A motion to adjourn the house under provisional standing order 39A deemed to have been moved.
Proceedings on Adjournment Motion INDIAN AFFAIRS-REQUEST FOR RECONSTITUTION OF PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE
Hon. V/. G. Dinsdale (Brandon-Souris): Mr. Speaker, I have been waiting to discuss this matter since last Thursday, otherwise I should not trespass on the time of the house at this late hour. In view of what has just happened it appears that we are very close to adjournment, and I wish to bring this matter to the attention of the government to obtain some assurance that the committee on Indian affairs will be reconstituted shortly after the resumption of the current session.
[DOT] (10:30 p.m.)
When I asked the leader of the house last Thursday whether this would be possible, he referred me to the minister of Indian affairs as the minister responsible. It was on July 13, 1966, that the house agreed to the following motion:
That the standing committee on Indian affairs, human rights and citizenship and immigration be empowered to adjourn from place to place within Canada for the purpose of obtaining further information relating to matters affecting Indians and Indian communities; and that for this purpose, the said committee be authorized to sit while the house is sitting or during adjournments of the house; and
That the clerk of the said committee and necessary supporting staff do accompany the said committee.
That was almost two years ago, and since then there has been no further action. Earlier today I pointed out that the chairman of the committee, the hon. member for Cartier (Mr. Klein) had made a statement to the press urging that the committee proceed to adjourn from place to place, and so on, as recommended in the motion. So I know we have his enthusiastic support.
Last week two important speeches were made on Indian affairs, one by the minister at the University of British Columbia on March 23 and the other by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Stanfield) in Calgary on March 21. The minister underlined the importance of consultation and practical knowledge of the subject in three quotations that I want to extract from his speech. He said:
The Indian has a sense of grievance.
Later, he said:
Without doubt, Canada's most serious social problem is the Indian problem.
Finally, the minister declared that the building of self-esteem among the Indian community was of the utmost importance.
DEBATES March 26, 1968
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Stanfield) speaking in Calgary struck the same note. In the light of this high level support I do not think I need stress the case for this being the desire of all of us here. There are outstanding problems which I feel can only be dealt with if members of parliament have the opportunity to come personally into contact with the subject. We have been playing around with the establishment of an Indian complaints commission. I for one would like to consult directly with the Canadian Indian population on this matter. We have been told for a number of years that the Indian Act requires amendment. Last week the minister issued a statement that officials of the department would be consulting with Indian bands and leaders across the country with respect to proposed amendments to the act. I trust he will agree that members of parliament should have the same opportunity for consultation with the Indians as to what should be included in the proposed amendments.
This afternoon we had a fairly long discussion on the health problem among the first Canadians, and in view of the confusion which has been created by the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. MacEachen) I think it is high time that members of the committee had a chance to discuss this matter with representatives of the Indian communities across the country.
In the past few years the community development program has unfortunately been bogging down in bureaucracy. Here is another subject with which hon. members should be vitally concerned. Problems arising in connection with the maintenance of law and order were outlined in an excellent study carried on under the auspices of the Canadian Welfare Council. This too should be considered. In his speech in Calgary, the Leader of the Opposition pointed out the extreme difficulties which had arisen in this area, exemplified by the fact that visitors to our penal institutions, particularly provincial jails, find that most of the inmates, both men and women, are Indians.
In some instances 100 per cent of the prison population is made up of our first Canadians. I continue to receive protests and petitions from the bands in my constituency, in the southwestern part of the constituency. One resolution from a meeting held at the Friendship Centre in Brandon last Friday, when some 60 representatives of about a dozen Indian communities were present, protested the
March 26, 1968 COMMONS
failure of the government and of the department to provide recreational facilities. This applied particularly to the reserve at Griswold, which has been endeavouring to build a rink for the past six years.
This problem is not an overwhelmingly difficult one. Our total Indian population is 250,000. At least 47 per cent of that population is 15 years of age and under. Surely we as a parliament, and the government, can come to grips with the problem. I think if we are going to do so the standing committee on Indian affairs must be given the necessary authority to act in the manner I have recommended.