Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Aboriginal Peoples

Issue 15 - Evidence

OTTAWA, Tuesday, December 1, 1998

The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, to which was referred Bill S-14, providing for self-government by the First Nations of Canada, met this day at 10:09 a.m. to give consideration to the bill.

Senator Charlie Watt (Chairman) in the Chair.


The Chairman: Honourable senators, we would like to deal with four items this morning. To start off with, I would like to mention that there is one private member's bill that has been on the table for quite some time.

Senator Tkachuk and I have been trying to find some way to handle this in the proper fashion in order to move it forward. We have been having some difficulties. As a committee, we have undertaken to examine the question of governance. I tend to feel that Bill S-14 should become part of the overall study on aboriginal self-government.

I have also communicated with Senator Tkachuk in this regard, and we are not necessarily of the same frame of mind at this point. As chairman, I would like to find a way to expedite this without endangering what we will be doing down the road.

Apart from wanting to deal with it along the lines of the studies that we will be conducting, I am concerned that that particular community has been receiving very bad publicity as a result of earlier actions. If we try to deal with this bill by going through it clause by clause in the Senate, I feel that the media will begin to focus on us in a very negative fashion, which is something I do not want to have happen. I am saying that because I have a responsibility to do a good job on behalf of our people.

I would like to try to treat the particular community the same way that other communities are treated. However, if that is not the case, then I would like to hear what Senator Tkachuk has to say on this matter.

I invited him to appear in front of us in order to make his case clear. We can then decide once and for all whether it will become a part of the overall study, or whether it will be expedited, dealt with here, and then referred to the House of Commons.

I have maintained from the beginning that if this bill goes to the House of Commons, it will have no chance of survival. It could have a very negative impact on the things we are trying to do, in terms of coming up with concrete recommendations concerning what the partnership should be between aboriginal people and the Government of Canada.

Senator Tkachuk: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your support over the last number of years on this initiative. I am here, senators, as a colleague, and not as a witness, to see if we can find some way to discuss Bill S-14, and to bring this bill to the Senate chamber.

First, I should like to mention the fact that Bill S-14, although strongly identified with the Sawridge Indian Band in Alberta, is really an initiative of the Slave Lake Band Council, which represents some 9,000 aboriginal people. That is 3,000 people more than represented by the treaty that is causing so much controversy in British Columbia, and 2,000 more than the Yukon self-government settlement agreement. This represents a significant number of aboriginals in Canada who seem to have failed in getting this matter to the table, for whatever reason, at the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

Some of you have heard me say before that this bill is a unique framework within which to study self-government. It is not a bill that forces any Indian band in Canada to do anything. It would provide a framework for an Indian band to become a self-governing entity, which is the uniqueness of the enterprise.

Thus, an Indian band can look at the legislation. Its members can then decide for themselves, providing they follow certain rules laid out in the legislation, if they want to become a self-governing institution. I realize that this may put a lot of people out of work, because the bands themselves can fall into the legislation. All of the stuff that is outlined in the legislation allows them to do the work themselves, and to ask for self-government. Providing they meet certain legislative requirements -- not constitutional requirements -- they may become self-governing.

Chairman and colleagues, I understand that this bill is controversial. However, every self-government bill is controversial. To my knowledge, there has not been one that has not created a lot of controversy. Even some of those that have been settled are still creating controversy. This is the pool of water that we are in. We must swim through it and figure out how to do it.

Colleagues, this bill was referred to the committee at the end of March. I agreed with you, Mr. Chairman, that if it could become part of the self-governing study, as set out in the royal commission, that would be a good way to proceed. However, the report of the royal commission is a fairly large body of work, which may take a very long time to implement. That means Bill S-14 may be put out to pasture, only to be reintroduced later, which makes it even more difficult.

I am wondering if we can find a way to fulfil the obligations that we, as senators, have to consider a bill once it has been referred to committee. I believe that rule 98 of the Rules of the Senate of Canada states that it should be done in a reasonable amount of time.

It has been eight months since it was referred to the committee, and we have not started our study of it. That is why the chairman and I met last week. He was kind enough to call this meeting in order that we could get together to find a way out of this situation.

Senator St. Germain: Honourable senators, this particular legislation was initiated by one of our former colleagues, Senator Walter Twinn. As much as there is controversy, I think that there will always be controversy if an Indian band becomes successful. There are always those who are jealous and who are detractors. Senator Twinn epitomized success in some areas, including the economic viability of his people.

