House of Commons Hansard #19 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

Aboriginal Healing Foundation
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to request an emergency debate on the imminent cut of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. This debate is urgent given that the Aboriginal Healing Foundation is scheduled to lose all of its funding in two days, on March 31. This means the closure of 134 programs in every province and territory across Canada. It means the loss of vital programing for residential school survivors, their families and their communities.

The Aboriginal Healing Foundation has given healing and hope to survivors, their families and their communities for 10 years, but the need for healing is not over. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation is a central part of the legacy of the national apology that was given by the government and by Canada to residential school survivors. It is a key part of Canada's commitment to reconciliation. The loss of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation is a crisis and must be debated in the House.

I would like to ask you, Mr. Speaker, to grant this debate today or tomorrow, whatever is at your discretion.

Aboriginal Healing Foundation
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for her submissions on this point. I have reviewed her letter on the matter and the submissions that she has made and I am inclined to grant the request for an emergency debate, but I will defer it until tomorrow evening if that is satisfactory.

I wish to inform the House that because of the ministerial statement, government orders will be extended by 21 minutes.

The hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans has a point of order I believe he wants to make submissions on. I will hear him now.

References to members or ministers
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

March 29th, 2010 / 3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not request the floor with a light heart today. Of course you know that I do not call a lot of attention to myself in these precincts. I listen carefully to the debates. I speak only rarely and I avoid partisan ideology at all costs. When I sat in the chair in the 39th Parliament, I learned to fade into the background: as St. Anthony the Great said, “Discretion is the mother of all virtues.”

In Henry IV, Shakespeare wrote, “The better part of valour is discretion”.

Nevertheless, a member opposite has found reason to level criticism at me, criticism that he considers serious. On Wednesday, March 24, the member for Jolietterose on a point of order against me. His accusation is in Hansard, at page 879.

TheHouse Leader of the Bloc Québécois informed the House that on several occasions, namely, on March 11, 12, 18 and 19, I reported on the social networking site Twitter the exact number of members of each party present in the House, mentioning the names of some members who were absent or present. He said that this situation had been troubling him a great deal. I must say that he never shared his distress with me.

He pointed out that there is a rule that during speeches in the House, members may not allude to the presence or absence of a member or minister in the House. He explained that this rule can be found on page 614 of the O’Brien and Bosc book on procedure. Because I have only a fraction of his experience here, I am grateful for the reference the member provided to us.

Nevertheless, he should have continued reading, because the next paragraph on the same page states, in black and white: “The Speaker has no authority to rule on statements made outside the House.”

The social networking site Twitter is in fact outside the House. I must admit that I use that site on occasion. However, I am very careful not to share privileged information there or anywhere else. The member for Joliette claims that this is precisely what I did, using “new technology”. He is mistaken.

First, that information is not privileged. Second, my statements were made outside the House. I respectfully submit that the presence or absence of members on the benches is not a state secret and that, notwithstanding the allegations by my colleague opposite, it is not even privileged information. There are nine television cameras here that are on at all times and that very effectively reveal the presence of members and also the presence of empty seats. There was a time when this television technology was new to the House. It dates from the 30th Parliament in 1976.

I would note in passing that members at that time resisted the installation of that technology for a long time. The Canadian parliamentary system is not new. It dates from 1791. For 219 years, our deliberative assemblies have been open to the public. We had the public galleries for 185 years before the advent of cameras. The gallery opposite the chair was once the ladies’ gallery. The gentlemen were allowed into it provided they wore jackets and ties. The gallery above the chair was open to all members of the public, regardless of dress—workers, anyone at all.

Now, our galleries welcome hundreds of spectators every day. The galleries all around this chamber can seat 556 Canadian taxpayers or foreign visitors. All of them can see who is present or absent, and watch our proceedings and behaviour. Each day, thousands of visitors file in and out of the galleries.

One of the galleries above the Chair is designated as the “Press Gallery”. It includes 74 desks where journalists observe first-hand our presence or absence and our behaviour as well and they often report on it. No secrets there. By the way, none of those 74 seats is occupied right now.

I mentioned Hansard earlier. This official report of proceedings was instituted in 1875. It records the stands taken by each member whenever a vote is taken, thereby indicating who was present or absent. It has been that way for 135 years. But for 84 years before 1875, our predecessors resisted this new technology.

