Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act

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)

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

Sponsor

Chuck Strahl  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment provides a new entitlement to Indian registration in response to the decision in McIvor v. Canada (Registrar of Indian and Northern Affairs) that was issued by the Court of Appeal for British Columbia on April 6, 2009.

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.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to voice my support for Bill C-3, the gender equality and Indian registration act.

The rationale behind Bill C-3 originates in a decision rendered last year by the B.C. Court of Appeal. The decision in the case of McIvor v. Canada states that a key section of the Indian Act is contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and is, therefore, unconstitutional. The court found that two paragraphs of section 6, the section that spells out rules related to status entitlement and registration, constitute discrimination as defined by the charter. Indian status is a concept enshrined in law. Canadians with Indian status enjoy specific rights and entitlements.

As we know, the B.C. Court of Appeal suspended the effects of its ruling for one year to grant the Government of Canada time to develop and implement an appropriate and effective legislative solution. That is why the government moved promptly to develop an appropriate solution.

After engaging with aboriginal organizations to both provide information and seek input on a legislative solution, the proposed legislation was developed and introduced.

Given that the bill addresses an issue of gender discrimination and the potentially serious consequences if it does not pass and a legal vacuum results in British Columbia, I would encourage members on all sides of this House to support the passage of this bill.

The Court of Appeal acknowledged that the government has been diligent in moving forward with legislative amendments without any undue delays in the process. As a result, it responded favourably to the government's request for a short extension in the deadline for the implementation of this decision.

As the previous speaker noted, this bill would address the specific inequality identified by the court. The extension offers us, as parliamentarians, an opportunity to pass this bill before summer adjournment. We all agree that there are larger issues that need to be discussed, which is why, when the bill was introduced, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development also introduced the establishment of a joint process to be developed in conjunction with various national aboriginal organizations and the participation of first nation groups and individuals across the country on the broader issues related to the question of registration, membership, important treaty realities and cultural perspectives.

However, that is a separate process that should not distract us from the need to pass this bill to address the specific cause of gender discrimination identified by the Court of Appeal.

We all know that discrimination is one of the obstacles that prevent many aboriginal peoples from participating fully in the prosperity of this nation. By removing this particular obstacle, first nations would have more opportunity to contribute socially, economically and culturally to this nation.

Bill C-3 would also complement actions and initiatives taken by the Government of Canada in recent years to improve the quality of life for first nations, including actions addressing the quality of drinking water in first nation communities, the backlog of unresolved specific claims and the modernization of on-reserve child and family services and education systems, to name but a few.

In each case, the Government of Canada worked in partnership with aboriginal groups to design and implement an effective strategy. This growing partnership is tremendously valuable. It inspires the mutual trust needed to make progress on additional issues. The engagement process used to develop Bill C-3, including the series of meetings staged by national aboriginal organizations and attended by hundreds of people, furthered this collaborative spirit. The engagement process also identified the need to explore broader issues of status membership as citizenship beyond the scope of Bill C-3.

The Government of Canada believes that this broader process must include opportunities for individuals, leaders and organizations to express their views and ideas. Given the deadline imposed by the Court of Appeal for British Columbia, however, the endorsement of Bill C-3 must proceed on its own merit. At the same time, discussions have already begun with the Assembly of First Nations, the Native Women's Association of Canada, the National Association of Friendship Centres, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and the Métis National Council about how the exploratory process would unfold.

All organizations, along with the Government of Canada, are willing to collaborate on a process designed to gather the views of individuals, communities and leaders on issues related to band membership, Indian registration and citizenship.

Recognizing the complex and sensitive nature of these concepts, the Government of Canada has made no assumptions about the range of activities that will be included in the exploratory process. Initial discussions indicate that the process would likely benefit from a wide variety of information gathering activities and technologies.