It was his dream that a piece of enabling legislation would be drafted so that Indian bands could go forward, as Senator Tkachuk has pointed out, with self-determination or self-government in an affordable manner. At the present time, it is the will of DIAND or the government of the day that prevails in terms of providing the financial support to do so. It is such a costly undertaking to enter into negotiations for self-government.

It was his dream that this would be his contribution to his people in particular, and also to all aboriginal peoples in the country. They would be able to source this particular piece of legislation, and to do so in an affordable manner, without going into debt, or having to cater to the paternalistic scenario that most likely will always exist within DIAND.

It is in that spirit that we should go forward and consider this bill. I agree that, if we are planning to spend time on this, it should not be an exercise in futility. This bill will not undermine any study that we are doing. This will be just another process that will be taking place in the interests of our aboriginal peoples.

I have a lot of information here, Mr. Chairman. I also have a letter that was written to you on February 18, 1994. It presents the information, and asks you, Mr. Chairman, to deal with this particular issue on behalf of the Lesser Slave Lake Regional Council.

Mr. Chairman, this particular bill was ratified by cabinet. That ratification was obviously stymied. In the briefing paper provided from the Library of Parliament, we are told that in spite of this bill being ratified by cabinet, the band and the federal government were unable to resolve a number of technical and legal issues as a result of the Sawridge government legislation. My question is, is it the bureaucrats in the system that are blocking this again?

The more I read, and the longer I am on this committee, the more I suspect that there are those within the system who would like to maintain the status quo with regards to native people. This is as non-partisan a committee as you will get. This is not a partisan statement. This existed prior to our party being in government, and it is there now. When I see this kind of scenario, I ask myself why it is so.

Here is a group of native people who have been economically successful. They are prepared to put a significant amount of money forward to initiate this program. Cabinet has given it approval in principle, so why are we letting small details block what I consider to be an important initiative?

Mr. Chairman, we should proceed with this legislation in an orderly fashion that is conducive to the best interests of our aboriginal peoples. This is why we are sitting here. If we have come here for partisan reasons, let us so declare. I am not here for partisan reasons. I am here purely in the interests of trying to deal with this issue.

Mr. Chairman, we have worked on other issues. You know that I can make that statement in sincerity, because I certainly try to park my partisanship at the door when I come into this particular committee.

I urge you, Mr. Chairman, to consider this matter carefully. These people would like this particular piece of legislation to be dealt with as soon as possible. I am speaking of nine bands -- 7,000 to 9,000 people. It is imperative that we respect the chiefs of these nine bands in their requests to us and deal with it as quickly as possible.

Senator Chalifoux: Mr. Chairman, I would first like to know where you got the figure of 7,000 to 9,000 people on those nine reserves, because there are 49 registered on the Sawridge band. The Alberta government has estimated that there are approximately 9,000 aboriginal people, including the Métis, in all of northern Alberta.

Second, I have not thoroughly read and dissected this bill. However, I have had many letters from aboriginal women, and many meetings with them, and they are very concerned regarding this bill, because it does not give them any status at all.

I do not like to talk about the dead, but Senator Twinn was against allowing members who had lost their status through marriage to even come back on that reserve. That is a well-known fact.

There is nothing there in regard to women. If there is a divorce, the man automatically has control over the land, the properties and the children. That is their main concern regarding this bill.

We all know that DIAND has been a paternalistic body from day one. I am all for aboriginal self-government, and I have been a strong advocate of it through the years. However, we are not just speaking about the Sawridge band or the Lesser Slave Lake Regional Council; this is affecting all of aboriginal Canada.

This bill has not had any debate in any other aboriginal communities or nations. That is another one of my concerns.

I know the bureaucracy in DIAND is horrible. I have had dealings with it since I have been in the Senate, and I am not impressed at all. It has been that way for years. However, I feel that the present minister has at least begun to attempt to turn over partial control to a number of Indian bands in this country.

I would like to have further debate on this subject by Indian people. Why should non-aboriginals make decisions on legislation that has not been debated by the aboriginal nations of this country?

Senator Austin: Mr. Chairman, on the broad principles of the business of this committee, we agree that we are focused on the issue of self government. We want to proceed to develop the concepts of self-government that will apply to the relationship between Canada and the provinces, on the one hand, and the various aboriginal communities on the other.

