An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.

Sponsor

Jim Prentice  Conservative

Status

Not active, as of Feb. 21, 2007
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

This enactment repeals section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and provides for a statutory review, within five years after the enactment receives royal assent, of the effects of the repeal by any parliamentary committee that may be designated or established for that purpose. It also contains a transitional provision with respect to aboriginal authorities.

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.

May 17th, 2007 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Chair, I will be splitting my time with Mr. Blaney.

I'm just going to continue with Mr. Russell's logic here for a moment. He posed the question of whether the government has broken the law. Of course I have an opinion on that.

I perhaps would like you, Ms. Cornet, to pursue, theoretically, what would happen if the government has broken the law. In this case, on Bill C-44, what would the process be for dealing with the fact that the government had broken the law? What would it look like? If Bill C-44 were passed, what would happen after that?

May 17th, 2007 / 11:45 a.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Thank you for being here. I really appreciated what I have heard and I would like to tell you about it. I will not go over everything that you have said. I believe that you are really knowledgeable about these communities. My question will be simple and direct. As my university teacher used to say, it is a question that is short but that deserves a long and developed answer.

Do you believe that as we speak, today, on May 17, that the native communities are prepared and ready to face the repeal of section 67 of the act? In other words, are the communities addressed by Bill C-44 ready to deal with this bill today? If the answer is yes, why? And if not, why not?

I want to give you as much time as possible to answer.

May 17th, 2007 / 11:40 a.m.
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Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you very much for your interventions, both of you.

You touched on a couple of sections that I have been very worried about throughout these deliberations on Bill C-44. You talked about the duty to consult; Wendy, you also talked about negotiations on conflict management, and Larry, you talked about jointly drafting legislation. Those are very critical bases, I think, of what defines a relationship between aboriginal people and the federal government, because, as I have repeatedly said, we can no longer do things as we used to in the 1960s. I refer to that because that was the time when everybody just made decisions on our behalf without any of our input whatsoever.

I would like to think, as you do, that in 2007 that's behind us, but it's very difficult from where I sit to tolerate how Bill C-44 came about, because we're had numerous witnesses before us who really feel the same way of doing things has come back--that someone in an office in Ottawa decides what policies and legislation are good for us without our input.

I'll come back to specific questions. Negotiation on conflict management is one of the areas I'm really worried about; I'm worried that we're not going to be prepared in those aboriginal communities to deal with the way of resolving conflict. In my culture, for example, as I was mentioning to Wendy, we like to look at win-win situations. We're very uncomfortable with the current court system, which results in a winner and a loser. Because our communities are small, we can't have winner and loser situations all the time, because it divides communities. What we want to be able to see is a win-win situation and a compromise; maybe that's why we have our consensus style of governing.

What I'm worried about with this legislation is that if there isn't enough proper consultation and not enough capacity-building at the communities, we're going to be dividing communities with win-lose situations, whereas we have an opportunity to do win-win if we go about bringing this legislation the right way. Could both of you please comment on that?

May 17th, 2007 / 11:15 a.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Colin Mayes

I open this Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development of Thursday, May 17, 2007.

Committee members, you have the orders of the day before you. We're continuing our study on Bill C-44, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Appearing today, from Cornet Consulting and Mediation Inc., we have Wendy Cornet. Welcome. And from the University of Winnipeg we have Larry Chartrand, director, aboriginal governance program. Welcome.

We'll be asking the witnesses to make submissions of ten minutes, or roughly that amount of time, and then we'll move into questions.

Madame Cornet, would you like to speak first?

Canadian Heritage--Main Estimates, 2007-08Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 16th, 2007 / 9 p.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Chair, at a recent Status of Women committee meeting, Ellen Gabriel, president of the Quebec Native Women's Association said:

The value of aboriginal women in our society today has diminished to where, as Amnesty International has stated, we have become a commodity in society in general.