To encourage aboriginals to share their views, for instance, the process might feature digital communication technologies. As discussions about the exploratory process continue, it is vital that Canada respond effectively to the ruling of the Court of Appeal for British Columbia. Bill C-3 offers an appropriate response. The proposed legislation along with the exploratory process, strengthened the relationship between Canada and aboriginal peoples.

For all those reasons, Bill C-3 fully deserves the support of all members of the House and I encourage all members to join together with me in endorsing Bill C-3.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 1:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's comments this afternoon on Bill C-3.

I would like to turn our attention to the potential consequences if the House does not pass the bill. We heard earlier today that there would be dire consequences. We not only have potentially 45,000 persons who would be eligible to gain registration under the Indian Act, but, if we do not hit that July 5 deadline, we have a problem in the province of British Columbia where it is registering anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 new status Indians each and every year. I wonder if the member might comment on the difficulties that would pose, particularly in terms of upholding the important nature of status and citizenship, not only for the individuals but for the communities as a whole.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, if there is a legislative vacuum in British Columbia because of delays in passing the bill, there will be very severe consequences to a lot of people. Without legislation in place by July 5 to address the court's ruling, it will mean that no one living in the province of British Columbia or anyone affiliated with a first nation in that province could be registered as a status Indian. Based on our analysis over the last few years, there have been between 2,500 and 3,000 people newly registered per year in British Columbia.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to ask the member about the important balance we are trying to strike here. The government acknowledges that there are broader issues. We have heard from members on both sides of the House that this is an ongoing discussion that needs to take place. However, there is a pressing and substantial deadline that we need to deal with, not just with respect to the court's decision but also with respect to the benefactors of this ruling.

I am wondering if the member could comment on the importance of moving forward with Bill C-3 as a first step and at the same time an exploratory process put in place to deal with these broader issues.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, my colleague's question impacts on the broader issues around the first nations community. Through the exploratory process, the government, in co-operation with first nations and other aboriginal organizations, plans to explore the broader concerns that were brought forward during the engagement process on the McIvor decision last fall.

These broader issues are complex with a diversity of views among first nations and other aboriginal groups. In fact, at committee we heard first nations leaders speak to three key issues that the exploratory process would be quite useful in addressing, namely, the status, membership and citizenship issues.

As I have said, it is very important to pass this legislation now because if this legislation is not passed there is a huge vacuum out there that needs to be filled.

Earlier, the minister pointed out that it was important that the collaboration and exploration be done with the first nations people. That is where the ideas come from.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 1:40 p.m.
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Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Official Languages

Madam Speaker, as the only elected Métis woman in the House of Commons, I am very proud to say today that I fully support Bill C-3, the gender equity in Indian registration act. I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak at report stage of this proposed legislation.

To appreciate the logic behind Bill C-3, one must first understand the problem it will fix.

Last year, the Court of Appeal for British Colombia issued a decision in McIvor v. Canada. The ruling required the Government of Canada to amend certain registration provisions of the Indian Act that it identified as unconstitutional, as they violated the equality provision of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The court suspended the effect of its declaration until April 6, 2010, and has since extended that deadline to July 5. If no solution is in place at that time, paragraphs 6(1)(a) and 6(1)(c) of the Indian Act, dealing with entitlement to registration, will, for all intents and purposes, cease to exist in the province of British Columbia. This legislative gap would prevent the registration of individuals associated with British Columbia bands.

Bill C-3 would amend the Indian Act to eliminate the language that gives rise to the gender discrimination identified in section 6. Let me explain how the proposed amendments would affect the rules that determine entitlement to Indian status here in Canada.

Essentially, Sharon McIvor, the plaintiff in the original case, alleged that the 1985 amendments to the registration provisions of the Indian Act, still known today as Bill C-31, constitute gender discrimination as defined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Ms. McIvor, an Indian woman, married and had a son with a non-Indian man. Her son went on to marry and have children with a non-Indian woman. Under the Indian Act, however, those children, Ms. McIvor's grandchildren, are not eligible to become status Indians.