As honourable senators know, there is a wide variety of views about the issues of self-government in the more than 500 bands across Canada. There is even discussion over whether the bands have sovereignty, as some bands in Alberta and Saskatchewan argue, and where all these relationships lie. Senator Chalifoux has outlined some additional concerns.

The question is how to proceed with the debate on aboriginal government. Our chairman has outlined a process that will allow us to examine these issues, to hold a dialogue with the aboriginal community, as Senator Chalifoux has said, and to learn more about what is pragmatically possible.

Frankly, the bill is an attempt to quick march an idea through a process which, although it has taken a significant amount of time, needs to be examined quite deliberately.

In our way of governing, the government plays the role of negotiator and presents its conclusion to the Parliament of Canada. While Parliament can certainly short-circuit the role of the executive by making a decision, I suggest to colleagues who want to proceed with this bill that there will be nothing but controversy and the stoking of adversarial emotions if this bill is pushed forward at this time.

I realize that there is no partisanship here, and I accept Senator St. Germain's comment on that. There are simply differences of opinion about how quickly this type of legislation should be moved forward. However, in those differences, Senator St. Germain, there is the enormous question of consequence.

If you want to achieve the objectives of this bill, I think the chairman's process of examining self-government is the correct way to go. This bill should be left on the Order Paper to be examined here as part of that process. We will then have an opinion in this committee some time within the first six months of next year. By that time, you may have evolved a consensus in this committee that would really advance the objectives that all of us have in terms of aboriginal self-government.

If the bill is pushed, I believe that it will be pushed to a defeat in the Senate, if not in this committee. Certainly, it will go nowhere in the other place. That will be a negative event in terms of the relationships between the people of Canada and the people in these aboriginal communities. I do not think they deserve that. I believe this bill can be passed with amendments once our study is over.

There are a number of very controversial issues here, including the supremacy-of-law issue. This bill departs from the Nisga'a agreement in that respect. This is a pivotal issue.

You can choose, honourable senators, to leave the bill on the table, to work in a collegial way, and come back with some proposed amendments to the bill once the study is over. Alternatively, you can push it, have it defeated, and have a number of people who are affected by this bill be disappointed, disillusioned, and even more resentful toward the Government of Canada and the Parliament of Canada.

Senator Berntson: Mr. Chairman, the measures in this bill are not new. This bill has been around for about eight months. Predecessor bills have been around for a very long time.

As I understand it, in October of 1990 or 1991 cabinet approved the process to go to drafting instructions, and to come up with something that would fit the model put forward by the Slave Lake Regional Council, which is where this initiative had started in the first place. Because there are so many models of self-government out there, their thinking at the time was to try to find a generic vehicle and provide for enabling legislation that qualifying First Nations could opt into. When I say "qualifying," I mean all the points that have been raised by Senator Austin, and others, have to be satisfied before they would qualify.

This is the third Parliament in which we have had a virtually identical bill put before us. In the two previous Parliaments, we heard witnesses from across the country. They were witnesses from First Nations who supported this measure with a great deal of enthusiasm. I am not suggesting for a moment that all aboriginal communities are 100 per cent behind this measure; they are not.

I do not pretend to be an expert in drafting, or on how one bill impacts another. However, I am told that one of the major concerns about this bill is the impact on the Bill C-31 process. I am also told that there is absolutely nothing in this bill that impacts on Bill C-31. For the most part, in previous Parliaments, those questions were satisfied, and people went away happy.

As the world evolves, we get new people on our committee. It takes some time to get through the volume of material which went on in the past. I do not see that there is a serious conflict in proceeding with both the major study and this bill.

The Nisga'a agreement was signed and delivered during the course of our study on self-government. There are many other models of self-government out there, and this is just another model that we think has enjoyed a whole lot of debate and a whole lot of support. I agree with the Chinese proverb which says to make haste slowly. If we push this thing to the point of getting backs up, then that is counter-productive. I believe we should separate this bill from the major study that we have undertaken. In fact, we should pursue it, although not with undue dispatch. If nothing else, we will get the debate on the questions of self-government and Bill C-31 into the House. This bill will not pass until those questions are satisfied.

Let us have the debate. Let us get witnesses before us. If it does not fly, it does not fly. Some of us have a great deal of confidence, and some of us do not.

In any case, the questions that have been raised by Senator Chalifoux and others have to be answered before this can pass. Let us get on with getting the answers to these questions. We can probably start by reading through all of the material from the two previous Parliaments as it relates to this bill.

