First Nations Elections Act

An Act respecting the election and term of office of chiefs and councillors of certain First Nations and the composition of council of those First Nations

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Status

In committee (House), as of June 17, 2013
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

This enactment establishes a regime, alternative to the one under the Indian Act, to govern the election of chiefs and councillors of certain First Nations. Among other things, the regime

(a) provides that chiefs and councillors hold office for four years;

(b) provides that the election of a chief or councillor may be contested before a competent court; and

(c) sets out offences and penalties in relation to the election of a chief or councillor.

This enactment also allows First Nations to withdraw from the regime by adopting a written code that sets out the rules regarding the election of the members of their council.

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.

Votes

  • June 11, 2013 Passed That, in relation to Bill S-6, An Act respecting the election and term of office of chiefs and councillors of certain First Nations and the composition of council of those First Nations, not more than five further hours shall be allotted to the consideration of the second reading stage of the Bill; and that, at the expiry of the five hours provided for the consideration of the second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

First Nations Elections Act
Government Orders

June 17th, 2013 / noon
See context

Conservative

Rob Clarke Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to add my voice in support of this very worthy legislation, which would see the federal government stop meddling in first nations' electoral affairs, which rightly rest with those communities.

As some of my hon. colleagues have explained, current provisions in the Indian Act have created a democratic anomaly within Canada. Instead of empowering first nations community members to exercise their democratic rights and hold their own governments to account, the Indian Act places the responsibility in the hands of the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. This is completely backwards. That is why our government has introduced the first nations elections act. It would provide an alternative to the paternalistic Indian Act and would put the accountability squarely back with first nations members where it belongs.

The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development plays a disproportionately large role in first nations elections, one that he would gladly give up.

Sections 74 and 79 of the Indian Act set out the rules and regulations governing the current electoral system. Under section 74, the minister may declare by order that a first nation hold elections under the act and the Indian Band Election Regulations. Since 1951, approximately 350 first nations in Canada have been ordered to hold their elections under this system. Over time, 100 first nations have been removed from the system and now hold their elections under the community elections system instead.

All first nations that hold their elections under the Indian Act are subject to the same rules and eligibility requirements. The Indian Act sets out the size of a band council based on a first nation's population, generally called “the one per 100 rule”. It stipulates that a band council shall be made up of a chief and one councillor for every 100 members a first nation has. Although the act allows a first nation to reduce this complement of councillors, any such change requires the approval of a minister.

A typical election under the Indian Act includes the appointment of an electoral officer charged with managing the overall election process and all related activities. This appointment must be approved by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada provides training support to electoral officers throughout the election to ensure compliance with the election rules under the Indian Act. Once elected, the chief and councillors hold office for two-year terms.

One of the most serious complaints about the Indian Act system arises when election results are disputed and a lengthy appeals process begins. At the moment, election appeals are received, reviewed, and, if necessary, investigated and decided upon by the department and the minister. The minister has the authority to remove elected officials and to recommend the setting aside of elections. Most appeals relate to election results. The minister can declare that a specific elected official was guilty of corrupt practices in connection with an election. Such a declaration causes the council position to become vacant. The minister may also declare any individuals removed from the office to be ineligible to be candidates for up to six years.

If it is determined that corrupt practices took place or that there was a violation of the Indian Act or the regulations that might have affected the results of the election, the minister reports to the Governor in Council. Only the Governor in Council has the power to set aside an election. If the election of a band council is set aside in its entirety, another election is held under the accelerated process.

It is no secret that first nations are critical of the electoral process under the Indian Act. They complain, with justification, that it sets out an electoral regime that is antiquated and paternalistic. That is not surprising when we consider that the minister even has the power to remove someone for missing band council meetings.

First nations members believe that the minister and his department are far too involved in elections on reserves, especially in handling appeals. The framework for an election appeal under the legislation is one of the most criticized components of the election system. In this day and age, approving changes to the number of councillor positions on a band council, approving a first nation's choices of electoral officer, investigating election appeals, removing elected officials for whatever reason and banning them from running in future elections, and setting aside elections in their entirety are simply roles the government and the minister should not be playing.

I cannot stress enough how paternalistic this is and how it goes completely against the view that first nations band councils are governments and should be treated as such.