Part of the problem stems from a series of amendments to the Indian Act that were introduced in Bill C-31 and enacted back in 1985. These amendments tried to end the discrimination experienced by specific groups. In its decision, the Court of Appeal for British Columbia stated that Bill C-31 “represents a bona fide attempt to eliminate discrimination on the basis of sex”.

However, the approach adopted in Bill C-31 inadvertently introduced a new level of complexity. Allow me to cite two specific examples.

The first involves something known as the double mother rule under the pre-1985 legislation. The rule applied to the legitimate children of an Indian man and non-Indian woman. If the male son of that union married a non-Indian woman, their children lost status at age 21.

The second example involves the case of an Indian woman who marries a non-Indian man. Prior to 1985, the woman lost her status, and the children of that marriage could not register at all.

Bill C-31 addressed these situations in two ways. Subsection 6(1) enabled Indian women who lost status through marriage to regain it, while subsection 6(2) enabled the children of these women to register.

While this approach eliminated gender-based discrimination in the first generation, it created issues for people in subsequent generations. At least part of the reason for this is that the amendments stipulated that if someone who was registered under subsection 6(2) was a parent with a non-Indian spouse, their children would not be eligible for registration.

To appreciate how this approach leads to gender-based discrimination, we must return to the decision of the Court of Appeal for British Columbia in comparing the situation of Sharon McIvor to that of her brother. The brother's children would maintain Indian status under subsection 6(1) of the amended Indian Act. However, Ms. McIvor's son acquired status under subsection 6(2), and when Ms. McIvor's son became a parent with a non-Indian woman, their children were not entitled to registration. This shows that the consequences of two successive generations involving marriage to a non-Indian differ, in that one started from a male line and another from a female line.

The Court of Appeal for British Columbia took issue with the fact that Bill C-31, in eliminating the double mother rule, granted lifetime status to the grandchildren of two successive generations of mixed marriage in the male line, but did not grant the same entitlement in the female line.

The legislation now before us proposes to change the provision used to confer Indian status on the children of women such as Ms. McIvor's. Instead of through subsection 6(2), these children would acquire status through subsection 6(1). This would eliminate the gender-based discrimination identified by the court, and I cannot imagine why anyone would not want to see this pass.

It is also important to recognize that Bill C-3 makes no attempt to address other issues related to registration as an Indian. The bill offers a solution to the issues identified by the Court of Appeal for British Columbia, and does so in a narrow fashion to respect the deadline established by the court. All of us in this House can appreciate the need to act quickly to respond to the court's ruling and to provide new entitlement to registration in a timely manner.

I am convinced this is a wise approach. As parliamentarians, we face a tight deadline, as the court directed us to act prior to July 5, 2010.

Bill C-3 represents a progressive step by a country committed to the ideals of justice and equality. I strongly encourage my hon. colleagues to support it, and I want to mention, as a woman who has seen this time and time again, that it is high time that we provide aboriginal women with the same rights as male aboriginals in today's society. This is long overdue. It is the right thing to do. I cannot understand why other members of the House do not understand how right this is to complete, and why they are continually objecting to our making right, once and for all, what was so wrong.

I implore members of the House to vote for the bill. It is the right thing to do, not only for aboriginal people, but also for aboriginal women in particular, who, for far too long, have suffered and not been given the same rights as their male counterparts.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 1:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I would have liked my colleague to have heard all the debate and also attended the meetings of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. However, I know that she is very busy.

I will tell her why we will vote against Bill C-3. Not only does it fail to end discrimination but it will maintain systemic discrimination—systemic, meaning part of the system—and ensure that 100,000 aboriginal people, for the most part women, will not be entitled to Indian status. That is the problem: they are women, and because they are women this is not a serious matter, and registering them is not a requirement. That is what we are fighting for. What is fairly surprising is that even Ms. McIvor, who began this debate, is telling us to not vote for this bill because it will not solve the problem.

I would like to know why the member's government, which had the opportunity to end this discrimination, which had the chance to abolish this discrimination, did not do so when it introduced Bill C-3?

