Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act

An Act to promote gender equity in Indian registration by responding to the Court of Appeal for British Columbia decision in McIvor v. Canada (Registrar of Indian and Northern Affairs)

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

Sponsor

Chuck Strahl  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment provides a new entitlement to Indian registration in response to the decision in McIvor v. Canada (Registrar of Indian and Northern Affairs) that was issued by the Court of Appeal for British Columbia on April 6, 2009.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. He is very knowledgeable about first nations issues because he lives in a region where there are very many first nations people.

Following the McIvor decision, the government realized the scope of the task ahead of it and the first nations' lack of funds to implement this decision. The fewer people the government needs to include, the more likely it will be to succeed. That is not really fair. As my colleague heard in committee, Ms. Palmater said:

One of the main issues here is that prior to 1985, bands did not have control over their membership. That was a determination made by Canada for all bands. So when we're talking about reinstating the descendants of Indian women who married out to status, that should also include band membership, because it was at a time when bands didn't have control over their membership.

...There should be no question whatsoever that the descendants of these Indian women who married out should be added to band membership because that was Canada's responsibility at the time. How can we add them to status only and not membership? And if you're asking for suggestions or if I will submit something further, for sure.

In following through with its commitment, the government needs to consult with the bands and come to an agreement with them. I hope that this will happen.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I hope the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Auditor General take note of the problem the member has just pointed out. Nobody wants people to be discriminated against, but the first nations and other aboriginal governments that are responsible for delivering services will now have 45,000 new members, if this passes.

First, there have to be audits to make sure the Department of Indian Affairs provides all the services to those 45,000 people, whether it delivers them directly or whether they have been devolved to the first nation, and transfer agreements would be passed on. However, those first nations, as the member has pointed out, also deliver a number of other services to people they determine to be members. How will they fund those? They will require extra funding.

Is the member, during committee hearings, aware of any study that was done by the government or statistics that were put forward to outline—

Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I completely agree with my colleague's comments. Obviously, the federal government has its work cut out for it. We have already identified 45,000 people and, as my colleague said earlier, there may be 200,000. It is time for Canada to integrate these first nations and stop treating them like cattle. That is how they are treated. We make decisions for them and do not allow them to participate in the development of this country and enjoy the benefits of that development. We must begin today to make that vision reality.

Motions in Amendment
Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Bev Oda Durham, ON

moved:

Montion No. 1

That Bill C-3, in Clause 3.1, be amended by

a) replacing line 10 on page 3 with the following:

“3.1 (1) The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development shall cause to be laid”

(b) replacing lines 13 to 15 on page 3 with the following:

“force, a report on the provisions and implementation of this Act.”

(c) replacing lines 22 and 23 on page 3 with the following:

“review of any provision of this Act.”

Montion No. 2

That Bill C-3 be amended by restoring Clause 9 as follows:

“9. For greater certainty, no person or body has a right to claim or receive any compensation, damages or indemnity from Her Majesty in right of Canada, any employee or agent of Her Majesty, or a council of a band, for anything done or omitted to be done in good faith in the exercise of their powers or the performance of their duties, only because (a) a person was not registered, or did not have their name entered in a Band List, immediately before the day on which this Act comes into force; and (b) one of the person’s parents is entitled to be registered under paragraph 6(1)(c.1) of the Indian Act, as enacted by subsection 2(3).”

Motions in Amendment
Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Greg Rickford Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-3, the gender equity and Indian registration act and I encourage all members of the House to join me in supporting it.

As we debate amendments to this bill today, we must remember that Bill C-3 is time-sensitive. This bill is a prompt and direct response to the ruling of the Court of Appeal of British Columbia in McIvor v. Canada.

As all members are well aware, last year the Court of Appeal of British Columbia ruled that the two paragraphs in section 6 of the Indian Act discriminate between men and women with respect to registration as an Indian and therefore violate the equality provision of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Without legislation to address the court's ruling, section 6 of the Indian Act would become invalid, meaning that any and all new registrations would be put on hold for the duration of the invalidity. This legislative gap would affect eligible residents of British Columbia and those affiliated with British Columbia first nations. To be clear, in British Columbia over the last few years there have been between 2,500 and 3,000 newly registered people per year. Clearly, the situation is not acceptable.

According to the court's ruling, Parliament was given 12 months to provide a legislative response. The court subsequently granted an extension until July 5. The time to act is now. If we fail to meet this deadline, a key section of the Indian Act, the one that spells out the rules related to entitlement to registration, also known as Indian status, will cease to have legal effect in British Columbia. As I have stated, this legislative gap could have serious consequences.

