House of Commons Hansard #97 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rights.

Topics

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

All those opposed will please say nay.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 45, the recorded division stands deferred until Monday, May 26, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Speaker's Ruling
Canadian Human Rights Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

There are two motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-21. Motions Nos. 1 and 2 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the table.

I will now put Motions Nos. 1 and 2 to the House.

Motions in Amendment
Canadian Human Rights Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Pontiac, QC

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-21, in Clause 1.1, be amended by replacing lines 6 to 20 on page 1 with the following:

“1.1 For greater certainty, the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act shall not be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada by the recognition and affirmation of those rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.”

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-21, in Clause 1.2, be amended by replacing line 3 on page 2 with the following:

“ests against collective rights and interests, to the extent that they are consistent with the principle of gender equality.”

Motions in Amendment
Canadian Human Rights Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to the government's motion to amend clause 1.1 of Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, standing in the name of the member for Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians.

As hon. members will know, Bill C-21 proposes to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, and in the process, eliminate a source of injustice that has existed for more than three decades.

The repeal of section 67 has been a cornerstone of this government's aboriginal agenda throughout its mandate. Our government first committed to the repeal of section 67 as part of our electoral platform. In December 2006, Bill C-44, the precursor to Bill C-21, was introduced. Although Bill C-44 died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued in September 14, 2007, our government committed to its reintroduction in the Speech from the Throne delivered on October 16, 2007.

In November 2007, Bill C-21, identical to former Bill C-44, was reinstated. There is ample evidence of strong support among key stakeholders for the repeal of section 67. In the 17 committee hearings devoted to Bill C-44 of the previous session, testimony came from dozens of witnesses, chiefs, members of band councils, representatives of national and regional aboriginal groups, legal specialists and public servants. Although these men and women came from remarkably diverse backgrounds and represented a broad variety of interests, the support for the repeal of section 67 was virtually unanimous.

While this government took a clear and unambiguous approach to the repeal of section 67, on February 4, 2008 the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development reported Bill C-21 to the House of Commons with several amendments. They included the addition of a broad non-derogation clause, clause 1.1, and an interpretive clause, clause 1.2.

Other proposed amendments included: a new requirement for the Government of Canada to undertake with organizations representing first nations a study to address the fiscal capacity and resource requirements of first nations associated with the repeal of section 67; a change to the review of the effects of the repeal within five years so it could be conducted by the Government of Canada working with organizations representing first nations rather than a parliamentary committee; and finally, an extension of the transition period for the application of the repeal to first nations to 36 months, rather than the 6 months originally proposed by government. These amendments do not affect the immediate application of the repeal of section 67 to the federal government upon royal assent.

This government's preference remains a clear approach to the repeal of section 67. However, in light of committee testimony in which most, if not all, groups expressed concern about how the repeal will be implemented and called and for a further extension of the transition period, the government will support all of the committee's amendments, with the exception of clauses 1.1 and 1.2, the subject matter of today's debate.

Clause 1.1 is a very broad non-derogation clause. As hon. members will know, a non-derogation clause is a statutory provision that indicates the statute is not to derogate or abrogate from the aboriginal and treaty rights as protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. In our view, such a clause is unnecessary given that the Constitution takes precedence over all other federal laws. Previous governments have supported the inclusion of a non-derogation clause which clauses are currently found in several federal statutes. Clause 1.1, however, is much broader than any of those existing clauses.

Given the broad and unprecedented nature of clause 1.1, our view is that it has the potential to reintroduce some of the sheltering of discrimination provided by section 67.

In fact, in its most recent report entitled “Still a Matter of Rights”, in which the Canadian Human Rights Commission reiterated its call for the repeal of section 67, the commission indicated concern that clause 1.1 could “have the unintended consequence of shielding first nations, in whole or in part, from legitimate equality claims, thus reinstituting section 67 in another form”.

