At the time this article was
written Gaston Bernier was Assistant Director of the Quebec National Assembly’s
Jacques Prémont, head of the
Library of the Quebec National Assembly since October 1969 has retired.
Parliamentary librarians tend to be a tenacious lot. In Great Britain the
average term in office since 1818 has been over 17 years. In Ottawa there have
been only five parliamentary librarians in 125 years. There is clearly
something in the nature of the work that encourages length of service. Still
one does not last as long as Jacques Prémont unless one possesses some vision
of what the job should entail and is able to convince one's political masters
to share that vision. This article outlines some achievements, including
increased professionalization, administrative reorganization, the expansion of
services for MNAs, and technological innovations during Jacques Prémont's
quarter century in charge of the Quebec Legislative Library.
At the end of the 1960s, the
Library and its influence depended largely on the multi-faceted energy and
skills of the late Jean-Charles Bonenfant a widely respected law teacher,
literary critic and political advisor. When he left the Library had forty
positions, of which about fifteen were filled by casual or seconded employees.
There was only one qualified librarian and a few semi-professionals.
Twenty-three years later, the Library's staff comprises eighty-two
person/years, twenty-eight of them for professionals. This growth reflects
Jacques Prémont's understanding of and commitment to the modern science of
records management in society and the information requirements of legislators
Jacques Prémont also made a
determined and ultimately successful effort to convince legislators that the
Library should constitute a directorate within the National Assembly. A
committee recommended this in 1976 but it took 15 more years of lobbying by Mr.
Prémont (who often pointed to practices at other parliamentary libraries as
support for his proposal) before the authorities finally conceded that he was
right, and made the Library a directorate.
He was equally successful in
expanding the range of the Library's products and services. When he took over in
1969, Library services were not differentiated. The organization chart showed
collaborators rather than specialized services. Early in 1970 he introduced
units responsible for handling documentation and for service to the clientele.
A research service was established in the fall of 1971 and in June 1973 a
service for reconstituting the debates was created. In 1976 a press
documentation service was started from scratch. Then came a period of
expansion: the Library took charge of the units responsible for indexing
Hansard, the archives and management of the Assembly's administrative records.
Mr. Prémont supported many projects
unreservedly and directly encouraged many others. New resources and
specialization led to multiplication of products. The list of publications and
parapublications distributed in one form or another in the course of his
mandate includes more than 350 titles and no fewer than 375 periodical issues.
The Bulletin of the Library which began in 1970 has been issued 60 times
so far. He also sponsored and followed closely the creation of a retrospective
index of private legislation. Another project was resumption of the publication
of in-house reports, a practice that had been abandoned in 1936.
Under Mr. Prémont's direction,
important changes were made in the documentation and information available to
the Library's clients. In the late 1970s the Library joined a shared
cataloguing network. Since then it has joined a large number of data banks.
Currently most Library functions are automated or on the point of being so.
This evolution (some people might call it a revolution!) was approached with
enthusiasm but also with prudence. Jacques Prémont's positive attitude to
modernization meant that it was to all intents and purposes inevitable. But his
critical intelligence helped to avoid many problems that inevitably accompany
His leadership had its effect on
the Library's outside influence as well. He always encouraged the Library to
play an active role in national and international library associations and made
a point of establishing lasting ties with his counterparts elsewhere. He urged
his colleagues to co-operate with record-keeping units in other sectors.
Aspects of this co-operation included the creation of a union catalogue of the
volumes in administrative libraries, a similar catalogue of periodicals, and
Library support for computerization of such libraries. Mr. Prémont's regular
participation in the activities of the Association des bibliothécaires
québécois and of ASTED (the Association pour l'avancement des sciences et des
techniques de la documentation) was well known. He worked actively to set up
the Association of Parliamentary Librarians in Canada and after it was founded
he twice (1978 and 1992) welcomed its members to Quebec City. He regarded it as
an honour to represent parliamentary libraries in the appropriate section of
the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. He was
also involved in many of Quebec City's community and cultural organizations,
but his work there lies beyond the scope of this article.
Personality counts for a great deal
in all these achievements. In his dealings with the administrative and
political authorities at the Assembly, Mr. Prémont was affable and open.
He strove constantly for consensus among his colleagues before deciding on
solutions. For almost twenty-five years he was a manager who believed in
decentralization, or perhaps "deconcentration" would be a better
word. He knew how to trust, how to delegate, in short how to let his employees
do it their way. He will be fondly remembered by all.
Land Claims and Self Government Agreements in Yukon
At the time this article was written
Tony Penikett was a member of the Yukon Legislative Assembly. He had been
premier of Yukon from 1989 to 1992.
The experience of negotiating
land claims and self government agreements with Yukon's fourteen First Nations
over the last twenty years may be instructive for other jurisdictions beginning
the process. The Yukon claims settlement in many ways resembles other modern
treaties. Many difficult questions faced the negotiators for all three parties.