The legislation now before us proposes to avert these consequences by amending certain registration provisions of the Indian Act. What would it do? Bill C-3 would eliminate a cause of gender discrimination in the Indian Act by removing the language the court ruled unconstitutional. In doing so, we take another important step in support of justice and equality.

I believe that every member of this House stands opposed to discrimination based on gender. Bill C-3 would take Canada one significant step closer to achieving gender equality. The debate is about the ongoing effort to eliminate gender discrimination while respecting the responsibility placed on us as parliamentarians to provide a timely and appropriate response to the ruling by the Court of Appeal of British Columbia.

As a modern and enlightened nation, Canada champions justice and equality for all. Canadians recognize that discrimination weakens the fabric of society and that it erodes the public's faith in the justice system. That is why I am pleased to support this legislation to address the gender discrimination in the Indian Act that was identified in the court's decision.

Members of this House have demonstrated by way of example time and time again their willingness to address issues related to individual rights. In 2008, for example, Parliament supported the repeal of section 67 of the Canada Human Rights Act. Section 67 shielded decisions or actions taken in accordance with the Indian Act from human rights complaints. To rectify this situation, members of this House supported legislation to repeal section 67. This is an important and relevant example for the purposes of this debate.

Bill C-3 has much in common with the legislation that repealed section 67. Both strive to protect individual rights and promote equality.

The truth is that addressing issues such as gender discrimination in certain registration provisions in the Indian Act would have a positive impact on Canada as a whole, as did the repealing of section 67.

Bill C-3 is a progressive, responsive and measured response to the court's decision. It is rooted in the principle that all citizens should be equal before the law. What is more important, or as important, Bill C-3 represents a timely and appropriate response to the ruling by the Court of Appeal of British Columbia. It proposes to eliminate a cause of unjust discrimination and ensure that Canada's legal system evolves alongside the needs of first nations peoples.

For too long, first nations people have struggled to participate fully in the prosperity of this nation due to a series of obstacles. With the removal of these obstacles, first nations peoples would have greater opportunities to contribute socially, economically and culturally to this country and to their communities in their respective regions. Parliament, of course, plays a key role in this process.

Putting an end to discrimination against first nations women is advantageous for all communities and that is why I am urging all members of this House to join me in supporting Bill C-3 and the amendments before us today.

Motions in Amendment
Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his comments and for his participation in the committee but I have a couple of questions.

First, he made a very good point about removing discrimination against women in the Indian act but witness after witness explained that this would only remove some of the discrimination. The government was implored by witnesses and by members of the opposition to actually deal with the rest of the discrimination and not just eliminate a small part of the discrimination against Indian women. Why will it not make those changes to the act?

Second, he did not talk about the report stage amendments that we are debating. Could he talk about them?

Third, why is there no money in the estimates to deal with the financial ramifications of Bill C-3?

Motions in Amendment
Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Greg Rickford Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to emphasize that the exercise we went through at committee and the process before this issue was discussed and debated at committee and now in this House, dealt with a myriad of issues that we needed to understand better as a Parliament. In particular, we heard from stakeholders that, in moving forward, once this Parliament had dealt with the specific concerns that the court raised in its ruling, which Bill C-3 would achieve, it sounds like we may not have heard the same things but what I heard from a number of stakeholders, including first nations leadership, was that there was a need for some kind of reconciliation around a couple of key issues, namely status, membership and citizenship.

That is why we will be going through an exploratory process moving forward in an effort to get to the bottom of a number of other issues and concerns as a result of any changes that are being proposed in this bill.

Motions in Amendment
Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will have a chance to say more about this a little later when it is my turn to talk about Bill C-3, but for now, I have a problem I want to point out to my colleague opposite.

Neither Sharon McIvor, nor the Aboriginal Women's Action Network, nor Quebec Native Women Inc., nor the Native Women's Association of Canada are in favour of Bill C-3 as it currently stands. The government says it wants to reduce discrimination, but I do not see how simply responding to the British Columbia Court of Appeal decision will reduce discrimination. Our amendments would have put an end to discrimination once and for all.

I know we do not have a lot of time. Is my colleague aware of a single native women's association that is favour of Bill C-3?

Motions in Amendment
Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Greg Rickford Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I guess I will not refer to the 2009 economic action plan, as usual.

I appreciate the member's participation in the debate. I point out the origins of today's discussion and debate. It centres around a decision from the British Columbia Court of Appeal. The decision therein compelled Parliament to respond to a very specific set of circumstances, which gave rise to discrimination.

