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Residential School Settlement

Hon. Nick G. Sibbeston: Honourable senators, I am pleased to provide an update on the residential school settlement. Last May Canada finalized an agreement with the assembly of First Nations, the churches and residential schools survivors and their lawyers. The agreement provides a compensation package to everyone who attended Indian residential school. This payment reflects the damage done to culture, language, individuals, families and communities by this experience. Those students who suffered physical and sexual abuse will receive further compensation through a process outlined in the agreement. The agreement also provides funds for ongoing healing and for a truth commission to communicate the whole story to Canadians.

The agreement had to be approved in full by nine provincial and territorial courts. On January 15, the last court, the Northwest Territories Supreme Court, issued its judgment supporting the settlement. Some of the courts raised issues of concern with some of the details of the agreement and gave only conditional approval as a result. However, in a remarkable and unprecedented move, all judges involved in this case met in Calgary to resolve some of these issues and to agree to a joint sitting of all courts to issue a final approval in the near future.

It is not clear whether this will also resolve the matter of the federal appeal of a single element of the Saskatchewan decision, but one must hope that neither the federal government nor the Saskatchewan court will allow this one issue to hold up the entire settlement. The conclusion of the court process marks a major milestone in a long awaited resolution of this difficult episode in Canada's relations with Aboriginal people.

Once final approval is granted, there will be a five-month period within which all residential school survivors can indicate their objection or agreement. I believe the vast majority will accept the settlement, not because it comes close to compensating them for the abuse they suffered, the loss of language and culture they endured or for the impact that residential schools have had on them as students, their families and their communities, but rather, they will accept it in the spirit of reconciliation and healing that is so important to their future and well-being.

I know from personal experience the damage that residential schools caused. I spent 11 years in residential schools in the North after being sent away from home when I was five years old. I have cousins and other relatives who were away from their homes and families for 10, 12, 14 years. Imagine sending your child away for those many years; it is a very traumatic experience. I am glad to be able to stand here and say that the matter is finally coming to a conclusion. An agreement has been reached and it is just a matter of the courts approving it.

The agreement is vital to Aboriginal people and to Canada in our ongoing efforts to right the wrongs of the past and to meet our long-standing obligations to Aboriginal people. There is much left to do but this agreement is a shining first step and I commend the Government of Canada, both old and new, for taking the step. In the end, I hope and expect Canada to issue a formal and official apology for what happened to Aboriginal people during the many years that these schools operated. Later, I plan to introduce a motion to enable the Senate to contribute to the reconciliation and healing process. I hope that honourable senators will find it in their hearts to agree with the motion.

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Specific Claims Process

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator St. Germain, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Segal, that the fifth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples entitled Negotiation or Confrontation: it's Canada's Choice, tabled in the Senate on December 12, 2006, be adopted and that, pursuant to rule 131(2), the Senate request a complete and detailed response from the government, with the Minister of Indian Affairs and the Minister of Justice being identified as Ministers responsible for responding to the report. —(Honourable Senator Tardif)

Hon. Nick G. Sibbeston: Honourable senators, I wish to say a few words regarding the study and report that the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples provided. It is an absolutely wonderful report and I encourage all honourable senators to read it. It is current and concerns an issue vital to our country — the matter of dealing with the outstanding claims of First Nations people. This is a very important matter because if we do not resolve these problems, our country will again be faced with incidents like Ipperwash and Oka. As a country, we need to deal with these land claims.

Our committee has done excellent work. We reviewed the matter. We heard many witnesses, did some travelling and we issued an excellent report that I hope the government will take seriously.

I will read a little bit of the foreword, which encapsulates the seriousness of the problem and why it needs rectifying. Why are there so many problems?

Canada's failure to address and resolve the legitimate claims of First Nations.

Imagine your new neighbour comes into your backyard and fences off half of it. Then he sells it to someone down the street. This new neighbour tells you he got a good deal but he won't say how much he got. Then, he says that he'll take care of the cash — on your behalf, of course.

Maybe he even spends a little on himself.

You complain. He denies he did anything wrong.

What would you do?

Go to the proper authorities? Turns out that the authorities and their agencies work for him.

Sue him? He tells you that none of the lawyers can work for you — he's got every one in town working for him. When he finally lets a lawyer work for you — it turns out that he can afford five of them for every one you can afford.

Finally he says: Okay, I'm willing to discuss it. But first you have to prove I did something wrong. Oh, and I get to be the judge of whether you've proved it. And, if you do prove it, I get to set the rules about how we'll negotiate. I'll decide when we've reached a deal and I'll even get to determine how I'll pay the settlement out to you. Oh, and I hope you're in no rush because this is going to take about twenty or thirty years to settle.

This little story exemplifies the difficulty of First Nations in dealing with past grievances. We used such a simple story to make the point that First Nations have many problems dealing with their past grievances.

First Nations have the onus of identifying the problem, and then they have to go to Indian Affairs. Indian Affairs has to decide whether the grievance is just and should be dealt with. Eventually, it goes to the Department of Justice and it can stay there for years and years waiting for their opinion.

Eventually, it comes out of the Department of Justice. If there is a basis to the claim, then negotiations occur; but they are with the Department of Indian Affairs, with whom you have the grievance in the first place. It is all in-house.

The federal government is the judge and jury in this matter. First Nations are up against a very difficult system that is in place to deal with our grievances. This is why, throughout the country, we have had instances where grievances have caused sparks and clashes.

The clash that we have at the moment at Caledonia is an example of a long historical grievance that has never been settled. It comes up in a flash and our society is left to resolve a difficult problem.

Coming from the North, I was initially not aware of the problem of specific claims because we only have one small reserve and not many specific claims have arisen. We are fortunate in the North that we have land claims that have been settled in the last 20 years. Most of the claims and concerns of Aboriginal people have been dealt with in a satisfactory manner. We have what are called modern treaties, modern settlements that have been made with the First Nations, with the Inuit and, in some cases, with the Metis people. We in the North are fortunate in this matter.