Given the time and energy invested by the parties, especially the Federal
Government in working through these problems, one can safely predict that
Ottawa will propose similar solutions to other claimant groups.
The Yukon Land Claims Settlement
provides that First Nations receive title to 41,000 sq. km. (more than all the
Indian reserves in Canada put together), $260 million plus dollars for
training, conservation and implementation, co-management of wildlife, and a
commitment to negotiate self government. These provisions will be shared among
the fourteen First Nations. The self government agreements will replace the Indian
Act with individual first nation constitutions that describe the land-based
local government powers and the power to provide services for First Nations
The Yukon agreements make history
in several ways. For the first time a treaty with aboriginal peoples provides
constitutional protection for wildlife. For the first time a land claims
agreement creates a constitutional obligation to negotiate self government
agreements. For the first time the complete extinguishment of aboriginal title
was not a condition of the claims agreement. Never before, in any region, has
the aboriginal, or Third Order, of government been so clearly established in
law. Yukon negotiators also broke trail with a relatively open negotiating
process and the use of consensus working groups on specific issues.
Among the complex issues addressed
at the Yukon negotiating table were the problems of eligibility, conservation,
secrecy, self government powers, financing and entrenchment.
The question of who ought to be
allowed to benefit from a claims settlement needed to be resolved before
negotiations could begin in earnest. Most of the territory was not covered by
any treaty and the Kaska Nation in the southeastern corner believed they would
have been included in Treaty 11 without their consent. There was no question
that the Indians on the band lists of the Federal Government had a legal claim.
Their non-status cousins' position was not so clear. The Federal Government was
reluctant to assume responsibility for meeting the needs of this group in the
territories while maintaining that their counterparts south of the sixtieth
parallel were under the jurisdiction of the provinces. As they had in the provinces,
the Federal Government had funded two separate aboriginal organizations in the
territory, the Yukon Native Brotherhood for Status Indians and the Yukon
Association of Non-Status Indians for the rest. However, strong feelings
persisted that the Indian Act unnaturally divided the aboriginal
community and that an Indian who had been "enfranchised" during
military service ought to be as entitled to advance a claim as the non-Indian
who had married into a first nation. Consequently the two organizations resolved
to form a third, the Council for Yukon Indians, that would represent the whole
native community at the negotiating table.
Since construction of the Alaska
Highway in 1942, many Indians had married non-Indians. The new organization
argued that descendants of these marriages should be eligible beneficiaries
under the claim and adopted a rule certifying anyone who could prove they had
an Indian grandparent living in Yukon in 1942. Some 8000 first citizens will
benefit from the settlement.
Underlying the need to define
beneficiaries was the question of numbers. In the past, land quantum and money
had been calculated on a per capita basis. When the Yukon negotiators abandoned
this approach in 1986 in favour of reconciling the interests of all parties,
the concerns about numbers were significantly reduced.
In 1973 Prime Minister Trudeau
accepted this organization's statement "Together Today for Our Children
Tomorrow" as the basis for a claim to land and resources in the Yukon and
serious negotiations began. The amount of settlement land continued to invite
controversy throughout the talks, especially with opponents of the process. An
equally contentious issue troubling the aboriginal leaders was the question of
land tenure or form or title on the Indian land. Reserve status, under which
option the crown held title for the benefit of beneficiary band members, might
prevent the dispossession that seemed imminent in Alaska where the natives had
accepted the corporate or private ownership model in their claims settlement a
dozen years before. However crown ownership limited aboriginal control and
jurisdiction over tribal lands. Federal policy requiring extinguishment of any
remaining aboriginal claims as a condition of settlement presented another obstacle.
Few could define Aboriginal Title precisely, but the Yukon Chiefs demanded
respect for their ancient interest in the region. Aboriginal elders believed
extinguishing aboriginal title was synonymous with extinguishing aboriginal
culture. They had rejected a previous settlement on this point and would not
We resolved all these questions in
an agreement that recognized first nation ownership on 41,000 square kilometres
of land, to be allocated among the individual fourteen First Nations in accord
with the principles of balanced selections and protection for existing third
party interests. On much of the land Indians would hold subsurface rights as
well as surface title. The Federal Government dropped insistence on
"extinguishment" and allowed aboriginal title on settlement land.
This major shift in policy marked
the first time the Federal Government had not sought and obtained a complete
extinguishment of all aboriginal title. The solution came from a consensus task
force formed by the three parties to pursue innovative ways to accommodate the
interest of the Federal and Territorial Governments in achieving certain title
to lands and resources in the territory and the First Nations interest in
retaining aboriginal title.