Senator Chalifoux: I have a lot of support for an act on this; however, I think that this one is premature. I presented a report to senators and to the Minister of Indian Affairs from the aboriginal people who reside in the northeastern part of the Province of Alberta. They say they do not want self-government yet. They want it at some point in time, but they are not ready for it. These are the concerns that I have.

If we go through the study, and if this forms a major part of the study, then I feel this will give the study the framework to enable them to really look at an act properly.

I have met with women; not only those who fall under the provisions of Bill C-31, but also the women chiefs and other political counsellors on the reserves. They have called me. They also have grave concerns regarding this bill as it stands. They should have the opportunity to debate it, which is something that they have not had.

You might say that you have had a lot of witnesses here. I am sorry, I do not know who they were. The people with whom I have talked, and there have been many, are very concerned about their lack of input into this matter. They keep asking why others, apart from themselves, should debate a bill which affects their lives, their children and their future. This is my concern. If we do it within the confines of our study, it will come out a much better bill and it will create a much better framework.


Senator Gill: My comments will be nonpartisan. As I understand it, the examination of Bill S-14 would be done in conjunction with the study currently being carried out by the aboriginal affairs committee. Those called upon to deal with aboriginal affairs are finding this to be quite a complex issue. There is a reason for that: the people who will feel the effects of the legislation or who will have to enforce these acts are not here when we discuss these legislative provisions. In other words, and this has always been borne out by my experience, we are producing legislation that does not quite fit the people for whom it is intended. It is as if we are making shirts and shoes and they are the wrong size. That is not about to change.

I was appointed by Mr. Chrétien to represent the people from my region. However, in my view, current native leaders are the true representatives of aboriginal populations and they should be involved in these discussions. A process has currently been initiated with the aboriginal affairs committee, a kind of round table where native leaders are involved. This is a sound approach, one that could potentially lead to solutions.

We should be inviting more aboriginal leaders to participate in this process and trying to come up with solutions in light of our discussions with these individuals. I do not know what approach we will be taking, but I will support every effort made in cooperation with aboriginal representatives. If we want to save time, do something useful and address the needs of aboriginals, we must involve native leaders in our process and in our talks, as much as possible. I realize that there is a certain legal structure in place at the Senate and House of Commons, but there has to be some way to involve these persons in the process.


Senator St. Germain: I respect Senator Gill's experience and the work he has done in the past.

Senator Austin has said that we are trying to quick march much this legislation through. This issue has been around for eons. We have sat back and hoped that the issue would be dealt with. We have been asked to do a study on this bill, and we have a responsibility as a committee to do so.

Senator Chalifoux has brought up various issues, and I do not question their legitimacy. Let us bring forward witnesses. Let us hear from people who object.

When we are dealing with the issue of self-government, I do not think the Nisga'a and the Mi'kmaq are comparable. They have some things in common, but their situations are unique. If someone said to me that the Lesser Slave Lake Region should commence immediate negotiations for self-government in a different venue, that would be one recourse, but I do not hear that being suggested.

These people are seeking self-government. The bands are all saying it. I have the documentation here. The chiefs have all signed this. Senator Chalifoux says that they do not want self-government. We are not doing anything that forces anybody to do anything. They do it if they want to do it. This is enabling legislation that they can utilize if it were to pass.

No one is saying that the proposed legislation should pass in its present form, although some of us would like to see it go through the way it is. The fact is that there could be amendments. To say that this proposed legislation would undermine the study is simply procrastination. The Nisga'a negotiations are going ahead, and other negotiations are going full steam ahead in my province. You know that, Senator Austin.

We can build on our study if we take a positive perspective. I see this as a positive rather than a negative. We all look at the world from a different angle. It is with the greatest of respect that I say that I think your angle is wrong, Senator Austin.

Senator Austin: There are three things upon which we agree, and one thing upon which we disagree. Senator Berntson, Senator Gill and Senator Chalifoux all use the word "parallel," or a word that means parallel.

I see no problem with studying this bill parallel to our study on aboriginal self-government. We cross-examine witnesses on the terms of the bill and on our other issues of self-government.

We can examine the bill. However, the one thing you cannot brush under the table is the reality that this bill is an attempt to flank an unsatisfactory negotiation with the Government of Canada.

In all the other treaty arrangements you talk about, the government and the band have come to an agreement. The government is presenting the bill in question as an agreed arrangement with the band. In this particular case, this is not so. There is not a settled negotiation between these bands and the government. This is an attempt to pressure the government to make changes in its negotiating posture. That is legitimate. I have no problem with that if I agree with the reasons for the pressure. I do not know whether or not I do agree with them in this instance.