Specific claims are abundant in Southern Canada, where Canada's relations with the First Nations have gone on for many hundreds of years. There has been a process of putting aside lands for native people. Over the course of many years, things have happened. Some of the lands have been reduced; lands have been taken back by the federal government for roads and other development. Out of this long historical process, the First Nations have many grievances that they are attempting to have resolved.

Primarily, I have learned through this process of dealing with specific claims that the federal government has in place a frustrating process. I do know that if this program were in place for ordinary Canadians, they would not be very tolerant and it would not take long for them to say that it does not work. Something would be done about it. Perhaps because First Nations are not as influential and strong as the rest of society, it has been left for them to deal with in a frustrating manner.

I know that people see the images of confrontation at Oka, Ipperwash or Caledonia and wonder why Aboriginal peoples are mad — what do they want? The answer is simply that they want justice. When an incident like that occurs, it is really because of a long-simmering, agonizing frustration that the normal system has not dealt with. They turn to violence in an attempt to get attention and have the matter resolved.

The First Nations have generally been patient, but sometimes patience runs out. Oftentimes the grievances do not take a minor five, 10 or 15 years to resolve. Sometimes they go back 50, 70 or 100 years.

One must also remember that until about the 1960s, it was not possible for First Nations or Aboriginal people to hire lawyers to help them deal with these cases.

Almost any time you see a First Nation occupy land or block a road, there is a specific claim somewhere in the background. Specific claims arose when Canada failed to live up to its agreements with First Nations. In some cases, they did not grant land as promised in the treaties. In some cases, First Nations obtained land only to have it taken away in a manner that violated Canada's own rules. In other cases, federal employees improperly took Indian money and other assets.

Many of these cases date back decades and some date back centuries. For years, First Nations were prohibited by law from pursuing these claims. Even now, it can take 15 or 20 years for claims to be settled, and often the settlement is limited and grudging. "Take it or leave it" seems to be the prevalent attitude.

More than 25 years of efforts have settled nearly 300 claims. In every case, those settlements have made a positive economic difference, both for the First Nations and the non-Aboriginal communities that surround them.

However, nearly 900 claims are backlogged, and that number grows every year. There are many problems with the specific claims process, but it comes down to two main issues: resources allocated to the process and the process itself.

Canada needs to put more money and staff toward adjusting the time it takes for the resolution of claims. It needs to set aside a lot more money for the payment of claims when they are resolved.

We have heard testimony from government officials recognizing that the Department of Indian Affairs, for example, does not have sufficient money and there is great staff turnover. With respect to the Department of Justice, it takes them a long time to deal with the legal aspects of claims as they, in turn, do not have enough staff and they as well turn over frequently. That adds to the problem of delay in the system.

Canada must recognize that specific claims are not just a program. Rather, they are a contingent liability, an actual debt that Canada owes First Nations. The Leader of the Assembly of First Nations, Phil Fontaine, has stated this.

At the moment, we deal with the problem like we do a government program, but it is more than that. It is a debt of our country that ultimately needs to be cleared up. The money for dealing with this should be seen accordingly.

This problem runs deeper than just money. Canada is in an inherent conflict of interest when it comes to specific claims. Canada was responsible for the acts that led to these claims being made, and Canada is also responsible for trying to resolve them. Canada acts as both defender and prosecutor, not to mention judge, jury and executioner.

The claims are dealt with by a section of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. We all feel, and all the witnesses who came before us have stated, that we need an arm's-length independent body apart from Indian Affairs who can judge these claims and render an independent judgment.

The federal government in the late 1980s and 1990s set up a joint task force comprised of Aboriginal people and department officials in an attempt to come up with a solution. It was a compromise solution for both Canada and the First Nations, and Bill C-6 was eventually a result of that work. However, that bill fell short. It was not quite what the Aboriginal people had wanted and requested. When we dealt with Bill C-6, we thought it was a small step forward and believed we could make incremental increases and improvements to that process. Therefore, we passed it.

Since that time, the federal government has not proclaimed the act because of resistance by Aboriginal peoples throughout the country. The bill sits there doing nothing, and the Aboriginal people of our country are still looking for a solution.

The committee's report recommended an allocation of more resources to make the existing process work faster and more fairly. It also recommended that there be consultation with First Nations to design a better process, ultimately an arm's-length organization.

The alternative to finding solutions to this problem is that I think our country will face more conflict by First Nations.

The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Mr. Jim Prentice, appeared before our committee. For 10 years he served as Commissioner of the Indian Specific Claims Commission of Canada, so he is experienced and very knowledgeable about this issue. As a minister, he seems interested in seeing the matter resolved and wants to do something.

Senator St. Germain has been an excellent chairman of our committee. All committee members have worked in a non-partisan way to find answers. We have said and we feel that if ever there was a chance in government to have reports such as this accepted by the government and acted upon, it is now. Mr. Prentice, who is fairly high up in government, can respond to the problem and act on the recommendations we made in our report. I feel that Mr. Prentice understands the problem.

I urge honourable senators to read the report. It is good reading and provides a solution to a real problem that exists in our society. When it comes to honourable senators voting to support and adopt the report, I hope they will urge the federal government to adopt it as well and do something concrete.

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Northwest Territories Snow Sculpture Team—Congratulations

Hon. Nick G. Sibbeston: Honourable senators, I am pleased to tell you that the team from the Northwest Territories won first prize in the National Snow Sculpture Competition held this past weekend as part of Ottawa's Winterlude Festival. They were chosen by their peers to receive the prestigious Artists' Choice Award.

The Northwest Territories' 16-foot high winning entry depicted a polar bear locked arm-in-arm with a hunter in a wild dance during an encounter in the Arctic. Both whimsical and moving, this gravity-defying sculpture captured the need for joy and spontaneity and expressed the close connection between man and nature felt deeply by all Northerners.