Aboriginal women have told members on this side that they have felt used by the Minister of Indian Affairs and that the implementation of Bill C-44 as is and as presented will create more problems for them.

Why has the minister not spoken up on behalf of the status of aboriginal women to her colleagues?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

May 16th, 2007 / 2:55 p.m.
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Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's question. We have already said that we must protect the interests of aboriginals, youth and women. However, here is the real question. Why does the Bloc Québécois refuse to support Bill C-44?

Official LanguagesOral Questions

May 16th, 2007 / 2:20 p.m.
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Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, this government certainly has nothing to learn from the Liberal Party in the area of rights.

This is the government that dealt with the issue of the Chinese head tax, which the previous government refused to do. This is the government that is trying to get matrimonial property rights for aboriginal women. This is the government that is trying to toughen up laws to protect women and children in Canada.

We have an important bill before the House, Bill C-44, to give aboriginal people, under the Canadian human rights code, equal status for the first time. The Liberal Party should stop blocking it and support it.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

May 15th, 2007 / 2:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, who is the golf player?

Aboriginal people and women feel used by the minister. Over and over again we have heard about the lack of consultation on Bill C-44, but the government has yet to apologize to the victims of residential schools.

It is a double standard. The government is willing to consult and wait five years to apologize, yet it will enact new legislation without a shred of consultation.

That father knows best approach simply does not work. Why did the government not consult with first nations before enacting this legislation?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

May 15th, 2007 / 2:50 p.m.
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Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals will have to make their decision. They will have to decide if they will go back to their tennis clubs and golf clubs for the summer or if they will get Bill C-44 back to the House, so that first nations citizens will no longer be second class citizens in Canada without the protection of a human rights code.

For 13 years the Liberals did nothing about this. It has been 30 years in this country, which is long enough. That is enough consultation. The government intends to act with or without them.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

May 15th, 2007 / 2:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Assembly of First Nations has serious concerns with the limited scope of Bill C-44.

The Ontario chiefs feel the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act is like throwing a grenade into collective rights. The Canadian Bar Association said the repeal has the potential to undermine the protection of collective rights.

We have to get it right. Why does the minister feel he knows best when it comes to aboriginal peoples, when they themselves do not agree with the government's position?

May 15th, 2007 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

As you said, Dawn, the result is not to give zero people an opportunity for consultation. There should be consultation, and however many choose to show up, they've had the opportunity. It's never 100% of anything.

You raised a very interesting point we haven't talked about yet. It's about the potential different laws in different areas. For instance, the way the government is dealing with matrimonial rights is to suggest that there'll be a national law, but when self-governing first nations make their own laws, then they can have a law in their area to fill that capacity, which would result in one law here and one law there.

Some people propose that this be the model used for human rights under Bill C-44, so that there be the national system available to people. But when a first nation decides to create its own law, as Ms. Young has suggested—defining your own laws on human rights—then each first nation would have human rights protection, but it would be defined by themselves.

My question is, and I think you raised this question, what happens if you have a number of first nations in the same area that all have different laws? Is that a problem, or is it not a problem? Or is it a minor irritant but not as important as getting it right?

May 15th, 2007 / 12:20 p.m.
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Researcher, Aboriginal Language Institute, University College of the North

Esther Sanderson

I would like to comment on that first.

At one time in our communities, we had our own membership. We were allowed to have members join our communities, and they were put on the band list. Somewhere along the line, something happened. I guess it started with the Indian Act, regarding who could be an Indian and who couldn't be. That's when the injustices began in our communities.

Given the opportunity, we could do that again with the human rights in our communities, because it was done fairly. It was done as a process as to who could be a member and why they should or shouldn't be a member. In my mind, it would be the same process. The issues will probably come out the same in terms of membership, and that's what we were talking about in Bill C-31.

I'm also someone they call a Bill C-31, and I hate the way we define ourselves in our communities, where we're numbers and initials instead of people.

