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7021


HOUSE OF COMMONS

Friday, October 21, 1994


The House met at 10 a.m.

_______________

Prayers

_______________

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[English]

YUKON SURFACE RIGHTS BOARD ACT

Hon. Ron Irwin (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Lib.) moved that Bill C-55, an act to establish a board having jurisdiction concerning disputes respecting surface rights in respect of land in the Yukon territory and to amend other acts in relation thereto, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the House on Bill C-55, the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act.

My hon. colleagues are very familiar with the issues relating to Yukon, particularly to the rest of the native peoples of Yukon. The House passed legislative initiatives in June that will shape the political and economic future of the territory today. We are being asked at this time to ensure that those efforts were not in vain by putting in place the final legislative building block to allow implementation of the land claims settlement in the Yukon.

(1005)

Just before the House recessed this summer we dealt with two important pieces of legislation: the Yukon First Nations Land Claims Settlement Act and the Yukon First Nations Self-Government Act.

Hon. members will recall that the first act when proclaimed into force will establish a territory wide framework for the implementation of land claim settlement agreements with each of the 14 Yukon First Nations. It will give effect to four final agreements under the framework.

The second act will give effect to the Yukon First Nations self-government agreements which are successfully negotiated. Self-government agreements have been negotiated with four First Nations for final land claims agreements: the Vuntut Gwich'in First Nation; the First Nation of Na-cho-ny'a'k-dun; the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations; and the Teslin Tlingit Council.

Those two bills were approved by Parliament. They have received royal assent and are now awaiting proclamation into force. Before that can occur however and before Yukon residents can begin to benefit from the certainty their land claims agreement will bring, the government must establish a new surface rights regime in the territory which is what we are doing today. Bill C-55 will do that.

With the new surface rights bill, Canada is delivering on its commitment set out in the land claims settlement agreements which as hon. members know were signed by the federal and territorial governments and the Council for Yukon Indians in May 1993. That is after 21 years of negotiations.

The umbrella final agreement as it was called required separate legislation to enact a new surface rights regime which is why Bill C-55 is now before the House. Separate legislation will also be required within two years to establish the Yukon development assessment act which will evaluate the environmental impact of development proposals.

It is important for the House to be mindful of the changes that are occurring in the Yukon in order to fully appreciate the need for a new surface rights regime.

Over the coming months and years large tracts of lands in the Yukon will be confirmed as lands held exclusively by individual First Nations as their final agreements are implemented. This will signal a significant change for the territory and its residents as most land is currently held by the crown. In future the Government of Canada will no longer be calling the shots or laying out the ground rules for use of land throughout Yukon. More and more crown land in Yukon will become private land owned by either Yukon First Nations or by private citizens as is the common situation in much of Canada.

Under the land claims agreement Yukon First Nations will have title to both the surface and subsurface mines and minerals on some of their settlement lands known as category A lands. On category B lands the First Nations will own the surface but the crown will retain its interest in the subsurface. However, to get at minerals below the surface, companies will require access over the surface.

As hon. colleagues know from our debate on the Land Claims Settlement Act, we anticipate that mining and petroleum companies will be eager to begin developing Yukon subsurface resources. In fact the desire to establish certainty of land


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ownership and rights so that resource developments can go forward is one of the driving forces behind the land claims settlement agreement.

The government must do everything in its power to support economic development while respecting and protecting the rights and interests of both aboriginal and non-aboriginal Yukoners. That means looking ahead, preparing for change and working with the various parties to ensure fair and reasonable treatment.

Years of uncertainty concerning land title in Yukon will now end with the completion of the land claim. The surface rights bill concludes the package necessary to bring the land claim agreement into effect.

The bill will require people to attempt to negotiate agreements before bringing a dispute before the board. It will also establish a process to obtain access to private and public lands that will put in place a mechanism to deal efficiently with disputes between the surface owners of the land and the owners of the subsurface resource.