The winning team was truly representative of the North, consisting of Eli Nasogaluak, who is Inuvialuit from the Mackenzie Delta area, John Sabourin, who is Dene from the Deh Cho area, and my son, Randy Sibbeston, a Metis.

Because of the cold temperatures last week, the condition of the snow for completing the sculpture was ideal.

I know all of the representatives from across the country enjoyed building their sculptures. I found it amazing and exciting to watch the various figures arise from the big cubes of snow.

Nova Scotia won second prize, British Columbia won third and Alberta won the Public Choice Award.

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Whitehorse—Canada Winter Games

Hon. Nick G. Sibbeston: Honourable senators, on February 23, the 2007 Canada Winter Games will begin in Whitehorse, Yukon. This marks the fortieth anniversary of this important sporting event that runs until March 10. All three northern territories have joined forces in a pan-northern approach to showcase the largest event ever staged north of the sixtieth parallel. More than 3,600 athletes, coaches and managers will gather in Whitehorse to compete for a total of 1,122 medals in 22 sports.

Honourable senators, with the 2007 Winter Games, every province and territory will have played a part in hosting the Canada Games over the years. This is a great accomplishment and one well worth celebrating.

Like all great events in Canada, the Canada Winter Games have always relied on the efforts of countless dedicated volunteers, and this year will be no different. People from across the North will be donating their time and energy to host, promote and support these games.

All Canadians will have a chance to share in the excitement and the great performances by our young athletes, the next generation of champions. More than 150 hours of television coverage will be provided by CBC, TSN, SRC, RDS and APTN.

I urge senators and Canadians from coast to coast to watch these games. The opening ceremonies will be broadcast live on CBC Newsworld on February 23.

I also invite all my colleagues to come north at some point during the games to see the beautiful city of Whitehorse and the northern lands. February 23 to March 10 — mark it on your calendars.

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Notice of Motion to Apologize to Students of Residential Schools

Hon. Nick G. Sibbeston: Honourable senators, I give notice that at the next sitting I will move:

That the Senate make a formal apology to all former students of Indian Residential Schools for the harm suffered to their language, culture and well-being, especially those students who were also victims of physical and sexual abuse, and;

That the Senate call on the House of Commons and the Government of Canada to issue formal apologies to all former students.

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Hon. Nick G. Sibbeston: Honourable senators, I recognize it is late in the day so I will not say very much, but a lot has been said about Aboriginal people, the difficulties they encounter and the need for our country to put forward more resources so that Aboriginal people can rise and we can lessen the gap.

When the committee went out to the communities to study Aboriginal business, we saw zeal, enthusiasm, energy, pride and hope. This is why the matter of economic development for Aboriginal people is so significant. Business opportunities are the way that Aboriginal people can get up on their feet and contribute to Canada in a meaningful way.

I have had the good fortune in my life of seeing the transition of Aboriginal people from the traditional way of life. My ancestors were hunters and trappers. When I grew up, Aboriginal people did not have anything. No one owned a vehicle in my hometown. All they had was their equipment to go out on the land — dog teams, sleds, guns, snowshoes and canoes. As I became older, beginning in the 1980s and 1990s, Aboriginal people began to own things. We began to see a real change in the Northwest Territories. Aboriginal people were making the transition from a traditional way of life to a wage economy, and then to owning businesses.

In the North, this transformation has happened in part because of land claims. I give credit to the government because, beginning in 1984, they began negotiating land claims in the North with the Inuvialuit up in the Beaufort Sea area, and the Inuvialuit got their land claim. Over years of payments years, they received $60 million. Today, Inuvialuit companies are members of the Fortune 500 group of companies. They have been so successful and have done so well that their assets are now in the area of $1 billion. They have been very successful in turning capital, along with their ownership and access to lands in the North, to good use. They have made the transition.

Other Aboriginal people, the Dogrib for example, have been very successful in engaging in the diamond mines. They are also stressing education. A few years ago, they had a dozen people in university and training schools in the south and now they have over 200. They are using their access and benefits money to supplement their income so that people from their area can go to school in a comfortable way. They stress education. They have partnerships and businesses with the diamond mines and I think they are on to a very good future, all because of business.

Why does the government not recognize that it can help Aboriginal people in business? It is like a rolling snowball. It is not a situation where they would have to eternally give them money. The government could give money once and the Aboriginal people would use this money to be successful. That is what we want the government to do.

We wanted to contribute something to Canadian society, both the governments and Aboriginal people, when we began looking at involvement in business. We wanted to know why some Aboriginal people succeeded while others were having a very difficult time. We did look at this aspect.

A study was done at Harvard on Aboriginal businesses. Professor Cornell, for one, looked at this whole issue in the United States. He tried to find out why certain Aboriginal people in the States were succeeding while others were not. One of the things he discovered, and saw offhand, was the matter of governance. Those First Nations that had good governance, obvious rules for their conduct and their dealings with business, were the ones that were successful. There were other elements, too, such as leadership and location.

This report deals with that aspect. We have been able to identify the factors that lead to Aboriginal success. We list them here on page nine in the executive summary.

Canadians should know that Aboriginal people are getting into business and are beginning to succeed. There are areas where this is happening. Unfortunately, there are places where this is not happening, particularly in the remoter parts of our country, where people oftentimes are mired down in social problems. Some communities have a hard time. It is these areas, as well as others, where native people are still struggling and need the help and focus of governments to provide monies and start-up funds so that they can get on their economic feet.

Unfortunately, inasmuch as this is an important area, the money available for economic development programs has actually been shrinking, to the point where it is now only 8 per cent of the $9 billion or so that the government is allotting to Aboriginal people.

I will not say much more. Last week, my colleague Senator St. Germain and I had an opportunity to go out West. We found it was hard to get publicity and news here in Ottawa about our report so we went to Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver. We met with some Aboriginal people but we also met with many news people. As a result of our visits, there have been quite a few news reports. The Calgary Herald stated that our report has been able to provide practical and workable ideas for closing the gap between the First Nations communities and the rest of Canada. In Vancouver, The Province urged the Prime Minister to get on board with this committee's recommendations.