Our government agrees entirely that first nations have good grounds for these criticisms. We understand that they want a better alternative. Members on both sides of the House believe that sticking with the status quo makes no sense and is just plain wrong. This simply will not wash with the growing number of first nations that are fed up and frustrated with the current system.

It is long past time for us to fix these structural flaws and it is time to implement the many recommendations brought forward by first nations, which form the foundation of this proposed legislation. They, and we, want to bring the system into line with the way other jurisdictions work.

This modernization is consistent with other first nations legislation, from first nations lands management and financial management to local by-laws. Doing so would strip away some of the electoral system powers that rest with the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, a situation that is simply unacceptable in the 21st century.

First nations electors wishing to challenge the results of their election based on violations to the rules and alleged corruption practices would no longer appeal to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. Neither would the minister be involved in removing a chief or councillors from office before the end of their term. Instead, election appeals would be addressed by the courts, just as they are in elections in all other jurisdictions.

The courts already offer an independent and transparent appeal mechanism open to public scrutiny. They already have the power to determine wrongdoing in federal, provincial and municipal elections, so they are well positioned to address issues in first nations elections.

As an added benefit, this approach would discourage frivolous complaints, which are prominent under the Indian Act election system. Such complaints create uncertainty over the band council's legitimacy, hurting the community's day-to-day business activities and discouraging economic development, often for a long period of time. An appeal can take anywhere from six to 18 months to be resolved, and in the end little may change.

About 30% of all band council elections under the Indian Act are appealed, which amounts to about 40 elections per year. Of these, usually no more than five appeals result in an election being overturned. Given that applications to the courts require that grounds be clearly presented and supported, it is likely that fewer frivolous appeals would be launched.

We would be hard pressed to find anyone who believes that the minister must continue to hold the powers he does vis-à-vis first nations elections. We certainly would not find first nation leaders saying this, and I doubt Canadians at large would take this position either.

Bill S-6 is what first nations have been asking for. It is what their members want and need. First nations recognize that a sound, open, transparent election process in an important part of a strong, stable and effective first nations governments, effective governments that respect their citizens' democratic right to be informed and to be heard, governments that respond to the priorities of their residents.

Equally essential is that with stable and legitimate first nations governments in place, first nations, businesses and municipal and provincial governments can pursue mutually beneficial projects. First nations would be able to use the income flowing from these investments to build their economies and improve the lives and livelihoods of their members. That is something that people living in first nations most definitely want.

It is now up to parliamentarians to unleash this tremendous potential by passing this worthy legislation. As we do, we will build a better future not only for first nations, but for all Canadians.

First Nations Elections Act
Government Orders

June 17th, 2013 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the member's speech and it was interesting to hear him talk about sound, open and transparent election processes. Although this is not my question to the member, it would be interesting to see when the government is going to bring forward its changes to the Canada Elections Act, since there were such difficulties in the last federal election.

My question to the minister is with regard to the testimony of representatives of the national aboriginal law section of the Canadian Bar Association before the Senate. When they testified before the Senate, they indicated that it was unfortunate that clause 33 states that everything will go to the Federal Court. They said that there are many recommendations for either a first nations electoral commission or a first nations tribunal to settle any election disputes and that the federal government and all provinces already have this as a regular part of democracy. They questioned why, if it is good enough for the feds and the provinces, it is not good enough for first nations.

I wonder if the member could comment on why there was not a similar kind of process recommended in the bill, instead of only a court process.

First Nations Elections Act
Government Orders

June 17th, 2013 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Rob Clarke Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, having lived and worked in first nations communities and witnessed first nations elections, what I have seen throughout the process, specifically under the outdated Indian Act, which goes back to 1876, is that there is a lot of corruption. I have seen first nations chiefs, past and present, campaign during their elections and provide funding or, if I could put it more bluntly, bribes of $50 to $100. There has to be some mechanism that looks at that problem.

That is why the framework for election appeals under the Indian Act is one of the most criticized components of that election system, particularly because it involves a paternalistic role for the minister in making decisions to remove elected officials and recommending the setting aside of elections.

