the native people and to all other Yukoners. With that in mind, we are going to be looking forward to the work that will be done and to when the committee reports back.
Ms. Kassi: I have already spoken at some length on the first bill. Again, however, I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in this process.
I would like to say to my people that it is time that we pull ourselves together. We have many educated people within the Gwichin Nation whom we need to put in places that will ensure that the self-government process takes place. Many people will be watching this process.
Now, more than ever before, it is time for all of our people who are scattered all over Canada to look very seriously at coming back to work with us to see that our government progresses in the future. There are many people here in Whitehorse, in federal and territorial government positions, from our Nation. We would like all of us to work together to see that we make progress in establishing our self-government.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 92 agreed to
Motion No. 27
Clerk: Item No. 1, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Webster.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader
THAT a special Committee on Land Claims and Self-Government be established;
THAT the Committee be comprised of seven members of the Legislative Assembly;
THAT the Hon. Mr. Penikett be the Chair of the Committee;
THAT the remaining six members of the Committee be appointed as follows: three by the Premier, two by the Leader of the Official Opposition and one by the members of the Independent Alliance;
THAT Bill No. 73, entitled An Act Approving Yukon Land Claim Final Agreements, and Bill No. 92, entitled First Nations (Yukon) Self-Government Act, be referred to the Committee;
THAT the Committee be authorized to meet:
(a) to consider and make decisions respecting its organization at any time,
(b) to consider Bill No. 73 when it is in receipt of notification from the Premier that at least one Yukon land claim final agreement has been ratified by the First Nation concerned, and
(c) to consider Bill No. 92 when it is in receipt of notification from the Premier that at least one Yukon First Nation Self-Government Agreement has been ratified by the First Nation concerned;
THAT individual Yukon Land Claim Final Agreements and Yukon First Nation Self-Government Agreements be transmitted to the Committee, subsequent to First Nations ratification, by the Premier tabling such agreements in the Legislative Assembly or, if the Legislative Assembly is not then sitting, by the Premier delivering such agreements to the Speaker who shall forward copies to all members of the Legislative Assembly;
THAT the Committee report to the Legislative Assembly no later than the fifth day of the next regular sitting of the Legislative Assembly:
(a) its recommendation as to whether the Agreement referenced in Bill No. 73 and considered by the Committee should be accepted or rejected,
(b) its recommendation as to whether the Self-Government Agreement referenced in Bill No. 92, and considered by the Committee should be accepted or rejected.
(c) its findings, if any, relating to the subject matter of Bill No. 73 and Bill No. 92, and
(d) its recommendations, if any, for amendments to the clauses of Bill No. 73 and Bill No. 92;
THAT, in the event the Legislative Assembly is not sitting at the time that the Committee is prepared to report, the Chair of the Committee forward copies of the report to all members of the Legislative Assembly, thereafter make the report public, and subsequently present the report to the Legislative Assembly at the next sitting of the Legislative Assembly;
THAT, at such time as the Committee has reported to the Legislative Assembly, Bill No. 73, Bill No. 92, any agreements considered by the Committee and the report of the Committee stand automatically referred to the Committee of the Whole;
THAT, during its review of Bill No. 73 and Bill No. 92, the Committee be empowered:
(a) to send for officials from the Land Claims Secretariat of the Government of the Yukon to appear as witnesses on technical matters,
(b) to invite such other persons as it deems necessary to appear as witnesses on technical matters,
(c) to hold public hearings in Whitehorse and, if deemed appropriate, in communities directly affected by individual Yukon Land Claim Final Agreements or Yukon First Nation Self-Government Agreements where such agreements have been ratified by the First Nation concerned,
(d) to create a sub-committee or sub-committees which can question witnesses, receive oral submissions and conduct public hearings but which cannot make decisions on behalf of the Committee, and
(e) to print such papers and evidence as may be ordered by it; and
THAT the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly be responsible for providing the necessary support services to the Committee.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I promise my speech will be shorter than the motion. In many ways, Bill No. 73 and Bill No. 92 are the most significant that we will ever consider as legislators in this Assembly. Although most features of the agreement, which these bills propose to make into law, have been made public for some time as part of the agreement in principle or the umbrella final agreement, a few have been changed. Those were noted by the Premier earlier this afternoon in his speech.