We hope that this report will be of some substance and use to everyone, governments and Aboriginal people alike, as it is the result of intense effort and very good work by the committee. We went to see people who have been successful and I believe we have the information here that the government and everyone else can use to respond in a positive way to the Aboriginal people in their quest for economic development.

I give this report to you, and I hope that it is accepted and is of use to everyone in our country.

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Hon. Nick G. Sibbeston: Honourable senators, I am pleased to speak on this motion and tell you about my knowledge of the residential school system and my own experience.

The residential school system was a system in the early years of our history, where Aboriginal children were brought from their homes and parents to a school where they lived and boarded, usually for 10 months of the year, and were then able to go home. However, some remained there for many years. I have cousins who stayed away from their homes and parents for over 10 years without going home.

It was also a system where young children were taught as much as they could and also taught to work. I had an Uncle Ted who has since died, but when he talked about problems, he said he spent many years there, and out of his many years he got a grade 3 education. He used to smile and say, "I got a grade 3 education from the University of Fort Providence," which is where his residential school was situated. Essentially, it prepared young people to go from the residential school out into the world. My uncle began trapping and eventually made his way in the world, but he did generally appreciate the education that he got.

Many of the missionaries who came north and west were from Quebec, so my first language at the residential school was French, because I only knew the Dene, the native language, so it was French, and now English.

The Indian residential school system predates Confederation, and it grew, in part, out of Canada's missionary experience with various religious organizations. The federal government began to play a role in the development and administration of this system as early as 1874, mainly to meet legal obligations under the Indian Act, as well as to assist in the integration of Aboriginal people into the broader Canadian society.

The schools were located in every province and territory except Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Of the 130 schools that existed over time, it is estimated that up to 100 of these could be involved in claims.

The Government of Canada operated nearly every school as a joint venture with various religious organizations. On April 1, 1969, the government assumed total responsibility for the school system, although churches remained involved for some years in many instances.

Some residential schools ceased to operate in the mid-1970s. The last federally run residential school in Canada closed in 1996.

In the Northwest Territories, where I come from, schools were established by the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches in the 1800s. The residential school that I first attended was Sacred Heart School in Fort Providence, which had been set up in 1858, and that is a long time ago. It eventually closed in 1968 or thereabouts, so we have had a system of residential schools in the West and the North for over 100 years.

You can imagine that there were hundreds and thousands of young Aboriginal students who had gone through the process. In the North, that was the main system of educating the people. Many of my relatives, many people that we know in the North and many who have died over the years have gone through the residential school system.

Honourable senators, the Indian residential school settlement agreement, which will come into effect this fall, is an important step for our country in dealing with the legacy of Aboriginal people who attended residential schools in our country. The agreement, initiated under the previous government and completed under the current government, will make a real difference in the lives of survivors across the country. I have expressed my appreciation and am truly thankful to the federal government and the churches that they are dealing with this whole issue.

The agreement contains many important elements. There is a cash payment to every former student in recognition of the personal and cultural damage done. Former students who suffered sexual and physical abuse will receive additional compensation, as well as counselling and medical care. There are funds for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, which has been going on for a number of years and which has been very good. In our area, we have used monies from there to heal, and I can say that I feel a lot better and healthier today than a number of years ago because I have dealt with the trauma of having been sent away to residential school when I was so young.

There will be a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which will begin in the not too distant future and will be an opportunity for Aboriginal people across the country and non-native Canadians to hear about the stories and hear some of the things that occurred in these schools.

One thing that is missing from all of this scenario so far is a simple apology from the government. There have been expressions of regret and sorrow, but that is not the same. Two weeks ago, the House of Commons passed a motion apologizing for the trauma suffered by former students, and we in the Senate should do likewise. This is what this motion is attempting to do, namely, to have senators understand, and if in their wisdom they think that they ought to apologize to the Aboriginal peoples of our country, it would be a positive thing.

In the end, I feel that the federal government, as the government of the people, ought also to apologize, and this is what we are working towards and we hope that it will eventually occur. There have been vague, general attempts at apology. The Statement of Reconciliation in 1995, speaking on a whole range of historical injustices said the following:

The Government of Canada today formally expresses to all Aboriginal people in Canada our profound regret for past actions of the federal government which have contributed to these difficult pages in the history of our relationship together.

For students who experienced physical and sexual abuse, it went on to state:

To those of you who suffered this tragedy at residential schools, we are deeply sorry.

When the settlement agreement was reached, there were again expressions of regret or sorrow for survivors' suffering made by the ministers and government. While these statements seem like an apology, they lack the essential qualities of acknowledged responsibility and sincere promises to make amends and do better. Compare this to the statement of the Prime Minister regarding the Chinese head tax:

. . . on behalf of all Canadians and the Government of Canada, we offer a full apology to Chinese Canadians for the head tax and express our deepest sorrow for the subsequent exclusion of Chinese immigrants.

The statement continues further on:

This was a grave injustice, and one we are morally obligated to acknowledge.

Prime Minister Harper made this apology even though, according to one of the news reports, Justice Canada lawyers had advised him not to do it because they feared it would lead to increased liability and demands from other groups for compensation for past historical wrongs. A similar, full apology was made some years ago by Prime Minister Mulroney to Japanese Canadians. More recently, Maher Arar received a formal apology as part of his settlement with the government.

That is what we want. As Aboriginal people, we want an apology from the government. I heard people say, "Yes, it will be nice because some day, if I get an apology, I can show my children, and my grandchildren can see it, so they can understand why I am the way I am."

All of these apologies that I referred to were fully deserved, and I do not begrudge those who received them. As a senator, I, too, feel obliged to apologize to those who suffered because of the actions or failures to act of previous governments.

Many Aboriginal leaders have called on the Prime Minister to issue a formal apology. Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said:

A formal apology from the Prime Minister will mean a great deal in terms of reconciliation and contribute to the healing of those who were directly affected or impacted by the residential school system.