Now let us look at the hon. member's specific complaints. He refers to my messages of March 11. Every fact reported on those messages was clearly visible to any Canadian watching question period and our debates on the parliamentary television channel, CPAC. They were also experienced by any and all of the 74 journalists in the press gallery and to each of the 556 visitors in the public galleries. No state secrets here. No privileged information.

The same is true of the March 12 messages. No privileged information was disclosed, not even the colour of the members' ties. Any knowledgeable observer could notice the same things from the public galleries or from home.

The same is true for the observations of March 18.

The same is true where March 19 is concerned, except this was the first time the secessionist forces' bigwigs took note of my messages because, this time, they felt they were under attack. They are the ones who were absent, the whole bloc of them. They probably decided to do their resistance work elsewhere that particular day. Their protestations are certainly not disinterested.

The hon. member presented no evidence that the public information that was shared via Twitter was initiated from this floor or from the gallery and his claim that the information is privileged is not just flawed, it is erroneous.

His complaint borders on mischief. His attempt to censure me is itself a contempt on free speech.

This is not the first time that a secessionist member has attempted to muzzle me. Indeed, on January 28, 2009, during the second session of the 40th Parliament, the hon. member for Montcalm hurled invectives at me, including this one: “You, shut up.”

He barked, “You, shut up”.

He was that rude in his display of contempt and intolerance.

It is true that I do not share the restrictive ideology of those who want to rip apart the territorial integrity of the best country in the world. However, I will continue to defend all the democratic rights of those who do not share my point of view. This freedom of expression is what makes Canada the envy of the world.

I remember a great parliamentarian with whom I worked during the 37th Parliament and with whom I sat during the 39th Parliament. I will always have fond memories of the late Benoît Sauvageau. Despite our fundamental disagreements, we worked together to develop the language and the culture that we shared, and which I continue to defend, as my ancestors in Ontario have done since we left Mascouche, in Lower Canada, 175 years ago. Whether the members opposite like it or not, we are Ontarians, not good-for-nothings.

In the second session of the 39th Parliament, the member for London—Fanshawe made an excited statement showing her faulty assessment of the behaviour of the hon. member for Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam. What had trapped her into jumping to embarrassing conclusions was her target's use of a laptop computer, a relatively new technology in this chamber. In response to her utterances, you said, Mr. Speaker:

I have to say that whatever is being talked about does not strike me as being a point of order. The House some time ago allowed members to bring computers into the House. What appears on the screens of computers is not under the control of the Chair. I would suggest that if members have concerns about this, they raise it with the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. If it wants to pass a rule saying computers are not allowed in the House, it can do so.

We have not heard about this subject since. Computers are allowed in this place, and so is the dreaded BlackBerry.

I would like to draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to a photograph of the second session of the 40th Parliament. This photo is of all of us, published by the Library of Parliament. It was taken by Roy Grogan, as a matter of fact. Half of the members are focused on the BlackBerrys in their hands. Are they sharing privileged information with the outside world? I doubt it. This place has no secrets.

Each day in the House we face a variety of challenges. Each time I think of my father. The late René Galipeau was a humble mechanic. Unlike many of us, he had no pretensions of wisdom, but his moral compass was most reliable.

As a good businessman and like any good father, he managed to overcome a number of challenges.

The quest for eloquence never was one of his personal ambitions.

But he knew that it was his responsibility to pass his values on to his six children. What he said to me was that no matter what you face, you must always be tough and confident, with no false pride, act self-assured, but not stubborn, and be tenacious, but also respectful. He also said that success is a mixture of authenticity, balance and courtesy.

Yesterday morning I had breakfast with the Carlsbad Springs Optimist Club which Mrs. Suzanne Langlois presides over. After the meeting these salt of the earth honest people recited the club's creed, which ends like this:

“I promise [...] to be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.”

This advice is something we should all heed.

Mr. Speaker, you have been invited by the hon. member for Joliette to censure me. This request is aimed at one of the most discreet members of this House, yet it is consistent with the barking invectives of his secessionist colleagues whose ideology is to dismember the territorial integrity of the best country in the world. Their view is that freedom of expression applies only to them, not to those who disagree with their misguided secessionist ideology.

The information that the hon. member would like to stifle is not privileged and it is readily available to the many visitors who are in the gallery at this very moment and to the few others who are watching on CPAC.

The hon. member may have wished to design a trap for me, but when doing so it is always wiser not to use the blueprints of a boomerang.

