Wednesday 31 July 1991

Ontario Native Women's Association

Aboriginal Urban Alliance

National Action Committee on the Status of Women



Chair: Silipo, Tony (Dovercourt NDP)

Vice-Chair: Bisson, Gilles (Cochrane South NDP)

Curling, Alvin (Scarborough North L)

Eves, Ernie L. (Parry Sound PC)

Gigantes, Evelyn (Ottawa Centre NDP)

Harnick, Charles ~Willowdale PC)

Harrington, Margaret H. (Niagara Falls NDP)

Malkowski, Gary (York East NDP)

Mathyssen, Irene (Middlesex NDP)

Offer, Steven (Mississauga North L)

O'Neill, Yvonne (Ottawa-Rideau L)

Winninger, David (London South NDP)


Coppen, Shirley (Niagara South NDP) for Ms Gigantes

Drainville, Dennis (Victoria-Haliburton NDP) for Mr Silipo

Jordan, Leo (Lanark-Renfrew PC) for Mr Harnick

Martin, Tony (Sault Ste Marie NDP) for Mr Malkowski

Miclash, Frank (Kenora L) for Mr Offer

Wessenger, Paul (Simcoe Centre NDP) for Ms Harrington

Clerk: Brown, Harold


Drummond, Alison, Research Officer, Legislative Research Service

Kaye, Philip, Research Officer, Legislative Research Service

The committee met at 1016 in room 151.

The Vice-Chair: Come to order. I welcome everybody back to this, our third day, if I am counting correctly, in the hearings of the select committee on Ontario in Confederation. We will get right into our hearings.


The Vice-Chair: We have with us this morning Corrine Nabigon, from the Ontario Native Women's Association, who is going to make a presentation on behalf of her association. Go ahead.

Mrs Nabigon: Good morning. Let me see if I can still talk. I have a really bad cold. I will proceed with my presentation.

My name is Corrine Nabigon and I am the president of the Ontario Native Women's Association. I am with the Ojibway nation. I am very honoured and pleased to be here to do this presentation. I would like to thank you for the second opportunity to present our views to the select committee on Ontario in Confederation. In addition, the Ontario Native Women's Association appreciates the unprecedented commitment of the province in the negotiation of a statement of relationship with aboriginal people.

The last Confederation was structured without consultation with aboriginal people. Part of the problem over 100 years ago is that the Fathers of Confederation did not negotiate in good faith with Canadian women and first nations. Before a satisfactory Confederation can be structured, a proper process must be created.

Aboriginal women speak for and represent ourselves at all levels of decision-making on all issues that affect our lives. We advocate for the equality of access and defend the rights of all aboriginal women, regardless of place of residence and status. We request that Ontario support and insist on the inclusion and participation of aboriginal women during the next rounds of constitutional discussions.

Fifty to sixty per cent of aboriginal people are women. One in every 34 women in Canada is aboriginal. Many reserves have 90% unemployment, at best 60%. The unemployment rate for aboriginal women is twice that of aboriginal men. Most of our households are led by single parents, and aboriginal people have the highest birth rate in Canada, at 3.5.

We know what it is like to struggle. A number of our reserves are legislatively created ghettos. Often, welfare is the only alternative for income and survival, without access to unpolluted lands and resources and the economic infrastructure to provide jobs.

Many of our people continue to be migratory and hunt and fish for subsistence. It is a sad reality that despite the Sparrow decision which confirmed the aboriginal right to hunt and fish for food, aboriginal people still encounter harassment from the Ministry of Natural Resources. Members of our native women's locals report to us that this still goes on today.

In unity with our aboriginal colleagues, we advocate for the recognition of aboriginal people as the original first nations of this continent. We take our role in the economic, political and social development of our nations very seriously and we seek support and assistance for our initiatives through the allocation of funds for legal expertise and grass-roots consultations.

In addition, there is a clear need for the federal government to get its act together on aboriginal affairs and begin negotiating in good faith rather than secretive back-door negotiations and rhetoric that undermines the unity and vision of our leadership.

Since Canada became a nation and claimed dominion over our lands and our people without our consent, we have been struggling to be heard and we have been requesting respect for our first nations' status, treaty and inherent rights. We urge you to relay the message that before the provinces and the federal government divvy up this nation, they should determine with the aboriginal people exactly what they have access to to divide.

Furthermore, quick land settlements are not fair settlements. Land settlements negotiated with aboriginal people absurdly divided and classified as status Indians on reserve, off-reserve status and non-status Indians, Bill C-31 and Metis will be to our detriment. An aboriginal person is aboriginal no matter where they reside in their territory, which goes beyond reserve boundaries. The rules and definitions of "Indian" and the reserve system did not originate with our people. They are non-aboriginal creations.

Aboriginal people equally have a right to the legacies of our ancestors. This includes the right to resource development and revenues earned and an aboriginal education. Currently, chiefs are able to discriminate against off-reserve band membership and Bill C-31 membership. This is, in all likelihood, in conflict with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is time for the federal government to accept our definition of aboriginal women.

Here I would like to give you an example. I belong to Longlac 58. That is the reserve which I have status to. For a number of years now, I have been requesting to return back to my community and have put in an application for housing. To this day, I do not have housing in my community.

It is imperative that we receive the resources and the land base that we require in order for us to be able to return to our communities, to be able to work with our communities, to be able to take back the information, the knowledge, the teachings that we have acquired living in urban centres, in order that we can bring about the unity and the education required among our people who are suffering from abuse, from family violence situations. We all know why those abuses are there. It goes back to the boarding school system and many other things that we have had to endure and suffer through as we were growing up as children.

In order for us to make that positive, creative change among our people, it is people like myself who have had the opportunity and who have left family to go out into the broader communities and seek that knowledge from your people, from many different cultural backgrounds, from your elders, along with the teachings of my elders, and can now go home, can go back to our grass-roots people and be able to make the change so that your children, your grandchildren and my children can live in harmony. It is crucial that all of us work together to ensure that this world becomes a better place to live in.

Aboriginal ownership of our lands is a crucial political and economic issue across the country for all aboriginal people. Due to the fiduciary responsibility of the federal government for aboriginal people, the people of Oka still do not own the traditional burial ground that was targeted for golf course development. The land is held in trust by the same federal government which failed to resolve the conflict before the violence. There are clear problems with our relationship with the federal government which are currently being explored by many of our leaders.

In addition, any revenue earned from land use is placed in a trust fund somewhere in Ottawa. Why? Why is this so today? Why can we not at least get the interest that is being accrued from that revenue in order that we can have the resources that we require to develop that economic base? You as well as I know we need an economic base in order for us to join the mainstream of the Canadian peoples.

Many band members do not have access to information on establishing access to the development process. That is costly legal information Indian bands and Indian organizations cannot afford. That in itself is a barrier. A few bands have gone ahead with alternative funding arrangements to control their resources. However, many have been so damaged by the poverty and years of brainwashing that they are not ready to handle their economic affairs. Many are in a catch-22 position and have the irresponsible federal government to manage their affairs.

I worked with the federal government for five years specifically to find out how they were managing our affairs. On several occasions I questioned why they did things the way they did. That is taxpayers' money, and I believe the federal government has to sit down and stop moving and take a good look deep inside their hearts, and ask themselves the question: "Why are they here? What is their purpose in this life? And what, in fact, is their responsibility to the native people?" It is through the native people that they can learn about their purpose in this life, only if they would listen with open hearts and open minds to what it is we need in this life, to accomplish what it is that we must do.

Due to the dramatic increases in the aboriginal population since the passing of Bill C-31, bands are faced with housing shortages. We need more resources and land to meet these basic needs. Our concerns are similar to those of French Canada, although our sovereignty is unquestionable. As the French have their distinct language and political traditions, aboriginal people have distinct languages, cultures, sociopolitical customs and philosophies. Similar to the French, there should be a constitutional commitment that aboriginal people receive education in our own languages, whether it be Cree, Ojibway, Mohawk, etc. Past governments have gone to tremendous lengths to undermine our customs. However, like the French society in Canada, we have endured. We are not going to go away and we are not going to fade into the scenery.

Long-term, past and present environmental and social impact assessments should be constitutionally mandated to reflect our Canadian commitment to uphold the health of our lands and our people. We must look ahead for the generations to come. If your great-great-grandfathers had held this outlook, we would not be in the present-day environmental crisis that we are in. It is our responsibility as first nations people to ensure that mother earth is respected.

We will not allow our inherent rights and responsibility for the land to be cut up and divided, undermined and thrown under the constitutional table. We implore the province of Ontario to take a leadership role in allowing us to negotiate and resolve our issues with the federal government.

Aboriginal people have many lessons to teach Canadians on issues such as environment, democracy, preservation and survival. Strong first nations would be a benefit, not a threat, to all of Canada. Our people are very tolerant. It is our ancient way. We have put up with abuse, derogatory legislation and non-commitment from governments for far too long.

Responsibility requires that we speak up and be of assistance in the new Confederation of Canada. Traditional teachings say that before you make a decision to act or create a rule or mechanism, you must examine the impact your recommendations will have for seven generations into the future. This requires long-term vision, not short-term goals for political expedience.

I would like to give you an example or a teaching that came my way several years ago by a young girl who was nine years old at the time. She came to me and stated that our world is in a very difficult position. These are very difficult times. The native people are now on the ground, with their faces in the dust. We have to get up and shake the dust off ourselves. We must learn our language, we must get back to our teachings, we must seek out the elders to provide us with those teachings. We must honour the Creator, because it is the Creator who allowed us to be here today. We must go back up on the mountain with our tobacco in hand and honour the morning, honour the energy of the sun, because without that energy we will not be here. We must get back to our responsibility of taking care of mother earth. It is our responsibility.

I turned to her and I said, "Where did you read that?" because there is a book called Cry of the Ancients that I read many years ago which said that very same teaching. She said, "I did not read that anywhere. I had a visitor last night who came to me who was an elder, who had long grey hair and he sat by my bed and he told me the story. He said you must go out and tell people." She said, "I do not know how." He said, "I am telling you to tell everyone you meet these teachings." The elder furthermore stated that if we did not do anything about this situation this world will explode. That was her story.

We as native people are struggling to do this. The Creator created all races, and we have to work together in unity, with respect for one another. There is far too much discrimination in this society among all people. We have to change that, you and I.

It does not make any difference how we look on the exterior, it is what is inside. It is the spirit that we house. I believe if each and every one of us today did something positive to create that change, we will be one step closer to doing what it is that we are all getting paid here to do. Meegwetch.


The Vice-Chair: First of all, on behalf of the committee, thank you for your very from-the-heart presentation and a fairly clear message. There are some questions on the part of some of the members of the committee.

