House of Commons Hansard #187 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

Topics

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I did not name the member, I said the member for the constituency.

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin

I did not hear that. Obviously, the member for Edmonton—Strathcona, having been here, knows that she is not to use an individual's name and only the riding designation. However, I did not hear her use the name.

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, as you will probably confirm, I actually conferred with you in advance to find out if I could say the name of the member and you confirmed to me that I had to say the name of his riding. I apologize if I am having trouble with the pronunciation. I am doing my best.

Continuing on, Vice Chief Watson said:

There are many issues with the Indian Act and this private members bill will not go ahead with the full inclusion and support of all First Nations. FSIN has a consultation policy and the federal government needs to recognize our Inherent, Sovereign and Treaty Rights.

The second release states:

The Member of Parliament for Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River...addressed Chiefs-in-Assembly regarding his Private Members Bill C-428 to amend the Indian Act. The approach used by Mr. Clarke to not take any questions from the Chiefs-in-Assembly offended and disgusted—

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin

Order, please. You just repeated the member's family name.

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I should have said the approach used by the member to not take any questions from the chiefs and assembly offended and disgusted his audience. The federation has sent a formal response letter to the Prime Minister's Office regarding the bill.

There was a third release in October expressing strong concerns with the bill. I will not read that out again, but strong concerns with the process followed.

I will share the words of the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. He e has expressed concern:

Federal attempts to repair the much-hated Indian Act are not going to work because First Nations have not been involved in designing the way forward.

He then said:

...Ottawa has taken a piecemeal approach to First Nations reform—fiddling with education here, clean drinking water there—without tackling the fundamental problem of aboriginal treaties and rights not being respected.

He was quoted on Friday saying, “You've got to do them at the same time. They are one piece”.

I commend the member for coming forward and trying to spur changes in this avenue but. regrettably, there does not appear to have been sufficient prior consultation and, therefore, we cannot support the bill.

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act
Private Members' Business

November 28th, 2012 / 7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is truly an honour to rise and speak about a subject that is dear to my heart, which is the replacement and eventual repeal of the Indian Act.

I have to commend my colleague for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River for the courage he has shown in taking on this important issue. This is an individual who, as a first nation man, has conducted his whole life living under the Indian Act. He is someone who has been able to interact with his fellow first nation brothers and sisters for his entire life. This is consultation. It is a degree of consultation that no one in the House currently has, in my opinion, in their past. He has been meeting with people across Canada on this important subject. However, I do know of some recent bills that have not been consulted on.

The member for Edmonton—Strathcona has referred to article 18 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. She is quite right, there is an obligation to consult with indigenous peoples. I wholly support that and I thank the member for bringing it up. However, there are cases where it has not happened.

Yesterday, I was at the justice committee. Currently, Bill C-279 is before the committee and we had witnesses from the Canadian Human Rights Commission. I asked the commission whether that bill had an impact on first nation people. Are first nation communities impacted by this act and does it have an impact on the lives of first nation people? Their answer was yes, that bill absolutely does affect first nation people.

My question then became whether there was consultation on the bill? In fact, there was not. The member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca did not indicate that there was any consultation. I spoke with the Assembly of First Nations, which the member for Edmonton—Strathcona referred to as an important entity with which we discuss these issues. They are the bona fide organization of first nation people. However, they were not contacted on that bill. Also, during those deliberations, the member for Gatineau, in a cavalier way, just set aside that there was any obligation to consult with first nation people on that bill.

Therefore, I take offence to what the member is suggesting. The member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River is truly a hero to me and others in the first nation community for the work that he is doing. To suggest that we are not reaching out to our aboriginal friends is, in my opinion, not reality. It is something that we are endeavouring to do.

I would ask the member to talk to some of her colleagues about some of the bills that they are proposing and the impact they have on first nation people. She shakes her head much like the member for Gatineau, who cavalierly set it aside that there was any obligation to consult with first nation people on a bill that would impact their communities.

As I said, this is an important day. The bill is timely and necessary. With each passing day, the Indian Act is revealed to be unfit for the times in which we live. When it was first enacted in 1876, it disenfranchised first nation people and it still disenfranchises everyone who lives under it today.

Just recently, we have seen a clear example of why the Indian Act must go in my home province. In fact, in Manitoba in Buffalo Point First Nation there are residents, women and children, living in that community who risk being put out on the street because of political disagreements with their chief. Because of these protests, they could have their homes taken away from them and be disenfranchised through the powers granted under the Indian Act.

Imagine if this were to happen off reserve. Imagine if someone disagreed with their city councillor and all of a sudden were evicted from their home and put out on the street. There would be mass outrage and nobody would stand for that. This is the exact point I would like to make about this community and unfortunately sometimes other communities as well.

Disenfranchisement is occurring. It violates not only any sense of justice or decency but all democratic principles, which is one reason and just one reason why the Indian Act needs to be replaced. It is an archaic, oppressive and unjust legislation. It denies aboriginal Canadians the rights they deserve. It denies individual rights. It denies matrimonial and property rights, leaving women in danger of losing everything due to disputes outside of their control.