(1010)

The bill is important. It is procedural but it is important because without this bill the other two bills will not come into play. It is our responsibility not only to do the first two bills but to ensure that all the bills we undertook to bring in are brought before the House.

The Yukon First Nations land claims have been discussed in Yukon for over 21 years and it is going to take me another year to get all these bills through. The Council for Yukon Indians submitted its claim in 1973.

The bill in particular is the result of extensive consultations with representatives of the First Nations, the territorial government, the mining industry, including the Chamber of Mines and the Klondike Placer Miners Association.

Sometimes I think all they do in Yukon is discuss these bills. I keep referring to the same people. If they are watching on television they must be getting a chuckle out of this. Consultations have taken place for more than a year and many of these parties have been directly involved in drafting this legislation.

Under Bill C-55 the surface rights board will be given a range of powers, including the power to establish terms and conditions of access on both settlement and non-settlement land, and the power to award compensation for access and for damage resulting from that access.

There are a number of instances in which the surface rights boards might become involved in dispute resolution. For example, if a new mineral rights owner and a First Nation or surface rights holder cannot reach a negotiated agreement-and there must be an attempt at negotiation or they cannot get to the board-permitting access to the land and minerals, the operator can apply to the Yukon surface rights board for a right of entry order. In such a case the board might issue an interim access order while compensation and other issues are addressed either by the parties or by the board.

The board could also award partial compensation when issuing an interim access order. It would establish an entry fee to be paid to the Yukon First Nation on settlement land before the access order could be finalized. There could be no entry fee for access to non-settlement land.

Bill C-55 will provide that an order of the surface rights board will be enforceable through the Supreme Court of the Yukon territory. The board may review its own decisions if it believes there has been a change in the facts or circumstances.

Decisions made by the board may be appealed to the Supreme Court of Yukon on limited grounds such as bias or a lack of procedural fairness, much the same grounds that are prevalent on any board. It is a procedural appeal on bias, fairness or lack of cross-examination, those types of appeals, but not on fact finding or things of that nature. Our objective is to keep surface rights issues out of the courts as much as possible. Litigation is costly and time consuming for all parties.

Hon. members should also be aware that resolving disputes through the surface rights boards will be used only as a last resort. People will be required to attempt to negotiate agreements and possibly to seek mediation before bringing a dispute before the board.

The surface rights board is not adding another layer of government in Yukon; in fact the opposite is true. In other words, we are not creating more government; we are helping to build better government. We are ensuring that all sectors of Yukon society will have a respected voice and direct participation in the decision making process that in the past has been exercised by government alone.

This is clearly a time of change in Yukon, but change that is properly planned and managed. Bill C-55 is part of the process of managing change. I am confident that the surface rights regime will work to the benefit of all Yukoners.

It is time, as has been pointed out in the red book, that we devolve jurisdiction to Yukon. This was our commitment; this is what the Prime Minister said. There is a series of initiatives and legislation that will come before the House this fall. Hopefully within the term of this government Yukon will have all the powers that a normal province would have.

(1015 )

The leader of Yukon wants to proceed. I talk to him on a fairly regular basis. He really has an idea of where he wants to go. With the DIAND employees he wants to be fair. He is trying to befair with us, dealing with the federal government, even though we do not have the same political stripe. He is a very fair


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leader. Within three or four years this will be done and Yukon will fulfil its destiny.

We hear so much about Yukon. We read so much about Yukon. We run Yukon from Ottawa. I do not think it is right and I do not think it is something that we want. This is one more building block to do exactly what the Prime Minister and the party said in its red book, to evolve Yukon and let it take its destiny into its own hands.

The Government of Yukon, the First Nations of Yukon, the Chamber of Commerce in Yukon and the rest of them we are consulting with on a regular basis.