Mr Winninger: I would like to thank you for your very uplifting presentation. We have heard during the second stage of our proceedings from several of your male colleagues, and they have told us what they would like to see in a reformed Constitution, and that might include a Canada clause which would convey the distinct nature of first nations. It might include an expanded section 35 which would clarify the inherent right to self-government and spell it out very clearly. It might include powers enumerated in section 94 of the Constitution Act which would spell out the kinds of powers that native people would like to exercise.

I am wondering today how the Ontario Native Women's Association fits into that view, not only the process, because I know that the Chiefs of Ontario are making a greater effort than ever to include women, urban people, young people, and elderly people in the negotiations being carried on in their parallel process. I am just wondering, though, whether your vision of what should be in the Constitution would be assumed under what they are asking for or whether you would like to see a separate expression of the rights of native people spelled out either in a Canada clause or in an inherent self-government clause for enumerated powers.

Mrs Nabigon: First of all, I would like to review what the other aboriginal peoples are, in fact, saying should be in the Constitution. But, at the same time, I would like to state that it is imperative to incorporate the equality of aboriginal women into the constitution. The wording we can certainly provide to you from our office.

Mr Martin: I also want to echo the appreciation for sharing with us today your thoughts and feelings, and certainly your dreams and visions. I wanted to let you know that I was deeply touched by them and by the story you told of the young girl. I think it is just such stories and the emotion that you obviously carry with you, and the feeling in your heart that will help us arrive at a place where all peoples can be respected and contribute in a positive way to the evolution of our country.

I think you are on the right track; you need to continue to challenge us, because it is difficult for us coming from the place that we do, many of us, our culture and our education, and the way we have been taught to think and to rationalize things. We do not always connect the head to the heart, and I think you and your people do that in a very meaningful way, and we need to hear more about that.

It is my hope and dream that Canada will evolve in a way that respects what you have to say and that you, as a people, have to offer. Your understanding of the connection between the earth, the creator and us as people will guide us in the decisions we make. I do not know how you write that down, or put it into words, or enshrine it in legal language. I think more than anything it has to be a sense of respect one to another and between peoples.

You mentioned at one point here, in respect of settling land claims, that we move too quickly. I have a sense that we, as a country, at this time are trying to rush a process that needs to evolve. Am I hearing you say that you, as a people, are beginning to discover the dignity that was lost? I suggest to you that we need to do that too, and our relationship with the Creator and mother earth. Do you have any further thoughts on the kind of timelines we need to be looking at regarding this whole process of constitutional discussion, and arriving at a place where we might move ahead rather than being stuck in the mud, as we seem to be at the moment?

Mrs Nabigon: First of all, what is your time frame? You know, it is not what I think.

Mr Martin: I certainly do not know the answer to that.

Mrs Nabigon: What is the time frame for the Constitution? How long before it is in effect?

Mr Martin: I suppose that is probably one of the questions that is up for grabs at the moment. Every province seems to be going through the same process we are, and the federal government certainly has two or three committees out there doing things. I think you had mentioned process, and process being really important. There seem to be some who want to get it done right away and get on with life, and others who would take the time necessary to include all the people who need to be included and to have the discussions that need to be held.

Mrs Nabigon: All right. What we require in order to do quality workmanship is the resources for us, as an association, to go out into the grass-roots community and provide this very information that we are exchanging at the grass-roots level, in order to have sessions with the community. We have to remember that we are looking at a language difference, we are looking at people who cannot take the written information and read and decipher it. Even I, being semi-educated, have difficulty figuring out what that one word can mean and what it will mean 10 years down the road or 100 years down the road, because of the changes that one word can create.

We need to get out into our communities and meet with all community members and have these very discussions in those communities. However long that takes is how long we are going to need. Once we get the resources to do that and the people in place to do that, then we could work together and let you know how we are progressing. From there we would be better able to figure out the time frame that is required.


Mrs Y. O'Neill: May I say that the native women have continued to make a significant contribution to this committee from the very beginnning, actually from our very first day on February 4 in Kenora. I am very pleased you came today because I feel your presentation was extremely well balanced: spiritual, intellectual, economic, physical -- you put it all before us. I find there is a wholeness about presentations from aboriginals that maybe is lacking from some other groups.

There are so many things I would like to ask you, and I have to be within limits of time. First of all, I appreciate deeply what you are saying about resources. Could you tell me if you have a permanent or ongoing connection with the women's directorate of the province of Ontario?

Mrs Nabigon: Yes, we are in communication with them.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: Would that be your main source of funding for the kind of projects you are talking about: self-help education groups among native women?

Mrs Nabigon: The women's directorate does not really have the resources we require to facilitate the kind of movement we need. They have only a minimal amount of money and our locals are able to access it, but as an association they are not adequately funded to meet all the needs.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: So that would be something that we should certainly be considering as a serious recommendation: that either that particular area of the budget gets more funding or there is another line in the budget for that kind of self-help?

Mrs Nabigon: Yes.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: I would like you to tell me a little bit about what you intend to do -- and I presume you have quite a strong leadership role here -- regarding the Assembly of First Nations now and this parallel process. Chief Peters was quite clear in his preparation for the meeting next week in Thunder Bay. He suggested that these constituent assemblies which would emphasize youth, women, elders would take place throughout most of the next year. Will you play a leadership role in all that?

Mrs Nabigon: Yes.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: Could you tell us how you are going to do it and the kinds of needs you will have as you do it?

Mrs Nabigon: I have been on vacation for a couple of weeks, trying to be on vacation, and I was approached yesterday by our policy analyst from the association because we have received correspondence to that very effect. We will be involved with the constitutional discussions with the Assembly of First Nations. I have not yet sat down with the staff to discuss how we are going to do it. I am sorry, I am unable to provide you with that information, but any of the individuals here today are welcome to call our office if there are any further questions regarding any of these issues.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: You asked about timing. All these things have some kind of time limit. Our final report to the Ontario Legislature is due by the end of November, so if you have some readings and have already done some work of assembly, particularly with women, and have something you can give us in writing, we would find that very helpful.

You challenged us on this committee, and said that Ontario could take a leadership role with aboriginals. I think we have begun to do that. I hope so. I think it is looked upon in the country as such. You may or may not know that we are going to be in touch with the other Constitution committees. We are actually going to be meeting with several of them. No doubt the aboriginal issue will be one that has top priority.

I guess it must be of some consolation to you -- and I know that your path has been long -- that the aboriginal issue now seems to be fully on the table, maybe more so than it has been across the country, and it does seem to be something that all people in Canada realize has got to be, as you say, looked at from the depths of our heads and our hearts; that it is not going away, nor should it go away; we all will lose if it does.

I thank you very much for your presentation. I, too, was certainly moved by your sincerity.

Mr Curling: I just wanted to ask you about the process. Although I was not here I was listening to you on a TV monitor upstairs.

The Ontario government has set up this committee to hear the many people who felt they wanted to participate in bringing about a Constitution for this country. Do you feel that having done so, in making your presentation, or did you feel even before coming, that the reception you would get would be meaningful? In other words, those things that you said from the heart, that you have been living with and your ancestors have lived with for years, as this is your country, did you feel that what you said would make some impact on a parliamentary committee like this and on its presentation regarding the Constitution?

Mrs Nabigon: Yes, I believe that it will make an impact.

Mr Curling: I am a new member on this committee and I have listened to my colleagues' commendations about the contribution of the aboriginal people of this country. I may be looking at it too as a new immigrant -- just 25 years here. I feel as strongly Canadian as anyone could. I feel at times even when it is said, although they intend us to listen and to understand, that the message is not there. I heard you saying earlier that you have to go out to the communities. If this hearing were within the community, do you feel it would be better understood?

Mrs Nabigon: Yes, it definitely would assist our people in the communities. We have, for many years, been asking the province and the federal government, particularly, when we do have meetings that these very meetings take place in our communities because it is a good way of exchanging information; you too can come and see what our conditions are and what our lifestyle is in our communities, because it varies.

Mr Curling: Do you feel you are educating the legislators about aboriginal women, or are the legislators educating you about the process of the Constitution and how it is written? Do you feel it is an equal exchange, or is there a long way to go for legislators of this province to understand what aboriginal women are concerned about?


Mrs Nabigon: I appreciate the invitation to be here as a human being and then as a native woman, mother and grandmother to speak for positive change for all aboriginal people.

Mr Curling: So you feel we both learn in that process.

Mrs Nabigon: As far as having the information that is required, I feel it is imperative that our association for native women have the legal expertise that the province has, that the federal government has, that we likewise have the same respect in that we have the resources to be able to have that legal expertise on staff. That is what we require.

The Vice-Chair: I have a question. In the middle of your presentation you had spoken with regard to the whole need of governments maybe rethinking what their role in life is. Those are the words you used, basically. You talked about the federal government and I guess it would be the same for us, how we should rethink basically what governments are all about, where we need to go and how that would fit in with regard to the needs of native people.

The question I have is, how would you envision what the role of government would be, and also how do you balance the competing interests governments are faced with? If we look at the question of land use with regard to the whole question of settlement of native land issues, how would you approach that?

Mrs Nabigon: I believe that would require further discussion between the federal government, the provincial government and the aboriginal people in order for us to sit down collectively and listen to one another and then from that point be able to formulate how we would approach that very issue.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you. Did you have any closing comments?

Mrs Nabigon: Yes, I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for listening to my presentation. I wish all of us Canadian people every success in that we will be able to live together in Canada with respect, balance and harmony so that our children and grandchildren will have better lives than I myself have had as an aboriginal person in Canada.


The Vice-Chair: We call as our next witness Andrew Rickard from the Aboriginal Urban Alliance. Mr Rickard, if you will come forward. It is a pleasure to see Mr Rickard back. If I remember correctly, he had presented before us in February.

Mr Rickard: Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen of the committee, I am pleased to take this opportunity to appear before you again, after my previous presentations in February of this year in Timmins and my own individual presentation as an Ontarian on February 28 here in this building.

I understand we have a new Chairman, having lost one to a more lucrative responsibility. Maybe it is a good training ground for cabinet ministers, and I wish you all the best in your political aspirations.

I have read your interim report, which I found very interesting. I was a little disappointed, however, that most of my significant concerns that I thought were important were not really included in the report. However, I am also aware that committees made up of three political parties cannot possibly consider and cover every presentation that is made to this committee in its hearings.

As indicated in your mandate established in this Legislature, on December 20 the 12-member, all-party committee was authorized to review and report on two main things: one, the social and economic interests and aspirations of all the people of Ontario in Confederation; and two, what form of Confederation can most effectively meet the social and economic aspirations of Ontario.