The Assembly of First Nations had sought a national apology as part of the settlement when negotiations began and were disappointed when neither the current Conservative government nor the previous Liberal government would consider doing so.

Editorial writers from various papers across the country have also called for an apology. The Globe and Mail, on March 28 said:

On behalf of all Canadians, minister, say we're sorry.

It is just that simple, just say you are sorry and that would go a long way to appease and satisfy the Aboriginal people.

The Toronto Star said:

The Harper government should apologize for this stain on Canada's history which, in the pain and suffering it created, is every bit as shameful as the treatment of the Chinese migrants and Maher Arar.

The Daily News, of Truro, Nova Scotia, from those in the eastern area, said:

The request is for a sincere apology. Under the circumstances, that's not asking a lot.

Why have some groups received apologies but not Aboriginal residential school survivors? The staff writer at Windspeaker, which is Canada's Aboriginal newspaper, claimed to know why. A writer said:

Because the government knows full well the true extent of the damage caused and what it would cost. An apology would acknowledge that damage and legally expose the government to the full liability for the harm done.

From Windspeaker's perspective, the residential school experience lies at the heart of the "human misery that persists in too many remote communities." The yearly "abduction" of children was "a soul-destroying moment for the community . . . when things started to come apart."

Is there merit in this claim? Does the government take the advice of the justice lawyers with respect to residential schools that they rejected regarding the Chinese head tax? Was it to avoid possible liability? I certainly ask this question. There is some reason to think this might be. Clause H of the "whereas section" of the residential school agreement says:

This Agreement is not to be construed as an admission of liability by any of the defendants named in the Class Actions or the "Cloud" Class Action.

Imagine the government having an agreement in which one of the clauses says: "Even though they are making the payments, there is a clause that says this does not admit to an admission of liability."

Minister Prentice denies that legal liability is the reason for not making the apology. As a lawyer, I know we are taught to be cautious, taught to advise our clients to be careful with words, to admit nothing that might cause trouble in the future. First and foremost, we are taught to do what is right. Apologizing wholeheartedly, sincerely and without reservation is undoubtedly the right thing to do. In my life experience, whether it is to your spouse, your children or your friends, it is never bad, never wrong to apologize and forgive. This is what I think makes the world move forward. Our world and our country need to know the healing and the positive nature of apologizing.

As I said, we need to do what is right and hopefully, eventually the government will apologize. It seems overly cautious and even mean-spirited to not go the final step. The settlement acknowledges that harm was done. It provides for those who suffered particular and serious harm additional avenues for redress. It even recognizes that some survivors might not feel it is sufficient and allows them to opt out and continue through the courts.

In his excellent report from February 2006, The Power of an Apology: Removing the Legal Barriers, the ombudsman for British Columbia, Howard Kushner, examined the matter of public apologies and the issue of liability. He wrote about the ability of a sincere apology to satisfy a person who has a complaint, and cites research that shows that apologies do not increase liability but actually seem to reduce it or at least reduce the likelihood of litigation, perhaps as much as 30 per cent.

An apology is not simply a matter of saying "I'm sorry," but requires an acknowledgement that actions have caused harm, an acceptance of responsibility for that harm and the promise to do something about it. Through the settlement agreement, the government has already promised to do something about the harm that was caused. They are making payments, and that is very good, and we are generally very grateful for that.

As I say, an apology is important because to make an apology is also to ask for forgiveness and to forgive is always the first step towards true personal healing. I know this to be true.

The Indian Residential School Settlement is an important first step, both in the healing that Aboriginal people in their communities need to do and in the reconciliation process with Canada, but much work still needs to be done. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation must continue its important work. The truth and reconciliation commission, when it is set up, will be very good for all Canadians to be involved with.

We should not wait until their work is done before offering a late and half-hearted apology. We should take the lead, make a full, sincere apology and we will make the work of the foundation and commission more meaningful and the results more complete.

I want to tell honourable senators about a book that I read a number of years ago by Viktor Frankl called Man's Search for Meaning. He wrote that book in 1946 after he had been in a concentration camp. He survived and he wrote about his experience of what he went through and what really helped him in his life there and how he survived. He was a doctor and a psychiatrist who was particularly interested in how people react to extreme, harsh survival situations such as existed in the concentration and extermination camps.

Viktor Frankl related his experiences of being taken on a train to an unknown destination, with 1,500 persons in total and 80 people crammed in each boxcar. They arrived at the camp hungry, having had no food for four days, herded into a shed, men in one area and women in another, with their entire personal luggage left on the train, never to be seen again. Clothes, watches and what little jewellery or worthy things they had were all taken away.

At this point, most of the people were herded into the gas chambers, but Mr. Frankl lived. He was herded into another area because he was more fit and able to work. Mr. Frankl was lucky to survive. There was a further stripping of anything else hidden in clothing or shoes, and everyone was stripped naked except for shoes and belts. Then they were sent to another room where they were shaved. He says not a hair was left on their entire bodies. Finally, they went into a shower room.

That was the start of a very cruel, excruciating, painful life at Auschwitz, working and living with meagre food, meagre clothing, meagre shelter, brutal cruelty and a demeaning of human dignity and in many cases death. As I read this book about this Jew's experience in Auschwitz, I began to recall memories. I began to relate to some of the experiences this gentleman went through, but I would never for a moment compare our experiences with the concentration camps in Auschwitz.

However, it is important that I remembered many of the things that he talked about because we were taken from our parents. My mother voluntarily put me on the mission boat that went up the river to the residential school, but there were other kids who were taken from the grasp of their parents. We did not know where we were going. Like the trains to Auschwitz, we did not know where the boat was going. Remember that we were all 5 to 8 years old, just little kids. There were literally hundreds of us taken on the boat to Fort Providence. When we arrived, we saw a big house. Once we got off the boat, we were herded, boys this way, girls that way. We were eventually herded into this big house where we were shaved. Every piece of hair was taken off, and all our little souls. I remember arriving there with a little bag of my personal belongings. It was all I had, and it was taken away.