There is no dispute that there continues to be groups who want to debate and discuss this issue. Our responsibility, as a government, is to address what the court laid out in its decision, and Bill C-3 does that. The exploratory process will further engage the stakeholders in an effort to understand what solutions can be brought forward in the future.

Motions in Amendment
Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, first, I acknowledge four women with the AMUN March . They are marching 500 kilometres from Wendake to Ottawa. These brave women are opposed to Bill C-3. They are demonstrating by their actions just how opposed they are and how they continue to fight for equality for aboriginal women in our country, a fight that has been taken up by people like Mary Two-Axe Early, Ms. Lavell, Ms. Lovelace and Ms. McIvor. The struggle of Ms. McIvor is why we are in the House this morning debating Bill C-3 and, specifically, amendments to it.

However, let us take a very brief moment to find out how we got here. This is a 25 year struggle by aboriginal women for equality. They have gone through the court system. The courts have ruled in their favour, not once but twice, at the B.C. Supreme Court and at the B.C. Court of Appeal.

The government says that it only wants to respond to the B.C. Court of Appeal in the narrowest possible terms. The government had it in its craw, it had the will, to introduce a bill that would speak to the broader issues of discrimination. If it were sincere about discrimination under the Indian Act, it could have taken the measures to broaden the scope of the bill and to once and for all end all gender inequality and sex discrimination under the Indian Act. The Conservative government chose to make it very narrow.

The member opposite said as much. He said that we were one step closer. By his own admission, we are not there yet to end gender discrimination under the Indian Act. Therefore, the government could have taken the steps to do it but it did not.

The member went on to say, and I want to respond to some of what he said, that this was a situation of such urgency. The parliamentary secretary said in committee on April 27, when we put in a provision about reporting to Parliament, that the concern was after two years we just would really be getting going in terms of some of the registration numbers.

The parliamentary secretary by his own admission seems to feel, speaking on behalf of the government, that even if the bill passed, there would only be a negligible impact upon the new numbers that would come forward.

Therefore, the government, by its own admission, has said to each and every one of us that on the one hand it is so urgent, yet on the other hand it does not really know if it will have much of an impact at all. Where is the government when it comes to this bill.

To be quite honest, I think the government likes to play a charade on people. It loves to stand up for individual rights or gender equality, but it is not willing to put the heart or soul in to this to ensure it is done once and for all.

When it comes to Bill C-3, contrary to what the member opposite has said, every witness said that Bill C-3 was not adequate. It did not respond to all the issues of gender discrimination under the Indian Act. When asked, all the witnesses said that if they had the opportunity, they would definitely want the bill amended to ensure that once and for all there was no gender discrimination under the Indian Act.

We tried everything in the House. We put a motion before the House to try to expand the scope of the bill. The government shot it down. We tried to bring amendments forward and they were ruled out of order. Now we are debating amendments at report stage.

I will give an example of what some of the witnesses said, in particular the Quebec Native Women. They said:

—while Quebec Native Women recognizes the need to amend the archaic nature of the Indian Act, Quebec Native Women, as stated earlier, deplores the restrictive vision of the federal government based solely on a patchwork remedy to the specific problem of discrimination brought to light in the McIvor case...

Another quote is:

LEAF supports this demand to remove all vestiges of sex discrimination from the status provisions, and submits that the elimination of residual sex discrimination under the Indian Act best meets the federal government’s constitutional obligations to achieve substantive equality for Aboriginal women and Canada’s obligations under international law.

Sharon McIvor, Pam Palmater, an individual who came before us, CAP and the Assembly of First Nations all said the same thing. They were in unanimity when it came to this point.

I will speak to clause 9, which is one of the proposed amendments by the government. Interestingly, the government never spoke to the specific amendments it proposed. The member went on in some rhetorical terms about how the government stood up for the individual rights of women, and all that sort of thing.

However, when it comes to clause 9, we again hear two stories. The government officials came before us and said that clause 9 was a bit innocuous, that it really did not do much, that it was for greater certainty. Yet when the parliamentary secretary spoke at committee, he said that Bill C-3 could not pass if we clause 9 was not in it. When the vote comes, if clause 9 fails, we will see what the government will do.

Chief David Walkem of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs says that we should strike clause 9. On April 20, at committee, he said:

—we're recommending is to strike clause 9 to allow Indian women and their descendants who lost status due to the discriminatory operation of the Indian Act to pursue, through the courts or other negotiation, restitution or compensation for the losses their families suffered as a result of the historical discrimination imposed on them by this legislation, similar to the process followed for people who went to residential schools.