That's what Bill C-31 has done to us. It was a termination clause for all of the Indian people. Those consequences were bad. I would not like to see something like that happen again with Bill C-44.

We're adamant that we want a consultation process, so that our voices can be heard in Parliament and adequately addressed.

May 15th, 2007 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

I want to come back to Bill C-31 for a minute.

One of the points that have been made is that under the current Bill C-44, in five years' time we would be able to take a look at it. Bill C-31, I think, was passed in 1985. In 1986 there was a report out by a couple of people called Clatworthy and Smith. These researchers did a bunch of projections, based on section 6.2 of Bill C-31, and demonstrated when key communities across the country would actually have no status Indians left in their community as a result of section 6.2.

I've raised a couple of times the issue of the impact of Bill C-31 and what we can do about it. What I've understood is that no action will be taken until some court cases have unfolded. Anecdotally, there are already nations in Canada where the last status person has been born.

When we're asked to trust that a five-year process on Bill C-44 would enable us to examine unintended consequences, I just see that with Bill C-31, here we are, however many years later—22 years later—not able to currently address the impacts it is having on communities.

And it's not only the impact of people's loss of status; all of you talked about resources. One of the things that happened with Bill C-31 was that there weren't adequate resources in the communities to allow women to return to the community and have access to adequate housing and adequate education.

I wonder whether you could comment on that.

May 15th, 2007 / 12:05 p.m.
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Bloc

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

Ladies, thank you for having made the effort to come here. You really have to love what you are doing to do so. You may say that I am paid very well to love it, but I do it out of love as well.

I remember having heard a prime minister say that you would be consulted in the future and that significant changes to the act would be discussed with you. I think that this is a significant change. Just as we have done with other witnesses, I would like to draw you attention -- I do not want to force or pressure you -- to the fact that we now have a minority government.

I would like this bill to be passed and to be sensitive to the situation of first nations people. I wonder if you have looked at the changes that could be made to Bill C-44, an application protocol with an interpretation clause, in order that it could go into effect gradually. Other witnesses have mentioned a notwithstanding clause. If you suggest the time necessary for the bill to come into effect, we will see if it is feasible.

I will give you the floor.

May 15th, 2007 / 11:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to each of you for appearing here today. You've certainly outlined for me some very important issues that we as a committee need to consider. While this is not considered full consultation, I would be disappointed if the government didn't at least take into consideration the people who've appeared before this committee.

You've also pointed out some of the barriers that aboriginal women face. I think the one that you mentioned, Ms. Harvard, about the double barrier of race and gender is particularly pertinent, and also the negative impact of previous legislative changes. You mentioned Bill C-31, with the second-class citizen issue. Certainly that is a very real issue that we should all be concerned about.

But I think we need to realize that in spite of all of the attempts to create a perfect bill, that probably will never happen. I think we need to remember that this bill does include a clause that mandates a review within five years, and it doesn't have to wait five years if there are unintended negative consequences that appear. I'm sure we're all eager to address those.

Both of you and other previous witnesses have also mentioned the need for more consultation on Bill C-44, and while I'm not in a position to say whether that should go on for another six months or six weeks, I do think we need to remember that this is not the first attempt to repeat section 67.

In 1992, Bill C-108 died when Parliament was prorogued; and in 1999, another attempt, by the Canadian Human Rights Commission in its report, recommending that section 67 be removed. In 2002, there was Bill C-7, another attempt; and in 2005, Bill S-45. In 2005 again, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, in its report, A Matter of Rights, strongly recommended the repeal. And then again, just most recently, in March 2006, the United Nations commission criticized Canada for our failure to repeal section 67.

In light of all those previous attempts, my question is this: have you or any of your groups taken any steps over the years to inform your people, first nations women especially, about the potential impact of not Bill C-44—admittedly, that wasn't there yet—but the potential impact of the repeal of section 67? Has there been any dialogue? I would have thought there may be some dialogue, and I'm sure there has been.

I'd like you to outline that.