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 1:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member from the opposition for his question. One thing bothers me. I have a lot of concerns when I hear these questions coming from a Bloc member. The Bloc does not have any aboriginal women in its caucus. What is more, it talks about women and children and protecting Canadian and Quebec women and children, but it was the Bloc members who voted against our very important bill on the trafficking of our women and children. Most of those women and children are aboriginal and the Bloc members vote against protecting our children, our young people and our aboriginal women. It is rich to hear such questions. It is not—

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 1:50 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I have two questions for the hon. member. First, I have heard from some first nations that they are very concerned that the government is referencing the consultations that are required with them under the Constitution as “exploratory” talks and as being with 100 or so people and organizations, when in fact the constitutional obligations are to consult with all first nations peoples and their governments.

My second question for the hon. member is this. We have heard in the House today that all of the first nations women's organizations who intervened opposed the bill, and yet the hon. member is asking how we could possibly oppose a bill that is coming forward on which first nations peoples have been consulted. I guess the obvious question that arises is why is the government not listening to what the first nations women are saying, since the bill affects only them?

Finally, first nations governments are obviously going to incur major costs from this. They cannot provide housing as it is to their members. How are they going to meet these needs unless we budget—

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 1:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate what the hon. member said about people appearing at committee, but what we have to remember is that the engagement sessions or consultation process that has taken place by INAC officials and members of Parliament and others is not confined only to this place. I have consulted with aboriginal women in my own community, who may not be witnesses in committee but who do in fact have an opinion. Their opinion is in support of the Conservative government's bill. They want to see this changed as quickly as possible.

I side with them today in making sure that happens for their children.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 1:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, it is my honour today to stand up for Bill C-3.

I first want to thank the chair of the committee for getting the bill to us. I know there was a difficult time in committee. The chair, the member for Simcoe North, did an excellent job. I know the committee brought many amendments forward that the chair overruled, and the committee members then overruled him. However, fortunately the chair overruled them. So the chair was right, and I appreciate the hard work that the chair is doing on the committee.

I have been here all morning. I am not fortunate enough to be on the committee, but I heard a number of questions and I would like to take the time left to answer them.

I was here studying the main estimates for my own committee meeting this afternoons at the Standing Committee on Finance. I am looking forward to talking with the witnesses from the finance department and CRA on their estimates. The question is why is Bill C-3 not financed in the main estimates?

For those in the House who should know, the staff began to work on the main estimates back in the fall of 2009. They go through a number of processes before they get to the main book that we have now.

The fact is that it is very premature to have the proposed law before us in the main estimates. I would expect that when the bill passes, there will be some financial implications. These are dealt with in either the supplementary estimates (A), (B) or (C). That is why we have supplementary estimates in this place, so that when things change, when the government makes a decision, when this Parliament makes a decision, they are able to add those costs through the supplementary estimates process.

That is why each and every one of us should pay attention to the supplementary estimates. Then we will know where we are spending taxpayers' money. In this case, I think this is an excellent project for us to be spending money on in the upcoming estimates.

Another question that needs to be asked is, if there is legislative vacuum in British Columbia because of delays in passing the bill, what will be the consequences and how may individuals will be affected? That is a good question, and I am not sure how many on the opposition benches asked this question. However, the answer is that we need this bill passed by July 5 to address the court's ruling. Without it, no one living in the province of British Columbia or anyone affiliated with first nations in that province would be a registered status Indian. Based on our analysis over the last few years, there will be 2,500 to 3,000 people newly registered status Indians per year in British Columbia.

Therefore, it would be silly for us not to move ahead and meet the court's deadline, because of the change required by the court's ruling in British Columbia.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

March 29th, 2010 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP 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 ActGovernment Orders

March 29th, 2010 / 4:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc 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 ActGovernment Orders

March 29th, 2010 / 4:10 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP 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 ActGovernment Orders

March 29th, 2010 / 4:10 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP 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.