With respect to the Vuntut Gwichin Yukon land claim final agreement and the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation self-government agreement, we are seeing the details for the first time.
I believe it is incumbent upon all of us, as legislators, to give these agreements, and the bills that will give them legal force, careful and deliberate scrutiny. Given the amount of time that Members have already committed to this sitting of the Legislature, and the uncertainty about ratification dates for the agreements to be considered, I believe that establishing a special committee to consider the bills and agreements is appropriate.
The terms of reference this motion establishes for the membership and mandate of the special committee will ensure representation from all political parties in this House, opportunity to hear from all the relevant parties involved in the drafting of the agreements, and the committees ability to hold public hearings, if deemed appropriate.
It will also have the ability to create a subcommittee, or subcommittees, to question witnesses, receive submissions, and so on. Members will note that the formation of the committee will be triggered by the formal ratification of one Yukon land claim final agreement and/or one Yukon First Nation self-government agreement.
The committee will also receive, for its review, any subsequent agreements as they are ratified by Yukon First Nations.
In closing, I want to make it clear that the primary mandate of this committee is to recommend to this Legislature whether or not the agreements it is called upon to consider should be accepted or rejected.
Mr. Phelps: I rise in support of the principle of the motion, and I must say that this is one of the longer motions I have seen in this House. I sometimes wonder who helped the hon. Member who spoke before me to write this up; it must have been a battery of lawyers, and we all know what they do. I saw somebody pointing toward the Table - perhaps a quasi lawyer was the operative behind the motion.
I did raise a concern when we first saw the motion, because it seemed to me very important that the committee examine representative land claims. In the Yukon, there are two sorts of land claims - those dealing with First Nations, such as Old Crow and others which, for the most part, are remote and governed already by bands; and those agreements that will be signed and ratified by First Nations who are in mixed communities, where issues of First Nations vis-a-vis municipal government, property scattered throughout the communities and planning within communities will be raised. It seemed to me important that we have a representative number of agreements placed before this committee to be looked at, so that all foreseeable issues could be raised and discussed in conjunction with the committees work.
I am pleased that the Members of the side opposite agreed with the concern I have put forward.
Mr. Phelps: I move
THAT Motion No. 27 be amended in the eighth paragraph by deleting sub-paragraphs (a) and (b) and substituting for them the following:
(a) its recommendations as to whether the Agreements considered by the Committee should be accepted or rejected,
(b) its recommendation as to whether the Self-Government Agreements considered by the Committee should be accepted or rejected,".
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Member for Hootalinqua that Motion No. 27 be amended in the eighth paragraph by deleting sub-paragraphs (a) and (b) and substituting for them the following:
(a) its recommendations as to whether the Agreements considered by the Committee should be accepted or rejected,
(b) its recommendation as to whether the Self-Government Agreements considered by the Committee should be accepted or rejected,".
Mr. Phelps: Thank God that the Deputy Clerk has a cold. Had she not coughed just then, Mr. Speaker, I would have gone on without letting you read out the motion.
It is my understanding that we are on the verge of having two or three self-government final agreements signed by other First Nations and each of these are First Nations that, in part, are based in mixed communities with existing local governments. Any two agreements signed would provide the broad range of foreseeable issues for people participating in the committee hearings. I commend this amendment to all Members.
Amendment agreed to
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the motion as amended?
Motion agreed to as amended
Unanimous consent to receive Address
Hon. Mr. Webster: The House Leaders have reached an agreement that the House receive an address by the Chair of the Council for Yukon Indians, Judy Gingell.