There is a fine line between humility and humiliation, but those who do not understand the meaning of humility quickly learn the meaning of humiliation.

Members of this House have an obligation to respect privileged information, but we should have no fewer rights than any other citizen in disseminating information that is not privileged. Our procedure and practice is clear on this matter. On page 614 of O'Brien-Bosc it clearly states that the Speaker has no authority to rule on statements made outside the House.

Mr. Speaker, if you do make a ruling in this instance, I respectfully urge you to resist the invitation to censure and to give more weight to freedom of expression for all.

References to members or ministers
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I want to thank the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans for his comments.

I will take them into account in making my decision on the point of order raised by the hon. member for Joliette.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-3, 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). It is a long title for a short bill. New Democrats will be supporting this bill at second reading.

It is important not only for the women and their children in Nanaimo—Cowichan but for the women and their children in British Colombia and across this country.

This somewhat technical bill is the result of a long-standing court case that Sharon McIvor had in British Columbia.

I am going to quote from the legislative summary because it deals with some of the technical aspects.The British Columbia Court of Appeal ruling gave rise to Bill C-3. The summary states:

The decision dealt with the case of Sharon McIvor, who had lost status when she married a non-First Nations man and had been reinstated in 1985 under paragraph 6(1)(c) of the post-Bill C-31 Indian Act. Her son, Jacob Grismer, having only one First Nations parent, acquired status under subsection 6(2) but was unable to transmit that status to his children owing to his own marriage to a non-First Nations woman. In contrast, persons in the male line affected by the 1951 double mother rule, which legislated loss of status at age 21, had been reinstated for life under paragraph 6(1)(c) and were thus able to transmit status to their children whether or not they married out. The Court found that this circumstance placed persons in Jacob Grismer's position at a disadvantage amounting to an unjustified section 15 Charter violation, and issued a suspended declaration of invalidity of paragraphs 6(1)(a) and (c) of the Act to allow Parliament to amend the Act before 6 April 2010.

When we talk about paragraph 6(1)(a) and 6(1)(c) and subsection 6(2), it gets very confusing and convoluted but it was an important ruling by the B.C. Supreme Court.

I want to put the whole discussion around citizenship and status in context and give the very big picture. I am going to start with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Article 8 of the UN declaration states:

1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.

2. States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for:

(a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural v alues or ethnic identities;

(b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources;

(c) Any form of forced population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights;

(d) Any form of forced assimilation or integration;

(e) Any form of propaganda designed to promote or incite racial or ethnic discrimination directed against them.

Article 33 of the UN declaration states:

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to determine their own identity or membership in accordance with their customs and traditions. This does not impair the right of indigenous individuals to obtain citizenship of the States in which they live.

2. Indigenous peoples have the right to determine the structures and to select the membership of their institutions in accordance with their own procedures.

With respect to the UN declaration the Conservative government indicated in the throne speech that it would take the next steps. That is why it is important to read into the record some of the articles in the UN declaration because it sets the context for why discussions around citizenship and status are so important.

In terms of history, I am sure many Canadians are not aware that first nations from coast to coast to coast have a very long history of making their own citizenship and membership decisions.

In July 2008 the Assembly of First Nations and Indian and Northern Affairs joint technical working group outlined some history in a technical briefing paper. It indicated that early colonial powers relied upon first nations criteria to determine early colonial definitions of an Indian, including birth, marriage, adoption, residency, self-identification, kinship and community ties.

However, the consolidation of colonial legislation policy into the first Indian Act in 1876, which included legal definitions of the terms “Indian” and “statutory criteria” for who was and was not able to register as an Indian essentially laid the groundwork for the complete segregation from those who remained Indian and assimilation through the loss of status and existing rights.

The article goes on to talk about various changes, but I want to talk about other ones. The Gradual Enfranchisement Act of 1869 was the first law denying Indian status to an Indian woman who married out and which prevented her children from acquiring status. This provision was carried forward into the first Indian Act in 1876. From 1869 on, federal Indian legislation included successive Indian acts and introduced and solidified gender-based criteria within the definition of an Indian and in the treatment of Indian men and women.

This included the central role of patrilineal descent requirements and gender-based discrimination in the treatment of Indian to non-Indian marriages whereby Indian women who married a non-Indian lost their status and their children were not entitled to be registered. In contrast, Indian men who married non-Indians retained their status and their non-Indian spouse and offspring were entitled to be registered as Indians.