[Translation]

Mr. André Caron (Jonquière, BQ): Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise on behalf of the Official Opposition to speak to Bill C-55, to establish a board having jurisdiction concerning disputes respecting surface rights in respect of land in the Yukon Territory and to amend other acts in relation thereto.

This bill was introduced after two other pieces of legislation, namely the Yukon First Nations Self-Government Act and the Land Claims Settlement Act, were passed by this House last June.

Before getting into my analysis of Bill C-55, I would like to describe these two acts to show how important they are and, because of its connection with these acts, how important it is that the bill before us this morning be passed, even if it means making appropriate amendments, which we will consider in committee.

All bills concerning Yukon Indians arise from an extensive process started in Canada, and in Quebec, in particular, two decades ago, when the government of Quebec signed with the James Bay Cree an agreement that came to be known as the James Bay Agreement. This agreement resulted at the time from negotiations conducted in good faith. The Cree were happy, the government of Quebec was happy, Hydro-Québec was happy and the federal Parliament had assented to the enabling legislation for the James Bay Agreement.

I want to make it quite clear that what is going on in the Yukon, as well as what happened in the Northwest Territories and is happening in several parts of Canada in terms of negotiations with native communities, is nothing new. It is not to be dreaded. We are not breaking new ground here. This is a process that was initiated a while back. Certain experience was gained, especially in Quebec, and I would think that it was a pleasant one in the case of Quebec.

In June, we passed two acts concerning Yukon Indians. The first one was designed to provide certain guidelines regarding self-government. It is a self-administration agreement. Some areas of the Yukon have been inhabited from time immemorial by Native peoples. Over the years, these peoples have seen the south expand onto their lands. Mining companies came, trappers came and people from abroad came to the Yukon. The natives saw this happening and thought to themselves: ``These people are on our land''. I think that it was legitimate for them to want to be masters in their own house so to speak. So, negotiations commenced and from these negotiations arose, among other things, an agreement respecting self-government for first nations. I think it is important to point this out.

(1020)

The first nations have their own personality, existence and cultural identity, and I think no one here questions the existence of an Aboriginal, Indian and Inuit identity in Canada, which is destined to grow and assert itself.

The agreement on self-government would allow Aboriginal people to make decisions in a number of areas concerning them. They were given-I will go over this quickly as it is not necessarily the subject matter of the bill before us but I think it is important because it is related-some legislative powers, for example for local and private laws relating to social programs and services. It is very important for Native people to be able to set up social services meeting their needs.

I read in this morning's newspapers that Mohawks in Quebec have been given responsibility for job training, which is one of Quebec's traditional demands. We in Quebec have always said that, as a people, we wanted to develop our own workforce, and we see in this morning's newspapers that the federal government will examine how it will be done and the objectives it is pursuing, at least in the case of Quebec's Native people. At the outset, however, we note that the federal government agreed that it is important for a nation, a people to control some aspects of its workforce and social programs.

Mohawks in Quebec will have responsibilities in this area, similar to those given in the agreement on Yukon Indians. I say given because, if we look at what is happening with Canada's Native peoples, I think that in the last century and the first part of this one the federal government put itself in the position to give such responsibilities to the people. Even the Indian Act is very clear on this.

The Yukon Aboriginal people were given some elements of self-government such as responsibility for social programs and citizen services and the power to impose fees and to collect certain taxes. In addition to all this, each first nation will have its own constitution and citizenship code. Each will be able to have authority in the administration of justice.

You can see how all this was done: peoples with their own identity were given certain tools to ensure their autonomy. This House should be congratulated for having passed Bill C-34 last June. It is all very well to have some self-government, to have responsibilities, but you also need a territory on which to exercise those responsibilities and over the past 20 years, the


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Yukon Indians, as the minister said, negotiated to reach a land claims agreement.

This agreement was the subject of Bill C-33, which this House passed in June. It is a framework for 14 Yukon First Nations-the Yukon Indians are divided into 14 First Nations with a population of 8,000 or 9,000. The agreement provided for a certain division of lands. Yukon is a vast territory covering over 41,000 square kilometres. On some of the land, the native peoples were granted ownership of the surface and sub-surface, or should I say that their ownership was recognized.