Victor Frankl, who wrote about his experience, was a grown man relating his experience. We were young children. From our eyes, our experience was horrible.

As children, we were resilient. Children are resilient, and able to withstand all sorts of horrible experiences. This was what our experience was. I often say to people, "Imagine sending your 5 to 8-year-old child away to a residential school and not seeing him or her for 10 months. Imagine not seeing him or her for 10 years. How would you feel? How would the child feel and how would you feel as parents?" I am telling you, this was what Aboriginal people, children and parents alike, experienced. This is what the residential school issue is all about.

I just wanted to let you know that this is what we are talking about. As a result of that, the effects have been lifelong. To this date, I suffer from depression, sadness and sometimes I have a hard time coping with life. I do not mind saying that I take anti-depressants and I must take medication just so that I can live a normal life.

When we began dealing with the residential schools issue, many of us would gather and say, "We have everything in life, we have so much in life." In my case, I have one of the best jobs in the country as a senator, but you are not happy. You do not know how to enjoy life and there is a sadness and darkness that used to exist in my life.

We eventually decided to do something about it. We began gathering and sitting in a circle, talking about our experiences. It is not rocket science but, amazingly, when you sit around a table and speak about your experiences, it is like magic in the sense that we all began feeling better. This is how we dealt with our issues.

I appreciate, again, that the clerk is standing and that time is limited. I want to thank honourable senators for listening. If in any way I have given you an understanding of what the residential schools issue is all about, I am happy to have done that.

 

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Hon. Nick G. Sibbeston: Honourable senators, never in recent history has the North been given such attention by the national government.

The need for northern development and the importance of the North for Canadian sovereignty are the first issues highlighted in the Throne Speech. The Governor General concluded by referencing the North Star, clearly placing Canada as a northern country. The Prime Minister could do no better than to follow the trail first laid-out by northerners.

We are proud to be Canadians, and we are especially proud to be northern Canadians, who are different people than southern Canadians. We love the cold and our unique northern environment. The rigours of living in an inhospitable environment have taught us important lessons, namely that helping each other, sharing and getting along are important and key qualities that characterize northerners.

We also recognize the strength that comes from Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people working together to create a common vision. A give-and-take society is the kind of society we have created in the North; people have learned to get along. A person would not survive by acting otherwise in the North. Northerners are intimately linked to the land and the environment in which we live, and are sensitive to anything that might threaten them.

People from across the North are amused and even bemused by the sudden interest in our lands, especially as it relates to Arctic sovereignty. Northerners, especially Inuit and Inuvialuit, have been occupying the far reaches of the Arctic since time immemorial. The presence and strength of their communities — from Griese Fjord to Pond Inlet, from Cambridge Bay to Sachs Harbour — should be Canada's strongest argument for Arctic sovereignty.

Therefore, while I welcome the proposals — some new, many previously announced — to purchase new patrol vessels, expand the Arctic Rangers program and establish a world-class Arctic research station, I am concerned that there is little being done about the social and economic development of Northern territories. There are people living in the North, and these initiatives must be conducted with respect for and in consultation with them.

Too often the Prime Minister makes surprise announcements during hastily-arranged trips and imposes technocratic-like decisions without regard for the real concerns of the people. I heard it said this summer when the Prime Minister came to the North, without announcing or telling the leaders that he was coming. The Prime Minister was insensitive and, to a certain extent, rude in coming to the North without an appropriate announcement to the people there.

Although the Throne Speech promises an integrated northern strategy, it is rather vague on how this will be accomplished. Will northerners and their governments be fully consulted and involved in developing this strategy? There is a fear in the North that all the decisions will be made from afar, in Ottawa. In the past, when we were under the administration of the federal government, decisions were often poorly made. The government should have had the common sense to seek advice from and the involvement of the people of the North. In that regard, people are afraid that this scenario is happening again; that decisions are being made by the federal government without the involvement of local people.

A new government has just been elected in the Northwest Territories that will soon be determining its priorities. These priorities will certainly include the completion of a devolution agreement to hand over the control of lands and resources, and will also include a fair and reasonable deal on resource revenue sharing. These two issues are important matters with which the governments in the North have been dealing. I hope that the federal government will recognize that the issues of revenue sharing and devolution are important, and I hope the government will deal with them appropriately.

Premier Roland has identified the development of clean hydroelectric energy as a priority both for economic development and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. I hope that the federal government will quickly sign-on as a partner in this venture.

There is a tremendous need in the Northwest Territories to complete a highway down the Mackenzie Valley. Chief Cece MacAuley was here a couple of weeks ago, and I spent a day with her in meetings with Minister Strahl and other federal officials. Her main concern was the need for a highway down the Mackenzie Valley, which would make it possible for communities to be linked, have cheaper food and a means of transportation. This is a critical issue for the people of the North that I hope the federal government will deal with.

I would be remiss if I did not gratefully acknowledge the Prime Minister mentioning in the Throne Speech that the government would apologize to residential school survivors. I have to assume the Prime Minister read my speech on this matter last spring when I said the government should do this.

I am also pleased the government will be introducing legislation to deal with specific claims. This is a current issue in Canada. The Okas and Caledonias of the world exist because of unresolved historical grievances, as it were.

Our Senate committee dealt with the specific claims issue and we made recommendations. We are pleased that Minister Prentice and the government have stated that they will follow the recommendations made by our committee to resolve that issue.

As I commend the government, I wish to acknowledge Minister Prentice, in particular, who has had many years of experience in this area, for acting boldly and progressively on this critical issue. I hope that Minister Strahl will continue his good work.

The budget speech referred to measures to continue improving housing on reserves, and access to clean drinking water. These statements are welcome, and they would improve the economic life of Aboriginal people. I highly recommend to the Prime Minister and the government that they refer to the Senate report entitled A Hand Up, Not a Hand Out, which would provide the Prime Minister with excellent solutions as to how to build Aboriginal economies.