The article talks about the definition in 1876 and states:

In addition, the Act and subsequent amendments also continued and furthered the policy of enfranchisement, which became compulsory in a number of circumstances. For example, enfranchisement was automatic if an Indian became a doctor, lawyer, Christian minister, or earned a university degree.

Not only did gender discrimination become an integral part of the Indian Act from 1869 until the present day, but there was an enfranchisement policy that if first nations decided to get an education, they lost their status.

The 1951 amendments to the Indian Act further entrenched gender-based criteria in the definition of an Indian and ineligibility for registration and some precedents set by earlier Indian acts continued to prevail.

For example, Indians were defined as male persons of Indian blood and their descendants and wives. A woman derived her status through her father and then through her husband. If she married a non-native, a Métis, or a non-status Indian, she lost her status. Since children derive their status through their fathers, her children and future generations would also be ineligible to register.

The child of an unmarried registered mother would have status unless it was demonstrated that the father of the child did not have status. People who received or whose ancestors received land or money scrip were not considered Indians and therefore not eligible to be registered.

There is a long, long history of many attempts to limit from the outside from what was a colonial government and then turned out to be a patriarchal government later on, who would be considered first nations, or in those days Indian, in this country. Today we are debating a piece of legislation that very narrowly addresses one aspect of that discriminatory practice that became inherent in the Indian Act.

I want to touch on a couple of other things in the history. In 1961, there was an amendment to end the compulsory enfranchisement of men or bands. The rules indicating that if they had an education they no longer could be enfranchised were removed in 1961. This is how long the fight for equality has been going on.

In the early 1970s Jeannette Lavell and Yvonne Bédard challenged the discriminatory language of section 12(1)(b) of the Indian Act. Both women had lost their Indian status because they had married white men. The Supreme Court ruled that the Indian Act was not discriminatory as the women gained the legal rights of white women at the same time they lost their status as Indian women. In the 1970s the courts seemed to be saying that it is better to be a white woman than a first nations woman.

This continued to have devastating consequences for women. Indian women who would later marry a non-Indian would lose their status as would the children of their marriage. These disenfranchised women were prohibited from residing on reserve, inheriting family property, receiving treaty benefits, participating in band councils and other affairs of the Indian community, and being buried in cemeteries with their ancestors. Not only did they lose their status, but they also lost the right to be part of their cultural and linguistic community. Many of these women or their ancestors had been leaders in their communities.

This of course was in stark contrast to first nations men who could marry whomever they desired with impunity. In fact, a non-Indian woman who married an Indian man would gain Indian status. According to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, approximately 4,605 Indian women lost their Indian status by marrying white men between the years of 1958 and 1968.

In 1981, Sandra Lovelace, a Maliseet woman from Tobique—Mactaquac, forced the issue by taking her case to the United Nations human rights committee, contending that she should not have to lose her own status by marriage. Of course, this subsequently led to what is now known as Bill C-31 from 1985. I am going to come back and touch on that in just a moment because, although we are discussing Bill C-3, there are some lessons to be learned from Bill C-31 from 1985.

In the current context, what we have is a very narrow attempt, based on the B.C. Supreme Court decision, to deal with some gender inequities in the Indian Act. I know a number of members in this House were present for the debate on the repeal of section 67 of the Human Rights Act that now allows first nations members to file human rights complaints on a variety of issues. At the time, witnesses came before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to say that what we are in effect doing is beginning to make changes to the Indian Act on a piecemeal basis, and what we can end up with is unintended consequences by not taking a step back and having a more holistic approach to the whole Indian Act.

When we start tinkering with one section, we often do not know what the impact will be further down the road, and I am going to come back to Bill C-31 in that context. However, regarding the current context and what this bill does not deal with, the band council of the Wabanaki Nation has provided a briefing document that talks about the fact that this piece of legislation does not deal with a couple of other problems.

It talks about the sibling rule, where at the time of birth, Indian registration rules did not allow for the registration of illegitimate daughters of an Indian father and a non-Indian mother. It goes on to say that a brother would have the right to be registered at the time of his birth since the Indian registration rules did not allow for the registration of illegitimate daughters of an Indian father and a non-Indian mother, but they did allow for the registration of their illegitimate sons. That is still a case that is outstanding and it is just one example of some of the challenges in the status aspect of the Indian Act which is not dealt by Bill C-3.