Many people may not be aware, but the Indian Act denies first nations people the right to control their own wills and estates. The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development has the power to void the will of a first nations person if he or she so chooses. As my colleague has said, Bill C-428 would repeal the sections of the Indian Act that gives this paternalistic power to the minister. It would be a step toward true freedom and independence for first nations people.

Bill C-428 would also return the authority over the creation of bylaws on reserves where it belongs, with the leadership of that reserve. As it currently stands, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development must sign off on bylaws made by leadership on reserves. First nations people can govern themselves. They do not need this pre-Confederation prison to remain. As with the wills and estates rules, this is a further denial of independence and decision making for first nations people.

The Indian Act has no place in the 20th century or the 21st century. It is time to replace this act.

The member for Kenora, who was here earlier, has done great work as the parliamentary secretary to aboriginal affairs and has been a great advocate for the Métis people in my community and first nations Inuit people as well. I think back to previous members from other parties in that riding who have also done great work. A former member of the Liberal Party, Mr. Robert Nault, who was the then minister of Indian Affairs, brought forward some very innovative solutions, namely the First Nations Governance Act, which I thought was a step in the right direction. Many first nations did not like that approach, but many did.

One of the aspects of that bill on which everyone agreed was the Indian Act needed to be repealed. The starting point that everyone in the House agrees on is the Indian Act must be replaced.

I have had the opportunity to work with first nations people from across Canada. I have had the opportunity to work with first nations chiefs, councillors and regular community members. There is no question that everyone believes it is time for this act to be replaced. I believe the Indian Act is nothing less than a prison that shackles aboriginal people in our country and prevents them from achieving economic actualization.

We need to proceed with the initiatives that the member has proposed before the House. He started a debate that I am glad we are having. There are opinions from all sides on this matter, but what we can all agree on is that the Indian Act must be replaced. I would hope that at some point in the near future we can get to that moment where first nations people will be enfranchised and have the autonomy they deserve.

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act
Private Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand here today and close debate on my Bill C-428, An Act to amend the Indian Act (publication of by-laws) and to provide for its replacement.

As a member of Muskeg Lake First Nations and as a former RCMP officer who spent a large part of my 18 years on the force doing first nations policing, I have seen first-hand the cultural, societal and economic barriers that the Indian Act has built. It is an archaic and colonialist piece of legislation that institutionalizes racism and represses the self-determination of first nations.

The Indian Act is completely contrary to Canadian values and has kept first nations from taking advantage of the same rights and opportunities that have been available to all other Canadians for 136 years.

Clearly, something needs to change. All Canadians recognize the hardship the Indian Act has caused my people and we are all eager for positive, enduring change.

After engaging with many first nations organizations, leaders, band members and other interested stakeholders, I believe we have arrived at an important turning point. My private member's bill is the result of significant open discussion and represents the desire of first nations to be self-reliant and free from the shackles of the Indian Act.

Throughout this engagement process, I have always welcomed feedback on ways the bill could be improved. I recognize that there may be a need for amendments that will clarify certain aspects of the bill and I have indicated that I am open to that.

I look forward to hearing more from grassroots members and leaders of first nations and other interested parties before, during and after committee hearings. Their suggestions and concerns will certainly be valuable to this process and will be taken very seriously.

I have been heartened recently to hear that first nations leadership has acknowledged that the Indian Act and its bureaucracy must go. It is important that first nations take leadership and initiative in order to ensure success.

I am proud that my Bill C-428 has provided the opportunity for a frank discussion and debate, and has led to a recognition of the fact that the Indian Act is a blemish on Canadian society in a way that has never been done before. Until we can provide for its replacement, it hinders first nations' success and prosperity.

I believe that my bill is only the first step in doing away with the Indian Act entirely, and we must continue to focus our efforts on fulfilling that goal. That is why I believe one of the most crucial components of my bill is the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development's duty to report to the aboriginal affairs committee on all work undertaken by his or her department in collaboration with first nations organizations, leaders, band members and other interested parties to develop new legislation to replace the outdated Indian Act.

The introduction of such a process accepts the need for ongoing collaboration between the Crown and first nations. Other parts of the Indian Act, like the subsections on will and estates, and the bylaw publication, emphasize the need to move beyond the Indian Act.

It is hard to believe that, in 2012, first nations reserves must seek permission from the minister to sell their produce and that they are prohibited from doing business with anyone they choose. These paternalistic features stand in the way of first nations independence and perpetuate the paternalism. It is about time that first nations are afforded the same rights and opportunities that all Canadians expect and deserve.

We have a unique opportunity today to fulfill this vision. My bill transcends partisan politics and I urge strong multi-partisan support.

The opposition needs to understand that first nations are as rich in diversity and opinion as all Canadians are. To think otherwise is outdated and out of touch.

Bill C-428 is just the beginning of a long road of empowering first nations people and doing away with paternalistic and offensive policies. I am confident it will spur the necessary change we are all striving.

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act
Private Members' Business

7:35 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin

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

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act
Private Members' Business

7:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act
Private Members' Business

7:35 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin

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

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act
Private Members' Business

7:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act
Private Members' Business

7:35 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act
Private Members' Business

7:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act
Private Members' Business

7:35 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, December 5, 2012 immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

The hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso not being present to raise the matter for which adjournment has been given, the notice is deemed withdrawn.

It being 7:38 p.m., this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:38 p.m.)