There are problems with this bill that concern me. My main concern is the relationship of the authority of this Parliament to the authority of the band as drafted. There are issues that relate to the status question. Senator Chalifoux has referred to those with respect to women. Entitlement is another issue. These are very serious concerns.

There are complaints in many aboriginal quarters in Alberta over entitlement, the closed nature of two or three bands, and the closed nature of the governance as it now is. To enact legislation that saw Parliament confirming the closed nature of that circle would be a matter of some concern to a number of stakeholders.

I do not want to get into the debate on the terms, because that is what the evidence will bring out and that is the subject on which this committee will ultimately make a judgment.

I suggest that the committee's study on aboriginal self-government and the committee's review of the provisions of Bill S-14 proceed together when convenient. When there are special issues related to Bill S-14, we should convene a separate session, and we should move the whole process forward as one continuous process of examination. Let us then pick a date by which this committee must have concluded its hearings on Bill S-14 and made a decision, such as May 30. Would that be acceptable to you?

Senator Tkachuk: I wish to ask Senator Austin a question on his motion.Are you suggesting, by "parallel" that it is part of the study, or are you suggesting that it go alongside the study? I have a bit of a problem if it is part of the study, because the Senate itself has instructed this committee to undertake the study of Bill S-14. That instruction was given to us at the end of March -- eight months ago.

When we initially discussed this in April, I agree with Senator Watt that it should run parallel, and be studied at the same time as the self-government report was being studied. The problem with that is that it is already December 1. There has been no study of self-government by this committee, and there has been no study of the bill. That is my problem.

Mr. Chairman, I wish to address some of the issues that have been brought up.

Senator St.Germain is exactly correct. This bill does not force anyone to do anything. This bill is enabling legislation.

Senator Austin, what we have here is a disagreement on how self-government should proceed in this country. I have always had the impression that Parliament was supreme. I may be wrong, but I always thought that Parliament should make a decision on some of these issues. Parliament has never debated self-government.

We are parliamentarians. As a senator, I do not believe that I only represent white people. I am sure the members of Parliament in my province do not believe that they only represent white people. They represent the Province of Saskatchewan, which includes aboriginal, Métis and non-aboriginals. We have a responsibility as parliamentarians. I got interested in the bill from that point of view.

I am not from Alberta. I was a friend of Senator Twinn's, and I agreed to take this initiative on because I thought it was an important role that Parliament should play to give direction to the government, and I feared what would happen if we did not. In my view, what is happening in British Columbia with the Nisga'a is an example of Parliament not having its act together. The executive is out there negotiating an agreement, it is done in secret, and between two parties. It is being thrown out to the public with the indication that we must like it, and that we are racist if we do not like it.

That is not the way to do business in this country. We should have a framework from which to work and the government should have some direction as to how to negotiate a self-government agreement that meets our obligations to the aboriginal people in Canada. I believe most parliamentarians feel that we have these obligations.

I remember when the Yukon bill came before us. We heard from many people from that territory who did not like the bill. That is what happens. The majority of the people liked the bill, but some people did not, so they came before the committee and said they did not like what was happening.

This is not an unusual situation. I have heard the questions on Bill C-31 a million times, but no one has told me where in the bill this is a problem. This is something that testimony here should address. We should discuss Bill C-31 and how it relates to this bill. We should discuss any outstanding issues. We are having a debate that Parliament should have. We have not even studied the bill, but we are making decisions here on what is in the bill.

The other objection was the closed nature of this bill in that it was an attempt to fast-track something. Senator Austin, I have been at this thing for four years. I just want someone to finish the study. Surely we can finish the study, and then it can go to the Senate and be debated. If the senators in their good judgment think this is a bad bill, they have a right to defeat it. They at least have the right to vote. This committee has the right to vote on the bill.

I am not asking for it to be fast-tracked. I am not asking that we finish this study in the next couple of weeks. I am asking that we have a study, and that it start and finish sometime. That is all I am asking. I believe that as a senator who has introduced a bill, a bill that the Senate has referred, I have the right to ask that question.

Mr. Chairman, as you know, I am a very patient man. It has been eight months. We have not had any bad words. We have had good discussions on this issue. I am trying to be as positive as I can. I am just frustrated. I would like to see us have a beginning. I am not asking for an end. I am asking that we at least proceed, that we hear witnesses, that we study the bill and debate it, and that we do what the Senate has asked. I ask that this committee go about beginning. I want an indication of a date that we would start, or at least the indication of a week when we would start.

