In recent days, the Idle No More movement has gained considerable attention. The movement generates a lot of emotion, no matter which side of the highway you stand on. Sometimes facts get lost in the face of emotion.
Transparent and accountable governance is the cornerstone of our Conservative Government. Taxpayers expect their tax dollars to be treated in a fiscally responsible manner. Good governance is essential for the creation of a viable, stable economy.
For exactly these reasons, transparent and accountable First Nations governments are an important part in creating a better environment for First Nations economic development. Last year, 18 First Nations attended a signing ceremony to assume control over their reserve land and resources by opting into the First Nations Land Management (FNLM) Regime. We are working with First Nations to deliver on the commitments made at the Crown-First Nations Gathering to create the conditions to accelerate economic development opportunities and maximize benefits for all Canadians. By signing onto the Framework Agreement, these First Nations are beginning a process to opt out of the 34 land-related sections of the Indian Act and assume control over their reserve land, resources and environment.
This important step will allow them to operate at the speed of business. It will help create much needed jobs and growth on reserves across Canada and will help lead to more self-sufficient communities.
As for the Idle No More response to the Jobs and Growth Act, 2012 there are a few important points that have been overlooked by this movement, which I would like to highlight. The Government of Canada did consult with Canadians, provinces and territories to develop commonsense solutions prior to introducing the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA). These changes have been requested by our municipalities for years.
The NWPA is one of Canada’s oldest pieces of legislation, dating from 1882 at a time when our waterways were Canada’s primary transportation routes. The Act’s main purpose is to protect navigation and commercial shipping. It regulates the extent to which bridges and shoreline construction can get in the way of ship and boat traffic.
Over time however, the scope and application of the Act significantly expanded due to many factors such as amendments, judicial decisions and changes in operational practices of mariners. The Act now applies to all waters in Canada that can float a canoe including some brooks and streams that are only full for a few weeks during the spring runoff and other waters that are not normally navigated.
The previous Act required that every project on a waterway in Canada receive the approval of the federal government. This created a bureaucratic black hole, holding up simple projects like municipal infrastructure and small recreational docks that do not actually interfere with navigation.
The new Act focuses resources on Canada’s most used waterways to ensure that infrastructure does not affect navigation. It will continue to protect important navigation routes while streamlining the process and cutting bureaucratic red tape.
It should also be noted that the NWPA is not environmental legislation but commercial legislation. Canadian waters will continue to be protected by Transport Canada’s marine safety laws, the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, and various provincial statutes.
In regards to the protests to amendments to land designation within the Indian Act, these are changes, which First Nations have specifically asked for. The proposed changes would speed up the process to designate land and, as a result, provide greater flexibility for First Nations to act on time-sensitive economic development opportunities.
Illegal blockades and illegal actions need to be dealt with by the police, as they would if these actions were taken by any other Canadian. This isn’t just a matter of the Canadian economy; it is also a matter of public safety.
Our Government remains committed to working with First Nations. We all want the same thing – jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.
Westlock – St. Paul MP