Again, I have indicated that New Democrats are prepared to support the bill at second reading; however, I would urge the government to take a much broader look at the Indian Act and its potential impacts.

I want to talk a little about resources, and this is where I am going to talk about Bill C-31 a bit. The Six Nations of the Grand River have prepared a citizenship briefing note, and it raises the spectre around the fact that Indian and Northern Affairs is pursuing an amendment to the Indian Act to respond to the directions from the B.C. Court of Appeal, to be in place by April 6, 2010.

First nations have not been adequately consulted regarding amendments, nor provided clear information on the impact on their communities, and Six Nations is not alone in raising concerns around the impact on the communities.

Just touching briefly on the issue of consultation, the government acknowledges that in this particular case, it has not done consultation. What it has said in that context was that the time was limited, that there was a mandate from the B.C. Supreme Court that it had to move forward. There are some very grave concerns that all aspects of this bill and its potential impacts have not been adequately examined. In fact, the government itself has been unable to give any clear idea of the impacts on communities.

What it has said is that it has estimated that there will be upwards of 45,000 people who could be reinstated as a result of Bill C-3, and that is from Mr. Stewart Clatworthy's report, who is a demographer and has done some work regarding this issue.

There have been no announcements and no budget allocations to deal with the increased administrative duty that comes attached to this bill. Back when Bill C-31 passed in 1985, The Globe and Mail reported that the government officers on two shifts a day were adding more than 500 people per week to the country's official Indian population. The system became swamped with more than 38,000 applicants seeking status for more than 76,000 people. That was in 1985 with Bill C-31.

Of course, we know that Bill C-31 had some other impacts on communities. Bill C-31 created additional problems. There was increased financial pressure on first nations to provide services to newly enfranchised members, and this was housing, health services, education, all of the kinds of services that come along with status.

It created divisions in some communities and families with an impact on community cohesion and identity. Part of that challenge arose because there simply was not enough money to allow people to move back to their home communities.

Just a reminder, some of these women who had married non-status men had been raised in their communities, had the cultural and the linguistic connections, and yet once they regained their status there simply was not enough housing to allow them to move home.

It did create divisions in some communities because of those very limited resources. It has led to a decline in status population and an increased restriction on the ability to transmit status to their children.

I want to turn on that point. There is something called the second generation cutoff in Bill C-31. And again, I would presume it was an unintended consequence because surely the government of the day would not have legislated assimilation, which is in fact what the second generation cutoff does in Bill C-31. The reason I am raising this in the context of Bill C-3 is again that unintended consequence.

In reassessing the population impacts of Bill C-31, Stewart Clatworthy prepared a report on February 26, 2001. Although it is a very lengthy report, I just want to quote from one part of it. Mr. Clatworthy assessed the continuation of the current rules of Bill C-31. He said that if Bill C-31 did not change, if it was the status quo, this is what we could anticipate as the impact of the second generation cutoff. He said:

The number of survivors and descendants who do not qualify for registration is expected to increase from the current level of about 21,700 to nearly 400,000 within two generations.

He was projecting a serious acceleration of the numbers of people who will lose status. He said:

After three generations (year 2074) individuals who are not entitled to registration are projected to form the majority of the population.

Many people have referred to this as legislated assimilation. I want to come back to what I started with when I indicated that prior to contact, and even in the early days of colonial rule, the colonial government of the day took first nations definitions of who was first nations from first nations.

In the context of Bill C-3, although I recognize that there was a court imposed deadline, it could have been an opportunity, once that court decision was issued, for the government to implement a full consultative process to look at all aspects of citizenship and membership.

This was an important opportunity to right some of the wrongs around the gender inequality but also to look at some of the unintended consequences of Bill C-31.

I look forward to having discussions in committee about the complex nature of status and citizenship. I am expecting that we will have some very excellent presentations before the committee that lay out some of the challenges.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, in order not to miss a single word of my colleague’s speech, I listened very closely to both the original version and the translation. I thought it was important to understand exactly what my colleague was saying. Since I bump into her sometimes and we work together on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, I want to thank her for the work she did on this and is still doing, because it is not finished.

If we go all the way and approve and pass this bill, whether with amendments or not, does she think there will still be discrimination between native men and women? If so, does she have a solution? How could we eliminate the discrimination that has existed since the passage of the Indian Act?

Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue works tirelessly on the aboriginal affairs committee and is very knowledgeable about the serious issues facing aboriginal communities across this country.