The Chairman: Honourable senators, I wish to say that I intend to continue to have constructive discussions with you in a friendly fashion. If we can find a way out on some of the problem areas, and I believe we are quite capable of trying to find the solutions, I intend to continue doing that.

Senator Tkachuk: That is good, because I used to watch you at the aboriginal meetings on self-government, and you are the last person I want to get into a fight with.

The Chairman: I have no intention of getting into a fight with anyone either.

I hear what both sides are saying. I hear what Senator Austin is saying, and I also hear what Senator Tkachuk and his people are saying, as well as Senator Gill and Senator Chalifoux.

I will not go into the details of the bill itself; that is for another day. In terms of the procedural side, I feel that I will be running into some problems, not only within the parliamentary side and within the government, but with our own aboriginal leaders. We must remember the fact that the way we structured this committee is very different from other committees, and I believe we have always struck an agreement amongst ourselves that we would create another instrument, not only the public hearing.

I was very encouraged that each of you said that this matter must be put to the test. When you speak to an issue that must be put to the test, aboriginal leaders and national leaders must be involved and be direct participants in the outcome. We have created round-table governance especially so that they will be able to have a dialogue and debate with the senators.

If I understood Senator Tkachuk correctly, you would like to bypass that in order to expedite this bill and move on, because it has been waiting for a long time. I understand that, and I support you on that. I feel that, as soon as possible, we should call on witnesses and have public hearings. I have no problem with that. I state that in the letter itself. We can start that any time. The problem is that when the private member's bill is let go, and we establish another process entirely separate from the committee, we will not be able to yank it back.

I wonder if there is a possible compromise. We could take this bill as a test. We could have a debate on it with the leaders, and see if this is one of the models that the leaders have in mind. We can discuss the bill. You can tell us how you envisage this enabling legislation working.

We can agree to call on the witnesses as soon as possible, and to study this bill on a parallel basis. However, I do not want to bypass the round table on the governance. It has to end there somehow.

If, after the round table, the senators who are debating on the issues feel that it is expedient to move it forward because we really have no consent, then we can decide to expedite it and let it go through. At this point in time, it goes as far as being an issue, and a substantive issue to be addressed at the round table. Can we agree on that?

Senator Tkachuk: What is the round table? I am not sure of that. I am not a member of this committee. What do you mean by the round table?

The Chairman: The round table allows the aboriginal leaders to have a debate with the senators, and to deal with certain specific issues which might be rigid, or which need to be aired. It allows us to do some fine-tuning on the specific issues that they would like to cover. The public hearings will bring forward all sorts of elements.

Senator Austin: Under Senator Watt, the committee has developed a process whereby aboriginal leaders will sit as equals with the members of this committee for the purposes of discussing issues such as self-government. They will, in fact, sit here with us as witnesses come forward, and they will be hearing those witnesses as senators do. It does not mean that they are senators. or that they are members of this committee. They will be participants as equals in the dialogue. Ultimately, of course, this committee sits to make the decisions it wishes to make.

As I understand Senator Watt's suggestion, the evidence on Bill S-14 would also be heard in that context. Did I explain that correctly?

The Chairman: You explained it in a certain way, yes.

Senator St. Germain: They cannot study a piece of legislation that has been referred to the committee. They could appear as witnesses, but I do not believe the bill, under our legislative process, could be brought before a round table. The round table is a study of the principle of self-governance.

Senator Austin: There would be parallel processes. A lot of the evidence would come in the discussions at the round table, but when we debate the bill, only the members of this committee would debate the bill.

Senator Tkachuk: How will you deal with the Nisga'a bill?

Senator Austin: That bill will come to us in the form of a government bill or a resolution; I am not sure which.

Senator St. Germain: What is the difference? We will have to deal with that.

Senator Austin: If we are in a legislative process, only senators can participate. If we are in a study process, we participate in any format we want.

Senator St. Germain: That is correct. Basically, Bill S-14 is in the legislative process. The Nisga'a bill will come to us in the legislative process, not as a study. That is completely different.

I am not disagreeing with Senator Gill when he says he wants the aboriginal leaders to be witnesses to Bill S-14. If they happen to be here at the same time, and we deal with the matter when they are here, that is fine.