Those two very major areas undertaken I think we can all appreciate as a monumental task that will probably take you another 50 years to achieve, or at least scratch the surface. I do not say that to be facetious; I am just acknowledging the enormity of the work you have to do.

To fulfil your mandate, you were supposed to come up with an interim report by March 21 of this year, which I received, and I am sure other people have as well. Unfortunately I did not receive your June 27 report, the final report of your series of hearings, in which a two-stage process would have been created. So, ladies and gentlemen, if I did not receive that report, how many other people do you think have not heard about it, especially the final conclusions on the first rounds of your hearings? In fact, what are your future directions?

The Vice-Chair: Mr Rickard, the final report is not intended to be delivered until November, after these parts of the hearings. That is why you have not received the one from June. We had just an interim report at the end of May, beginning of June.

Mr Rickard: Okay, I am just giving you my personal perspective from where I stand and I am sure a lot of people feel the same way.

However, on the 19th of this month, July, I received 10 pages of a partial document from the clerk of the committee, which indicated the committee had framed a series of questions under a number of subject areas covering, for example, the Canada clause; multiculturalism; women; disabled persons; the Charter of Rights; social and economic rights; aboriginal people; Quebec's future in Canada; roles of the federal and provincial governments; the economy; the roles of English and French languages; national institutions; and the political system and process of constitutional reform.

In our so-called participatory democracy, I often ask myself, and I am sure a lot of other people do as well, how many Ontarians do you think are in a position to respond to all these questions? For example, as an aboriginal person, am I expected to play the narrow-minded role, if you will, to respond only to aboriginal matters? What about the many people of Ontario who are functionally illiterate, who cannot read or write a given language? What about my own people and many others who do not understand the basic English language or even the English or French languages?

Ladies and gentlemen, these are very fundamental questions and they are the real world. I think any government has a challenge to respond to these very equitable questions I am presenting here, sooner or later.


To answer all the aboriginal concerns would take me a month of preparatory time and at least three or four hours of presentations before you. You see, for you to fully understand what I would like to explain in detail about my own people will take considerable time. I need to draw diagrams and pictures to show you our chronological history, not the history from your teaching systems or your libraries but our own history.

I need to explain our concept of land and resources, our relationship with the environment and our very sacred commitment to sustainable existence. We have been saying these things for the last 30 years. Finally everybody is now concerned about the environment, for example.

I also need to explain why and how our value systems are diametrically opposed to yours. I have to explain that your form of democracy is not necessarily applicable to every situation and to every person. I need to explain in detail, using your language and your value systems, our approaches to aboriginal issues in Canada and why they cannot be resolved just by using the white man's political systems or his status quo institutions. These will all have to be properly explained.

Finally, in order to properly respond to the over 130 questions I referred to earlier, it would take me almost a year to do relevant research on these subject matters, perhaps another several months to write up my report and proposals with substance and at least two full weeks of presentations here to this committee.

Ladies and gentlemen, what exactly am I saying? My brief presentation here this morning is very simple, and may be only general and has contained in it only motherhood statements and cliches, because that is all I can say right now. I am not speaking to you in my own language as I did in Timmins because you would not understand me anyway. Because you do not understand me I am giving you the courtesy of speaking to you in this language. I mastered it, so I am communicating with you in English and would certainly hope, in reciprocity, that you would some day learn my language as well. Maybe your children or grandchildren will learn to speak it so I can speak to you and you can speak to me in my language.

I am told I have probably an hour to make a presentation here, so I want to make the most of it. As I make this presentation I will paraphrase certain statements you have in my written presentation because I have to explain a number of things in some of those areas as we go along.

For the record, I want to make it clear that I am not interested only in aboriginal issues as a means of dealing with the severe socioeconomic problems facing my people throughout this province and indeed across the country, because I know that all aspects of the economy, perceived, real, imagined or illusory, have to be considered. The taxation systems also have to be analysed with respect to the many things our people are saying. National unity matters have to be addressed with respect to those concerns of my people, environmental concerns, and as well, a very significant look at a balanced rule of our national government -- some people call it central government -- with provincial and territorial jurisdictions must be the critical elements from which to plan with in order to respond to all these questions that have been put before you, and some of those presentations that many of our people are making to the government and the federal government.

In order to deal with the roots of our aboriginal challenge, as I call it -- we call them problems or issues or whatever; I like to see them as challenges in this country -- all these factors I previously mentioned have to be incorporated in the process.

Since I cannot respond directly to every question raised in your document I referred to earlier, which I only received within the past week or so, I would like to also deal with some of these areas of my own people in the form of questions looking at the fundamental aspects of these issues, followed by some recommendations towards the end of my presentation. I would also be happy to answer some of the questions you may have in respect to some of the points I am presenting here today.

First of all, I wish to briefly explain that our people are not only genetically different vis-a-vis mainstream society, but our socioeconomic, cultural and spiritual values are also very different and distinct. Our biological functions may be the same: We see the same; we taste the same; we feel the same, that kind of thing. Our hearts function the same. In fact, our blood may be the same colour. If we were to discharge a pint or two, you could not tell the difference. While our physical and psychological needs may be the same as well, our attitudes and means to fulfil our basic needs are very difficult to understand, and they are different. And unless we understand the fundamental difference of all these things I am talking about, we will never begin to totally resolve our aboriginal issues, national issue challenges, the economy and other socioeconomic challenges that have defied solutions in this country for a hell of a long time.

So let me briefly explain some of the points I am talking about. Let's talk about democracy. Under the current setup, I think it is clear that it does not provide all the answers to our challenges of the 21st century. We still have a status quo mentality. Institutions are all geared to that function.

Let me take you back in time, say about 500 years ago, before your ancestors came over here -- for a brief visit, as we thought at that time. Where I come from, every person back then played a very significant role in everyday life, from education to the subsistence of that community, families and so on. I have with me three advisers at the back, three of my children. Two of the boys will be carrying briefcases. They would either be land claim lawyers or hockey players or baseball players, or both, and the other one will probably be a lawyer, she says. Anyway, that is an example of how our people used to participate, from the smallest child to the elder of the community. Our form of democracy at that time was that every person had a significant role to play, even the children, and we were busy every day. There was no such thing as 9 to 5 or five days a week or fighting to shorten the week, because every day it was a continuance. I am just giving you a crash course. This is only a five-year program at the university if you are going to take this, so you are very fortunate to hear this now.

When we did these things, a child went through a process of learning from the very first steps. Each person had, I suppose, some aptitude to be a hunter or a leader or whatever capacity he or she had in that community, and our elders, once they had achieved their level of position in the community where we would call them our teachers, were what we would refer to in our society here today as our professors, our doctorate seniors, in terms of their various professions.


While I do not have the time to explain every detail of this role, we were very active and busy. We would get up in the morning when the sun gets up, with the rest of the environment, and we would take it easy in the afternoon -- I do not know what time it was, probably around 2 o'clock, I guess -- and sort of rested with everything within that area of our environment, and we began to be active again, say around 5, 6 o'clock. You know, if you ever go out and camp someplace, listen to the environment. You get up in the morning. You will hear all kinds of activity and everything else, and then around 2, 3 o'clock everything is quiet and later on activity begins about 5 o'clock and so on, right up until late evening.

So that continued. There was no boredom to speak of because we were all active, and of course it changes with the seasons, winter and so on.

All of a sudden, we have a group of people coming over from I guess England, France and those places, and they ship through the Hudson's Bay Co, through the St Lawrence and so on, and say, "Hi, guys," and we began to communicate with each other. We had visions of them. We had stories about it in our legends, how certain changes were coming, before the first emergence of the white man.

Anyway, we finally made some communicative contact, and after a while we were taught: "You guys are working too hard. We have this new thing called democracy which you would be very fortunate to experience, to learn. It'll work." So our ancestors said: "I wonder what they're talking about. `Democracy,' what is that?" They said: "Democracy is like we all sit down together here. Okay, these guys over here, they are my immediate relatives on my mother's side, these guys over here are my relatives on my father's side, and these other guys are my peripheral relatives from both sides. So here is what we're going to do. This is what democracy is called. We are now going to elect a chief." "A chief, what is that? Is that something to eat, or cook? What is it?" "A chief is sort of a head person, and you'll have a council." "What is a council?" "Well, these are the people who would be elected to work for you. Instead of working 365 days a year, all of you, you will appoint somebody for two years to do that for you. You just take it easy."

That is kind of the conceptual direction we were given.

So we have an election, known as democracy. We nominate Uncle Martin, or Ann, or whatever the missionaries decided to use in describing some of us because they could not pronounce our names. They said: "All right, we'll nominate this one, this one and this one. We'll have an election and everybody votes."

Everybody voted, so finally two people got on the side, and one over here and one over there, which meant that four people out of the whole community were above everybody else now. They are now going to be chief and council, so to speak, and our people said: "What about the rest of us? What are we going to do? What happened to our traditions where we get up early in the morning and all day everybody is preoccupied with common existence?" "No, no. Don't worry about it. This is a new life. This is progress, okay? This is civilization," you know, whatever you want to call it.

So we went through the process, and next thing you know, what happened from that point on -- there are more details to this, by the way -- was that confusion set in. Our respect for each other in terms of what our roles were all about began to change, and then all these other socioeconomic factors also began to change, so when that happened the whole environment of people who had been patiently transitional from time immemorial till now began a process of change that shook the very foundations of our very survival to the present day. That is why I said there really has to be a recognition of difference, and there is a difference, believe me.

There is much more. I do not have the time I need to explain what I am talking about, so I am just going to go through the basic points. Later on, maybe in some dialogues that we will have across to each other, we can talk about these things.

Essentially, the difference I see in our existence between the way my own people have derived to the present time and the way society came about introducing its form of democracy or way of life -- there is a basic difference, as I said. Unless we understand that difference, we cannot really deal with these issues facing our people today. We cannot.

At the same time, I know that each of you came through a process of education that is enshrined in your system. No bloody way can I change your form of thinking, because this is what you are, the same way as I am. So I am not here to change you, not today -- maybe tomorrow, the day after and so forth. And the way I present myself here, I am not being facetious; I am being outright and straightforward because we are dealing with a very straightforward situation here.

The basic difference, as I see it -- and I incorporate this in the work that I do, and I work very closely with young people, as you see behind me, as well as our elders; those are the very important elements of any work that I do -- is that there are four elements. There are four points, which I recognize from my own culture as a very magical number. The Chinese say it is an unlucky number, but on this side of the hemisphere, we say four.