Climate change and what can be done about it is a major concern for northerners. I made a number of trips into the Arctic last spring. In all the areas and communities that I visited, people said that the North is definitely changing; weather patterns are changing. Northerners are beginning to see erratic weather signs such as earlier warming in the year, and signs of birds and insects that they had never seen before.

The Throne Speech claims that progress has been made and will be made in the area of climate change. The Prime Minister is a late convert to the issue and, while better late than never, I hope the government will continue in this vein. The Prime Minister's targets are modest and his timetable long. Significant cuts to emissions will not occur for another 30 or 40 years.

I assure honourable senators that climate change is real and it is accelerating, as I said earlier. There are signs everywhere in the North. Scientists are documenting dropping water levels in lakes and rivers, the collapse of glaciers and the retreat of sea ice. All this is happening faster than originally predicted.

Much has changed in just the last 10 years. It is hard to imagine what 40 years will bring if we do not act swiftly. As set out by Sir Nicholas Stern in his paper entitled Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, the world has a clear choice: Pay billions now to slow climate change or pay trillions later to adapt to it. Protecting our current energy-intensive economy at the expense of our future well-being may prove not to be the wisest choice.

Therefore, the government must act quickly to ensure that the massive oil sands development in Fort McMurray, which already has huge environmental impacts, not only in northern Alberta but across the Arctic, are developed in a carbon neutral manner that protects water supplies.

To be fair, I must admit that the proposals in the Throne Speech are headed in the right direction. Binding targets for real cuts to greenhouse gas emissions are essential, but I am not convinced that the aspirational goals that the Prime Minister has embraced, along with George Bush of the U.S. and John Howard of Australia, will get us there.

Putting Canada at the forefront of clean technologies is exactly where we should be headed. However, again, the Throne Speech gives no indication that the government will make the necessary investments in research and development.

According to some estimates, the last two years of government dithering on the subject of climate change has already cost Canadian businesses billions of dollars. Our competitors in England, Sweden and California have a head start now, and we may find it hard to catch up.

Moving forward on an emission trading market is also a useful initiative, but it must be broad and rigorous enough to work. A national or, better yet, international trading system, and not a bunch of weakly-linked provincial ones, is essential. British Columbia has become tired of waiting. I understand that B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell is in Portugal this week to sign on to the European system.

In other areas of the environment, I am encouraged by the government's determination to strengthen legislation to protect our water supplies. Fresh water is vital for life, but as reported in The Globe and Mail last week, it is not something we can take for granted. Again, the Honourable Senator Jerry Grafstein has been at the forefront in sounding the alarm about clean drinking water.

With respect to the issue of parks, I was pleased to see mention of preservation of the Great Bear Rainforest. I went to British Columbia last year to learn more about the initiative, and I was impressed by the way environmentalists, industry, government and First Nations were able to come together to protect essential areas of northern B.C. while still providing for economic development for local people through mining, forestry and tourism.

I hope that a similar approach will be taken in the expansion of the Nahanni National Park, an issue that is important for the region I come from. What is at stake is nothing less than the future of the Deh Cho government when it is created through the current land claims and self-government process. Whether that government will be self-sustaining depends on the use of minerals, oil and gas and other resources to create wealth, jobs and business opportunities for its people.

The mineral and energy resource assessment recently completed on the Nahanni Parks region shows many areas with significant potential for mineral development in the proposed expansion area. Minerals such as copper, gold, zinc, uranium, lead and tungsten are scattered throughout the area. I have no doubt that further analysis will reveal even more resources.

If Parks Canada and the more radical environmental organizations have their way, all this wealth will be swept up in a huge expansion of the park to more than seven times its present size. Once the park boundaries are set, it will be impossible to change them.

In my view, this is nothing but a land grab by Parks Canada and environmentalists. People need to work to eat. A park, while good for its own reasons, has few employees and puts limited dollars in the local economy. The government must ask itself whether the local people and Canada itself will benefit more from the sustainable development of these resources, or from creating a massive park in the wilderness.

Canada and the Deh Cho leaders need to examine seriously whether giving up all those resources is truly in the best interests of the local people.

The Throne Speech proposes to create a new, single window for major project approvals, whether for mines, energy development or infrastructure. It must promote administrative efficiency while remaining sufficiently rigorous to protect the environment. It must also respect the right of Aboriginal people, especially those established through a land claims agreement.

The Throne Speech contains many other plans, and I look forward to contributing to those debates as specific bills move through the Senate.

Before I close, I mention that as a northerner, Dene and Metis, I support the government to end the long gun registry. It has been a sore point for many people in the North who depend on the use of guns daily to hunt and put food on the table.

I will summarize by saying the government proposes to take certain initiatives in the North involving the military, scientific research, deep sea ports and parks. While these initiatives are good, they need to be mindful of the people who occupy and live in these far northern lands.

There was mention of the North Star being a guide at the conclusion of the Throne Speech by Her Excellency. Incidentally, something more glamorous and spectacular are the aurora borealis, the Northern Lights. I add that while it is good to arouse the attention and imagination of southern Canadians by looking at the North Star, instead of looking up, look to the inhabitants of the North — the Inuit, the Inuvialuit, the Dene, the Metis, and more recently, the non-native people who have made their homes in the North. Look to their toughness, hardiness, vitality and friendliness in accommodating people of the North. They represent all that is good about Canada, people who have a fierce understanding and love for their land. Let that be your guide. Thank you.

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Motion to Authorize Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration Committee to Study Policies in Order to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Hon. Nick G. Sibbeston, pursuant to notice of November 1, 2007, moved:

That the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration be authorized to examine and report on changes to Senate policies necessary to incorporate into the 64-point travel system for individual senators and into committee travel budgets the costs of purchasing carbon offsets that meet the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and also meet internationally recognized standards and certification processes;

That the committee also evaluate, as a further means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the possibility of expanding the use of teleconferencing and other technological systems to reduce the need for witness travel to Ottawa; and

That the committee present its final report to the Senate no later than December 12, 2007.