However, we cannot bring Bill S-14 into a round table, any more than we could take the Nisga'a agreement and put it into the round table hearings. I am not saying that they will not discuss it at the round table, but it must be separate, and truly parallel -- not integrated.

Senator Tkachuk has indicated how to start. Senator Austin has indicated how to finish. These are good ideas. We should start it as quickly as the chairman can facilitate it. Perhaps we can finish by April 30.

Senator Tkachuk: By ending on May 30, the problem is June. That time period could possibly limit your time for debate in the Senate.

Senator Austin: I do not see a difference. Senator St. Germain has said that the issues in the bill can be part of a discussion in the round table.

Senator Tkachuk: Of course. Why not?

Senator Austin: We need a separate process, though, when we come to the clause-by-clause study of the bill, which cannot include outsiders. In our parliamentary system, only senators can participate. Is there any problem with that?

The Chairman: No.

Senator Berntson: We had a very loose definition of "parallel" a minute ago. Now you are talking about "parallel" meaning separate and apart, and not in lockstep with the study. I have no difficulty with that.

Senator Austin: Self-government will include all the issues in this bill. We can have a discussion on those issues in the round table context with aboriginal colleagues, but we must also have a separate process in which we call witnesses on Bill S-14. We will have both processes. I do not think the chairman has any problem with that.

The Chairman: I have no problem with that. However, when we conclude, when we finally finish with Bill S-14, it is still expected that we deal with it separately and refer it to the Senate. From the Senate, it goes to the House of Commons. I still have that problem.

Senator Austin: It is legislation. Ultimately, we must deal with legislation as legislation. If we are not happy with the substance of the legislation, we will not support the bill.

Senator St. Germain: You are entitled to do that.

The Chairman: Let us look at it positively. If there is any reason to make specific amendments to the bill, we can deal then with those amendments.

Senator Tkachuk: That is right.

Senator Austin: Some of us may propose amendments. I am sure that Senator Chalifoux will have some.

The Chairman: We then have an obligation to refer it to the Senate as a whole.

Senator Austin: Senator Tkachuk has said he is open to debate amendments to the bill.

Senator Tkachuk: I am always open to that. I cannot imagine that amendments to the bill would not at least be proposed, if not adopted.

Senator St. Germain: I think our sunset clause should be for April 30. That gives us March and April to study the bill.

The Chairman: How many meetings will your witnesses require?

Senator Tkachuk: That will really depend on the committee, and whether they have any outstanding issues. If we bring the witnesses together and if you want further examination, then we can call them back. They have requested that we give them two weeks notice. If you are paying the airfare, you will probably want to save money by booking more than two weeks ahead. They all lead their own lives and have their own jobs, so they prefer to have some notice.

The Chairman: This issue is not new. We have already held hearings on it, and we have heard witnesses. I am trying to decide on a workable schedule, rather than relying on this present piecemeal basis, which is not working. I will be proposing a schedule to our own caucus, and we will finalize it and put it in a block form.

Looking at our proposed hearing schedule on aboriginal self-government, including the governance round table, we have tentatively scheduled to have a round table on February 23. If we put our minds to it, do you think it is possible to finish this within the four weeks in February?

Senator Tkachuk: I think it is absolutely possible, if we have a schedule and organize witnesses.

The Chairman: Then we can take the substance, not the bill and not the clause-by-clause, to discussions with the aboriginal leaders. After that, it comes back to the committee.

Senator St. Germain: I think it is predicated more on members like Senator Chalifoux. She wants to bring witnesses forward. As far as we are concerned, the witnesses we want to bring forward are people such as the officials who drafted the bill, so that we may go through it on a clause-by-clause basis. They are ready to attend. They want two weeks' notice, and they will be here.

Senator Chalifoux, Senator Gill, or some other senator may want more witnesses, and may feel that more witnesses should attend. That could encumber your agenda. However, as far as those who proposed the bill go, they are ready to go into a clause-by-clause discussion of the bill, and to support the legislation as drafted.

Senator Chalifoux: You are talking about the people from the Slave Lake.

Senator St. Germain: That is right.

Senator Chalifoux: We also have women who very concerned about this bill. A number of chiefs are very concerned. They should have the right to speak.

Senator Tkachuk: Are you talking about chiefs from the Lesser Slave Lake Band Council?

Senator Chalifoux: That is up to you.

Senator Tkachuk: We have already brought them forward. They have been here, and they have testified. If there are other chiefs in the country who want to about the bill, they can go ahead and do so.