It would be illogical for the opposition, who, on principle, favour repeal of section 67, to intentionally support the inclusion of a provision that would have the unintended effect of sheltering discrimination. As a result, we cannot support clause 1.1, as adopted by the standing committee.

Therefore, notwithstanding our concern for non-derogation clauses, generally, we propose to replace clause 1.1 with the non-derogation language most recently used in existing statutes, namely, the same that was added to the First Nations Oil and Gas and Moneys Management Act.

Regarding Motion No. 2, clause 1.2, our government shares the view that the Canadian Human Rights Act should be applied in a manner that is sensitive to particular circumstances of first nations communities. However, the fact is that it is difficult to find fail-proof language that would address all of the competing considerations for handling a Canadian Human Rights Act complaint in such a context.

This was the basis for our decision not to include an interpretive provision in Bill C-21. We have always maintained that the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which is the expert in administrating the Canadian Human Rights Act, is best placed to develop an interpretive provision jointly with first nations outside of the Canadian Human Rights Act. This could be done by way of guidelines, a directive, or regulations, which would be binding on the commission.

In spite of these concerns, the committee chose to insert an interpretive clause in the bill. We recognize that many witnesses called for such a clause, so we are willing to accept this provision.

However, as with clause 1.1., we have concerns with the broad language of the interpretive clause adopted by the committee and the potential for discrimination to be sheltered. We are particularly concerned that women might inadvertently be discriminated against as a result of this clause.

Therefore, we are proposing to include a provision to ensure the principle of gender equality applies to this clause. Such an amendment would be in keeping with the 2000 Canadian Human Rights Act review panel report, which noted, specifically, that an interpretive provision should not justify discrimination on the basis of sex or condone other forms of discrimination.

As well, the previous government's last attempt to repeal section 67 included an interpretive clause with a similar provision related to gender equality.

The government is committed to improving the lives of aboriginal Canadians and to the repeal of section 67. We are committed to creating, for the first time since the Canadian Human Rights Act was enacted 30 years ago, a right of complaint for first nations in relation to the Indian Act.

Therefore, I urge members to vote in favour of these necessary motions.

Motions in Amendment
Canadian Human Rights Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question for my colleague is about the difference between the non-derogation clause that is recommended by his government and the one put forward by the standing committee. It must have contemplated other boilerplate versions of non-derogation clauses that exist in many pieces of legislation pertaining to first nations. I did not understand, in his speech, the difference between the language put forward by the committee and the language that his government would prefer to see. Perhaps he could explain it in a little more detail.

If a non-derogation clause is to ensure that nothing in the bill abrogates from or derogates from aboriginal treaty rights under section 35, why is this additional nuance important to the government he represents?

Motions in Amendment
Canadian Human Rights Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, it is important to recognize that at the heart of the bill is a desire to see the lives of aboriginal Canadians improved.

As I pointed out in my statement, section 67 has been with us for over 30 years. It was introduced, at that time, to be a temporary measure so it would not conflict with the Indian Act. Over the course of this government's time in government, we have taken a number of steps to improve that.

The basic answer to the question is the way it currently exists in clause 1.1, it is a very broad description of the kinds of things that could lead to dispute. For example, in clause 1.1, as it is currently written, before the amendment, it talks about other rights and freedoms, including any rights or freedoms recognized under customary laws or traditions of first nations people of Canada. Right now, parliamentarians, courts, the Human Rights Tribunal itself would be unable speculate as to what those other rights might be. Therefore, it is important that we tighten that up to define what those other rights are.

Motions in Amendment
Canadian Human Rights Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my Conservative colleague for his support of extending human rights legislation to our first nations, ensuring we have equality across the country.

It is really a sad comment on our country that we have delayed so long in extending human rights legislation to the first nations of our country.

I am glad he raised the issue of the non-derogation clause. The one included in the amendment is much broader, as he has already mentioned, than the “standard” non-derogation clause normally used in legislation of this kind.

Would he expand a little on that? Could he also explain how, in some practical ways, the legislation would enhance human rights on our first nations reserves?