One of the key criticisms of this process is simply that the minister should not play a role. In addressing appeals under Bill S-6, the creation of an independent first nations electoral appeals commission was reviewed, and there are a number of reasons that the commission was not deemed the appropriate strategy. One is that this option would require a significant amount of resources, which would be difficult to justify for an optional legislative framework. Second, the role such a commission would play in electoral appeals is questionable, particularly given that the offences and penalties provisions of Bill S-6 would be responded to and addressed by law enforcement, crown attorneys and the courts. That is what first nations are asking for: the same privileges that every other Canadian has provincially and municipally.

First Nations Elections Act
Government Orders

June 17th, 2013 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Rob Clarke Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, under the Indian Act electoral system, election appeals are received and reviewed by departmental officials based on evidence gathered. If it is determined that there was a corrupt practice in connection with an election or that there was a violation of the rules that might have affected the results of the election, the minister may recommend that the Governor in Council set aside the election. In the event of a finding of a corrupt practice, the minister may also remove elected officials and prevent them from being candidates in future elections for a period of up to five years.

I have seen this countless times. I am hearing from my constituents on first nations reserves, and currently from Ahtahkakoop First Nation, that they are having problems under the old Indian Act in trying to address this current election process. That is why Bill S-6 is pivotal in trying to reform elections for first nations under the current Indian Act.

First Nations Elections Act
Government Orders

June 17th, 2013 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his previous answer to my question. What I heard him say was that it was too expensive to set up an electoral commission for first nations, but he said nothing about whether resources would be made available to first nations that then end up having to go to court to get this resolved. We all know that most first nations are cash-strapped.

I wonder if he could comment on the fact that this is going to be an expensive undertaking for first nations and that the Conservatives are downloading this on first nations once again.

First Nations Elections Act
Government Orders

June 17th, 2013 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Rob Clarke Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, under the current system and the current Indian Act, we see how first nations have to appeal the process. There are numerous funding mechanisms being utilized to address those corrupt or misleading elections.

We have heard from the Manitoba first nations about how they want the system to be. They have gone across Manitoba. Chief Evans has been paramount in trying to address all elections that first nations face across Canada. For one thing, if a mechanism is in place, there would be fewer corrupt practices or fewer first nations appealing the current election system. That is where money will be saved, because under Bill S-6, for first nations to participate and opt in, there will be cost savings.

First Nations Elections Act
Government Orders

June 17th, 2013 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Blake Richards Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, in an ideal world, there would be no need for debate on this bill. The outdated and paternalistic elements of the Indian Act governing first nations elections would no longer have any effect, because first nations would be universally self-governing. That is the goal we are all working toward.

Unfortunately, however, this is not yet the case for the majority of first nations across the country. Some communities on their way to self-government have employed different strategies, such as adopting community election codes that help them get around holding their elections under the Indian Act, but not every community has the capacity to take that on either. Others have chosen to focus their energies and resources on the many other high-priority issues that they face.

We want to meet first nations like these halfway, by providing an alternative to the current Indian Act election system. It is an out-of-date system that has remained largely unchanged since the 1950s. It is riddled with weaknesses and problems that destabilize first nations governments. It is a system that is not only frustrating but also, in many cases, undemocratic.

It is little wonder that so many first nations have demanded another option in addition to the systems currently on offer. That is exactly what Bill S-6 would provide. It would provide another way for first nations to hold elections that is outside of the outdated election system set out in the Indian Act.

Before exploring the many benefits of this legislation, it would be helpful if I first explained a little bit about the various electoral systems currently available to first nations.

Different communities exercise different approaches to elections. At the moment, 238 first nations hold their elections under the Indian Act system. This represents about 40% of all communities. The many problems, and even abuses, under this system have been well documented in numerous reports and reinforced by various speakers during this debate.

The majority, 343 first nations, or 55% of the total across Canada, select their leadership under a community-based system. Most of these first nations develop their own community election codes to elect their leaders. For many, this system offers the essential elements of good governance: open and transparent elections and effective mechanisms for redress when necessary.

Unfortunately, that is not always the case. A small percentage of first nations with community election codes experience recurring disputes, some of which have led to breakdowns in governance, the imposition of third party management and lengthy and costly court actions between community members.