The first one was very crucial to our people and is what I call spiritual existence, a centre of power of individual -- in fact, a whole tribe, a whole nation of people -- a centre, just like a nucleus of the sun; revolve around the sun. The power of the sun is there. Without the sun, we do not exist, period. Same with the nucleus of an atom. We only get to a minute detail. The nucleus of an atom is what makes the power of the atom what it is. Ours was a spiritual existence. That was the number one building block, if you will.

The second principle point that is very important is what we call a cultural characteristic of our being, the language, where we are, how we express ourself. That was the second principle of our layer of existence, if you will.

The third one was what we call the social aspect of our fibre in terms of the social interaction, the social buildup of our community, our families and so on.

The last one was what we call economic. The economic was the outer layer of everything that applies once all these other layers have been put in a foundation. That is what made us distinct in a sense of our survival in our own families and communities.

To democracy, or the white way of democracy, we are told -- and this is what I see in a lot of things we observe -- the number one thing is the almighty dollar, the economic aspect. The almighty dollar is more powerful and more -- how shall I say it? -- important to a lot of people than Jesus Christ or any other religious figure of any religion, it seems. That is number one.

In comparison, there is the social aspect, of course. You have to socially interact, and what you do in society is number two; and number three is the cultural aspect. After a lot of people saw that program Roots, everybody wanted to know where they came from, started shaking family trees and so on and saying, "I want to find out my roots."

And then the last one is religion, spirituality. You do all these terrible things from Monday to Saturday. You go to church, ask for forgiveness for shafting your neighbour and everybody else, and on Monday you start the whole process again.


So that is the distinct, fundamental difference I see between our society and mainstream society, and when you look at that perspective, then you try to analyse what makes it important for a person to coexist here in terms of all these challenges or those problems we were talking about. When you see that, only then will you begin to understand that.

You know, children are fascinating people. We have to learn a lot from them. I travel a lot. Some of my young children are in the back. I was observing my little girl -- she is eight years old -- making friends with this other girl who was eight years old. A very interesting phenomenon took place. They made contact. They laughed, talked to each other. Next thing you know, they were buddy-buddies in a matter of minutes. They exchanged addresses, and my little girl asks me, "What can I give her?" Because in our tradition, we give gifts in friendship -- to give her something. She made friends with this one little girl, and yet I watched around the adult sector and everybody is in their little environment or little space, a "Keep away from my space; I am here; do not come near here" kind of attitude. We have to learn those kinds of things. So that is a reflection of some of the things our people are talking about a lot of times in terms of making contacts.

As I am speaking to you, I am bouncing my conceptual, intellectual dialogue from here. On other times, I am speaking to you from here. So a lot of times when I am speaking to you from here, you try to see me from here; you cannot get what I am saying. When I am speaking to you from here, you will try to receive it from here, so it all gets mixed up. It is like an FM and AM transmission and receiver, you know; you do not switch on at the right time, right place. So that is what we have to do to understand our differences; we have to understand how to communicate and so on in order to deal with these issues we are talking about.

The second point I would like to make is consultations. In my opinion there is no such thing as actual consultation without implementation of participation. In other words, go back to democracy again. I heard a very interesting observation when our national chief talked to someone from Toronto, I think, in respect to aboriginal self-government. The caller on one of these national programs asked: "Since you want to establish your own form of self-government, would it not be fair if we also sat on your governing body? After all, you want to govern your land and you want to do all kinds of things that will implicate a lot of things, including our own people, white people", and that is outside our activities. He was told, "Well, we cannot invite you to come and sit on our governing council because we do not even sit on yours." The chap said, "At least in ours, we sit in democracy; we elect our people every five years." So he was told: "Well, that is fine; you may be able to do that, but in between, you really have no significant role to play. They butter you up towards the fourth, fifth year and you vote again for whatever party you think is the best, and they will start over the whole process."

I think that is very true, because I wrote to the Prime Minister like everybody else, trying to stress some of the inequities I see in this country. I said, "Mr Prime Minister, have you not done enough damage already?" And at the same time, I said, "The proposals presented to us are all outdated and it is too late. You should have done that a long time ago." When Meech Lake went down, he started all kinds of things in terms of responding to our issues and so forth.

Finally, I said: "In order for me to get my points across to you" -- the government -- "I have to have at least one of presence or capabilities. I might have to be radical, a militant, and appear that I have the capacity to threaten your safety or the safety of others. You will think about that. You are going to respond to that, if I have that kind of presence before you. Or, preferably, I would like to have maybe $50 million in my back pocket and begin contributing to the many ridings of this country and to your coffers, and to arm myself with all kinds of lobbyists to make some economic presence in your governing system."

Those are the only two he might be able to understand, and that is why I say here that there is no such thing as consultation. There are consultations in terms of, for example, the $20-million-plus man named Spicer who is flying all over the place asking questions that we already know are going to be answered. That could be a consultation. But the consultation I speak of, that I believe in, is the implementation aspect of what happens after the consultations begin. This is where I think we have to have more involvement, what you call participatory democracy, of people. Not every individual. I am talking about the fact that we have different groups in this country that represent individual interests and they are very effectively organized. Everybody has an organization these days, because I suppose everybody has rights. Everybody has rights about everything. We have women's rights, aboriginal rights, you name it; the labour movement and so on. And quite rightly so, because we have some very important concerns we want to express.

So the thing I mentioned is that if there is going to be a sincere process of consultation, you also have to involve the implementation aspect to make sure. Sometimes I feel like Wayne Gretzky. If Wayne Gretzky was asked today, "Why don't you go to Toronto and coach the Toronto Maple Leafs?" and he tried to do that for a year or whatever, he would feel this sense of ability, that maybe he could do a little better than some of them; he wants to be involved in that. That is how we feel, many of us -- not only aboriginal people but many Canadians across the country. We want to be involved in the implementation aspect of all these changes that we are talking about in this country.

That leads me to the other aspect, constitutional deliberations. Again, the involvement we talk about from the aboriginal people, our people, is that we must be direct participants in the consultation process of the constitutional deliberations. It has to be more than the Meech Lake process, as we all know. I do not have to rehash it. A phenomenon took place there. It was not right. We told the previous government here over and over again that it was not right and that regardless of the political expediency of certain people, you cannot have that. As a result of that, a lot of our people to this very day are very reluctant and very apprehensive of political parties, especially the major, mainstream political parties.

So we have presentations in different forms in which we describe how we want to be involved. On a national level that was already provided by our national leadership. But this province also has a very significant role to play in the constitutional nation-building, because it is very significant in the political power stage and interactions in this country. Your recommendations will be very crucial as to what is going to happen in the process. That is why I say we have to be reinforced and supported by this group and in fact this government to help us play a significant role in the process.

This leads me to aboriginal rights. What we say, and have been saying for a long time, is that we have to have aboriginal and treaty rights recognized and entrenched in the Constitution. Regimes have to be built to support these functions so that they be part of the governing process in this country in which our people play a very major and significant role.

The sixth point to try to explain is the treaties. They must be recognized within the Canadian Constitution as well. Treaties are sacred documents between two nations of people who sit down and recognize each other, that they exist. When my grandfather was listening to the treaty-making days, he saw a Bible placed before him to signify the purity of the discussions and the sacredness of the dialogue. They also brought the Union Jack to signify the presence of government.

They pointed out the very visible and tangible illustrations with respect to sealing this treaty by saying -- you know, you have heard John Wayne movies -- "As water flows, this will continue." Now Hydro is trying to dam these waters from flowing. That is just my little fun. "As long as the grass grows, the sun shines," and so on, "that is the duration of the treaties.

"Believe us," they said, "because we have these religious people beside us to tell you our sincerity is pure." In the meantime, our concept over here, as I had mentioned earlier, was based on our inherent collective possession of land. In other words, I could not sell any of you any piece of my land. I cannot. It is almost sacrilegious against all our cultural, spiritual principles to do that. You cannot. It is unthinkable.


So when the treaty came over, we did not speak the language to begin with. We were told, "Give this up." In harmony with everybody else, we will -- it is just like friendship, that is what it is. We knew what friendship was, so we equated very well. Anyway, the end result, after we saw all of this, after we began to understand how to speak English, was that we began to realize how severely we had been shafted, to say the least. All these religious institutions that were there were not really there to look after our best interests; they were there to indoctrinate their own Christianity concept in us. I do not have to tell you about the tragic legacy from that, how our people have been completely alienated from their language. We went through a system, a process, that almost eliminated us, along with all the sicknesses and everything else. We almost became extinct. Through the grace of our Great Spirit, through our survival belief, this is what you see before you today: an aboriginal person that is angry a lot of times. I have learned to adjust my temperament, but it has been very trying at times. So I am trying to explain to you, ladies and gentlemen, some of these basic fundamentals.

The inherent rights we talk about are simply what we used to do to be recognized today. I also say aboriginal sovereignty has to be recognized. What does that mean? Does that mean economic sovereignty, as Quebec is talking about, or does it mean a different country within a country? I think that is the most difficult description to understand. I do not think it means those things in that context. I think it means cultural sovereignty, the self-determination sovereignty in terms of what you do here in your community, recognizing of course that there are certain laws that are there now, and if these laws are bad, why not change them to accommodate these local situations?

We talk about aboriginal governments. You talk about self-government. I work in that area with my own people. I do not call it self-government; I do not call it any other cliche. It is simply a group of people managing its community as best suited to its own purpose. If you want to put a name to it, those are aboriginal governments, first nations governments.

We also talk about nation-to-nation relations. That is not very strange. It is a process that began way back when we first took the hands of the first people who came, showing them places to live and so on. We related to each other, we related to the flag, to the Bible that was presented to us in terms of a visible, tangible kind of connection in our dialogue. So all these things that we talk about are there and they are very real.

We also have to recognize that there is inequity of almost everything that exists between the poor -- that includes our people -- and those people who are more fortunate than a lot of us. There has to be some inventory taken. There have to be discussions, they have to be planning together, there has to be community-based recognition of our people and what we are trying to do.

The other thing I also wanted to stress again here, and it follows from some of my earlier presentations, is the fallacy of the two founding nations. I say to you, ladies and gentlemen, that we were here. There is no question of that fact. That is indisputable. The only thing that is not clear is how we got over here. Just to be humorous, sometimes I say we got here by skating over and back to Asia -- just to be humorous, because our people are generally humorous no matter how tragic some of our situations may be. So that is why we have to say that.

So self-government, aboriginal government, must be community-based participation of people doing their thing. Nation-building must include our own people as key players in the process. The Canada clause, in our opinion, must also recognize the distinct group of people with decision-making roles. I am talking about aboriginal people.