Senator Chalifoux: This bill will not just affect the Regional Council of Slave Lake; it will affect everyone.

Senator Tkachuk: Only if they decide to follow the model.

Senator Chalifoux: They do not understand that.

Senator Austin: When you set up a template, you change the whole chemistry of the negotiations scene.

Senator Gill: This is important. We should not put a barrier on people attending. Just as one example, this bill says the Canadian Human Rights Act does not apply in respect of anything done under this act. That applies to everything right across the board. It depends how you want to deal with it.

Senator Tkachuk: That is the way it is done now. It is taken from the Indian Act. The Human Rights Act does not apply under the Indian Act. This is the status quo.

Senator Gill: However, we should not limit people from coming here to talk about that.

Senator Tkachuk: This is just simply going back to the Indian Act.

The Chairman: Can we get back to the timing? February 23 is a little too close, and April 30 is a little too far. What about March?

Senator Austin: In my view, you will never be able to hear the people who want to come forward on this bill as quickly as that. A number of people are very concerned about this bill's implications for the stakeholders excluded by it.

Senator Tkachuk: Perhaps our clerk could tell us if we have any letters from potential witnesses. Have any of these people who are interested sent letters saying they want to testify?

Mr. T<#00F5>nu Onu, Clerk of the Committee: The only list of witnesses that I have is the list that you proposed. No other groups have contacted me at this point.

Senator Chalifoux: I have not submitted a list because this bill, whether we like it or not, has not been widely publicized within the aboriginal communities. It is all rumour and innuendo. That is the kinds of calls I have been getting.

Senator Tkachuk: I sent a copy of the bill to every band in the country in 1994.

Senator Chalifoux: There are 633 bands. That was in 1994. We are now talking about new chiefs, and new councillors.

Senator Tkachuk: I do not want to be argumentative. I do want it on the record that we made a strong attempt to distribute the bill to all of the bands in the country. We also distributed it to every aboriginal newspaper in the country.

Senator Mahovlich: Does every band have a chief?

Senator Chalifoux: Yes. It is the same as if you were in Germany. Every ethnic group in Germany has different councillors.

Senator Mahovlich: Can we listen to 633 chiefs and be done by April?

Senator Chalifoux: No, no.

Senator Mahovlich: Is there one leader for the aboriginals?

Senator Chalifoux: No, because we have three different aboriginal nations in this country. It would be the same as you asking me if all the Ukrainians have one leader in this country. The answer is, "No."

Senator Andreychuk: They do not have just one, but they do have less than 600.

Senator Austin: It got a fair kick the other day in an article in The Globe and Mail.

Senator Tkachuk: The timetable for the end of February is not something on which you must pass a resolution.

The Chairman: I would like to have some idea.

Senator Tkachuk: If more witnesses write to the clerk and we want to extend it, there is nothing wrong with that.

Senator Austin: Why not March 30? If we do not have a definite date, we will not get it done.

The Chairman: We are talking about conducting parallel studies on this bill and on our study. Time is important, and it will be eaten up. I am trying to condense it down so that, at least in our minds, we can try to complete our goals. If you want a definite date, and if no one has a problem with March 31, I would go for that. I think we have a deal.

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Tkachuk: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, colleagues.

The Chairman: Senator Tkachuk, after I table the schedule that we have worked out with our caucus, and if it is generally acceptable, you can tell your people that we are planning to have hearings in February. We do not yet know if the Senate will be sitting on February 2, or on February 9. We can wrestle with that later. We will get back to you. Tell your people that we are ready to hear them as soon as possible.

Senator Tkachuk: We will tell them to be ready for February 1, and, once we adjourn, we will know the date.

Senator Austin: I suggest that we schedule in the first week of February. I do not know whether the Senate will sit or not, but we can schedule two or three days of all-day hearings to get into the subject and get on with it.

Senator Tkachuk: Okay.

The Chairman: We will be dealing with that.

Senator Andreychuk: We have a very costly study that is proceeding. I trust that we will meet the time limits on that study -- and on this as well -- because we have not gotten there.

Senator Austin: That is what we spent the whole meeting discussing.

Senator Andreychuk: Are we saying that this bill will have priority?

Senator Austin: No, it will be parallel.

Senator Andreychuk: Are we setting up a problem?

The Chairman: We know that this is a compromise solution.

We will now proceed in camera to deal with some other issues.

The committee proceeded in camera.