On other parts of the territory, they have only surface rights. This means that the jurisdiction they obtained in the self-government agreement can be exercised on certain territories.

(1025)

The land claims settlement gives the native peoples some other benefits; for example, Canada conceded $242 million in compensation divided among the 14 nations for a certain number of years. They also obtained rights to exploit the wildlife for purposes of subsistence within the territory. They obtained exclusive hunting rights within other territories.

That law gave them a territory and clarified the question of surface and sub-surface rights. That is important because for many years Southerners like me thought that the North was a place where very little happened. There was snow and nothing else. We did not know that it was the homeland of native peoples who had been living there since time immemorial.

But the North became topical, in Quebec and in the rest of Canada, when natural resource development attracted individuals and companies interested in oil or hydro-electricity. From that point on, it was necessary to define who was entitled to what territory and who could do what within it. I think that we are well on the way to determining that with the two laws on self-government and land claims.

It is important in the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and everywhere in Canada to reach a sort of friendly agreement among the various population groups on how the land will be occupied. Groups which have their own identity must be able to maintain and affirm that identity without interfering with the activities or identity of other Canadian communities.

Whether in Canada or in Quebec, and this is particularly true in the case of the aboriginal issue, I think everyone will agree that there is good will on both sides and that a satisfactory agreement for all concerned will be reached.

I referred to agreements regarding self-government. I also said that Yukon first nations had obtained rights regarding the definition of territory. However, once certain rights are recognized, there may still be disputes and controversies. At some point, certain issues will have to be settled, whether these concern some corporations from the South interested in promoting northern development or Canadians wishing to do things in the Yukon. Someone will have to make decisions regarding the rights of everyone concerned. As is always the case, laws and regulations are passed, but there has to be a court of law or an administrative tribunal to render decisions, otherwise things simply do not work.

Let me give you an example. In recent weeks, the Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development looked at what happened in Manitoba when Hydro Manitoba tried to build a number of dams to generate hydroelectric power on the Churchill and Nelson Rivers. The committee found that an agreement existed but had not been implemented. I hope to have the opportunity to provide more details to the House on this issue when we will look at Bill C-36, which deals with the Split Lake agreement, in northern Manitoba. The problem with hydroelectric development on the Churchill and Nelson rivers in northern Manitoba is that a rather vague agreement was reached but never implemented. The result is that, almost 20 years later, the issue has to go back before Parliament and new agreements must be reached so that the original one from 1977 can be implemented.

(1030)

As you can see, it is important, when establishing new definitions of territory and rights, to make it very clear that a body is also created to settle disputes.

This is exactly what Bill C-55 does by establishing the Yukon Surface Rights Board. As its name indicates, the board will have jurisdiction over surface rights. In other words, it will be established to settle any discussion, dispute or argument individuals or corporations may have on this issue.

The board members will be designated by the federal government. The bill provides for up to eleven members to be appointed, one half on the recommendation of the Yukon First Nations. I think this is very important, because the disputes the board will have to settle directly affect the Natives, the first people of the Yukon.

So, I think it is important for the Yukon residents, as well as for the people of Canada and of Quebec, to know that, when such disputes will arise, there will be some members on this tribunal, which is not really tribunal, but a board authorized to arbitrate in this type of disputes, who will know what life is for Natives. This is important, because those who pass judgment on a justice issue or any other matter must understand the point of view of the various people from different backgrounds appearing before them.


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Fortunately, this bill provides for half of the board members to be appointed on the recommendation of the Native people. I would have expected nothing less but I would hope that the Yukon First Nations will recommend people from their own communities.

