Canada's Original Think Tank

Second reading of Bill C-70, An Act to give effect to the Agreement on Cree Nation Governance between the Crees of Eeyou Istchee and the Government of Canada, to amend the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts

Second reading of Bill C-70, An Act to give effect to the Agreement on Cree Nation Governance between the Crees of Eeyou Istchee and the Government of Canada, to amend the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts

Second reading of Bill C-70, An Act to give effect to the Agreement on Cree Nation Governance between the Crees of Eeyou Istchee and the Government of Canada, to amend the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: 

Honourable senators, I wasn’t intending to speak; however, having listened to the previous speakers, I feel that I should say a few words.

This agreement has been undertaken for a number of years. Of course, in any self-government agreement, the concept of being fiscally responsible and independent is deeply embedded. The idea that they have to be economically self-sustaining is part of any self-government agreement that I have seen. Of course, I haven’t seen them all.

Over the years, our committee has dealt with a number of agreements, and I was trying to remember them as I was sitting here listening to you. We had the Westbank First Nation, Tsawwassen First Nation, Maa-nulth First Nation and Yale First Nation — all from B.C. Those were the only ones that came to my mind. There may be others. Perhaps Senator Patterson’s mind is clicking away trying to remember which ones we dealt with.

Always we have followed the Senate procedure. Always we have had second reading. Sometimes we have made it more expeditious because, again, there was a need for it to receive Royal Assent before the expiration of an agreement between the Crown and the appropriate First Nation. However, we’ve always sent it to committee, called in witnesses and asked questions.

In particular, I remember that with the Yale First Nation agreement there was a difference of opinion between the First Nations involved. I think it’s important to get those differing opinions on the record because, as our former colleague Senator Baker would say, the Senate is quoted many times in court proceedings.

I concur that we need to follow the normal procedure, but we should expedite it because this has to be done before the end of the fiscal year. Definitely, the committee has had a lot of experience in dealing with self-governance agreements.

The only other thing I want to say is that you did mention the idea of templates. I would say that that would probably not be a popular idea. I hate to use the word “colonial,” but First Nations, Inuit and Metis people have been under a colonial government for 150 years. Each one has a different concept or world view as to how their self-governance should evolve. The idea of a template contradicts the idea that they are the ones who decide how they will self-govern; therefore, a template would not, in my opinion, be a popular way to go. That is what I wanted to put on record.

Senator Joyal: Honourable senators, when I mentioned the word “template,” it was to say this is an example of a way to address the issue. That is what I had in mind.

Would you recognize that is in fact the kind of reflection we have undertaken in the past with these agreements in order to determine the principle under which other agreements can be entered into based on the precedents those agreements teach us in terms of how to approach it?

Senator Dyck: To some extent I would agree with that. Because we’re now entering a new era of recognizing Indigenous rights and inherent self-rights, I don’t think the previous agreements will necessarily apply to what we see in the future. Now we’re seeing that Indigenous peoples’ different concepts of what their rights are do not necessarily fit with what the colonial government thinks. What has been done in the past may not apply to the future.