I will briefly summarize to item 19. In the all-inclusive participation of our people, we are going through a process of what I call our economic and political empowerment. The phenomenon has taken off by leaps and bounds throughout this country, more than you can ever imagine right now. You will be privileged to witness that process and you will find that many elements will come from there, more radical than me, more radical than the organizations that dialogue with you, but hopefully through a combination of efforts, something positive will take place in the process of these changes that I am indicating to you.

Bilingualism and multiculturalism are real, although they are shaking the hell out of the foundation of our social fabric in this country. For example, if you look at the population of this country, a third of the people of this country are neither French nor English. That is a very significant development and that is increasing.

Participatory democracy must include a constituent assembly and a national referendum on major issues.

I cannot begin to describe each detail of these. As I said earlier, these are more or less motherhood statements. Now I go to my recommendations.

We ask that our people be recognized as a distinct group with fundamental rights for aboriginal government in the Constitution. There has to be a framework established.

Aboriginal rights must include pre-Confederation treaties including the point of reference of the royal proclamation of 1763 as a basis of all treaties that have been made previously and in the future.

Inherent rights of aboriginal people must be entrenched in the Constitution.

Aboriginal sovereignty rights must be further enshrined in the Constitution.

Ontario must provide resourcing for self-determination initiatives and directional plans for both off-reserve and on-reserve people who are pursuing their socioeconomic aboriginal self-government areas, espoused and mentioned in the policy of this government when it says it recognizes aboriginal rights and inherent rights.

We believe in a strong national government to be involved in decentralized jurisdictions appropriate to a lot of positive things that could happen in each province and territory in respect to our own input as aboriginal people.

A constituent assembly, as I indicated, should be incorporated and established to accommodate community-based participation. This is the nearest form, I guess, of what I called for earlier when I said the implementation aspect of consultation is most crucial if it is going to mean anything. So the constituent assembly process is a thing to be recognized.

To paraphrase these other recommendations, I even dare to suggest to you that you should have an aboriginal person sitting here as an ex officio member so that you will have sort of an in-house aboriginal person to dialogue with, to point you in some of these directions I am talking about.

I ask that our people should also be recognized as the first founding nation of this country. Maybe you can say English is second, or French. You guys fight that one out, but we want to put that in there, to be recognized.

I also ask you to look at my previous recommendations. I made two very significant presentations here in February. Go over them. I believe they have something to say in terms of continuity and continuation of these deliberations.

We have to be involved, as I have said over and over again in these recommendations that you see before you. Without going into any great detail, they are saying we have to be direct participants. We have to be involved in the process of these deliberations here as well as across the country. So these are the points of my presentation.

Believe me when I say there is a difference. There is a difference; there is no question. So when we talk about the directions, look at those 130 questions. I cannot even begin to scratch the surface of one of them, let alone try to conceptualize what direction we should go. I have this Wayne Gretzky feeling that I would like to help. I know what it is I am talking about. I have lived with my own people. I have dialogued with my elders and the young people, the young kids. We know what we want. So I hope I was able to bring that point across to you.

If you have any questions on anything I may have suggested, please feel free to ask me. If you want to know further what I am talking about -- there is much more detail than I can explain here on those points that I mentioned earlier -- please contact me and I will be very happy to talk to you. If I can convert one of you, maybe that is a beginning in terms of some of these things I am talking about.


The Vice-Chair: We have had that opportunity in the riding, Mr Rickard.

First of all, one thing is that the committee asked people to respond to a number of other issues, other than just aboriginal issues, for the very reasons that you are talking about. We think the issues facing us today with regard to our Constitution transcend just cultural issues, because economic issues and cultural issues in some ways are very intertied.

Mr Winninger: In case it was not perfectly clear, that original date of June 27 for the final report had to be delayed, simply because the groups that were coming to us to make presentations were asking for more time to be heard and we needed more time to deliberate on these important questions.

I have a question arising out of a comment you make on page 8 of your presentation. It regards the federal jurisdiction over aboriginal matters. There you suggest, "Federal trust and fiduciary obligation to aboriginal people must be recognized and kept while provincial and territorial government resources must be made available to supplement socioeconomic initiatives." My question to you is this: I can understand and acknowledge the concern that the federal fiduciary responsibility remain in place until your sovereignty is enhanced as native people, until you have an adequate land base, until you have an adequate economic infrastructure to gain the measure of independence and autonomy you are seeking. Might it be fair to say, then, that perhaps the federal role will diminish?

Mr Rickard: Any country, any free-society country if you want to call it that, has a basic constitution from which to govern that particular country. In some countries you have provincial or state structures within that national government structure. In our case, we dealt with the national structure when we began our treaties. The constitutional reference of 91(24), for example, refers to Indians and lands belonging to Indians as a jurisdiction of the federal government. They were the custodians. My great-grandmother used to talk about Queen Victoria as the custodian of our treaty. We both know that is sort of a fantasy in many respects in the political realities of this country.

However, you will find that every aboriginal leader in this country will tell you we want to maintain the federal linkage in terms of the jurisdiction aspect of first nations. The reason for that is that we have legitimate relationships. The Indian Act, imperfect as it may be, is a document that connects us with the federal government. It is almost like a paradox. It is a document that we cannot stand, yet it is the only tangible document that connects us constitutionally and legislatively with the federal government. So that is our connection. We want to retain those things. Maybe we are masochists or whatever, but that is the connection we have.

In respect to the province, we are involved in this province, for example, and believe it or not, we pay a lot of taxes, contrary to what you might hear. Fifty per cent of us live off-reserve and pay taxes. I pay poverty taxes, education tax and so on, like anybody else. I have no special privileges or benefits.

I feel the province has to be involved in the socioeconomic support systems of people, our own people as well. The government espoused aboriginal rights and inherent rights in this province. That is fine. You can talk about a recognition of almost anything in this province, but without the practical policies and financial resourcing systems, they do not really mean anything.

So in effect we want to keep the federal aspect because we want to opt in to Confederation. That is what we have been trying to do. We are not even part of Confederation today, other than administrative reference under Indian and Northern Affairs.

So we say we want to be part of the Constitution and Confederation. We want the federal government to adhere to its trusts obligations, because it has treaties that it has yet to fulfil. You cannot just escape that and say, "We'll do it with their special relations to us," and vice versa.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: It is good to see you again, Mr Rickard. You are definitely a thinker. You are an honest thinker.

I guess when I think of those 130 questions that you talked to, I get a little overpowered as well, more than a little overpowered. I guess I thought that when I began on February 4, that this task was maybe beyond us. But we are the people who are here. You are in your leadership role, we are in ours, and we know the issue has to be dealt with. So however -- what should I say? -- overpowered, overwhelmed and at times confused we may feel, I think we have to continue to relate to each other, as I think is your belief.

I find your brief is extremely full, as your other presentations were, and I am not going to comment or ask you to mention about your recommendation 9, about a further ongoing structure that would carry on the work of this committee. We may be here longer than we think, because we have had a major -- almost six-month -- extension even at this very early stage. When federal documents start to be presented, our mandate may be renewed. It is not unheard of around this place that some committees, particularly select committees, sit for the entire length of a government. That may happen; it may not.

What I would like to ask you to comment on is -- I do not know what you title these points that numbered into 21 -- number 18. You said, "Our off-reserve status and treaty people are not properly represented." I have just returned from the Maritimes and, as you likely know better than I, the negotiations that are going on there regarding a designated seat in both of those legislatures. I presume the talks, particularly in Nova Scotia, seem to be advancing with the Micmacs. Could you say a little bit about what you mean by this in Ontario, or what ideas you have about how this could happen better? I only use the Maritimes experience because that is the only one I know of that is going on right at the moment.

Mr Rickard: This government has inherited a process of relationship with the aboriginal people in this province. There are only so many aboriginal people in this province, yet the formal relationship that Ontario had with aboriginal people in this province has not changed significantly to any degree in terms of addressing the realities facing us.

For example, I live away from my community by virtue of not having employment opportunities, accommodation or any other opportunity from my community. The only choice I had was welfare support systems, in which it is not possible to progress under any circumstance. So by choice I had to move away. Many others out of over 130 communities in this province have done and are still doing that today.

Our numbers indicate over 50% of us live away, and we work, we go to school, we even have our own long-term mortgages of our homes. We pay taxes and we are going to tell you one of these days how much tax we pay. We are presenting these to the various ministers of this government. They are a very reluctant environment right now, but we are going to make it, because an idea has come to address something that has not been adequately represented for a long time. We work together with our chiefs and councils, our tribal councils and our status organizations. When I say status organizations I am talking about the reserve-based organizations, all the way up to the Assembly of First Nations. We have no quarrel with that.


On the other side, we also have people who claim to represent all of us who live off our reserves, which is not true, and the government is continuously providing substantive financial contributions to these various groups. We feel it almost borders on misappropriation of funds and fraud to continue financing some of these operations.

We have the recourse to take these to court as being violated under our Charter of Rights, but we are just assembling our information right now, what you call intelligence-gathering of information. Sooner or later, and it is going to be sooner, we will be making presentations again and again to this government to respond to these things. It is a dicey situation, no question. However, governments are known to face dicey situations. That is why you are elected, right?

I believe what has to happen is that our reserve-based organizations are clearly, concisely stating what they want to do. We agree with that. We off the reserves also are saying the same thing. We are now working together with our own communities. Any other organizations that exist out there, fine, let them come out and express what it is they are doing and so on. I am sure everybody has a legitimate base from which to operate. All we ask is that everybody participate in explaining what they want to do towards whatever objective and what end in that respect. We have that dilemma we have to deal with.

I do not want to do all my laundry in front of you. I have a tendency to make that a private matter, but you will hear periodically of what I am talking about, and especially our member of the Legislature will also put in work. As a training ground for cabinet ministers, I do not know if he is going to be around much longer, but we will see what happens.

Mr Curling: We were wondering that too.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: Thank you for explaining that point more fully to me.

The Vice-Chair: We have another question from Mrs Mathyssen. Seeing that we started about 10 minutes late, there is about another five minutes in your presentation. So we will go to your question and a final summary after that.

Mrs Mathyssen: We have heard a number of times that native self-determination and native self-government are dependent upon a sufficient land base for aboriginal people. As an urban Indian, perhaps you could answer my question. I have been concerned about the urban native who has been cut off from his reserve, from his home, for two or three generations. If that land base were there, would you return to the reserve? How many other urban Indians do you see returning? Is this a problem, bringing those people back, or would they want to return?

Mr Rickard: The situation is rather complex, to say the least. When you explain that, it takes a long time to -- as I mentioned earlier, I have to draw diagrams and illustrations. Again, that is not to be facetious and to appear like I know everything. I do not really. I am going through a process of some change like everybody else.