These disputes are usually based on a lack of community consensus on the actual election rules and procedures, exacerbated by the absence of a viable redress mechanism. There have been occasions when two separate election processes have been held in parallel in the same community, with those elected in each case claiming to be the legitimate and duly elected leaders. Needless to say, all of this negatively impacts community well-being and discourages economic development.

The remaining 36 first nations, or about 5%, have leadership election systems based on their community constitutions under self-government arrangements. As I mentioned earlier, this is the ultimate goal to which most first nations aspire.

As I also noted, many communities still caught with the Indian Act system may not be ready to take on self-government or even go so far as to develop community election codes. However, that does not diminish their desire to have an alternative: a fairer, more transparent and more accountable way of conducting elections on reserve.

I want to be clear that I am not talking about every first nation in the country. There is no question that there are some that seem satisfied with the status quo, while others may accept nothing less than self-government. I can assure the House that Bill S-6 would provide a robust election system for those who may choose it.

John Paul, executive director of the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs, testified on these issues before the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples.

This legislation is precisely what many communities want. People in first nations communities all across the country have told us that they want change that leads to self-government, but they want it to be built on a solid foundation. They want certainty and stability, which they do not now have.

What many of these first nations are looking for is what Jody Wilson-Raybould of the Assembly of First Nations described in her appearance before the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples when it examined Bill S-6. She said, “...“stepping stone” legislation, such as Bill S-6...fits into and supports a vision of moving along the continuum of governance....” That is who this legislation is for. At their request, our government has been working in collaboration with first nations partners to develop an optional legislative framework for the election of band councils that covers this middle ground.

We have followed the lead of our first nations partners, the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. They have done the necessary research and conducted consultations in their own regions as well as across the country to come up with the viable new option outlined in Bill S-6. Bill S-6 would provide an optional electoral system that would ensure transparent and accountable governments, while providing first nations with the flexibility to choose the elections system that best suits them.

Our government simply wants to create the conditions for strong, stable and effective first nations governments that are transparent and accountable to their membership. A free and fair leadership selection process promotes accountability of leaders back to their band members rather than to the Government of Canada. It is a cornerstone of greater self-government and better outcomes. Bill S-6 is a concrete step forward in that direction. It is not meant to be a one-size-fits-all remedy for all that is wrong in the existing election system under the Indian Act.

The legislation would help those first nations that choose to opt in to overcome the numerous limitations of the Indian Act election system. It is designed to address the several weaknesses identified in the AFN study on election reform in 2008, the Senate committee's 2009 study and the thorough work of the APC and the AMC, problems that are holding back too many first nations communities at a great cost to their economies and to the well-being of their citizens.

Ideally, we would do away with the outdated Indian Act altogether. However, it cannot be replaced overnight. That would only create more problems than it solves. As the Prime Minister observed at the historic gathering, after 136 years that tree has deep roots. Blowing up the stump would just leave a big hole. We certainly do not want to do more harm than good.

The alternative is to modernize the most damaging provisions of the Indian Act. This could be achieved not by updating the Indian Act itself but by equipping first nations with new tools and mechanisms to manage their affairs. That is how we could creation conditions that enable sustainable and successful first nations. As they build capacity and create the certainty necessary for investments they can unlock the untapped wealth on their lands, creating employment and improving social services for their citizens.

That is exactly what our government has been doing. We are taking important incremental steps forward to achieve the results first nations desire and that our government is determined to deliver. For example, we support Bill C-428, the Indian Act amendment and replacement act. It proposes a series of modifications to the Indian Act, some of which eliminate paternalistic sections such as those dealing with residential schools and bylaws. Other parts of the bill propose amendments that help contribute to healthier, more self-sufficient first nations communities. They dovetail with aspects of Bill S-6, which reduce ministerial involvement in community businesses. Bill C-428 would provide greater accountability and responsibility of first nations governments to their members and improve their capacity to meet the needs of their communities. This would be achieved by diminishing the role played by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in the day-to-day lives of first nations.

The numerous proposed amendments to the Indian Act contained in Bill C-428 are our government's larger objective of providing first nations with the tools, resources and authorities they need to eventually transition completely out of the Indian Act.