Whether one is negotiating a
collective agreement or a nuclear weapons reductions, the usual advice is to do
your talking behind closed doors. Public discussion invites posturing and hurts
compromise. However with something as complex and consequential as land claims
negotiations public demands for information have to be met or suspicion and
distrust and perhaps rejection will greet the results. The 1984 Land Claims
agreement was rejected in part because much of it was negotiated by lawyers at
high-rise hotels in Ottawa and Vancouver. Both native and non-native Yukoners
were skeptical about the deal.
Yukon Government polling showed
that while there was general support for Aboriginal self government, the
support dropped the more specific the power mentioned. Public understanding of
what may be at stake in other provinces will assist the negotiators there
When negotiations resumed in 1985,
all parties agreed to hold the talks in the affected communities. In addition,
negotiators devoted special attention to information needs of interests such as
the municipalities and sports hunting groups. Municipalities were invited to
attend the caucuses of territorial government negotiators where they received
briefings and advised those at the table of their concerns. If the First Nations
agreed, municipalities within their traditional area could send observers to
the negotiations. At all stages, territorial negotiators made special efforts
to keep the local governments and special interest groups informed.
Finally at crucial stages, Agreements
in Principle or Model self government Agreements for example, the minister
responsible for claims negotiations gave public briefings in the communities.
The territorial government made every effort to secure public support for the
agreements as they were negotiated. Between, 1989 when the AIP was concluded
and 1992 when the self government model was complete, there were over 100
question and answer sessions around the Yukon.
The average citizen might not
appreciate all the nuances in the discussions about treaties, sovereignty and
inherent right versus delegated responsibility but the national debate about
Aboriginal self government made it plain that most aboriginal groups want
powers that were awarded to the provinces when the Canadian Constitution was
written in 1867. Although the Federal Government has responsibility for native
peoples, it cannot by itself grant Indian bands provincial type powers, except
north of the sixtieth parallel. Even in the territories, it was never a simple
matter because over the years the territorial governments had acquired through
devolution many of the administrative functions of provinces. To protect the
territorial interest, members of the Yukon legislature pressed hard for a seat
at the claims negotiating table. Perhaps because they trusted the Federal
Government no more than non-natives, aboriginal negotiators agreed to a third
party at the talks.
Protracted negotiated eventually
forged some practical arrangements, a form of power sharing the exact like of
which Canada has not seen before. Under the Yukon model self government
agreements First Nations have three types of powers. First, they may write
their own constitutions and remove their band from the dictates of the
Indian Act. Second, they have jurisdiction over all their lands, including
the usual powers of local governments to zone, plan and make bylaws. Third,
they may deliver provincial type services such as health, child-care,
educational or training programs to their citizens wherever they live in the
Flexibility is a key feature of the
model agreement. If a first nation wishes to continue to receive a service from
some other government it can do so until it is ready to take it over. Questions
about public safety that troubled some Premiers at Charlottetown, the Yukon
negotiators addressed by requiring the authorities at hand to act immediately
and leave any jurisdictional questions to be sorted out later. For example, if
a non-native child resident on Indian land required protection from an abusive
parent, the First Nation would take the child into temporary care until a
territorial government social worker arrived. The same would apply in the case
of an aboriginal child at risk in the city of Whitehorse.
Who should pay for self government?
The Federal Government wanted provinces, territories, and First Nations to
share the burden. The provinces argued that it was federal responsibility, and
perhaps also the First Nations. Aboriginal groups believed the constitution made
it a federal duty. We sorted through all this by agreeing that the Federal
Government would finance self government by providing First Nations enough
money to deliver services to their citizens up to the standard enjoyed by the
general public plus sufficient funds for the Yukon to help implement self
government without lowering the standard of its services to the same public.
The territorial government will contribute to self government any savings it
realizes through First Nations taking over responsibility for services the
territory now provides. All the money will flow through implementation funding
contracts reached through some tough bargaining. First Nations enjoy taxation
powers that may in future choose to follow them to enhance the quality of services
to their citizens.
On southern reservations Indians
are exempt from taxation. With passage of the claims legislation under which
the Federal Government buys out this exemption, Yukon Indians will begin to pay
taxes off all kinds. This provision was necessary for several reasons, not the
least the need to achieve tax fairness in future between Indian and non-Indian
businesses operating side by side.
The one outstanding issue in
respect to the Yukon settlement is constitutional protection or entrenchment.
The land claims agreement is in essence a modern treaty and as such will
appended to constitution according to the provisions of Section 35. Although
the claims treaty obliges the Federal Government to negotiate self government
agreements themselves will not be protected. Both the First Nations and the
territorial government lobbied to have the self government accords covered as
if they were parts of the treaties but the Federal Government agreed to
entrenchment only by way of a constitutional amendment. Since the failure of
the Charlottetown Accord this remains unfinished business.
Yukon based negotiators wanted only
to find local solutions at land claims negotiating table. They never really
wanted to create national precedents in our claims and self government
negotiations. The Federal Government may have had other ideas.