To receive such an address requires unanimous consent of the House and I would, therefore, request that unanimous consent be given.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Member: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted. I would like to invite Ms. Gingell to attend upon the Assembly at the witness table to present her address.
Address to Assembly by Chair of the Council for Yukon Indians
Ms. Gingell: I would like to express my sincere congratulations to the chief of the Vuntut Gwichin and the people of the lakes for their completion of the first First Nation final agreement in the Yukon. They have the full political and moral support of each of the other First Nations to move ahead. Their hard work and commitment to complete a land claim and self-government agreement is to be respected.
Although this agreement will be subject to ratification by the Vuntut Gwichin and the governments of Canada and the Yukon, I believe that, after 20 years of hard negotiations, the First Nations people of the Yukon are one step closer to taking control of their lives and putting in place a traditional form of self-government that will provide a better future for all our children tomorrow.
As First Nations people of the Yukon, we must not forget our past, because we have come a long way in a very short period of time. When the outsiders first set foot on our lands, in the 1800s, we welcomed them and helped them to survive. We shared our homelands, technology, government structures, survival skills and our natural resources. Over time, when they adopted to our homelands and married into our families, they opened up the country and established many of their own governments and communities.
We were faced with adverse possession, because they pushed us aside and took control over our lands and resources, and introduced Indian Affairs with Indian agents to control the lives of our families and communities. Until recently, our people were not part of this Yukon society. Our children could not go to public schools, we did not have the right to vote, and we could not speak our language or practice our spiritual beliefs and ceremonies.
Faced with that kind of lifestyle, it is no surprise that many of our people turned to alcohol. With alcohol came our social and economic problems we are still working hard to overcome. Although there is a lot of work to do, I believe that these dark days are behind us. Look at some of the achievements we have made for all Yukoners - community healing, drug and alcohol treatment, health and social services, language and culture, constitutional development for the Yukon and Canada, the Yukon Indian Development Corporation, the Yukon Native Language Centre, Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon, First Nation participation on boards and committees, tribal justice and child welfare.
The results are coming in. Many of our people no longer drink, our languages are being taught in the schools and, today, we can visit our communities and see our languages spoken on a daily basis. As well, look at the record number of our students graduating from high schools and going on to college and university. Look around this room - you will see our political participation in how the Yukon will be run in the future. Indeed, times have changed, and I see that changes have only been positive, an achievement that all Yukoners can be proud of.
Throughout this process, our agenda was very clear: we wanted to make an agreement with the Government of Canada and the Yukon that would give us back control of our lives and traditional lands and resources, and which would provide education and training opportunities, so we could implement our traditional forms of self-government.
I believe that the Vuntut Gwichin final agreement achieves that goal. We have never argued for full control at the expense of other sectors in the Yukon. We have been fair and understanding in our negotiations.
Throughout the years of negotiations, we have remained true to our principles. One of those principles is to be respectful of other people. In our negotiations, we wanted to be fair and, in that spirit, sometimes we had to compromise, and sometimes we did not get what we wanted.
However, that is what negotiation is all about. We wanted an agreement that would be fair to all Yukoners, an agreement that could be supported by all parties, regardless of whom they represent.
What is now required is the commitment and trust to implement this agreement with respect and honour. Our position has always been that this territory is ours. We all have to live here together and, if an agreement was unfair, it could not be supported and would not survive in the Yukon.
I strongly believe that this agreement is in that spirit. The people of the lakes have occupied their traditional lands for generations, and their people knew what they required to build a better life for themselves.
That control must now be respected by all sectors of Yukon society.
Historically, the First Nations of the Yukon respect and honour each others traditional way of life and government. As well, we respect the non-First Nations government and have negotiated and worked in good faith with them. Today, I urge all Yukoners to support and honour the agreement the Vuntut Gwichin have reached today.
The implementation process will be time consuming, and we will need to work together and have patience and understanding, because what is in the agreement will affect all people in the Yukon. If we work together, it will be positive for all our children tomorrow.