This same objective and philosophy are at play in the First Nations Land Management Act. Prior to the enactment of the First Nations Land Management Act, first nations were hamstrung by the cumbersome land management provisions of the Indian Act. Instead of moving at the speed of business, the Indian Act slows the system to the pace of internal approval processes within the federal government. Needless to say, this often stands in the way of time-sensitive economic opportunities. Both first nations and their private sector partners complained loudly about the challenges of delayed decision-making.

The first nations land management regime enables first nations to opt out of the land resource and environmental management sections of the Indian Act. It removes many of the impediments of the outdated Indian Act, allowing for the creation of greater economic development opportunities and allowing communities to seize business development opportunities.

The legislation gives first nations that opt into the program the freedom to manage reserve lands under their own land codes. They can also negotiate contracts and enter into joint ventures with other communities, governments and with the private sector without ministerial approval.

Chief Ann Louie of the Williams Lake Indian Band in B.C., one of the first nations that opted in to the First Nations Land Management Act, is on record as saying, “It represents almost freedom, getting into self-governance away from the Indian Act so that we can manage our own lands so that our people can become prosperous and develop economically.” Her enthusiasm is backed by studies of the regime by KPMG. It has concluded that in addition to increased job creation on reserves in communities that utilize it, the First Nations Land Management Act option is proving to be a practical step toward self-government.

The First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act is another example of legislation that diminishes the minister's role for communities seeking greater control over their financial affairs. The legislation provides an alternative avenue to the Indian Act for first nations determined to achieve self-sufficiency. It allows first nations to develop a sophisticated, transparent and responsive property tax system on reserve. It also creates a securitized first nations bond regime that gives them access to municipal-style financing to invest in infrastructure on reserve. And it supports first nations' capacity in financial management, all of which support economic development.

Communities that choose to utilize its provisions can draw on the services and supports of the first nations institutions created under the act. As they do, outside investors can proceed with confidence and first nations can negotiate from positions of strength because the act provides the type of certainty that is lacking under the Indian Act.

The improvements contained in the acts I have talked about today have come about at the request of first nations that want greater control over their communities' day-to-day activities. We have been listening, and we are acting.

Bill S-6 is yet another piece to join the family of legislation to support first nations by offering a legislative alternative to first nations elections that would not involve the minister. It would provide the foundations for more stable and effective first nations governments through longer terms of office. With four years between elections, first nations governments would be able to work with potential partners for longer term development opportunities that would bring prosperity.

Bill S-6 fits with what other legislative initiatives have done, which is to provide alternatives to the Indian Act for willing first nations on important subject matters. These acts lay the groundwork and provide the frameworks for first nations to be successful, and successful first nations means a better quality of life for their members.

Bill S-6 is opt-in legislation. First nations could choose to adopt it or not to adopt it as they see fit.

From Bill S-6 to Bill C-428, these examples of modern legislation that empower first nations send a strong signal. We are focusing the federal role to that of an enabler rather than that of an impediment to progress. Our government is committed to putting an end to the historic isolation of first nation communities that has marginalized these members of our society for far too long.

Step-by-step, bill-by-bill, we are responding to first nations calls for greater decision-making powers and less ministerial involvement. In the process, we are creating the conditions for strong, effective and accountable governments for first nation communities. We are providing first nations with the tools they need to become more self-sufficient as they work their way toward self-government.

It is now up to us, as parliamentarians, to take the next step forward on this path of steady progress. We must support first nations, which are demanding change. We are calling for all-party support to unleash the tremendous potential of Bill S-6, the latest in a series of legislative reforms that remove the shackles of the Indian Act for those first nations that opt to take advantage of its new authorities.

I am asking all members to join us in our efforts to help first nation communities achieve their goals, for the benefit of their residents and our country as a whole.

First Nations Elections Act
Government Orders

June 17th, 2013 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague's speech, but I have some concerns. It was very clear from my discussions and my hon. colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan's interventions with first nations people that not every community acknowledges or buys into what the Conservatives are putting forward. There are legitimate concerns.

I am wondering if the member could advise the House as to what degree the government is willing to acknowledge those concerns and sit down with first nations to resolve issues that affect communities across this country.

First Nations Elections Act
Government Orders

June 17th, 2013 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Blake Richards Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think the member has missed a very key component of this legislation, and that is the fact that this is an opt-in system. It is an opportunity for those first nations that choose to participate in this alternative method. As I outlined in my speech, there are a number of different ways.