What happens is that I live away from my community, by choice or by circumstance. I think it is by circumstance, because there are no jobs there. I now live outside and I feel comfortable and I look at my line of work as sort of a shuttle diplomat in terms of explaining to white society what our people want in relation to what they have expressed. I also try explaining to my people what all these crazy white people are doing in their government and their institutions. I just try to balance understanding. Then from there I probably will pursue it as work for as long as I can do it. It is my line of speciality. I call myself a consultant or a mercenary, but after I saw the description of "mercenary" in the dictionary, I dropped it. It said "do anything for money." There is a limit to that.

What happens is that when we look to our communities' land base -- my place is Moose Factory. That is where I come from. We have a base there. We do not have enough land base to really be comfortable. We are all cramped in together so close that we cannot even breathe. In that sense, our people need more land base in that area to establish their own institutions to manage their affairs there, within that area. But as far as I am concerned, where I live I do not need to be granted a land base because we are buying our land back, some of us. We are getting tired of waiting for land claims to be settled so we are buying our land back and living out there, demonstrating what we are talking in the sense that we are capable of our own self-determination.

My wife has gone through her own educational process. She is getting her doctorate in education next month. After a long series of studying, she has about four or five degrees. I am very privileged to witness that phenomenon. I also have what I guess you might call a university degree as well. Those are things we are using to demonstrate our advancement in every aspect, to try to be role models to our children, to young students surviving out there who say, "Look, we have to use the same checks and balances to survive out here." However, there are legitimacies, like treaties my grandfather signed, that have to be corrected somehow or updated through his understanding.

I am not asking for any land base in Timmins or any place I come from. If I want to run against this guy in another party, I will. I have that privilege. Maybe we will have another standing committee after the next election which I will be chairing -- I do not know -- depending on what party wins.

I am just giving you an illustration because I am trying to demonstrate that anybody -- a lot of us are -- can do anything he wants to do in any capacity, be it members of Parliament, MPPs, municipalities, anything. Hockey players, baseball players -- you name it, we can achieve those.

That is why we are doing it, in many cases, in urban centres. A lot of our people are doctors now, lawyers and so on, who are working. There are no jobs for us in our community but we go home regularly. It is still our roots. I do that a lot. Those are the things that are coming out.

When our people on the reserve communities and our organizations are saying that we want more land base, this is precisely what they want, for that community, not for us to set up our own self-government within Metro or Timmins, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, but to be part of a process to enhance and participate in discussions as to what constitutional principles should be entrenched in the Constitution. We want to be part of that, and we are. That is what I am trying to do here.

We also want to be part of the economic business development programs because we pay taxes to all these programs as well. When we see a program come up and we know it is not right, it is not properly administered for some reason, then we feel, if anything, as taxpayers or aboriginal people we have a say as to what should happen. That is why we are overly concerned about that as well.

Mrs Mathyssen: I think you have clarified that for me.

The Vice-Chair: We will allow you a couple of minutes to sum up any final message or comment you want to give at this point.

Mr Rickard: I just want to close by saying I hope I was able to provoke some thinking. Your computer is located between your two ears. I say that to describe how I am trying to penetrate and present some of the points I think are very crucial to aboriginal people.

Second, I also want to make it absolutely clear that when you look at me I am not just an aboriginal person maybe just thinking of aboriginal concerns. There are many peripheral points out there that have to be considered, from the economy, taxation, regional disparity, you name it.

Third, I hope we can participate in the implementation strategies I talked about. If any of you require advice in that respect, you will be given specific advice. Based on economics, law or whatever, we can provide it.

[Remarks in Cree]

Thank you very much and I appreciate your listening to me.

The Vice-Chair: The committee will be coming back at 2 o'clock this afternoon to hear from other presenters. Until then, we stand adjourned.

The committee recessed at 1210.


The committee resumed at 1505.


The Vice-Chair: The committee will now come to order. Next on our agenda is the National Action Committee on the Status of Women. Representing them is Barbara Cameron, who was the co-chair of the constitutional committee for that organization. Just a word to the members before we get started: After the committee hearing we are going to be circulating some documents you should go through in regard to the various reports, and we will get those out to you just after we have finished our hearings.

Dr Cameron: I thought what I would do is address some of the questions raised in the material I was sent, and then have questions from people. The whole process of developing a position on the Constitution has been quite difficult for the National Action Committee on the Status of Women. We are a Canada-wide organization and we had very major divisions between the women of Quebec and the women of English Canada and all sorts of other groups around the Constitution. We rejected the Meech Lake accord a year ago. Our position was acceptance of the five demands of Quebec, but rejection of the Meech Lake accord because of its extension of the same powers to all the provincial governments that the Quebec government had asked for.

This year at the annual general meeting of NAC, which took place in June, there was quite a comprehensive position adopted and it is a position that is fairly radical, but it seems to us to be one which allows us to reconcile all the different interests within the organization. This is a position which recognizes the fundamental units of the country, for the purpose of the Constitution, as national units essentially, with recognition of the right of self-determination for Quebec, the aboriginal peoples and English-speaking Canada.

It basically sees Canada as a multinational state, and within that the aspirations of different racial groups, ethnic groups, cultural groups can be realized, but in a way that does not counterpoise, for example, multiculturalism to Quebec as a distinct society. So we would see English-speaking society as a multicultural society as well as Quebec. That was certainly the way the Quebec women's organizations see their society, but they were not prepared to have multiculturalism and the distinct society of Quebec put in some kind of a competing position.

We also took a position on the process by which we believe constitutional change should come about. We want to see the country as a voluntary relationship among English Canada, Quebec and the aboriginal peoples. We think it is essential for each of these components to come up with its perspective on how it wishes to be organized politically, and then to negotiate. It was our sense that the aboriginal peoples and the Quebec people had actually quite a bit more discussion about this than English Canadians had, certainly English Canadian women. Because of that, we have called for a constituent assembly for English Canada. We are not calling for a constituent assembly at this point for the whole country, but we believe it is essential for English-speaking Canadians to come up with a perspective, particularly on how we see the proper powers of the federal government and the provincial governments.

I should say that our position comes out of an experience where the Quebec women's organizations had a profoundly different view of the role of the federal government than the women's organizations in English-speaking Canada. The Quebec women, whether they support independence or not -- and the major women's organization in Quebec does support Quebec sovereignty -- see the Quebec government essentially as their national government. The women in English Canada see the federal government as the national government for them. There is very strong opposition among women in English Canada, who are working for women's equality, to a decentralization of powers, to a provincialization of powers. There is a strong commitment to a continuing role for the central government, the federal government, particularly in social programs, but it comes out of a notion that this is the common government, at least of English Canada.

In addition to our position on the process, we passed a resolution endorsing a strong central government for English Canada with respect to social services, cultural programs, protection of equality rights and also linguistic rights. One of the concerns of francophone women outside Quebec is that there is an assault on their rights. There is a very strong concern that if cultural rights were given to the provinces, then they would lose their rights. We see this as a responsibility for the central government. That is the position we have taken. There was very strong support for it at the meeting of the National Action Committee in June.

We think, on the basis of that, women will become more active in the constitutional debate. The National Action Committee was essentially paralysed over the last year or so. We were talking a lot about process and the need for women to be involved, but yet had not actually come up with what we wanted to say when we were consulted, so the experience with Spicer and a number of the commissions was that women's organizations were not that active. I think that will change when the federal government comes out in the fall with its proposals. I should say, on that, I think the record in Ontario of your committee is better than the rest of the country from what I have heard. The outreach done to women's organizations did result in more representations than in some of the other provinces. The participation of women in Spicer, apparently, was very minimal and the NAC did not participate in Spicer.

With that, I would like to go through some of the topics you have indicated on the material I was sent by Harold Brown. I would like to say to begin with that we consider the division of powers to be fundamentally important to women. We do not think the only concern, or even the major concern, for women is the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Particularly with respect to all the issues around spending power, the division of powers is vitally important to women because of the dependence many women have and the support they give to social services. We see the necessity not only of defending the existing level of social services in the country but we want to see it extended. The National Action Committee has called for some time for a Canada-wide, universal system of child care. We want an extension of the role of government.

One of the things that concerns us today, in the debates about the division of powers, is that some of the more right-wing interests in society that want to see cuts to social services have now got into the constitutional debate in favour of decentralizing powers to the provinces. They see this decentralization as a route to cutting social services.

It is interesting to read, for example, the Group of 22's proposals. They define social services as somehow inherently local, but the issues of great concern to business will be left up to a central state. Their proposals are not completely decentralizing. On things like telecommunications that are very important, they want to ensure that there is no confusion and that those will be central. Even with something like education, I think the phrase is that if it is related to competitiveness, they want that to be federal. When it comes to issues we are vitally concerned with, they are defined as local, but the issues for international competitiveness of business are defined as of great national concern.

We reject that. We are very concerned about what we see as an unholy alliance between some of the nationalists in Quebec who do not go as far as arguing independence who are making proposals around decentralization, because that is the way they can gain more powers for Quebec. They are making an alliance with right-wing interests in English Canada that want to see a cutback in social services. These tend to be the same people who have supported the integration of the Canadian economy into the American economy. We do not support that.

Just on the general question of the role of government, the division of powers has become tied up with the issue of what is the role of government. We strongly support an extended role for government in social services, but as I said there are differences between the women of Quebec and the women of the rest of the country about where this power, particularly over social services, should lie. We want a continuing and extended role for the federal government in English Canada, and support the position of the Quebec women's organizations that the Quebec government should have more power with respect to the people of Quebec.

Essentially, our position is that the existing Constitution is based on a false equation which equates the Quebec government, which in many respects is a national government, with nine governments that represent parts of another national community. We think the issue of the power of the Quebec government has to be delinked from the issue of the power of the other provincial governments. We do not think we are talking about the same thing with these questions.

One of the things I thought was interesting about the Spicer commission -- and this is probably reflected in your report to some extent -- was the strong desire among English Canadians for a strong, central government. That was one of the strong themes that came out of Spicer.

With respect to the role of Quebec, we think language like "special status" and "asymmetrical federalism" does not quite get at what we are talking about, that it is important for there to be a process by which English-speaking Canadians decide what role they want for the federal government and for the provincial governments, irrespective of what Quebec wants. That is why we are calling for a constituent assembly.

When it is posed in terms of giving Quebec more, or something different, you get a very strong reaction against that in English Canada, but if you start talking about what is it we in fact want, you realize what happened within the National Action Committee, that we want different things, that English-speaking Canadians want a strong central government, and we have not begun to have the debate about the division of powers in that kind of context without the issue of Quebec always having precedence.