We see many new Yukon business opportunities and, as a direct benefit, the creation of many new jobs for all Yukoners who live and work in the Yukon. For years, the Yukon has been subject to a boom-and-bust economy, with short-term gains and long-term suffering. We see a long-term stabilized economy, because this is our home and we will invest in the future of the Yukon. There will be significant growth and development in the rural communities, based on local autonomy. The days of the long-arm and non-resident land owners are numbered.
In closing, I sincerely believe we share a common agenda. We want the Yukons land and resources to be controlled by the Yukon people, who are capable of controlling their own destiny.
At this time, my concern is that the First Nations final agreement not become a political football between the political interests in the Yukon. There will be an election within the next year, and people will have political agendas that may not reflect the true spirit of what we have achieved today on behalf of the Vuntut Gwichin and all the people of the Yukon.
I sincerely hope that we can work together to complete something that we started over 20 years ago. I believe that we all knew that the First Nations people had an underlying claim to the territory, and that they had to be returned to their rightful place to reclaim their forms of traditional self-government. I believe that day has been reached.
At this time, we must remember the elders who have gone before us. They are the people who owned this land and saw the many changes that have taken place in the Yukon. My only regret is that the elders, such as Kitty Smith, Angela Sidney, Martha Kendi, Elijah Smith, Johnny Johns and Charlie Abel, are not here today to be part of this historic moment. I know they will share this moment in spirit. Their spirit will continue to guide the many people who have brought us to where we are today, and will also guide those Yukoners who will be needed to help us realize our dreams for our children tomorrow.
I would like again to express the importance of unity. It has been a hard 20 years. It has not been very easy working at this together as aboriginal people.
In our form of government, we believe in making our decisions on a consensual basis. Through a lot of our most recent hard struggles in the umbrella final agreement and the First Nation final agreement, our decisions were often made on a consensual basis. It has been brought to my attention by a British Columbian First Nation that has been sharing our general assembly for the past couple of years that this is one of the first assemblies which he has chaired for aboriginal people anywhere in Canada that called a meeting for five days and let it go on for six days. A lot of our decisions are made by consensus, so we talk them out. To me, that brings unity among all of us. It is really important.
Speaker: On behalf of the Assembly, I would like to thank Ms. Gingell for her address to the Assembly.
Special adjournment motion
Hon. Mr. Webster: 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. Webster: 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
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned.
The House adjourned at 5:58 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled Wednesday, June 3, 1992:
Advertising campaign by Government What Yukoners can do together: cost of producing all advertisements (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 212
Advertising campaign by Government: policy re prohibition of Government communications for partisan purposes (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 234
Alaska Highway roadwork contracts: allocation of (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, p. 370
Economic Development programs and expenditures for fiscal year 1991/92 (Byblow)
Totem Oil (Lutak Petroleum) - reasons for deleting certain information from loan agreement document which was released publicly (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, p. 283
Social assistance recipients (number of) in Whitehorse receiving money from the Department of Indian and Inuit Affairs (Hayden)
Oral, Hansard, p. 385
The following Sessional Papers were tabled Wednesday, June 3, 1992:
Workers Compensation Board 1990 Annual Report (McDonald)
Letter of explanation dated June 3, 1992, to Minister responsible for Yukon Development Corporation from Acting President of Yukon Development Corporation re provisions deleted from the loan agreement with Lutak Petroleum doing business as Totem Oil (Byblow)
Letter dated June 1, 1992, from Lutak Petroleum J.V. doing business as Totem Oil to the Yukon Development Corporation re re-reviewing deletions from loan agreement (Byblow)
Loan agreement date May 15, 1992, between Yukon Development Corporation and Lutak Petroleum J.V. doing business as Totem Oil (Byblow)
Operating agreement dated May 15, 1992, between Yukon Development Corporation and Lutak Petroleum J.V. doing business as Totem Oil (Byblow)