Certainly there are about 40% of bands that participate under the current Indian Act process. There are a larger number of reserves which have community election codes. However, this is an opportunity for those first nations that wish to have another alternative. It removes the minister from the appeals process. It gives an opportunity for those willing first nations that want to opt into this type of a process with an opportunity to do just that.

First Nations Elections Act
Government Orders

June 17th, 2013 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague across has spoken about the need to incrementally wean ourselves from the Indian Act. I am in favour of getting rid of the Indian Act now, biting the bullet and making all the necessary changes that we need to do. Why is there this incremental approach? Why is it going to be stretched over possibly decades, as opposed to attacking this situation which is unacceptable now and going much further than what is being proposed?

First Nations Elections Act
Government Orders

June 17th, 2013 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Blake Richards Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, in response to the member's question, I should point to something I mentioned in my speech. It was a quote from the Prime Minister, who basically said that we cannot take the tree, remove it and blow up the stump because it would leave a big hole. We are moving in steps and creating opportunities and options for first nations governments that choose to do so. Whether it would be looking at new opportunities for economic development creation on reserves through changes to the land management reserves, or whether they would be able to opt into another alternative for elections processes, we would get to where we need to be in an orderly and coherent fashion. I believe that is the approach we need to take.

First Nations Elections Act
Government Orders

June 17th, 2013 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, although we certainly support the four-year election term under this legislation, there are a number of other parts of the legislation that are ill-defined. We have to look to other instances where people cannot trust what is in legislation. I look to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its ongoing dispute with the government over relevant documents.

In this piece of legislation, clause 41 sets out the regulation process. This regulation process is important because it covers the appointment, powers, duties and removal of electoral officers and deputy electoral officers, the manner of identifying electors of a participating first nations and so on. There are a number of very important clauses that regulations would define.

Nowhere in this piece of legislation is the process outlined by which first nations will be included in the development of regulations. At least in Bill S-8, the clean drinking water bill, in the preamble it said “working with first nations”. However, it does not say that anywhere in this act.

I wonder if the member could address specifically how first nations would be included in the development of regulations.

First Nations Elections Act
Government Orders

June 17th, 2013 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Blake Richards Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will once again remind the NDP member that this is an opt-in process for those bands which choose to do so.

I was glad to hear the hon. member mention in her comments that the NDP support the idea of the four-year terms. The instability created by short two-year terms of office can be problematic for first nations communities.

I wonder if the NDP also supports some of the other things that the bill would fix. With regard to the lack of rigour in the process to nominate candidates, often frivolous nominations are invited, making for excessively long slates of candidates. There have sometimes been over 100 candidates for positions. Does the NDP support the removal of the paternalistic elections appeals process that involves the department and affords decision-making powers to the minister?

The system now is vulnerable to abuse and to fraudulent activities because of the absence of defined offences and associated penalties that act as a deterrent. I would certainly hope that the NDP is supportive of those measures in the bill—

First Nations Elections Act
Government Orders

June 17th, 2013 / 12:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, a few things that have come up that I think are key are the willingness to opt in and the incremental versus do-it-all-now approach.

I would ask my colleague about the power of the example that might be set by willing and progressive first nations to those who are not quite so enthusiastic or perhaps not so progressive. Such an example could speed up the process that may start as incremental. It might pick up speed if there were good examples presented by those who are willing and progressive enough to adopt this program.

First Nations Elections Act
Government Orders

June 17th, 2013 / 12:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Blake Richards Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is a great question and it hits on a very key aspect. Certainly with regard to this incremental approach we are doing as far as working toward changes that would help improve conditions and create new opportunities for those in first nations communities, I would look at things like the changes to land management. There is a number of first nations communities which are very excited about the potential economic developments that could occur there. It would mean jobs for members in first nations communities, which would mean improvements. When we look at some of the more progressive first nations that have taken some of these opportunities and worked toward economic development initiatives, there are some great success stories.

The member is right in saying that those kinds of opportunities, when they are taken, and the examples of the success stories that are out there, would incite and encourage other first nations to follow in those footsteps. I believe that is where the opportunities would be for improvements of the lives of those in first nations communities.