I do not believe that Bill C-3 would deal with all of the gender inequalities that are inherent in the current Indian Act. I had indicated in my speech that there is still a problem with illegitimate daughters. Illegitimate daughters have a different status, whereas illegitimate sons maintain their status. That is just one example of some of the challenges still in place in the Indian Act.

We have known unequivocally since 1973 that there are serious problems with the status provisions in the Indian Act. Here we are in 2010 picking at one small aspect of it. We need a comprehensive approach to status of citizenship.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for what all members have come to expect from her, which is a thoughtful, comprehensive, and well thought out speech to the House, as well as one that is very fair.

It seems to me that Bill C-3 deals with a very critical and important issue not only to the first nations of this country but to many Canadians who want to have a just and progressive relationship develop between the first nations and all Canadians, and progress for all bands across this country.

It also seems to me that substance and process are both engaged by this bill. Process, in particular, that the bill raises is the importance of consultation with first nations, the involvement of first nations, and the right of first nations to help shape a proper response to the very critical issue about the definition of who does and does not obtain Indian status in this country.

I would like the member to comment, if she would, on the importance of process, as well as the substantive issues engaged by this bill.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Vancouver Kingsway raises a very important issue.

As the member is well aware, there have been numerous Supreme Court decisions in Canada that talk about the duty to consult. There have been various efforts to define what that would look like, including an interim paper the government issued on consultation. However, even in the process of developing that interim consultation process, first nations have not been included adequately in it. What we have, again, is a process that is imposed somewhere else without adequate input from first nations.

Some first nations have done a tremendous amount of work themselves regarding the definition of what a duty to consult would look like. Because this is not the only piece of legislation that is going to come before us, I suggest that we need to look at the Supreme Court decisions regarding duty to consult and at the very good work that first nations have done regarding duty to consult, and come up with a process so that we do not have to continuously raise this in the House.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to echo the comments by the member for Vancouver Kingsway that the member has presented a very well thought out presentation on Bill C-3.

It seems to me that Sharon McIvor has gone through a lot to bring things to where they are right now, when she should not have had to do any of it. These problems should have been rectified years ago. It was not until the Conservative government of John Diefenbaker that native people even had the right to vote in this country in the 1960s. Where have the governments been all these years?

The member certainly understands the issue better than almost anyone in the House. She has indicated that there is still going to be a problem with illegitimate daughters. The question I have for her is this. Does she feel that we are going to be able to deal with that issue of this particular bill at the committee stage?

Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, at this stage we will certainly be looking at the outstanding issues, those raised by the New Democrats anyway, around gender inequality that currently exist in the legislation. The question becomes whether or not we could introduce an amendment that would be considered to be within the scope of the bill.

The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona mentioned the fact that Sharon McIvor has been at this for 20 years. She and her family have been struggling with this very important issue for so long that it would seem that we need to move expeditiously to ensure Sharon and her family are no longer disenfranchised. Having said that, we need to look at all the other people who are impacted by the inequalities in the legislation.

It is incumbent upon us as members of the standing committee to make sure we do our due diligence when the bill comes before committee, so that we are looking at other aspects where people are being shut out. We need to look at the resource implications for bands. We also need to look at whether there would be unintended consequences, as there were in Bill C-31 in 1985. Are there going to be unintended consequences that would shut somebody else out, which we did not catch when we were considering the legislation?

Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, Chief Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations has highlighted the fact that the government has provided little information thus far to either this House or to first nations leaders. He is concerned about the possibility of a huge influx, perhaps tens of thousands, of people obtaining new status registrations. He has asked how the government could claim to be acting in the interests of first nations without allocating the resources that would obviously be needed to accompany a bill that may affect thousands of families and communities across this country.

I would be very interested in the member's comments about the resources she feels may or may not be necessary for first nations to deal with the issues raised by this bill.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the resource issue is extremely important. Not only does it impact on the ability of bands to deliver things like housing and other social services, but the people who regain status will be entitled to education and health benefits, even if they live off-reserve. To date the government has been absolutely silent on what kind of resources it will put toward members who regain status.

In addition, the government's own numbers are shaky. The government is estimating 45,000 up to 100,000. That will have a significant impact on any band council's resources. We already know bands are underfunded with a 2% funding cap, and if another level of people regaining status is added in, bands will simply not be able to deal with the influx.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and speak to Bill C-3. It brings back memories. Already when you were the chair of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, we started discussing this bill or at least the imminent emergence of a bill to amend section 6 of the Indian Act, an act that is probably by far the most discriminatory legislation that Canada passed all last century.