However, one section of the bill says that board members do not necessarily have to come from Yukon. Does that mean that somebody from Montreal, Ottawa or Saskatoon, for example, could sit on this tribunal? It makes you wonder. Surely, there are in Canada people who are quite competent to rule on the issues that will be put before the Board. But I, for one, would prefer to see Yukon residents on this board, as they are in a position to make a judgment on the facts they are presented with in the light, again, of the cultural point of view of aboriginal people, of the first nations who will ask the board to make a decision.

As I said, this bill essentially provides for the creation of the board and stipulates how it will be set up, how it will work. It defines its responsibilities, its jurisdiction and its funding. The federal government will take care of its funding.

(1035)

Maybe this issue will be discussed further in committee because, when we talk about costs these days in Canada, people become nervous. They have the impression that the government's main objective is to cut spending. But we know that, in reality, all the money that the government collects is used to provide adequate services to Canadians. After all, the important thing is to make the people happy, and not necessarily to make bankers, creditors and financiers happy. As politicians, we have to consider what is best for Canadians. But I am getting away from the issue here.

When we study this bill in committee, some people may wonder how come the government is paying for this board. I think it is quite normal that the government should pay for this board, the same way it pays for the courts and for a number of other agencies which have to be financially independent to be able to exercise their jurisdiction. I do not think that it would serve the interests of Canada, Quebec or the Yukon first nations if the board established under Bill C-55 were ineffective because of inadequate funding.

You certainly can infer from my remarks that my party supports the adoption of Bill C-55. Obviously, we will examine a number of its provisions more closely in committee. After all, it is a complex piece of legislation. In all these situations, the average Canadian who looks at the issue wants justice to be served. The average Canadian agrees that aboriginal people should get all the guarantees they need for their collective survival and development. The importance of that has been well understood in Quebec.

The Quebec government did recognize the first nations in its jurisdiction through a motion passed by the National Assembly. There have also been new developments since the election of the Parti Quebecois. Proposals have been made, and, despite radical positions by first nations in Quebec that may be more negotiating positions or posturing for the media that anything else, a new spirit has emerged. The Quebec government has made firm proposals, and there will be more.

People in Quebec are open to the concept of making new proposals, and Canadians would also like to find a basis of agreement that would be acceptable to all peoples in Canada, whether it is the Quebec people, the Indian peoples or nations, or all other groups in Canada.

The bill should be examined closely in committee so that Canadians can be sure that their federal Parliament did its homework and that the content of the act is reasonable. In matters such as self-government and land claims, it is all too easy to be destructive. Passion and prejudice can come into play, and there is always a risk of disinformation.

Since I became a member of the Aboriginal Affairs Committee, I have a better understanding of the status of aboriginal nations in Canada, although like many Quebecers and Canadians, I was already very sympathetic and very receptive to certain aboriginal claims. Recommendations and requests submitted to the committee were linked with the very survival of these nations as such.

(1040)

As a Quebecer, I am on very familiar ground when people talk about self-government, nations, territory and rights, because in Quebec, ever since I became aware of the political situation, at least since the early sixties, that is the kind of language we have heard. It is a language I understand, and these positions are ones I have taken myself. I think it is important for nations to keep their identity, to survive and develop their potential.

When a nation disappears, when a culture disappears and when an identity disappears, this weakens us all, because in today's world we must realize that uniformity and levelling differences are not the answer to our problems. The futur belongs to those who recognize the rights of others and that all nations, languages and cultures should be allowed to live and thrive.

When we consider this kind of legislation and discuss it in the House and in committee, we should carefully examine what is at stake. Obviously, all committees, whether we are talking about the Committee on Human Resources or the Defence Committee, are expected to do a good job, but when we are talking about aboriginal issues in Canada, I think it is very important for parliamentarians to proceed carefully in order to make the right decisions and do a good job of informing the public.


7026

In fact, there are a lot of rumours and a lot of biased information going around. When I mentioned to my constituents that we had a land claim settlement agreement involving fourteen Yukon nations, they said: ``What is going on? Are you splitting up the country, are you giving Canada and part of our taxes to aboriginal nations?'' I told them: ``Of course not''.