Obviously, an implication of our position is we reject the principle of provincial equality. This is a relatively new principle in Canadian constitutional history and we do not think it is particularly useful. I think a strong argument can be made that the principle of provincial equality works against the principle of women's equality with respect to social programs and in a number of other ways.

Basically, on the issue of division of powers, we respect the right of the Quebec people to decide how they wish to be organized. We want the forums for the debate to take place in English-speaking Canada about the way we wish to be organized. The position that will be taken in such a debate is that the federal government has to retain very strong powers in major areas, over economic policy, culture, social services, protection of rights and liberties.

With respect to aboriginal peoples, we are quite pleased about the process Joe Clark has agreed to with the first nations, which involves them having their own process, their own set of constituent assemblies. Coming up with their proposals is quite consistent with what we have recommended. It seems that what is missing at this stage is for there to be some forum for Canada, outside of Quebec and other than the native peoples, to come up with our positions.


I would like to make some comments as well on the issue of representation, which in your material focuses mainly on the issues of national institutions and the political system. The National Action Committee presented a brief to this committee in June 1990. I do not know how many of the people here are the same. Basically, we argued that the debate around political representation is very outdated, that we talk about the Senate and we talk about territorial representation. In this day and age, we need to be talking a lot more about the representation of women and about the representation of various racial, ethnic and linguistic minorities. It is not sufficient to frame our debates on representation simply in terms of territory, in terms of what was relevant in 1867.

We think that as the debate develops, particularly in English Canada, there is going to be less and less sympathy for restricting it simply to better representation for the provinces; there are many other interests. The National Action Committee favours affirmative action measures in political representation.

With respect to whether the Senate should exist or not, we think it is premature to talk about that. We reject the notion of provincial equality in Senate representation, but we think there have to be ways to make our federal institutions more representative of the different sections of the country.

There has been some debate within the National Action Committee on the issue of proportional representation. I think there probably would be quite widespread support for that when it comes to a vote within the organization, but we have not actually had it.

With respect to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a point I would like to make is that the debate is not as simple for women as is sometimes presented. There is a major division between women in Quebec and those in English Canada over the charter. The identification of the charter as a major victory in the 1981 round of constitutional negotiations is an English Canadian victory. It is not seen that way in Quebec, where they tend to identify that whole round with the defeat of Quebec's aspirations. We found, over Meech Lake, that we could not get agreement with the Quebec women's organizations about protecting, particularly, section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If there is a sense that this is a unifying charter between Quebec and English Canada, it is not our experience within the National Action Committee. In fact, it has been the source of some division and difficulty for us.

In general, women in English-speaking Canada would favour removing the "notwithstanding" clause. You would not get agreement from Quebec women on that question. NAC would have difficulty taking that position unless we said the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was for English-speaking Canada and not for Quebec. There is a tendency for Quebec women to look to their own bill of rights for their protection, rather than to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I would also like to make some comments about the proposals Premier Rae has made around entrenching social and economic rights in the Constitution. As I understand that position, it is being put forward as an alternative to really coming to grips with the division of powers. In the speech to the Legislature, as I read it, it was presented as a way that would make possible more decentralization of powers in English Canada, that would entrench national standards essentially and go a bit farther in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In general, the National Action Committee agrees in principle with the idea of entrenching economic and social rights, but we strongly disagree that this can be seen as an alternative to coming to grips with what are the fundamental questions of the Constitution. We oppose the decentralization of powers in English Canada even with the entrenchment of economic and social rights.

We would like to emphasize that there are real problems in making the constitutionalization of these rights mean anything. One of the proposals that has come forward, from the Group of 22 for example, is to put the criteria in the Canada Health Act into the Constitution, to give it the same kind of status as the equalization provisions in section 36 of the charter.

Those provisions are almost meaningless as anything that can actually be enforced, and we very much fear a debate which makes Canadians feel they are actually going to have economic and social rights simply by entrenching them in the Constitution, while allowing decentralization, with the federal government giving up its funding role, which is where it can actually influence national standards, and having entrenched rights which mean very little.

As a general principle, we are totally opposed right now to the provincial government's strategy in taking the position that we do not have to worry about the division of powers; that what we will go for is an entrenched charter of economic and social rights.

I can say from our experience with this federal government that anything it would agree to with respect to national standards would not mean very much. Our experience with child care, for example, is that it is quite opposed to national standards. This is something that worries us a lot.

I have said with respect to the process that we support a constituent assembly for English-speaking Canada. I want to emphasize what I think is a very real problem, and that is that I do not think most Canadians look at the Constitution as a deal among provincial premiers. But that is what our Constitution is. That is what it was in 1867. That is what the Meech Lake accord was. Most Canadians, particularly in English Canada now that people have started to think about the Constitution in a more popular way, do not consider that there is a legitimacy of provincial premiers sitting down and negotiating. That was a big lesson of the Meech Lake accord. The only people who seem to see the Constitution as a deal among provinces are provincial politicians. The people of Quebec see it as an agreement between French Canada and English Canada. Most people in English Canada were quite astounded, I think, at the Meech Lake process, because when they thought of it, that was not what a Constitution should be. So we have a major problem of legitimacy, which I am sure you all recognize.

There is also a big problem with the existing amending formula, obviously, because it takes the agreement of provinces to amend the Constitution. Our general perspective on a constituent assembly is that we want a popularly elected one. We have to have more discussion about how that can relate to the existing amending formula in the Constitution, and we want an elected assembly that has some formula for guaranteed representation of women and the various minorities including economically disadvantaged minorities. We have a position in principle on that, but we have not worked out all the details.

On the question of a Canada clause, which is raised in your report, it would be really nice to have a Constitution which had a nice preamble. We have a terrible preamble in our Constitution. A preamble which presented sexual equality as a goal would also be something we would support.

We think it would be false advertising to describe sexual equality as a fundamental characteristic of Canada. The National Action Committee would not need to exist if it were a fundamental characteristic of Canada. We want some preamble that sets out the goals which we think are in fact goals of most Canadians: social equality, sexual equality and racial and other kinds of equality.


This presumes that we have an agreement between English Canada, Quebec and the aboriginal peoples. A Canada clause would have to be written in such a way that it recognized the basic national components of the country and put the rights of ethnic and cultural minorities in that context. We would strongly support that, seeing Quebec and English-speaking Canada as pluralistic societies.

As a final point on the issue of linguistic rights of minorities, I just want to emphasize the feeling within our organization for the francophone minority who feel extremely threatened right now, particularly with the rise of the Reform Party and discussions about provincializing cultural and language rights. Those are my opening comments.

The Vice-Chair: It was a well-put-together presentation.

Mr Martin: It was a challenging presentation. I found some interesting thoughts. Just one question: When you talk about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and women from Quebec being concerned about their own bill of rights, what are the fundamental differences in those two documents or sets of rights?

Dr Cameron: I am not familiar with the provisions of it. From what I am told, it goes farther in terms of some social and economic rights in the charter. I think the attitude, though, has to do more with their view of their government than whether they have a better bill. They say their bill of rights is better than the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but it has to do with their view of which level of government ought to have responsibility for it. I cannot tell you what makes it better or why they say it is better.

Mr Martin: And that is where the "notwithstanding" clause becomes a problem, in that particular place where the two bills of rights differ?

Dr Cameron: No, the "notwithstanding" clause was an issue within the National Action Committee because section 15 of the charter, to which the "notwithstanding" clause applies, bans discrimination based on national origin. The argument of the Quebec women was that because there is preferential treatment in Quebec -- as a result of history and also it is in the charter -- for English people who come to Quebec from other places in Canada, and who can send their kids to English-language schools while new immigrants cannot, they fear that any legislation that says new immigrants should send their children to French-language schools could be challenged as discrimination based on national origin.

That was their argument, and all the Quebec women supported it. You can give another interpretation to the charter, and other people have, saying that it would not happen, but that was their feeling, and so they did not want the Quebec government to be unable to use the "notwithstanding" clause and apply it to that section of the charter.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: You certainly have simplified some difficult issues for us and you obviously have a very national outlook, and we appreciate that. You obviously have spoken a lot to women in Quebec or to their representatives, and that is very helpful to us.

I just want to bring one question to your attention and ask if you could say as much as possible about it. What mechanisms can ensure the meaningful involvement of women in the process of constitutional change? You have begun to use some of them. You certainly have talked very fully about a constituent assembly, but no matter what constituent assembly we have in this country, it is likely the numbers would be less than 250 in the final assembly. Could you tell us a little bit about what you see that we as a provincial legislative committee could recommend for meaningful involvement, what kinds of things? The native women this morning were able to bring some explicit recommendations to our attention. Perhaps you could do the same.

Dr Cameron: One of the proposals that was made by the Ontario Women's Action Coalition, which I have worked with a bit around the Constitution, was to have resources from the provincial government to allow local organizations to actually do some education around the Constitution. Our experience with it has been that the Constitution is very inaccessible to people. We do not have a Constitution that is easy to understand. There is a desire on the part of women, we find, to know more about it and to be able to be involved in the debate, but they need resources to be able to be involved in it.

I think one thing this committee could recommend would be some funding for grass-roots organizations, not just of women but within various constituencies, to have some materials that were available to them and to encourage different exchanges, to have some discussions on the Constitution. It would be nice to have exchanges with women's organizations in Quebec or with aboriginal women's organizations. I think that would be very helpful.

Any notion of a constituent assembly requires a process leading up to it of quite a bit of public debate and discussion, and it needs to be made accessible to grass-roots individuals. I think the interest is there. That is our experience in the women's movement, that it is very hard for people to get the information they need so they can participate intelligently in the debate.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: Do you have a regular relationship or ongoing communication with our women's directorate in the province or with the Ontario Advisory Council on Women's Issues?

Dr Cameron: No, the Ontario Women's Action Coalition, which is a recent organization, is the equivalent at the provincial level of the National Action Committee, so they would have that.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: They have sent us some things.

Dr Cameron: One of the things that has been happening within that, which is healthy, is trying to separate Ontario from the Canadian organization. People outside Ontario resent this. Ontario did not have its own organization, so that has been formed recently and they would have that relationship.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: I am pleased you recognize that we have tried to reach out to women. As you say, sometimes they are not as highly organized as some of the other groups, but we did certainly make a commitment in that first phase that we would continue to involve women meaningfully. We certainly hope women will be very well represented at our conference to be held in October -- all kinds of women -- because we really think it is important to have a true mirror of the province.

I thank you for working as you are with these complex issues and bringing them to the committee.


Mr Drainville: I must say I am intrigued to hear your comments reflecting the discussions you have had with women from Quebec. I was born in Quebec and come from Quebec. When you made your comments about the Group of 22 and were talking specifically about the economic policies that are presently being engaged on the national scene, saying that the business questions were national concerns but social questions were more local concerns, you talked a little bit about the Group of 22 in that light. Is there any kind of document or analysis that the NAC has done on the Group of 22 report, or do your reflections come from the discussions you have been part of as you have looked at that report?