I would like to acknowledge the outstanding job done on this bill by our researcher in the social affairs division, Ms. Hurley, who works for the Library of Parliament. She submitted a superb document, which we received today, on the history and the reasons why we are talking today about the McIver decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal and why we want to amend the Indian Act.

We started trying to deal with the Indians in 1850, of course in a Canadian way. There was the American way. Everyone remembers the American way and Wounded Knee, where virtually all the Sioux and several other aboriginal communities were exterminated. They were driven off their lands through war.

In Canada, we took a gentler approach, although it was just as assimilatory in intent as the American way, which was to exterminate. We decided on a somewhat gentler approach and all the ensuing governments to the present day should look themselves in the mirror and say they are responsible for the fact that we are today debating BillC-3 to hopefully put an end—even if only partially—to unparalleled discrimination against women in Canada and against aboriginal women.

I have rarely seen a bill trying to end such discrimination in an existing piece of legislation. The act was called an Act for the gradual enfranchisement of Indians, the better management of Indian affairs, and to extend the provisions of the Act thirty-first Victoria, chapter forty-two. The bill was passed in 1869. Nothing could be more paternalistic than that.

In 1850, the first statutory definition of “Sauvages” in Canada was brought in. I am going to offer a history lesson on assimilation, for those who are listening to us. A better job of causing a people to disappear could not be done than the job Canada did with the Indians, with the first peoples. That much is clear. The reason some of them survive today is certainly not down to the governments that came one after another; it is because the aboriginal people had great resilience.

In 1850, the first statutory definition of “Sauvages” was inclusive, that is not me saying it, we have to go back to the Act for the Better Protection of the Lands and Property of Indians in Lower Canada, Statutes of Canada 1850, chapter 42. The Indians’ land was taken, and it was the federal government that flatly declared itself the trustee. But there were quite a lot of Indians. A way had to be found for there to be fewer of them.

A law passed in 1869 brought in the first provision under which the marriage of an Indian woman to a non-Indian resulted in the woman and her children losing status. A man retained all his rights and powers, while a woman who married a white man lost all her rights. And that has been the case since 1850.

The Bloc wants to speak out against that situation in the House. Over the next few months, we will try to find solutions. They will not be easy solutions, because the aboriginal peoples of Canada have been the victims of discrimination and assimilation in recent years.

It was in 1951 that an attempt was finally made to incorporate the double mother rule, under which a person who was registered at birth lost their status and their band membership at the age of 21 if their parents had married after the Indian Act came into force, in September 1951, and if their mother and father’s mother had gained status solely by marriage.

In other words, there was no problem if a man married a white woman, if an Indian man married an Indian woman and if an Indian man married a white woman. But if an Indian woman married a white man, she lost all her rights. That is what happened.

As far as I know, it is still women who bear children. Unless and until that changes, very clearly it is women who will be victims of discrimination under the Indian Act. That is still the case today and it will still be the case in the future, even if Bill C-3 is passed.

We are going to solve the problem in committee. We agree that the bill should be studied in committee.

Sometime last year, the House passed Bill C-21 to repeal section 67 of the Indian Act, which states that the Canadian Human Rights Act does not apply on reserve. That was impressive. Under Bill C-21, as of June 2011, the Canadian Human Rights Act will apply to aboriginal communities. Bill C-3 will add to the rights of women in these communities.

I hope that the government will see the light and adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I hope this will happen in my lifetime and during Mr. Speaker's tenure. Sadly, for the time being, we are nowhere near seeing this happen.

What is the McIvor decision? It is not very complicated. I have mentioned the milestones of the Indian Act. There was 1869, and then 1951. Another very important date after 1951 was 1985. That year, the Liberals, who thought they were so clever, introduced Bill C-31. The government at the time had a strong majority, and thus it was able to pass this legislation, which took effect in 1985. The problem is that Bill C-31, as it was passed, did not solve the problems.

Bill C-31 was supposed to remove discrimination, restore Indian status and ties to the band, that is membership rights, and enable bands to take charge of the status of their members on their own. Then the dispute started because, as they say, “The devil is in the details”, “Le diable est dans les détails” or, as you might sometimes hear in Quebec, “Le yâble est dans les détails”. I cannot wait to hear what the translators will do with that. So the “yâble” is in the details.