Then you explain the situation. There are aboriginal nations in Canada who have certain rights. There are territories, and these territories must be shared. We have to live together, so we have to decide how and this means negotiating agreements, which is what happened in the Yukon. An agreement was negotiated and will now be ratified by the Parliament of Canada. We had the same procedure for James Bay. Today, agreements are being negotiated in Northern Quebec and with other aboriginal nations in Quebec.

In my region we have a Montagnais nation, the Lac-Saint-Jean Montagnais, who are negotiating a land claim settlement. Last year, they concluded an agreement with Hydro-Québec on payments in connection with power transmission. I think we are moving slowly toward a mutually acceptable way of life which will benefit all Canadians.

However, I feel we should keep people informed so that they can understand fully what is going on, what our goals are and within what framework we are going to proceed. Otherwise, people harden their position and oppose everything. They then set conditions which virtually amount to outright rejection. And so I think it is important to establish a framework, as we are doing in Quebec, especially on the issue of border immutability. I believe my party, the Bloc Quebecois, said it quite clearly recently. The Parti Quebecois also said it. The issue of negotiations with the native people is open, but when it comes to Quebec's territory and the future of its borders, that is not negotiable.

(1045)

I trust that, just as an agreement has been reached with the native people regarding the Yukon, Nunavut and other regions of Canada, Quebecers will reach agreements with native peoples in Quebec, because we share a territory. Quebecers have lived there for over 350 years. Personally, my ancestors came to Canada in 1636. I do not come from France or anywhere else. I come from Quebec. I cannot imagine that I could live anywhere else or that I could not live on this land, which is mine.

I consider Quebec as my homeland, but I know perfectly well that some people in Quebec consider parts of that territory to be their own. Since we are together and we must live together, we must negotiate and come to an agreement.

I have every confidence that, throughout Canada we will reach agreements similar to the one that came about in Yukon. We will do the same thing in Quebec and we will finally find common ground. But in order to do so, we must express clear objectives and the agreements must be examined closely, and everything must be explained thoroughly. That is why we will study the bill carefully in committee. Many questions come to my mind and I certainly do not want to debate in this House topics that will be discussed in committee. We will want to clarify a few points; for example, we will want to know why one clause specifies that, if board members were in a major conflict of interest situation, they could not vote on a given issue. I feel that when you are in a conflict of interest, you should not rule on any matter whatsoever.

The Bloc Quebecois still supports the substance of this bill, because it will create an organization which will resolve or alleviate problems in the implementation of agreements that were reached on self-government and land claims. I think that it is important to create an organization which will be able to operate in the best interest of everyone.

That is what we will be examining in committee. We will ask some questions. From what I can see, first of all, we will possibly move some amendments so that the board can function in the best way possible. We do not want to use opposition to the bill, or to some of its clauses, as an excuse to indirectly cause the failure of the agreements that were reached in the Yukon. These agreements must be implemented. That is absolutely necessary. We do not have the right to disappoint some people, the Indian nations, to disappoint the people of Yukon who were expecting these agreements.

Let us keep in mind what happened on the Nelson and Churchill Rivers in Manitoba. I think that situations such as the ones that happened there should not occur elsewhere. That is why there must be some organizations that are able to rule on the implementation of agreements. And the bill before us is aimed at defining an organization such as these.

Rest assured that the Bloc Quebecois will do everything that is possible and imaginable to make that organization as functional as possible, as efficient as possible, so that the agreements that were reached in good faith between the government of Canada, the government of Yukon and the nations of Yukon are implemented to the benefit of the people of Yukon, of the nations of Yukon, of the people of Canada and of the people of Quebec.