Dr Cameron: The Group of 22 report came out just before our convention in June, so we had a certain amount of discussion about it, but we do not have a paper. We are preparing a bunch of fact sheets on the Constitution and a booklet on the issue of division of powers and proposals that have come from the Business Council on National Issues. Coopers and Lybrand has done something on decentralization and the Group of 22 will be addressed in that, and the objections the National Action Committee has to that. That should be ready in the fall.

Mr Drainville: It would be good to receive it. If you could make that available to the committee, it would be wonderful to have.

In terms of the constituent assembly, I must say this is a most vexing problem because across the country there is really a great deal of division as to whether such a thing should happen. In terms of the constituent assembly, my understanding -- I am just trying to make sure I understand where you are coming from on this -- is that you seem to believe that if we do this for English Canada, the reason for doing it, and I am going by implication here, is that we have not had the time, or perhaps the opportunity, to be able to formulate in English Canada responses towards the Constitution and towards visioning the future of Canada, and that therefore this would provide us with an opportunity to do that. My understanding, although you did not say this specifically, is that in contrast there is a much greater sense in Quebec of the direction they are going in and their sense of these constitutional issues.

Dr Cameron: The Federation des femmes du Quebec, which is the main coalition of women's organizations in Quebec, has called for a constituent assembly for Quebec. The National Action Committee, even though it has Quebec organizations, would not be able to take a position about what the Quebec women ought to do. That is part of the reality of NAC. So we did not take a position that Quebec ought to have a constituent assembly; we took a position that there should be a constituent assembly in English Canada and some of the Quebec women said they would not vote on it because that was not an issue for them.

At one level it is practical: Quebec will not come to an all-Canada constituent assembly. There is no way. So any proposals for a constituent assembly that would be all-Canada will not fly. They are just not going to come. But I think at a more profound level there is a problem in that English Canadians have very few common institutions. I think what has happened often is that we treat our Canada-wide institutions as our institutions. Quebec objects to that. That is one reason many organizations were paralysed.

For example, labour organizations have not taken positions on the Constitution because their Quebec organizations do not want them to, so there is great frustration among English Canadians that there is no way we can get together to take positions. The only common institution we really had was the English CBC. The National Action Committee is not an organization of English Canadian women. We had great difficulty providing a forum for the women of English Canada to have a place to talk about the Constitution, but there was no other place except this Canada-wide organization.

It is the same with our federal institutions, so our problem is that we do not have anywhere we come together to actually decide what it is we want. Our experience, and I think this is reflected in Spicer, is that there is a kind of distinct society in English Canada. There are obviously regional differences, but on some basic issues, basic values, there is a desire to have common institutions. The constituent assembly is a way to provide something that we do not have any other way of -- we do not have any other institution.

Mr Drainville: Would it be fair to say, therefore, that out of the experience you have had on the National Action Committee, the need for a constituent assembly has become so clear because of the divisions and the incapacities of French Canadian women and English Canadian women to come together and deal with these national issues? Would it be fair to say that?

Dr Cameron: No, I think what came out of the NAC experience was a recognition that we have very different approaches in Quebec and English Canada and that English Canadian women do share a perspective. It was at the point at which we recognized that we had different attitudes to the federal government that we began to be able to reach some kind of accommodation. The National Action Committee has had a position in favour of a constituent assembly since 1981, because there was a rejection of executive federalism around the process in 1980-81 as well. What is new is the position that it should be for English Canada. But we rejected the notion of premiers negotiating the Constitution in 1980-81.

Mrs Y. O'Neill: You made a suggestion -- it was more than a suggestion -- that the constituent assembly that you saw would be popularly elected. Could you tell us any way in which you can see that being done, or have you thought that through?

Dr Cameron: This is a project some of us are working on in August, so if we come up with it we will --

Mrs Y. O'Neill: If you do get some strong recommendations that you think would be useful, that is certainly another thing that anybody who is even thinking of that as an alternative has to come to grips with.

Mr Jordan: Thank you for your interesting presentation. Being new on this committee, I really have enjoyed the presentation put forward today. I was interested that in your presentation you say there is no way the Quebec group would consider joining with English Canada. Has there been much effort put forward, or have there been meetings attempted, or are we just saying it will not happen?

Dr Cameron: In a constituent assembly? Is that what you are thinking about?

Mr Jordan: Yes.

Dr Cameron: I believe the Quebec government has stated it would not attend a constituent assembly. That is our experience within the National Action Committee, that until we had made it clear we were talking about English Canada and Quebec as distinct entities, we could not even discuss the Constitution. Our Quebec members have made that quite clear to us, that we would not be able to. I think that any time it is suggested, the Quebec government has rejected it. They will not come to a constituent assembly where they would be outnumbered.

Mr Jordan: But would you see any value in an executive group from both getting together to examine possible conditions under which they might come together? It seems to me that we are accepting separatism right off the bat.

Dr Cameron: The National Action Committee actually has not taken a position on independence for Quebec. We have taken the position that it is up to the Quebec people to choose and that we will support the choice made. The overwhelming majority of members of NAC in English Canada do not want Quebec to separate, there is no question about that, but the sense is that if we are going to coexist within one state, we have to negotiate a new relationship based on respect for the right of self-determination of Quebec and a redivision of powers.

I think really what we have heard from Quebec politicians is that English Canadians have to decide. That is what they are saying to us. They do not seem to be very interested in negotiating with us until there is something coming more clearly from English Canada. I would expect that at this point any such initiatives would not get very far because they would say, first of all, who were they going to talk to from English Canada? The Quebec government is not interested any more in being one of 10, and that process is not acceptable in English Canada either. It seems there does need to be a process and the forums in English Canada for a process whereby we get more clarity on what we want. I really foresee that if we again get proposals which would mean decentralizing power, we will get exactly the same reaction that took place around Meech Lake. I think a main basis for the rejection of Meech Lake was that decentralization.


Mr Jordan: You also made the point about some funding being made available to the grass-roots level, to participate. Do you feel the Quebec group is representative of the women of Quebec, or is it an exclusive group that is promoting this?

Dr Cameron: It is a coalition of women's organizations, so it would be women's organizations which are supportive of women's equality. It is quite a broad organization in Quebec. In general, there are differences between francophone Quebeckers and some of the anglophone Quebec women's organizations, but in general it is representative of the women's movement in Quebec, those women's organizations active around women's equality issues.

Mr Jordan: I think of the many Quebec towns that border my riding of Lanark-Renfrew along the Ottawa River. They do not feel their views are being heard. I was just wondering, when you mentioned funding for grass-roots organizations, if there was something to be gained by these people being heard.

Dr Cameron: Yes.

Mr Wessenger: I would just like to get clarification. It seems from your presentation that you are suggesting that some form of asymmetrical Confederation is the only workable aspect, because it seems you are saying from your organization's perspective that the powers Quebec would have to have would be at odds with what you perceive the rest of Canada would want. Therefore, if you are to keep the country together, am I correct that this type of arrangement is the only one that is satisfactory to your group? Am I correct in that observation?

Dr Cameron: Yes. We have some problem with the term "asymmetrical."

Mr Jordan: Yes, I realize you do.

Dr Cameron: But in general, our view is that there is no way Quebec will give up its demands for greater power. There can be some negotiations around how much, but there is no way they will give it up. If the only other proposal is giving all the other provinces the same powers, we oppose that. So the implication is that Quebec will have different powers than the other provincial governments.

Mr Jordan: If we follow that up, are you going to be making any specific proposals or suggestions of how such a situation might work from a practical point of view? I know there are immense difficulties with respect to that whole question of Quebec having substantially different powers from the rest of Canada vis-a-vis the federal government. Does your organization have any thoughts or any contribution on how that might work?

Dr Cameron: What it does depend on is how English Canadians want to be organized. If you look at the proposals around quite strong decentralization, they give limited powers to the federal government. It would be possible to negotiate some arrangement where English Canadians had a common central government and then some arrangement about what powers would be shared between Quebec and the rest of Canada and what kinds of structure you would have to co-ordinate them.

I do not know that this is any more radical than what we are getting from the Group of 22 and others. The suggestions that are coming forward about the kinds of powers the federal government would have are quite radical changes as well, so you would have to negotiate what they would be. The difference between what we are suggesting and what they are suggesting is that we do not want English Canada to be all fragmented.

Mr Wessenger: To carry that one step forward, would you have an objection to the other provinces having the same theoretical powers as Quebec, but having the right of delegation, of negotiating which government exercises which powers? Is that an acceptable solution to you, of having the provinces have the ability to opt out? Would that be objectionable to your group?

Dr Cameron: It depends what the conditions of opting out are. If they get to opt out with full compensation, if you end up so that the federal government has no kind of financial clout in its relationship with the provinces, we do not favour that. That is really what those proposals are.

Mr Wessenger: Basically what you really want to see retained is the federal spending power.

Dr Cameron: For English-speaking Canada, yes. We are opposed to losing that. It depends on how radically we think we are talking about the Constitution. I think in your report you talk about -- I do not know the word used, but some kind of dramatic change in the division of powers. What we need to have a debate on -- among the people of Canada, not just among the governments -- is what are the powers English-speaking Canadians want their federal government to have and what are the powers they want the provincial governments to have. Part of our view about the complexity of federal funding arrangements, which are outrageous from the point of view of democracy, is it is very difficult when you are fighting for child care to know which level of government to go to. You have to go to the municipal, provincial and federal levels of government. We are not in favour of that kind of complexity.

We think it is a direct result of an inability to accommodate the specific concerns of Quebec. If you look at the way that has developed, other provinces have opposed, in the post-war period, proposals around giving the federal government more powers in a social welfare state. The main difficulty there was Quebec. Ontario also opposed them, but if you had found where the popular sentiment was, I think there would be a lot of popular sentiment outside Quebec for giving the federal government more power.

If we are actually thinking as radically about the Constitution as some people seem to be suggesting, then we ought to be asking English Canadians, "What do you really want to see in this?" That is the debate we would like to see happen. We do not think people like the existing arrangements, but provincialization is not the only alternative to duplication. That is our position on it, but I certainly do not want you to think we like the existing financial arrangements.

The Vice-Chair: On behalf of the committee, I would like to thank you for presenting before us a number of ideas and directions that the women of Canada who you represent would like to go in.

With that, our committee will be adjourned until tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock. I would ask committee members to stay for a minute to make sure you have some documentation.

The committee adjourned at 1559.