He said: Honourable senators, I have spoken a number of times about the effects of global warming on the North. In my visits to various communities last spring, people said they were experiencing real climate change. The spring had come earlier and the winters were warmer; they have experienced unpredictable weather throughout the course of the year.

The North is seeing species of animals, birds and insects that have not been seen before. The honourable senators will have seen reports about the extent of open waters in the Northern Passage as well as the prevalence of thinner ice. These stories and the facts are becoming more prominent in the news.

Some things have been done to reduce the impact of climate change. The government, over the last few years, has had various programs and measures to reduce greenhouse gases. The Prime Minister said recently he will take a leadership role in fighting climate change. Many measures will take a long time to implement and an even longer to effect. This delay is understandable; it takes time to replace infrastructure and develop new technologies to move us toward a low carbon economy. It is possible to do something now, however. The Senate can be a leader in this matter. The modest steps that we take will immediately reduce the amount of greenhouse gases being put into the atmosphere. It is estimated that air travel is responsible for 2 per cent of all greenhouse gases in the air and, according to a noted Canadian environmental economist, Marc Jaccard, that share is likely to grow. The fuel for airplanes is very powerful and cannot be replaced with ethanol or biodiesel, or even with hydrogen. Even with improved technology, we might always need fossil fuels to power our planes.

What is the solution? One thing we can do is purchase carbon offsets for each flight that we take. The cost is fairly low and is estimated at between $20 and $30 per person for a return flight from Ottawa to Fort Simpson in the Northwest Territories. Carbon offsets can be as simple as planting trees that will absorb the carbon from the air as they grow. However, this is not the best approach because trees do not necessarily survive; they might eventually be cut down and burned. Investments in fuel switching from high carbon to lower carbon fuels or in the development of renewable energy makes more sense in the long run, even if they cost a little more in the short run. Organizations in Canada and internationally have studied the best way to offset carbon. This is one area that the committee can look into.

Purchasing carbon offsets will make us aware of this issue. Every time we travel we will be conscious of contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and what we are paying to offset them. Just like the hydrogen bus that transports us on Parliament Hill, it will be a concrete example of something that we can do. It is impressive and noticeable, and every time we have people from the North here, I tell them about the hydrogen bus. They are amazed that it does not use gas and can move along the road fuelled by hydrogen. If we get involved in the carbon offset program, however modest, it will send a positive message that senators are doing something about the problem.

British Columbia and Manitoba have already adopted a policy to buy carbon offsets for government travel. This year, they both joined the Western Climate Initiative, which includes a number of U.S. states. Some municipalities have taken similar steps in B.C. and joined the Climate Change Charter, which is committed to carbon neutrality by the year 2012. This fall, a press release stated that 62 communities have joined a plan to deal with greenhouse gases. They established the Western Climate Initiative and set up a climate registry to keep note of all these things.

Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories has taken steps to reduce carbon emissions by 20 per cent by the year 2010. Carbon offsets will play a role in achieving these goals. However, to date, eight provinces and the federal government have not moved in this direction to deal with greenhouse gases.

The Senate can take leadership on this issue. It behooves the Senate to do something positive in this realm. The motion is that the Internal Economy Committee look into the matter and report to the house by December 12, 2007. It is my hope that all honourable senators will support this motion.

 

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Hon. Nick G. Sibbeston: Honourable senators, I indicated in my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate yesterday that I was very concerned about the way in which consultation was conducted with respect to the proposed expansion of the Nahanni National Park. The purpose of the consultation was to obtain the views of people with respect to the proposed expansion, and in the end there were three options given to the people for consideration.

The process has concluded. Throughout that process, the mineral assessment report was not made available to the public. Only in the last few days has that report been made public. However, throughout the consultation process with respect to the park, this very important piece of information about the geological state of the area and the minerals that land contains was never made available to the public. I consider this a major flaw in the consultation process, and the government should do something about it.

I have written letters to the Minister of the Environment and to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister was recently in Fort Simpson and visited the Nahanni National Park, so he knows what I am talking about.

Many people in the Dehcho region where I live are concerned that the consultation process was not conducted properly and that there needs to be a new approach taken. The approach that I am proposing is one that had been used in the northern coastal region of British Columbia.

The Spirit Bear conservation area was created a number of years ago, and it was completed with the participation and cooperation of First Nations people, environmentalists and industry. The result was successful. Therefore, I suggest that the same kind of approach be taken in the North. There would be a better result than that obtained from the approach that was taken by Parks Canada and that, as I said, has a major flaw in it because it did not include this MERA report, which is so important in the consideration of the park expansion.

I hope honourable senators will be understanding and sympathetic as I continue to pursue this matter.

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Hon. Nick G. Sibbeston: Honourable senators, I would like to use this occasion to say a few words about Senator Carney. Mention was made of Senator Carney spending her life in B.C. and in Ottawa. She was in the Northwest Territories in the 1980s when the North was very active with the possibility of a 48-inch gas pipeline down the Mackenzie Valley. She was a consultant for one of the pipeline groups, which was a very challenging task. She travelled from community to community to convince people of the merits of the pipeline. Pat was operating in a man's world. It was in the early years of government in the North. The government was Commissioner Stuart Hodgson, who was really the king of the North.

To assist her in her task, Pat hired Aboriginal people to bridge the cultural differences between the big companies and the local community. It was a daunting task. In her boldness she was an inspiration to people like me who would never have thought to challenge the government and the status quo. Pat is certainly a personality and a character, and she has done very well for the people of the North.

In closing, I want to make a bit of a pitch. My office was on the same floor as Pat's, and I have always admired her corner office. If somehow you could will it to me, Pat, I would be most grateful. Best wishes for your retirement, and thank you.

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