(1050)

[English]

Mr. John Duncan (North Island-Powell River, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to begin second reading debate on Bill C-55 on behalf of the Reform Party. It is important to recognize the importance of the mining industry to Yukon. It is a major,


7027

non-government industry in a jurisdiction that is more than 70 per cent dependent on federal government spending.

In some ways one could look on debate of Bill C-55 as the end, the resolution, and the confirmation of the principles contained in Bill C-33 and Bill C-34.

The mining industry has a current campaigned called ``Keep Mining in Canada''. Governments have tended to take the industry for granted in many jurisdictions where it has made operations very difficult, expensive, time consuming and uncertain. Also we have a Canadian tax regime that can be considered unfriendly in international terms.

Within my riding there are several operating mines. The BHP Utah mine, the Westmin mine, Texada mines and Quinsum Coal. Quinsum Coal has 25 employees who previously worked at the Westray mine in Nova Scotia. We all know Westray is where they had the disaster. These people feel very abused by actions of government.

I understand, accept and realize that there is pent up investment in the Yukon waiting for the uncertainty of Bills C-33, C-34 and C-55 to be over and done with so that investment can take place. This is a situation where the bureaucracy knows best.

In Whitehorse, to my surprise, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development vehicles say Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. There is a tendency within the bureaucracy toward the native affairs side rather than the northern development side. The focus is changing from one of servicing mining industry needs to other priorities. I see this symbolized. The rationale is that it translates better into the French. I do not view that as reason enough. I have viewed this in a previous life in Parks Canada where I always had an understanding that Canadian parks were set up for Canadian taxpayers to enjoy a park like setting.

Within the parks service, the group primarily oriented to servicing the public was the park warden service. What we viewed within the bureaucracy was competition between the park wardens and the naturalists. The naturalists have won those competing agendas. If we want to progress within that bureaucracy our opportunities are much higher if we come from the naturalists side. That has now impacted on the mission statements of Parks Canada in many ways.

This has been foisted on the Canadian public without their full knowledge. One could ask the question: Why does the Minister of Natural Resources have the mandate for the Metis in Canada and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development have the mandate for mining north of 60 degrees, in other words, the territories. The north is already suffering because it is the playground of the federal government and the federal bureaucracy. I recommend that we do not reinforce this by making it one minister's playground.

(1055)

Yukon has only 28,000 people. I am sure they will make bad rules work. I understand last year the Yukon economy dropped by 19 per cent due to the closure of one major operating mine, the Faro mine. I also understand that the economy of the Northwest Territories shrank.

Bill C-55 is meant to fulfil commitments to implement the constitutionally protected final land claim settlement agreement known as Bill C-33. Bill C-55 may confirm the principles contained in Bills C-33 and C-34 but it in no way ends disputes or in itself resolves conflicts that may arise.

Mechanisms or boards put in place are only as good or as confident or as well intentioned as the people we place on these boards. We have only just begun.

Since Parliament began in January 1994 we have concluded massive land claim settlements for the Sahtu, Dene and Metis to the tune of $197 million. We have concluded the Yukon settlement for which we are here today to the tune of $163 million.

This is not the total dollar amount. The implementation costs will run another $263 million for these claims for a total of $596 million, according to the public accounts released this week. According to these same public accounts, there are contingent liabilities of $8.3 billion in claims in pending and threatened litigation.

Despite the finance minister's declaration that we are in hawk up to our eyeballs, the government continues to ignore the perilous fiscal situation we have created and continue to sustain in land claim settlements.

In addition to the $8.3 billion I just mentioned, there are another 460 specific native claims and lawsuits that currently have no dollar figure and currently do not form part of the known liabilities.

Frankly no one knows what the total amount may be. That is the frightening part. If the Minister of Finance is that concerned with the fiscal situation he might want to start a review of the policy and settlement mandate the minister of-

The Speaker: We will be taking up the debate right after question period and the hon. member will be recognized at that time.

It being 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 30(5), the House will now proceed to Statements by Members pursuant to Standing Order 31.


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