On Tuesday, April 13, CAP, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, said this about clause 9:

This section is an insult to Indian women and their descendants all over this country. Not only was Canada forced to make amendments to address gender inequality after fighting against the McIvor case for over 20 years; and not only has Canada proposed a very minimalist amendment; now Canada wants to ensure that it does not have to compensate the victims of gender discrimination?

It goes on to say that it cannot now be said that Canada did not knowingly discriminate against Indian women and their descendants.

This is what Dr. Pam Palmater had to say on April 20:

Clause 9 is an offence to Indian women and their descendants who have already waited more than 25 years for justice. It is also counter to both the spirit and the intent of the Charter of Rights.

The Canadian Bar Association said:

Section 9 is a concern, as it would remove the right of anyone to sue the federal government for not providing them with status as a result of the gender discrimination addressed by the Bill. If the federal government can be presumed to have been aware that Bill C-31 was not consistent with the Charter as far back as 1985, and did not act for over twenty years until the McIvor decision reached the BC Court of Appeal, the CBA Section is concerned with the justice of such a “no liability” provision. Further, we caution that including such a provision could make the Bill vulnerable to further Charter challenges.

Again, almost every witness who came before us was opposed to clause 9.

Then the government brings up the wonderful example of the repeal of section 67 of Bill C-21 passed in 2008. It said that this was a wonderful thing, that now complaints could be brought against the government and against Indian Act bands.

Guess what? It has said that there is a remedy for first nations women use the Canadian Human Rights Act as a vehicle. Over 30 complaints have been launched against the federal government by aboriginal people, first nations people, and the Government of Canada has gone before the Canadian Human Rights Commission and said that it has no jurisdiction and that it cannot provide a remedy because it does not provide a service.

Therefore, it tells us that we have a remedy on one hand and tries to deny us that remedy on the other hand. It is hypocritical.

Clause 9 is a no go. We will not support it and we hope all our colleagues in the House will join us. Certainly I know that in committee all of the opposition parties voted to not include clause 9 in the bill.

Motions in Amendment
Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:20 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the intervention this morning by the hon. member who, as we know, is the critic for the official opposition on this particular subject and also the vice-chair of our committee.

My question actually goes to clause 9. He will recall that although there were differences of opinion when we talked about this item, we also recognized that it was a principle in law that when decisions are made in good faith by governments or, indeed, by first nations, and that legislation is found to be invalid at a later point in time, that particular event would not in and of itself attract liability. That principle exists.

It may well be that clause 9 does not have to be in the bill, but would the hon. member not agree that at the very least it provides clarity to the people who might be looking at this as the basis of possible legal action only to find that such action would in fact be invalid? It saves both parties a whole lot of time and expense by not pursuing something that would be found, for all intents and purposes, to be null and void.

Motions in Amendment
Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:20 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I would say there was a similar clause about the same time the charter came into being in 1985. It did not stop certain challenges at that particular time; it did not provide the clarity the member speaks of.

I would say that the greatest clarity we can have in this House and the greatest clarity we can provide to first nations women across this country is to end gender discrimination once and for all. We have the ability as parliamentarians to do it. The government can withdraw Bill C-3 and come back with something that makes sense and puts this debate to bed once and for all.

Why do we want another generation to have to fight sections of Bill C-31 and the residual discrimination that will continue to exist under the Indian Act?

Motions in Amendment
Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague from Labrador. There is a small detail worth mentioning and I may get a chance to come back to it. Ms. McIvor, who was at the origin of the bill, could have benefited from the court challenges program, but that program was abolished by the Conservatives. It is not complicated. Today, aboriginal women can no longer benefit from the court challenges program. Bill C-3 hurts these women and it will continue to hurt them.

I have a question for my colleague. Where does he propose that aboriginal women—who will continue to be hurt if this bill is adopted as is—find help to continue defending their rights?

Motions in Amendment
Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue raised a very good point. It seems that once Bill C-3 goes through—and there are problems with it, as the government and all witness have acknowledged—the onus will be on individual first nations women or first nations organizations to lodge a complaint. The onus will be on them to fight it and to find the resources, and the Conservative government has cut off a valued avenue of support for those who seek such redress.

Therefore, the government offers a remedy on the one hand, but says that it will deny people access to that remedy at every opportunity. It will deny them access to funds and deny them any type of remedy at the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The government is being two-faced: it offers a remedy on the one hand, but denies people any access to it on the other hand. The court challenges program is just another example of this.

Motions in Amendment
Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the hon. member could address the following point. I notice there have been a lot of complaints and a lot of witnesses who have appeared to say would have preferred much broader amendments.

Could the member speak to the issue that the government seems to be responding only to the order of the court, instead of going more broadly and looking at the requests of the affected first nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples?