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.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2010 / 3:35 p.m.
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Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I want to take a moment to express my support for Bill C-3, which we call the gender equity in Indian registration act. The legislation now before us represents an effective response to a ruling of the Court of Appeal for British Columbia. The court ruled that certain registration sections of the Indian Act are discriminatory under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Rather than declare these provisions of the Indian Act to be immediately null and void, the court temporarily suspended the effect of its decision to allow Parliament to amend them. Should Parliament fail to amend these sections of the Indian Act before the suspension expires, which is now set to happen in January 2011, the court's ruling would take full effect. This would mean individuals residing in British Columbia or affiliated with B.C. bands could not be registered. As parliamentarians, we can play a central role in preventing this from occurring.

As I said, rather than declare these provisions of the Indian Act to be immediately null and void, the court temporarily suspended the effect of its decision to allow for Parliament to amend them. Should Parliament fail to amend these sections of the Indian Act before the suspension expires, which is now set to happen in January 2011, the court's ruling would take full effect. This would mean that individuals residing in British Columbia or affiliated with B.C. bands could not be registered. As parliamentarians, we can play a central role in preventing this from occurring.

To fully appreciate the advantages of Bill C-3, one must have at least a basic grasp of previous revisions of the Indian Act. I would like to take just a few minutes to remind my hon. colleagues of this historical context.

As my hon. colleagues recognize, the Indian Act provides the main framework for the relationship between registered Indians and Canada. Now more than 130 years old, the Indian Act has been amended many times. The heart of the ruling by the Court of Appeal for British Columbia touches on a series of amendments dating from the mid-1980s. The inspiration for these amendments was the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, along with a commitment by the Government of Canada to eliminate discriminatory aspects of federal legislation.

To accomplish this goal, the government of the day launched a comprehensive effort to amend the Indian Act. The discriminatory nature of the Indian Act was never in doubt. At the time, the legislation stipulated that a woman with Indian status would automatically lose her status if she married a man without status. A man with status, however, would retain status regardless of whom he married.

After considerable research, analysis, engagement, discussion and debate, Parliament endorsed a series of amendments in 1985, popularly known as Bill C-31. In its ruling, the Court of Appeal for British Columbia focused on the 1985 amendments and their effects on issues of status, entitlement and registration.

At issue are subsections 6(1) and 6(2) of the Indian Act. Subsection 6(1) includes a provision whereby Indian women who lost their status through marriage before 1985 can regain it, while the children of these women became entitled to first-time registration under subsection 6(2).

The new subsections significantly improved the Indian Act, and Bill C-31 soon became law.

At issue are subsections 6(1) and 6(2) of the Indian Act. The former includes a provision for Indian women who lost status through marriage before 1985 to regain it, while the children of these women became entitled to first-time registration in accordance with subsection 6(2).

The new subsections significantly improved the Indian Act and Bill C-31 soon became law. Although the amended Indian Act eliminated gender discrimination for the future, it did not solve the lingering effects of certain past gender discrimination. The descendants of an Indian brother and sister who had each married non-Indian spouses were still treated differently. Even though an Indian woman who had married a non-Indian could regain her status after 1985, her children would be eligible for registration under subsection 6(2), not under subsection 6(1), while their cousins, the children of an Indian man who had married an non-Indian woman before 1985, would be eligible for registration under subsection 6(1).

This also affects subsequent generations, because someone with subsection 6(2) status must parent with another person with Indian status in order to have a child who will be eligible for registration.

If a child has a parent with subsection 6(2) status and the other parent does not have status, the child will not be eligible for registration. So the grandchildren of women who regain status through subsection 6(1) would not be eligible for registration unless both their parents were registered Indians.

In contrast to this, the grandchildren of the Indian man and his non-Indian wife would be eligible for Indian registration even if they did not have two status Indian parents.

The Court of Appeal for British Columbia acknowledged that the 1985 legislation was a bona fide attempt to eliminate discrimination on the basis of sex. At the same time it concluded that there was unequal treatment that needed to be rectified by Parliament through amendments to the Indian Act.

Rather than immediately striking down the offending sections of the Indian Act, the court called on the Government of Canada to implement a solution within a specified period, which has been extended to January 2011.

As soon as the Court rendered a decision in the McIvor case, the Government of Canada took action to identify and implement an effective solution, which became Bill C-3. The legislation now before us is the product of comprehensive study and engagement with first nations and other aboriginal groups.

Led by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, the process began with the publication of a discussion paper outlining the issue and describing potential amendments to the Indian Act. The next step of the process involved a series of 12 engagement sessions staged across Canada. Three national aboriginal organizations, being the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the Native Women's Association of Canada and the National Association of Friendship Centres, also co-sponsored one session each. A total of approximately 900 people participated in the sessions and INAC officials received more than 150 written submissions.

Based on the views expressed, federal legislation was drafted and introduced as Bill C-3 in March of this year. The House referred Bill C-3 to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development for further study. The committee amended the bill, including a very broad amendment that significantly altered the bill and a corresponding amendment to the short title. Both of these amendments were subsequently struck from the bill as a result of a ruling that they were outside the scope of the bill.

The committee also removed one of the clauses of the bill and added a provision requiring the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to review and report on the impacts of Bill C-3 within two years following passage of the bill.

I was pleased to see that clause 9 was restored at report stage. Clause 9 is an important provision that protects not only the Crown, but also first nations from claims for compensation based on previous decisions regarding registration that were made in good faith.

Another government amendment at report stage made technical changes to clarify language in the provision requiring a report to Parliament.

With these changes, Bill C-3 fully deserves the support of the House.

We must do our utmost to ensure that the laws of Canada are charter compliant. This was reinforced by the Court of Appeal for British Columbia when granting an extension to provide more time for this important legislation to be passed by Parliament. The court stated:

We would also observe that while efforts of Members of Parliament to improve provisions of the Indian Act not touched by our decision are laudable, those efforts should not be allowed to unduly delay the passage of legislation that deals with the specific issues that this Court has identified as violating the Charter.

As individuals elected to represent Canadians and to uphold the law, it is our duty to act in the interest of justice. Concerns for equality and justice lie at the core of Bill C-3. In a tangible sense, a vote for the proposed legislation is also an expression of support for the notion that all Canadians are equal before the law.

The McIvor decision, along with the engagement sessions held last year, has touched off a healthy debate in this country about the Indian Act and a host of topics related to Indian identity. While this debate illustrates that our democracy is alive and well, this is a broader discussion about registration, membership and citizenship. That is why an exploratory process will be launched to explore outstanding issues not addressed in Bill C-3 once the bill is passed.

The legislation now before us aims to address a specific problem identified by the Court of Appeal for British Columbia. Rather than discuss how well Bill C-3 would resolve this problem, however, many commentators have chosen to propose ways to overhaul the Indian registration regime or to replace the Indian Act in its entirety. The free exchange of ideas is always welcome, of course, but I encourage members of the House to focus on the specific merits of Bill C-3 as they respond directly to the court's decision.

The Government of Canada recognizes that opportunities exist to develop solutions to ongoing problems related to status, registration and citizenship. However, progress on these complex issues cannot be achieved in isolation or overnight without first passing Bill C-3.

As my hon. colleague no doubt recall, when Bill C-3 was introduced in this House, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development announced that an exploratory process would be launched to explore broader issues related to the Indian Act.

The process will feature close collaboration with national aboriginal organizations and various first nations groups. In fact, the government has already invited proposals from 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 on the exploratory process.

Given the number of groups involved and the complex nature of topics, such as band membership, Indian registration and concepts of citizenship, a thorough discussion and analysis of these issues will take time. Given the importance of these topics, the process must not be rushed.

In the meantime, the court's January deadline draws steadily closer. The exploration of the broader issues of registration, membership and citizenship is important, however, this must not come at the expense of passing legislation that will eliminate the specific cause of gender discrimination as identified by the court of appeal for British Columbia.

Bill C-3 focuses solely on this purpose. From the outset, the goal has been to respond effectively to the court's ruling prior to the deadline. While this objective remains of primary importance, the proposed legislation would also have a number of other positive impacts.

As the members of this House are aware, discrimination is one of the barriers that prevents many first nations peoples from participating fully in Canada's prosperity. And Canada will never achieve its full potential until all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike, can contribute to this country's social, cultural and economic fabric. The only way to eliminate the barrier of discrimination is to systematically address underlying causes, for example, by amending the sections of the Indian Act specifically identified by the Court of Appeal for British Columbia.

As the members of the House recognize, discrimination is one of the barriers that prevents many first nations peoples from participating fully in Canada's prosperity. Canada will never realize its full potential until all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike, can contribute to the social, cultural and economic fabric of our country. The only way to eliminate the barrier of discrimination is to systematically address underlying causes, such as by amending the sections of the Indian Act specifically identified by the Court of Appeal for British Columbia.

Support for Bill C-3 would also strengthen the relationship between Canada and first nations peoples. In recent years the Government of Canada has worked alongside national aboriginal organizations and first nations groups to address a long list of issues, such as drinking water, education and child and family services, among others.

This collaborative, open and honest approach has fostered mutual respect and trust. It has also fostered significant progress on each one of these issues.

Bill C-3 offers an opportunity to further this momentum. Support for Bill C-3 sends a simple, explicit message: Canada will not tolerate unjust discrimination against first nations peoples.

More than 20 years ago our country enacted a landmark piece of legislation that speaks volumes about Canadian values. The Canadian of Rights and Freedoms has since become a cornerstone of our democracy, a practical instrument that protects even the most vulnerable of our citizens.

As the court has reminded us, Bill C-3 deals with the specific issues that violate the Charter, according to the court. That is why I encourage all of my hon. colleagues to join me in supporting Bill C-3.

As the court has reminded us, Bill C-3 deals with the specific issues that it has identified as violating the charter. On that basis, I encourage all of my hon. colleagues to join me in supporting Bill C-3.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2010 / 3:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary's very good speech has outlined two things that the bill represents. First, it is targeted. Second, its essence is to achieve to fairness.

One of the things we have been hearing about in the press lately, and there was some discussion of it in the New Brunswick press last week, is the registration, the process and what could result in further registrants to each first nations community.

Could the parliamentary secretary expand on that a little? First, what does she believe the impact could be on the first nations communities in terms of added registrants? Second, what process will the government use to deal with the added registrants and the potential cost impacts?

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2010 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I know my colleague works very hard in his community. We have had a number of discussions about issues relative to aboriginal peoples. I look forward to working with him more to solve some of the problems that we see in each of our communities.

The question he has asked is how this will affect the number of registered Indians in our country. INAC chose to engage the services of Stewart Clatworthy, who is considered one of Canada's leading experts in aboriginal demography. He undertook a study to look at what numbers might be produced as a result of the changes brought about by McIvor. It is estimated that at this point, there may be up to 45,000 people who will become registered Indians, following any passage of Bill C-3 to address the McIvor issue.

How will we address costs relative to an additional 45,000 registered Indians? The minister and the government have compiled an internal financial impact working group to study this issue, to ensure that we are prepared for any cost consequences, so we get this right in the end. It has been working already at resolving the cost that may be anticipated by the addition of 45,000 new status Indians. We will wait for the group's work to be completed and come up with a number when that is done.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2010 / 3:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-3.

I first want to congratulate Sharon McIvor who fought for 25 years. It is unimaginable to us that she would fight for 25 years for justice and equality, but that has been her struggle. Her case was launched in the late 1980s. Before her, we had women like Mary Two Axe Early, Ms. Sandra Lovelace and Ms. Corbiere-Lavell, all who fought these battles for equality and justice for aboriginal women.

It is unseemly that it takes a generation sometimes to address an issue of inequality, something that could be so glaring that we all can recognize it. However, our system did not allow that to happen.

I said this in my opening speech when we talked about Bill C-3. I really do not care what government was in place at the time. There is something wrong with the system when it takes 25 years to achieve some type of equality or equity for individuals, and in this case many individuals.

Sharon McIvor court case was won at the B.C. Supreme Court. It was at that time a very broad decision that affected many areas of the Indian Act in terms of giving rise to residual discrimination, sex discrimination, gender discrimination.

The Government of Canada appealed that decision to the B.C. Court of Appeal. The B.C. Court of Appeal ruled much more narrowly on the facts and only affected certain sections of the Indian Act.

When the decision came out, the government tried in some way, shape or form to engage first nations people through something called an engagement process. It did not call it a consultation process because a consultation process gave rise to various legal parameters or certain expectations. It called them exploratory processes on something as fundamental as discrimination, as equality. The government did not engage in a consultation process, but rather in an exploratory process.

When the bill came out, it was a disappointment for many aboriginal women in our country and for many aboriginal groups that testified at committee. They said that the government had an opportunity to end sex discrimination under the Indian Act once and for all, but it did not do it. Instead Bill C-3 is very narrowly scoped and only speaks to what the court ordered the government to do.

The court ordered the government to deal with two particular clauses and that is all the government responded to, not saying that the government did not have it in its power or did not have the authority to scope the bill in such a way to end sex discrimination once and for all.

Some of those who testified at committee said that in fact it gave rise to other issues of inequality, where a woman for example would have to discuss the paternity of her child, whereas the same would not take place for a male.

Even though the bill narrowly speaks to the B.C. Court of Appeal decision, there are concerns with Bill C-3. Are they that substantive? Perhaps we should let Sharon McIvor speak, the lady who fought this for 25 years. She does not like Bill C-3. She does not feel the bill responds to the questions that she put to the court as a complainant. She now has taken her fight, where? To the United Nations. She is launching a complaint against Canada, saying that Canada has not responded adequately to the issues that were raised in the court case and Canada has not responded adequately with Bill C-3 in terms of ending gender discrimination once and for all.

When it comes to the person who fought for 25 years, we must be sensitive to her opinion and give some credence to the fact that she is not happy with the government's approach to Bill C-3.

Some will ask if the title of the bill accurately reflects the intent of the bill, which is to provide equity. Many would argue that it tries to achieve that objective, but it would be wrong for the House to think the legislation would resolve all of the issues of inequity based on sex. Now we are at a crossroads.

We get up here at third reading debate and we hash it out, me for 15 or 20 minutes, the parliamentary secretary for 15 or 20 minutes, and somebody else in the other party for 10 or 15 minutes as if we are going to accomplish anything. We are faced with the decision now of whether we should support this bill as it is.

It is not the best bill in the world. We know that. We know that it was not arrived at properly by the government. We know that there are many dissenting voices out there. There are those, too, who believe the piecemeal approach is not the proper way to go forward.

Jennifer Lynch, the chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, said:

The Committee has already heard that the Indian Act has had discriminatory effects, including residual gender-based discrimination.

A case-by-case, section-by-section approach to resolving discriminatory provisions of the Indian Act will be costly, confrontational and time-consuming.

Moreover, the Act places the burden on complainants who do not necessarily have access to legal resources.

The approach by the government is not what one would prefer. It is narrow, not broad, and it does not end all gender discrimination under the Indian Act.

The government says that it does speak to and has spurred debate around other fundamental issues that the bill does not specifically raise. I tend to agree that in some regard the bill does not raise these issues, but they are there in the public purview. They are a matter of debate. Those issues of jurisdiction, of citizenship, and of who determines membership must be talked about. They must be acted upon.

As one of what some people call the “enlightened” countries in the world, we have one of the staunchest pieces of colonial architecture still in place, and it is called the Indian Act. A law in this place, in this House, determines if one is an Indian or not. Issues of culture, descendancy, self-identification, and self-governance do not determine it. We in this House actually determine who is a status Indian, the identity of a person. It could not be more outdated. We know that fundamental change has to come.

The government asks how we will deal with this fundamental change. Again, it is not going to be a consultation. It is going to be an “exploratory process”, as I heard the parliamentary secretary say. We should be thoughtful. We should not rush it.

God forbid we would rush it when this discrimination has existed for generations and it takes a single individual a generation to resolve even some aspects of it. I know we cannot rush it, but we have to give it some prominence. We have to be able to say that the government is sincere in terms of its approach.

Consider what “exploratory” says to a citizen out there, to a first nations person who is just looking at what some of the issues might be. I am sure our relationship with first nations and aboriginal people in this country has given rise to enough issues that we do not have to basically explore them anymore. We have to sit at the table and do something about them.

That is what the apology was supposed to be about in 2008. It was supposed to be about a renewed relationship, a post-apology approach to aboriginal issues in this country that we should try to resolve.

We do not see much of a difference in the government's approach. It is the same old business as usual. Deal with what the courts told us to deal with and only that. Other substantive issues that require change that will affect the well-being of first nations people for generations to come we will talk out in something called an exploratory process.

To me, the government has the ability to go beyond that, to truly engage, to truly consult. I respectfully would ask the government to engage aboriginal people in a substantive way. To me, this exploratory process seems to be just something we put out there so that we could get the support of first nations, or to at least get Bill C-3 through the House.

The minister in public says that we will not touch this exploratory process until Bill C-3 passes in the House.

We could be doing a lot of work prior to this bill actually receiving assent in the House, then in the Senate, and being signed off by the Governor General.

We also need to raise issues around implementation. That was touched on by the hon. member opposite. We asked if the department was ready. We asked if the register of Indians was ready. The government really did not answer those questions satisfactorily.

We asked other questions. Do we have an expedited process for these people who have been waiting so long for registration? Do we have an expedited process to make sure they are not bogged down in bureaucracy for years and years, having faced this gender and sex discrimination for these decades and generations? The government cannot tell us if in fact it has an expedited process, or a way to approach this, that will be acceptable to people.

I am sure many in the House who have first nations in their ridings get letters all the time from people complaining about the process. I received an email from one person who has been dealing with the register of Indians for 20 years about getting status. It is unacceptable.

While the government is touting equality in the House under Bill C-3, it must also put that into practice when it comes to implementation. The onus is going to be on individuals to apply, to provide some very detailed and personal information. It is only incumbent upon the government to make sure there is a process that people feel is fair and they have some confidence in.

We also want to talk about what the impacts are. Mr. Clatworthy, a noted demographer, said that approximately 45,000 may be eligible for registration. That is not to say that they are all going to register on one day or indeed get it in one day, one week, one year, or even two years.

The government said some months ago that it did not have figures. It could not tell us how much it was going to cost. It could not say how much of an impact it was going to have on a band, or a council, or a first nations government. It could not say how much it was going to cost. It could not say how many people would actually pick up for non-insured health benefits or post-secondary education as two programs they would be eligible for without a shadow of a doubt.

The government has not thought out the implementation of it, and I do not believe it has thought out the impacts of it. That, to me, speaks to an issue of sincerity. It does not do just do what it is forced to do. It goes beyond that and makes sure that once something comes into law, it has the means and resources to effectively deal with it.

Otherwise, what will it be like for a first nations woman or her children who can now get status when she finds out that she will be bogged down in bureaucratic red tape at the registration office, or for the new member of a band that does not have the resources to deal with those programs and benefits that the new member should receive as a registered Indian? That will not speak very highly of the government, which touts one thing in the House but does something different outside of it.

At the end of the day, there is a process in the House that I am not necessarily totally comfortable with, but we are part of it. We cannot change the bill. We have to live with what we have. It is not great, but we have to live with what we have.

We will be forced to vote on this particular bill. We may be grimacing or not quite happy doing so, but we may have to support it. That is what we are caught in so many times in the House.

With all sincerity, I believe the government sometimes designs things in this manner. To me, it does not speak well of a government when it designs things in a manner that puts parliamentarians in a very difficult position.

We tried to make amendments to the bill. We did everything in our power to amend the bill, first as a committee when it was referred to committee, and then as parliamentarians. We tried to make it more palatable to all of us here in the House, to make it more palatable to people like Sharon McIvor and other women and other families out there who want to end sex discrimination once and for all. The government shut us down and would not allow us to do it.

The procedure in the House is that we have to have consent many times in order for amendments to be made to a specific piece of legislation. When we brought those amendments forward, the government fought against them and said it did not want to broaden the scope of the bill. It only wanted to deal with what it was told to deal with by the B.C. Court of Appeal. That approach speaks volumes about a government that talks about equity but does something different.

In closing, I want to again thank the women and their families who have given so much of themselves and their lives to fight for equality in this country. Hopefully in the future we as a Parliament can be more open and more respectful to them and their needs in their fight for justice and equality.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2010 / 4:10 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for so clearly outlining the challenges and struggles that many parliamentarians felt in dealing with Bill C-3, which we commonly call the McIvor bill.

The member raised the issue around the resources for implementation. A cost drivers report from 2006 talks about some of the challenges around processing information.

The report says the following:

Cost Drivers for Effective Service Standards

The Entitlement Unit currently has a backlog of 7,300 Applicants, which is approximately a 2 year waiting time....It will be necessary to have 14 Officers working on Entitlement applications for the next five years to completely eliminate the backlog and bring the turnaround time to approximately three months, which is comparable to other services.

There are more numbers like this in this cost drivers report. It talks about the fact that the processing time for applications is simply unacceptable. In some cases, people are waiting up to 10 years if they disagree with the decision as to their entitlement status.

I wonder if the member could comment more fully on how critical it is to see up front the kinds of resources that will be put in place to ensure timely processing for people who are applying for newly reinstated Indian status.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2010 / 4:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan for bringing that fact to light in the House. It is a reality that exists. If the government has not taken proactive measures to deal with the dire situation that exists at the registration office, it will only get worse as we move forward.

It is one thing to say that we have justice in principle if the bill goes through, but we also have to have justice in practice. What is the use for a person who potentially could become re-registered under the bill if the person has to wait two, three, four, or however many years in order to put that into practice?

I would again take this opportunity to call upon the government to be transparent and accountable and to ask what plans it has in place, what concrete steps it has taken, to address what could be a rise, and maybe quite a dramatic rise in the short term, in terms of new registration.

It is a question that is welcomed, but I will say that the answer has to come from the government. Right now we see no evidence that the government has put any concrete measures in place to deal with potential new registrants.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2010 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to speak to Bill C-3, the short title of which is gender equity in Indian registration act.

As others in the House have pointed out, it would have been wonderful if this had been a gender equity in Indian registration act, but instead it is a narrowly focused piece of legislation coming as a result of a court decision in my own province of British Columbia.

I will give the House a bit of history on this.

Sharon McIvor filed a complaint about gender discrimination. The initial court decision was appealed and in the appeal court the scope of the original decision was significantly narrowed. As a result of missing some deadlines, the government had to apply to the Court of Appeal for an extension. The court imposed a new timeline and said:

Parliament, of course, is the master of its own procedure, and we do not in any way wish to interfere with its processes. The Court recognizes that there are many issues that must be dealt with in Parliament. We would remind the Attorney General, however, that a final determination by the courts that provisions of the Indian Act violate constitutional rights is a serious matter that must be dealt with expeditiously. We would also observe that while efforts of Members of Parliament to improve provisions of the Indian Act not touched by our decision are laudable, those efforts should not be allowed to unduly delay the passage of legislation that deals with the specific issues that this Court has identified as violating the Charter.

That succinctly summarizes our dilemma here. What we have before us is legislation that does not deal with all of the gender inequities in the current Indian Act.

We heard from many witnesses at committee who talked about the ongoing discrimination that exists today. A number of suggestions were made to the government about how it might handle this and how it might broaden the scope of the legislation but it refused. It just focused narrowly on the court decision.

What we are left with are mostly women, on a case by case basis, having to take their gender discrimination issues to court for a ruling, which is a lengthy and expensive process, only to have the government subsequently amend another piece of the Indian Act.

All of us in the House are aware of the ongoing gender discrimination. However, in this particular situation, we are being forced to decide whether we disadvantage 45,000 people who could regain status under this narrow piece of legislation, or we tell them they need to wait for possibly a few more decades. Faced with this tough decision, a number of us will hold our noses and support the legislation knowing that it does not deal with all of the discrimination that still exists.

I want to read on a couple of letters that I received that indicate some of the dilemmas we are faced with.

The Quebec Native Women's Association wrote a letter on July 14, 2010, saying that it “would like to reiterate its support for the adoption of Bill C-3 considering that according to estimates by INAC there will be approximately 45,000 individuals that will gain Indian status with the passing of this bill. QNW believes that Bill C-3 should be adopted as soon as possible in order to limit the consequences of discrimination experienced for too long by those who are affected by this bill. However, it is important to note that QNW remains dissatisfied with the bill in its current form and asks the federal government for guarantees that once the bill is adopted, the concerns and recommendations expressed by aboriginal organizations and their communities on Bill C-3 will be properly addressed. QNW recommends the creation of a special committee with a mandate to find solutions and tackle the outstanding issues relating to registration, membership, citizenship and other discriminatory practices in the Indian Act that go beyond the specific measures of the McIvor decision”.

That aptly outlines what the next step should be.

It is great to have an exploratory process, or whatever the government of the day is calling it, but we need to have a full and open partnership and consultation that deals with these issues of citizenship.

In another letter I received on June 14 from the NDP Aboriginal Commission, it says that it also shares a profound objection to the federal government's refusal to end the fundamental discrimination of the Indian Act by continuing to assert a presumed authority over first nations' citizenship, membership and identify.

It goes on to say that NDPAC believes that it would be an additional injustice to deny those who have been the victims of gender discrimination under the Indian Act their right to status. An estimated 45,000 people would suffer direct harm if Bill C-3 does not pass.

It goes on to say that, in addition, children being born today are denied registration by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and denied their rights as first nations citizens as a result of the existing legislative gap. It says that this result plays into the hands of those who continue to pursue the policy of assimilation by allowing the government to refuse to recognize the constitutional rights of first nations people.

It also says that this situation continues the enormous injustice of earlier amendments to the Indian Act known as Bill C-31, 1985, which is expected to lead to the complete eradication of status Indians within only a few generations.The last words in the letter refer to the second generation cut-off. We know that is a piece of the Indian Act that has never been dealt with.

I want to briefly talk about how we got to this point.

Other members have spoken about the very long history of discrimination that has been in this country. It actually goes back to 1868 with the first post-Confederation statute establishing entitlement to the Indian status was enacted. This was in the Court of Appeal decision. The one piece that it was specifically referring to that was discriminatory against women reads:

All women lawfully married to any of the persons included in the several classes hereinbefore designated; the children issue of such marriages, and their descendants.

The early legislation then treated Indian men and women differently in that an Indian man could confer status on his non-Indian wife through marriage, while an Indian woman could not confer status on her non-Indian husband.

In 1869, the first legislation that deprived Indian women of their status upon marriage to non-Indians was passed. Sadly, this has been going on for so long and for so many generations.

It goes on to talk about the fact that this new legislation did not reflect the aboriginal traditions of all first nations. To some extent, it may be the product of the Victorian wars of Europe transplanted into Canada.

It continues on to say:

The legislation largely parallels contemporary views of the legal status of women in both English common law and French civil law. On the status of a woman dependant on the status of her husband upon marriage, she ceased in many respects, for legal purposes, to be a separate person in her own right.

As I said, we saw that perpetuated for generations.

In 1951 there were some slight changes. However, from 1951 onward, where an Indian man married a non-Indian woman, any child they had was an Indian. If, however, the Indian man's mother was also non-Indian prior to marriage, the child would cease to have Indian status upon attaining the age of 21 under the double-mother rule. The government introduced another aspect to discriminate against women.

Finally, in 1985, after complaints to the Untied Nations, there was a change in the legislation that did change some of the discriminatory aspects of the Indian Act but left many others in place, which ultimately resulted in the Sharon McIvor decision. Of course, Sharon and her family have suffered for decades because they were denied what they were constitutionally entitled to.

This has been a long-standing issue and we cannot claim in this House that we were not aware of the impact it was having on first nations' women and their male and female children. Back on December 22, 1982, there was an order of reference for a special committee on the Indian self-government task force. In that task force there were some areas outlined for further study. This is a reminder that this is not new information for this House.

In the areas for further study, the subcommittee was asked to: give attention to the elimination of the entire concept of enfranchisement; that the Indian Act be reviewed so as to reinforce group rights and to bring the act in line with international covenants; that the traditional practices, such as marriage, adoption, et cetera, should not be restricted or discriminated against by the Indian Act; and that the means for band control of membership criteria, process decisions and appeals in accordance with international covenants be instituted.

It is quite disillusioning that it takes so long for this House, under various governments of various political stripes, to deal with the ongoing discrimination that is inherent in the Indian Act.

One of the things that has been touched on here is the resources. I will turn to a couple of documents about why this is such a concern. In a briefing note from April 25, 2006, dealing with registration as an Indian under the Indian Act, Bill C-31, it talks about the increase in the first nations status population as a result of Bill C-31. It says that an increase of 402,940 status Indians occurred between 1984 and 2006, which is over 100% increase of status population as a result of Bill C-31.

The reason I mention that number is that we already have some past experience in this House about when legislation has been passed and inadequately resourced, and the kinds of projected increases as a result of Bill C-31 and the impact it has had on housing, health care, education, the water systems and the infrastructure. They simply have not been accommodated based on the increases in population as a result of that act.

October 1, 2009, when the assistant deputy minister appeared before the House, in her presentation she acknowledged the demographic and program implications. She said:

I'd like to talk for a moment about the implications of the McIvor decision. Demographic research is still ongoing to determine how many people may be newly entitled to registration...and while preliminary indications were between 20,000 and 40,000, we now believe it will be more in the neighbourhood of 40,000....

Of course there will be budgetary implications...with these potential new registrants, primarily involving health benefits and post-secondary education assistance.

What she did not touch on was housing, water, infrastructure and all the other aspects of maintaining programs and services on reserve, and whether people would even be able to return to the reserve if they wished to.

On July 2008, the First Nations Registration (Status) and Membership Research Report was prepared by the joint AFN-INAC working group. Once again, the government was fully aware of the implications on resources. This report outlined some of the serious problems that arose from the 1985 decision and why we continue to talk about the importance of resources.

The fact that there is a study going on is not good enough. We already know there will be an increase. According to this joint AFN-INAC working group, the increase in the registered Indian population as a result of the 1985 Indian Act amendments had major impacts on federal programming and expenditures, as well as for band governments now required to provide additional programming, facilities and services to newly reinstated individuals.

It goes on to say that band governments, first nations and aboriginal organizations stress that the increase in funding was not adequate to meet the needs created by the 1985 amendments as additional demands had been placed on already underfunded programs. As a result of the inadequate financial resources to accommodate reinstated individuals, many bands had difficulties in accepting new members and in providing them access to on-reserve services and programs.

These pressures, coupled with the socio-cultural implications of classes of Indians created by the 1985 reforms contributed to community conflict which continues to challenge community cohesion even in the present day.

We already know from past experience that we need to take a very serious look at implementation, and that what we heard around implementation so far has left us with very grave concerns.

In the time remaining, I want to touch briefly on citizenship because this goes to the heart of what we are talking about today. What we have done is narrowly dealt with a court decision while leaving all the other questions around citizenship outstanding.

The National Centre for First Nations Governance had a quote on what developing citizenship laws look like. It says:

Developing citizenship laws are an act of self determination. When a First Nation creates its own rules for identifying who is a citizen, it is taking a large step away from the control of the Indian Act and towards something of its own design. The development of citizenship laws is a significant step for First Nations in the implementation of self-governance and the creation of culturally relevant institutions that support Nation rebuilding.

It goes on to talk about criteria and objectives and those kinds of things. I think it is an important statement around citizenship, and it has been at the heart of why so many people have disagreed with the government approach on Bill C-3.

In the “First Nations Registration (Status) and Membership Research Report” of July 2008, there was a whole section on citizenship. I want to touch on the principles for change that were outlined in this joint report. It says that focus group participants were in agreement with the following principles: blood quantum cannot be the basis for defining membership; first nations need to define their terminology, identity, citizenship, membership, Indian status; the principles of international law, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, can provide a guide for discussion of first nations citizenship; reforms must be consistent and supportive of first nations' right to self-determination; processes should be inclusive, gender sensitive and linked to culture and traditions; the federal government's role should be limited to providing support to first nations and rectifying the damage caused by its legislation not redefining Indians.

Those were the principles that were in this joint task force working group. We have not seen those principles rolled out when we are talking about defining status. Those are key principles that should underlie any respectful consultation and discussion about who is a citizen.

It goes on to say that the elders consider it important that barriers for change be addressed by revitalizing traditional laws to guide change. The report outlines as well a couple of other key points. One was independent conflict resolution mechanisms. The participants recommended that AFN take steps to initiate research and policy work with senior levels of government leading to the establishment of mechanisms for mediation or arbitration on issues related to Indian status, citizenship and membership.

The report goes on to say that members of Parliament, political parties, standing committees and so on need to be educated on these issues from a first nations perspective.

There is much more in this report, which I simply do not have time to touch on.

At the heart of this matter, although we will be supporting Bill C-3, is that it simply does not address the much larger issues that are facing first nations communities. In order to truly deal with the colonialist aspect of the Indian Act, first nations need to be front and centre in the consultation process, in the decision-making process and in the implementation around who is a citizen.

We need a very clear recognition about the resource implications. In my question to my colleague at the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, I talked about the backlogs that currently exist in the entitlement unit. We can see from those numbers, from the 2006 cost drivers project, that we are looking at a minimum of five years to clear the backlog that was in place at that time. How are those units going to deal with up to 45,000 new applicants? We cannot ask people to wait another 10, 15 or 20 years to determine if they are eligible for status.

It would be extremely important that we have a very clear statement from the government about the actual resources that are going to be in place once this legislation is in effect.

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November 22nd, 2010 / 4:35 p.m.
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Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, my colleague spoke eloquently about a number of issues facing our aboriginal people in Canada.

I want to ask a question, but before I ask it, I would like to provide the member with some information relevant to a number of things that she said regarding a backlog.

With regard to the backlog, I want to assure the member that a great deal of preparatory work has already been done. There is a dedicated registration unit that is already in place making preparations for anyone who intends to apply for registration.

I would encourage the member to share that information with the people she serves.

First and foremost, the economic action plan dealt with a number of issues that would help with water, housing and the things the member mentioned that need addressing.

Unfortunately the member and her party voted against all those funding measures for aboriginal people. I need her help in all of this.

I am going to ask the member if she would endeavour to inform her aboriginal people that they need to prepare for registration if they qualify. They need to get their long form birth certificates in order, in preparation for the changes that are about to come.

Can I count on her help to do that?

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November 22nd, 2010 / 4:35 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, of course I will encourage and support people who want to register. However, we actually need the tools in place to do that. I look forward to seeing the tools translated into Halkomelem, for example, so that people whose mother tongue is Halkomelem rather than English or French would be able to have access to information. It is good news that the registration unit is going to have people standing by. I look forward to seeing things like speed of service guidelines and quality guidelines that would say that these applications would be processed in a timely manner.

The experience of some people in the riding when claiming status has been that they apply for status and send in what they have been told is required. The registration unit gets the information and says it needs another piece of information. People supply that piece of information. Then the registration unit says it needs yet another piece of information. There is a person in my riding who has been waiting 10 years. Every time that person submits what the person thinks has been asked for, the registration units asks for something else.

We need a process that is timely and effective, not just a paper-pushing process. These people have already been waiting far too long to have their status.

I hope the resources are going to be in place to support people who are applying for registration.

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November 22nd, 2010 / 4:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the parliamentary secretary and to the hon. member. I believe that there is no room for playing politics nor for paying compliments in this matter. I believe that there is a considerable amount of work to be done. I will come back to that a little later when I speak to Bill C-3.

I know the name of my NDP colleague but I cannot pronounce the name of her riding. I think it is Vancouver and Cowichan, but I do not want to massacre it. I want to get to the question.

A minimum of 45,000 to 50,000 additional registrations are expected. I know the number is huge. The McIvor case came from British Columbia. I am wondering whether even British Columbia is prepared to deal with the tidal wave that will hit once this bill passes in the next few hours. I am concerned and I would like to know what my colleague thinks about that.

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November 22nd, 2010 / 4:40 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is a major concern. We do not have confidence that people are ready for that tidal wave. I know in British Columbia, in my own riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan, people are very anxious to see this bill pass. We do know that, for example, in Sharon McIvor's case, her son has been denied status for many years.

People want to know how quickly their applications will be processed. The cost driver's report that I referred to also has a protest unit. This was again projecting into the future. It says the protest unit currently has a backlog of 450 applicants, which translates to a 10-year waiting period under current staffing levels.

To hear that people are on standby and ready to go does not give me a great degree of comfort.

I look forward to when the minister comes before our committee for supplementary estimates to be able to ask him: How many people are in place; are the speed of service guidelines in place; are the quality guidelines in place; can we go back to ridings and say with some assurance that their applications will be processed in x amount of time?

That is what people want to know, because it directly impacts on their lives right now, today. That is the information that needs to be readily available for all people, from coast to coast to coast.

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November 22nd, 2010 / 4:40 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary earlier talked about the 45,000 new people who will become registrants. She indicated the government has a group that is trying to resolve the cost issues here, but she did not go on to say how many types of various services it would be costing.

The other issue, of course, the member brings up is the whole issue of timing. It seems to me that, given the track record of the current government, having dragged its feet already on this whole issue, I can see it doing exactly what the member says: study this issue and work on this government task force group forever in an effort to delay the whole issue.

Does the member have any further comments to make about the components that the parliamentary secretary is referring to?

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November 22nd, 2010 / 4:40 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Elmwood—Transcona is absolutely right. What we have had in place in this country since 1995 is a 2% funding cap, and that cap has already left first nations communities seriously behind because they have had a population growth in some cases of up to 11%. So do the math; 2% funding cap, 11% growth in population, and we see that there is a crunch happening on reserves.

Now we are talking about adding up to 45,000 more people, potentially. We know there are going to be increases, so I would argue that rather than having a study to see what the numbers might look like, we could at least put in place some plans around incremental funding that could be ramped up as the numbers become more apparent. We know there are going to be a number of people, based on our 1985 experience about the number of people under Bill C-31 that regained status. We already know that is going to happen. We know there is already a funding crunch on reserves. So we should be putting in that incremental plan to deal with it, not waiting for the results of another study.

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November 22nd, 2010 / 4:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I assume that there is not a great deal of time left.

What interests me is my colleague's riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan, which is very important and includes many aboriginal communities.

We should not forget that Ms. McIvor has been waiting since 1985. The Supreme Court handed down a ruling in a 20-year-old battle. I am wondering if we currently have the funds.

Let us talk about British Columbia, my colleague's province. Is the first nations organization of B.C. equipped to deal with this? Has it been informed that the bill will pass in the next few hours?

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November 22nd, 2010 / 4:45 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, again, the people from British Columbia are paying very close attention to the discussion in the House. That is despite the flaws in the bill. I am hearing from men and women in British Columbia that they are concerned about the fact that the bill does not address gender inequality for first nations in this country. It simply does not do that. It addresses a very narrow case.

What I am hearing from people in British Columbia is that they want the bill passed because they know some people in British Columbia will regain status and they want a wholesome, full process put in place to deal with the others. People are anxiously waiting for this debate to conclude. They want the bill to go to the Senate. They want the bill passed and they want these other matters dealt with.

I appreciate the question from the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue and I look forward to having the bill passed and having the resources in place to make sure people who regain status do so in a timely fashion.

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November 22nd, 2010 / 4:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this very important bill to put an end to 25 years of injustice in the case of Ms. McIvor. The Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of this bill, and I gather the NDP will as well, as will all members of the House, I imagine, given the urgency of the matter. We urgently need to rectify an illegality that has been committed against aboriginal women in Canada and Quebec for more than 30 years.

I am reluctantly voting in favour of the bill because there is a problem. We have met with Quebec Native Women and Ms. Audette who organized and participated in the Amun March. We have met with the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and its Chief, Mr. Picard. We have met with a number of aboriginal individuals, including Ellen Gabriel, who was the president of Quebec Native Women. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Michelle Audette, the newly elected president of Quebec Native Women. All these aboriginal women and men are quite preoccupied by the implementation of Bill C-3.

The purpose of this bill is to correct an injustice. I do not want to get into all the details, but some things need to be said. This bill is the result of a court challenge by an aboriginal woman, as usual. It is the women who were discriminated against, who still are today and who, unfortunately, will continue to be even after Bill C-3 is passed. I will come back to that in a few minutes.

Aboriginal women have decided to stand up and ensure that an injustice is corrected once and for all. The government waited and waited for a Supreme Court ruling requiring it to rectify the situation. The Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the case on appeal and it is therefore the ruling of the British Columbia Court of Appeal that applies. That ruling requires the Canadian government to rectify a situation that is unfair to aboriginal women in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, you chaired the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development—for too short a time, unfortunately. In reading the Indian Act, you realized that this legislation was fundamentally and completely discriminatory towards women. We must admit that when this act was implemented, the purpose was to assimilate aboriginals, period. I encourage anyone who doubts that to read a very well-written book that explains the three reports that led to the creation of the Indian Act. The book is called L'Impasse amérindienne, published by Septentrion in Quebec. Mr. Vaugeois, a renowned historian, studied the three reports, since 1878, that led to the creation of the Indian Act at the start of the 1900s. I do not want to go into too much history, but this is important. Before the implementation of the Indian Act, which aimed to warehouse—yes, I said “warehouse”—aboriginals on reserves, these aboriginals moved throughout the territory.

The reserves were created out of nothing. The aboriginal communities did not ask for them. Today, people think that the aboriginal communities asked for the creation of reserves. That is entirely untrue. The federal government fabricated the reserves entirely. We need to look at what is said in the act, but I do not want to take up too much time. Ever since the Indian Act came into force, it has had the ultimate goal of assimilating aboriginals into the majority. It could not be clearer. That is exactly what they wanted to do. That is exactly what aboriginal women fought against. They did not want anything to do with this process, because when the reserves were established, they shifted from a matriarchal situation, in which women were the elders, to assimilation. Women were hugely respected within aboriginal communities. As soon as the Indian Act came into force and the Indian reserve system was developed—I cannot stand the word “reserve”, but that that seems to be the word to use—we started to see the objective of assimilating aboriginals take shape.

How was that accomplished? It is not complicated. If we put 100 people on one square mile of land, they may get along, but if we put 1,000 there, it soon becomes impossible. That is exactly what is happening. That is precisely the problem we will have to face over the coming years when Bill C-3 is passed.

Why? Because as soon as the bill is passed the numbers we have show that in Quebec alone between 15,000 and 20,000 new people will move onto reserves. We are being told that there are between 45,000 and 50,000 across Canada, but I highly doubt that. Why am I so doubtful? Because, back in 1985—I do not want to go too far back—when the government passed Bill C-31, the Minister of Indian affairs responded to a question in the House of Commons by saying specifically that there were about 56,800 additional aboriginals. That was in 1985, not 100 years ago.

On December 31, 2000—10 years ago, and we have the numbers from 2000—more than 114,000 aboriginals were granted Indian status. Imagine what will happen with Bill C-3. That is the problem the Bloc sees. I hope that when the Minister of Indian Affairs appears before the committee, he will have more to say than that they have invested in water and housing. What I want to know, and what my colleagues want to know, is how much has been set aside for implementation of Bill C-3, which, as we know, will lead to at least 50,000 more aboriginals moving into reserves.

Let me share a specific example of what this means. In my riding, there is Timiskaming First Nation in Notre-Dame-du-Nord and Long Point First Nation in Winneway. Long Point First Nation is a settlement. They do not even have reserve status yet, but they predict that 100 additional aboriginals will come to Long Point First Nation and swell the ranks of an already exploding community.

Worse still, information that I have received in the past month suggests that over 1,000 aboriginals will join the Timiskaming First Nation in Notre-Dame-du-Nord, and this will have a considerable impact. Today, November 22, 2010, the Timiskaming first nation is already unable to meet its needs because it is facing serious challenges regarding education. Classrooms are full and it has to send students to Ontario. More importantly, however, it is not properly equipped. The government has not prepared it for the arrival of these new registrants.

Some say the impact will not be all that significant. The department wanted to reassure people, and I cannot say I blame the department. When it comes to this issue, we must avoid playing petty politics and claiming to be the best, the most caring, the most intelligent. We are on the verge of a crisis. Several aboriginal communities will face a major crisis because of the addition of these new registrants. I am not saying there will be a flood of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of new status Indians. Even if it is only 10, 20 or 30 more families, that is more than many aboriginal communities can handle, because they are not properly equipped for it.

The government is being asked to implement Bill C-3. There is no doubt the Bloc Québécois will closely follow the implementation of this bill, because it is very important for the aboriginal communities that will have to deal with the arrival of these new status Indians over the coming months and years. I know of some people who have been waiting for years to return to their communities. They should not be considered newcomers; rather, they are people who have been waiting since 1985. Ms. McIvor, the B.C. woman who fought to assert her rights all the way to the Supreme Court, has been waiting since 1985. She is now a grandmother, almost a great-grandmother. She wants her grandchildren to be recognized as status Indians.

We are trying to tell the government that it absolutely must take action to deal with the arrival of these new status aboriginals, if that is indeed the right term, because personally, I think they have always been aboriginal people, even though many lived off-reserve in big cities. Now they want to return to their communities. It is extremely important that the government be prepared to deal with this problem.

We must not, in an attempt to delay applications, establish a system as complicated as the one used to implement Bill C-31 in 1985. We must simplify this process as much as possible. I agree wholeheartedly that Indian status should not be given to those who do not have a right to it. A minimum of control must be applied. I repeat, “a minimum of control”.

We must ensure that the aboriginal people who are given status are those who have the right to it. If we think that Bill C-3 will put an end to all discrimination, we are sadly mistaken. We have just barely scratched the surface of this issue. This bill will likely mean that a minimum of 50,000 new aboriginal people will be registered, but there will be just as many remaining who are still unable to register, and other cases have already been brought before the courts. According to the most recent statistics, 19 cases related to discrimination that go further than McIvor are still pending . These cases will likely be won because they are based on the same legal argument, namely, discrimination against women.

We are of the opinion that the government should have accepted our amendments. The Chair ruled that our amendments were out of order and that there would be no more discussion. We submitted our arguments and they were rejected. We respect democracy. We submitted Bill C-3, as it was presented to the House at third reading, to Quebec Native Women and the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador.

Last July, at the annual meeting of the Assembly of First Nations held in Winnipeg, there was a presentation on this bill and we were asked to vote in favour of it. Therefore, we will vote for C-3 to at least close one door so that some of the discrimination against women is eliminated.

We are dreaming in colour if we believe that Bill C-3 will put an end, once and for all, to the problems of the acceptance of aboriginal peoples in communities. That is not the case. Michèle Audet, the new president of Quebec Native Women, gave us a number of examples, and we have received letters. I will not go into the details, but there are other cases pending and there will be other debates before the courts.

If I could recommend one thing, it would be to ask the government to let aboriginal men and women who wish to register do so. It is the infamous section 6 of the Indian Act that is clearly discriminatory. I believe that section 6 maintains a form of discrimination against a segment of the population—aboriginal women and their children—that is unacceptable in 2010. For those listening, it is not complicated: an aboriginal woman who marries a white man has fewer rights than an aboriginal man who marries a white woman. That is exactly what will be perpetuated even if we adopt bill C-3.

In closing, members must try to not play politics with this bill, as was done in committee. We all agree that it must be passed quickly. The bill will pass, of course, but the main problem will be implementing it.

I call upon the government to be extremely prudent and presume that those who apply for Indian status after this bill is passed—which I maintain will not put an end to discrimination—will be acting in good faith. Nevertheless, we hope that this bill is a step in the right direction.

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November 22nd, 2010 / 5:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his remarks and he raises a very important issue when he talks about this bill. I am not going to get into the substance of the bill at this point, but I do want to ask him about the issues of implementation that he raised, which are so important.

I would like to know what he views as an appropriate process for implementation, both in terms of identifying the individuals who would gain status, but also the issues that communities on reserve will find themselves needing, such as education, health care and water resources, all of which we know are lacking in many communities.

What should the process be that will lead to the full implementation of this bill?

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November 22nd, 2010 / 5:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Winnipeg South Centre. I think that the first and most important step is acting in good faith. I believe that everyone must act in good faith. It is important to understand that real people are affected by this bill and that they have been waiting for over 25 years to have the right to be acknowledged as aboriginal people.

In my opinion, we must not erect an impenetrable and unacceptable administrative barrier that would penalize applicants and unduly delay their applications rather than help them. Some files are already ready. Thousands of files at Indian and Northern Affairs Canada are just waiting for this bill to be passed. Let us not go back to square one.

In response to my fellow member's question, I believe that it is extremely important that additional amounts be allocated in the next budget, which the government is currently planning. My greatest wish would be to put an end to the infamous 2%. Right now, the various budgets at Indian Affairs cannot be increased by more than 2%. We have to get rid of this cap, which is penalizing aboriginal people and depriving them of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Accountability does not pose a problem; aboriginal communities are ready to accept it. However, we have to be ready for the tens of thousands of new aboriginal people who will gain status. Aboriginal communities are currently not prepared to receive them.

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November 22nd, 2010 / 5:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. His riding is definitely much more connected to our first nations than is my Toronto urban riding, but I could not help but think, during his speech and other remarks, that some people tend to view this legislation as being strategic in some way, when I view it as being more like a band-aid to fix what has been identified as a legal inequality in the legislation that governs our first nations.

I and a lot of other legislators would have been a lot happier if our first nations could have had the ability to resolve these types of issues themselves, but regrettably, this century-old, anachronistic Indian Act that is now governing much of this jurisdictional envelope is so old that we can hardly work with it, nor can our first nations, who very much want to.

Given the hon. member's experience, and there are a lot of other members in the House who have this experience with first nations in their riding, does he see any possibility of this House and first nations generating a capacity that would enable them, facilitate them and empower them in the near future, and into the future, to resolve these kinds of definitional, inclusion-exclusion issues for their local first nation or across the country? Does he see that anywhere in the pipeline as a possibility in the future?

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November 22nd, 2010 / 5:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, in short, the answer is no. No, because there is a section in the Indian Act, section 6, that has unfortunately been there far too long. As long as section 6 is in place, there will always be some people who are not equal, and discrimination will persist.

Obviously, the easy solution would be to abolish section 6 right now. Then, anyone could declare that they are an aboriginal. We cannot go from one extreme to another, and I absolutely agree about that. However, we could work on getting there. Unfortunately, the governments have done nothing. I do not want to get too political here, but I have to mention, with all due respect to my Liberal colleague, that the aboriginals had to go to court. It seems as though it is always necessary to go to court to have a right recognized, or to prove that a situation is discriminatory even when it is very clear that it is. It is, and unfortunately it will continue to be, even after Bill C-3 is passed.

I agree that we should pass Bill C-3 and I agree with my colleague, but this government should find a way to abolish section 6 of the Indian Act as quickly as possible. To do so, it will have to find the means and, with all due respect, have the political will to put aboriginals on equal footing with the government for the implementation of the bill.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2010 / 5:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to comment on the bill. I am supporting Bill C-3, but I am supporting it with considerable reluctance and certainly not with much enthusiasm.

There should be no doubt that Bill C-3 moves the agenda forward on addressing gender discrimination in the status provisions of the Indian Act, but it is only one very small partial step toward full equality for aboriginal women and their descendants.

The government has brought forward these amendments as a response to and because of the efforts of Sharon McIvor of British Columbia. In my previous remarks on Bill C-3, I paid homage to the other brave aboriginal women who have fought the battle for full equality and have pushed the courts to recognize discrimination under the law and subsequently pushed Parliament to remedy the injustice. I would like to do so again today.

These women are Mary Two Axe Early, Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, Yvonne Bédard, Sandra Lovelace and, as I mentioned earlier, Sharon McIvor. Yet in acknowledging these individuals, I feel great sadness for them that the battle for full equality is falling to yet another generation of aboriginal women. We can be sure it will be the battle for aboriginal women. Discrimination is discrimination is discrimination and at some point we must take it upon ourselves as parliamentarians the responsibility to fully eradicate all gender discrimination in the Indian Act.

When Bill C-31 was passed in 1985, Parliament and the government of the day knew that the residual discrimination would remain. I want to read into the record some of the comments made. It is important that we know this because 25 years later we are poised to pass a bill that also leaves residual discrimination.

In April we heard in committee from Martin Reiher of the Department of Justice. He said Bill C-31:

—is a very focused answer to the McIvor decision, given the limited time we had to develop legislation in response to the British Columbia Court of Appeal decision of April 9, 2009. There are other issues that have been raised in litigation that are not dealt with by this bill at this time. Depending on subsequent court decisions, obviously, the government might have to consider how to respond to these other decisions.

I also want to read from Sharon McIvor, an increasing hero of mine, when she said to the committee in April:

—But when the act was changed in 1985, parliamentarians knew there was residual discrimination. [Former Minister] Crombie's records show that they understood that some of us would still suffer from the residual discrimination....yet they forced someone like me to take it through the courts and have the courts decide that it was discriminatory....I am here today to ask you, to plead with you, to include all of those women and their descendants who are discriminated against, not just the narrow view that the B.C. Court of Appeal addressed. As parliamentarians you know that the court does not draft legislation. They just put it back into your lap so you can do what is right.

A final quote from April that I will cite is from Gwen Brodsky, who is counsel to Ms. McIvor. She said:

—the 1985 act was--failed remedial legislation. Bill C-3 is a set-up for yet another instance of failed remedial legislation, for disappointment to aboriginal women and their descendants, who have been waiting for a long, long time for Parliament to do the right thing. That must be dealt with immediately.

Earlier this year the Liberal Party tried to end the cycle and address all the remaining residual discrimination in the Indian Act's provisions concerning entitlement to status. When Bill C-3 came before the aboriginal affairs committee, we introduced amendments that would have granted descendants of status Indian women born prior to April 17, 1985, full status under the Indian Act, exactly what had also been given to the descendants of status Indian men.

These amendments, although passed by committee through the unanimous support of the opposition parties, were ruled inadmissible by the Speaker after Bill C-3 was returned to the House.

We need a comprehensive legislative remedy. The amendments were ruled out of order as being beyond the scope of Bill C-3, which reads “provides a new entitlement to Indian registration in response to the decision in McIvor v. Canada”.

Again, I want to emphasize what others have said about the need for a comprehensive remedy.

Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould said in April at committee:

With respect to discrimination in any form, I do not agree with it whatsoever. I believe that it would be the position of any reasonable person, as you say, to eradicate discrimination wherever and whenever possible in today's age.

Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, said again this year that if all discrimination was eliminated:

—then I would think that as aboriginal women, as an aboriginal women's organization, maybe part of our work would be done. We could move on to other things. But that would be really good to see if it took place in the very near while.

One last quote, although I have many comments, is by Betty Ann Lavellée, national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. In April of this year she said:

—I want to see any and all forms of discrimination end once and for all, so that our children are not having this same discussion 25 or 35 years from now.

It is unfortunate that the government chose to write Bill C-3 in a way that responds solely to the narrow reading of the B.C. Court of Appeal in the McIvor case without providing the option to Parliament to address further residual discrimination through the legislation.

This regrettable choice has forced all stakeholders and opposition parties to make an extremely difficult choice regarding Bill C-3. How can we say no to equality for some when saying no means equality for none? What we can do, and we have tried, is to improve the bill, but as I will try and explain, the government has made this impossible.

I would like to remind the House that the B.C. Court of Appeal was only able to rule on the gender discrimination in the Indian Act experienced by Sharon McIvor and her son. That was the case before the court, not the full gamut of gender discrimination under the act.

While the court acknowledged that other types of discrimination most likely existed, its decision in the McIvor case could not apply a remedy to those issues as well. Therefore, the court ruled narrowly in favour of McIvor and left it to those of us in Parliament to craft a more fulsome response. Let me repeat, it was the government that then decided what this response would look like.

The government could have chosen to provide a legislative remedy to the McIvor situation, while also leaving the door open for Parliament to expand the legislation through amendments in order to get rid of the residual discrimination. If it had conducted a fulsome consultation with aboriginal leadership, aboriginal women, women's groups and communities, it would have heard a resounding desire to end the discrimination once and for all. That is certainly what we heard at committee. Instead, Bill C-3 was introduced without any real consultation and in a matter that meant all amendments would be out of order.

This is how Bill C-3 came to be, a bill that takes one more step in the long and arduous battle for full equality for aboriginal women, a bill that would extend status to approximately 45,000 aboriginal women and their descendants, but a bill that will leave the fight for full equality once again yet to another generation. Very soon we will be voting on Bill C-3, but at some point, as parliamentarians must decide when we are going to right this wrong.

We are now faced with Sharon McIvor taking her case off to the UN. Sharon announced that she would file a complaint against Canada at the United Nations. She has contended that Canada continues to discriminate against aboriginal women and their descendants in the determination of eligibility for registration as an Indian.

As she said, in taking this case forward:

I contested this discrimination under the charter. It took 20 years in Canadian courts, and I achieved only partial success. Now I will seek full justice for Aboriginal women under international human rights law. Canada needs to be held to account for its intransigence in refusing to completely eliminate sex discrimination from the Indian Act and for decades of delay.

She went on to say:

Because neither Canadian courts nor Parliament have yet granted an adequate and effective remedy for the sex discrimination which has been a hallmark of the Indian Act for more than a hundred years, I will take my case to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

I would contend that it is unfortunate and, perhaps some might describe, shameful that this case has yet to go to the UN human rights committee. It will undoubtedly result in a further rebuke to Canada in the international arena, something our country and the government does not need.

As I said at the beginning, I am supporting the bill. I am doing it with reluctance, not with much enthusiasm. I look forward to seeing it move through Parliament.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2010 / 5:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very curious. In the member's opinion, what is standing in the way of a comprehensive solution to this alleged and apparently real discrimination? Is it a lack of courage? Are there some obstacles contained in the reality of first nations life across the country? Is there some other legal impediment? Why could the government not have proposed and consulted on a more comprehensive solution that would have addressed Ms. McIvor's concerns and the concerns of so many others?

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2010 / 5:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague identified some of the factors. Perhaps it is courage, perhaps it is the circumstances within which aboriginal communities find themselves. There are many larger issues that have to be dealt with, such as issues of what constitutes citizenship. What is really required, when dealing with a bill of this sort, is a full and meaningful consultation with aboriginal peoples, aboriginal women's groups and coming up with a comprehensive plan, both in terms of the legislation and, as my colleague said previously, an implementation plan.

I do not know whether there was a real will to undertake something of this sort, but there is a need for a comprehensive consultation process to make this happen.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2010 / 5:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, first, my colleague, the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre, since coming to the House 10 years ago, has been a champion and an advocate on a great number of issues, certainly none more so than the rights of first nations women. It is an issue she continues to drive within caucus and in the chamber as well.

I was not in the House for the first part of the member's speech. Out of the ruling, I understood fully that this had been tied up for a great number of years. What has the response been on Bill C-3? Has Ms. McIvor had an opportunity to testify before the committee? What was her impression of the legislation being presented by the government?

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2010 / 5:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, yes, indeed, Sharon McIvor has had an opportunity to testify before the committee. I would say that by virtue of the fact she is taking her appeal on to the United Nations, it shows her commitment to the issue. It has been a considerable cost to her not only financially but personally.

She is profoundly disappointed in the fact that the amendment put forward in committee has been overruled by the House and that there has been no further action by the government in bringing forward broader legislation. She has had a 20-year battle to get to this stage and I do not think she would wish it on another generation to have to carry on the battle, which has been at considerable cost to herself and others around her. It has been arduous, it has been hard work and it has been emotionally wrenching. She wants more for her children and her children's children.

I would say that, on balance, she has been profoundly disappointed by what Parliament has chosen to do.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2010 / 5:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on this particular legislation.

While there is not any major overt controversy on the floor of the House at this time, there clearly appears to be a huge residue of discomfort out there in the real world among our first nations with this legislation and its failure to go a further distance in resolving some of these unresolved issues of equality, in particular gender equality among our first nations.

The legislation deals with the issue, at least on the margins, of who is and who is not a member of a registered Indian band. That has a whole lot to do with the lives of a whole lot of people.

The legal fact of whether or not one is or is not part of a band can affect a person's life hugely in many of our first nations localities. It is not just simply whether one is a member as in whether or not one is a member of the Rotary Club, it has to do with whether one is actually a member of a band, a living organism of people, a group who have a cultural, historic and an existing and dynamic presence in many of the parts of our country today.

This, of course, does not include most of our large cities but as we right these definitions about who is and who is not registered or registerable we are actually dealing with a huge bundle of rights and obligations of these persons as a class.

That, as I said, can have a whole lot to do with what that person is, how that person carries on his or her life, and in this particular set of circumstances that this legislation is intending to cover the court has accepted the allegation that the current definition is discriminatory. In fact, I have not heard anyone say that this is not the case. In fact, I am hearing members say that there is existing and additional discrimination that will continue even if this legislation is passed.

I can only ask the question, why we could not have tried to take a little more time and developed some legislative amendments that would be more comprehensive, more targeted, and hopefully fully address the issue of this legal or illegal inequality.

I know there are probably first nations women out there who would say, “You really ought to do that”, and it seems to me if we were really showing leadership the government through the Department of Justice could have proposed that the government go back to the courts, go back to the litigants in this case and propose a time sequence for consultation, even if it did involve a year--it has already been way over a year--or two or three and get the parties to agree that this was an opportunity for such consultation with some deadlines and attempt to bring on legislation that would fully resolve this bundle of equality issues.

That did not happen and most of my colleagues in my party, if not all who are very active on behalf of constituencies that have first nations communities, are disappointed with that.

Is there a resolution in this bill? No. I understand there were amendments proposed at committee. They were found to be out of order. I know that all of us in the House would be very pleased if there were a scenario that had the first nations somehow coming together with a resolution for us.

I and many of our colleagues in the House have accepted that it is preferable for us in the House not to make law for our first nations, involving first nations matters.

It is much preferable that our first nations manage their own affairs; albeit, under the aegis of our Canadian Constitution and legal framework. I think by now most of our first nations accept that. However, I as a legislator, many times, have had to note the fact that some of our first nation citizens resent this House, our federal institutions, purporting and actually legislating and making policy decisions with respect to first nations when those people who are governed by those laws and policies would prefer very much to make those decisions themselves.

I think over time the policies of the federal government are leaning in that direction of empowering our first nations to do more and more of their own governance. They do much of it now. However, the remaining bits and pieces in the Indian Act still make it a responsibility of this House, of the federal government, of the federal jurisdiction. I guess the buck stops here in Parliament or in Ottawa. If there has to be legislation, if there has to be a policy decision made and there is not a consensus among our first nation communities on how it should be done, then those decisions have to be made.

I recall approximately 15 years ago, at one of our committees, the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations, where a particular regulation under the Indian health regulations was found to be unconstitutional. The particular regulation authorized, empowered, federal officials working in the health envelope, where there was a contagious disease found on a first nation's land, to enter into any building, any place, and remove the people and actually destroy the building.

Thinking from the present, it is almost unbelievable that we would have a regulation that would empower somebody to do that, keeping in mind that one of these buildings, one of these places, could have been a dwelling house.

In some ways I suppose we could plead that history has allowed this to happen. Over 200 years ago many of our first nations did not have permanent settlements. They moved from place to place. While that was a very good way of interrelating with the land and was quite sustainable, they tell me, most of our first nations now are permanently settled. This particular regulation allowed federal officials, for health purposes, to go in and just take the people out. They did not need a judicial warrant. They did not need anybody to sign anything. They would just go in and take the people out and get rid of the building. That regulation was actually on the books.

This particular committee, in doing its work on behalf of Parliament, noted this and asked the government to remove the regulation. My recollection is that the committee had to move to a disallowance. It was the committee itself that brought the matter to the House. I believe there was an order from the House to revoke the regulation, and that happened.

Subsequent to that, I am presuming that the government would have re-enacted other regulations to try to deal with those types of situations, but nothing so egregious as to allow federal officials to go in and physically remove people and destroy a building.

That was 15 or 20 years ago. It was also near the beginning of a time in our history where we began consulting much more meaningfully with our first nations.

That has a nice ring to it, but our first nations are not one big happy family in one place. They are spread out across the entire country, from one ocean to the other, to the other. So it is not easy for government to accomplish a comprehensive consultation.

Our first nations are usually willing to engage in those consultations, but the whole concept of consultation has been neglected somewhat in the last number of decades and there is a big distance that we have to go.

As we move to the present, we have the B.C. Court of Appeal decision that determined that the provisions of the Indian Act were unconstitutional because of gender discrimination. When those things happen, it gets sent down the street, and in this case to Ottawa to fix and we had a certain amount of time to do it. This legislation is the result. As I said before, I regret that it is not more comprehensive.

As one legislator out of the 300 or so in this place, and I am probably joining with others, I am prepared to support this bill somewhat reluctantly.

One, it is not comprehensive. It does not deal with the full range of the alleged discrimination. It is alleged and I think accepted, but it does not deal with it.

Two, because of the shortness of time, which I do not think we tried to alter, we did not engage in any meaningful consultation. As a result, we do not have a product that we are proud of that does comply with the court decision. The Department of Justice tells us this.

Therefore, I am prepared to vote in favour of it on that basis. I just hope that in the months and years to come we will find a way, not managed by this House but by the government, to consult meaningfully with our first nations to preempt problems such as this and empower our first nations to deal with these types of issues in the way they should.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's intervention on this particular piece of legislation.

With speaker after speaker, I think there is a common thread: the fact that the government has taken a court ruling and designed legislation not to improve the overall situation that first nations women find themselves in, but trying to focus on compliance with the court ruling and doing the absolute minimum. I think we have heard that through the presentations here today and I understand that was the thrust of the witnesses' presentations received through committee.

Does my colleague see that as an injustice? Does he see this as an opportunity missed on the part of the government, by just doing the absolute minimum to address the outcome of that court ruling?

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, this legislation is the minimum and the government, either because it could not or, in ways that have not been explained here, did not want to look for additional time.

There was an event around the year 2000. It was a court decision called Feeney. The Supreme Court of Canada had disallowed an area of criminal law that involved search warrants and the ability of police in hot pursuit to enter a dwelling house. The court disallowed the provision and said that Parliament had six months to fix it and son of a gun if Parliament did not go into an election. Therefore, the Department of Justice and parties had to go back to the Supreme Court and say that they could not fix it because Parliament was in an election. That added another six months. Then when Parliament came back, we had to get the legislation passed through the House and the other place.

However, the point I am making is that, with leadership and determination, it is possible for the government to go to the court and say that it can do a better job on this, that it can hit a home run if it has a reasonable amount of time. If the parties to the litigation, the government and the court that made the decision did get together on this, in a sense, this could have been done.

In many ways, what I have just described paints a picture of an opportunity being missed here. If the court can expand six months to two years in the Feeney Supreme Court case, I do not see why we could not have bargained for a bit more time in the McIvor case, and done a better job in this resolution.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 12:20 p.m.
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Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity 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).

The Bloc Québécois had indicated its support for studying Bill C-3 in committee. Since the bill would allow people who suffered discrimination because of Bill C-31 passed in 1985 to reconnect with their origins, we felt it deserved further study. As I just mentioned, Bill C-3 would repair the injustices created by Bill C-31 some 25 years ago. In other words, the federal government waited a quarter of a century to repair the injustices it had created itself. Even then, it had to be forced by the Court of Appeal for British Columbia ruling in the McIvor case. Thus we cannot talk about Bill C-3 without recalling how this aboriginal mother had to fight to have her rights and those of her children recognized. Sharon McIvor kept up her fight for many long years. Without her and her struggle, we would not be discussing this bill here today in the House.

To understand the implications of Bill C-3, we need to turn back the clock just a bit. Injustices against aboriginal women are nothing new. In 1876, the Indian Act stipulated that an aboriginal woman lost her rights and stopped being an Indian under the act if she married a non-aboriginal man. Obviously, an aboriginal man who married a non-aboriginal woman did not lose his Indian status. Aboriginal women have experienced a great deal of discrimination with regard to their race, gender and marital status. The Indian Act has contributed to marginalizing women and diminishing their social and political role in the communities. Since this legislation has a direct impact on lineage, the children of these women have also been discriminated against.

In 1951, the Indian Act was amended, but again, a woman who married a non-Indian could not be registered in the new federal register of status Indians and therefore could not enjoy the rights that such status entailed. In 1985, following changes to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Bill C-31 was introduced to close the loophole in the Indian Act, but women's children still did not have the same rights as men's children.

Those who are paying close attention will have noticed that more than 100 years after the Indian Act was created, the rights of aboriginal women's children were still not guaranteed. It would take another 25 years for the federal government to introduce a bill to recognize the Indian status of people who had been discriminated against in the past. Were it not for Ms. McIvor's legal journey, the government might never have introduced Bill C-3, which we are discussing today, as a response to this discrimination. Many will say that this bill does not go far enough.

One such person is Michèle Taina Audette, another mother and a representative of the AMUN March, whose battle continues. I will read an excerpt from her testimony at the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development:

In my opinion, Bill C-3...merely complies with the British Columbia Court of Appeal decision in McIvor v. Canada...[and] the department is using this bill to do as little as possible about the problem...there may be serious problems as a result in the short, medium and long terms...Let us put an end, once and for all, to the discrimination that has existed for too long a time already...Aboriginal women continue to be victims of discrimination based on gender....

Bill C-3 would recognize the Indian status of people who have so far not been recognized as Indian and could therefore not benefit from the rights enjoyed by status Indians, such as the right to live on a reserve and to vote in band council elections.

Bill C-3, which was introduced thanks to Sharon McIvor's efforts, corrects these injustices, but it does not go far enough, because it allows certain other injustices to persist. That is why the Bloc Québécois proposed several amendments, all of which were deemed inadmissible.

People will have no trouble understanding that the Bloc Québécois believes strongly in nation-to-nation negotiation. That is why we have always consulted with our aboriginal partners in Quebec when preparing to vote on bills that affect them.

This time is no exception. The Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and Quebec Native Women were among those who felt that Bill C-3 failed to correct certain injustices, so that is why we initially decided to vote against the bill.

Sleeping on issues like this helps, and so does thinking about it over the summer. This summer, members of various Quebec aboriginal groups and associations discussed this matter at length. They decided that it would be better to accept the federal government's offer, so they asked us to apply a “bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” philosophy. The Bloc Québécois will therefore vote in favour of Bill C-3. I think this is a good time to share the words of Ellen Gabriel. Here is what she told the committee:

...for membership, you have to be a status Indian. That doesn't necessarily mean that if you have status, you have membership. That's been the problem for a lot of indigenous women who regained their status in 1985 but who are not allowed to live in their communities, to be buried in their communities, or to own land that their parents give to them... If this bill is going to be passed...then we need some guarantees that band councils will also respect it.

Ellen Gabriel is the president of Quebec Native Women.

I must stress that the federal government promised to establish an exploratory process. It committed to working with aboriginal organizations to establish an “inclusive process for the purpose of information gathering and the identification of the broader issues for discussion surrounding Indian registration, band membership and First Nations citizenship.” The government's intention is not very clear, and neither are the objectives of this exercise. Will it be a proper consultation, for the purpose of amending the Indian Act to bring it into line with the expectations of aboriginals? Will the issue of registration, band membership and citizenship be resolved? This exploratory process will take place before the implementation of Bill C-21, which would repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, and which would apply to reserves as of June 2011. So it is important to use these consultations to identify the problems with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms with respect to the Indian register.

Another problem with the enforcement of Bill C-3 is that the federal government did not do its homework and has not estimated the cost of adding people to the Indian register. The Bloc Québécois does think that we should register new Indians, but not at the expense of those who are already registered. In other words, the federal government will have to increase funding for first nations to ensure that the needs of new registered Indians are met, while still meeting the needs of those who are already registered.

In conclusion, I want to remind all members in this House that they have a duty to ensure justice and fairness for aboriginal women and their children, and I urge members to support Bill C-3. I would also like to remind the federal government that, although it stated its intention in the latest throne speech, it has still not endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That is shameful.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague suggested, a number of women are still disenfranchised by the bill. Perhaps there will be 45,000 extra people who have status and, as he rightfully said, they will have to be funded either through the department's programs or those programs devolved to aboriginal governments or organizations. But why does he think the government introduced a bill in which only 45,000 were included, of perhaps the 200,000 people who are still discriminated against by the Indian Act? Why are so many people left out and only a small portion of the people included in this bill when it could have fixed the entire problem?

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 12:30 p.m.
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Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. He is very knowledgeable about first nations issues because he lives in a region where there are very many first nations people.

Following the McIvor decision, the government realized the scope of the task ahead of it and the first nations' lack of funds to implement this decision. The fewer people the government needs to include, the more likely it will be to succeed. That is not really fair. As my colleague heard in committee, Ms. Palmater said:

One of the main issues here is that prior to 1985, bands did not have control over their membership. That was a determination made by Canada for all bands. So when we're talking about reinstating the descendants of Indian women who married out to status, that should also include band membership, because it was at a time when bands didn't have control over their membership.

...There should be no question whatsoever that the descendants of these Indian women who married out should be added to band membership because that was Canada's responsibility at the time. How can we add them to status only and not membership? And if you're asking for suggestions or if I will submit something further, for sure.

In following through with its commitment, the government needs to consult with the bands and come to an agreement with them. I hope that this will happen.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I hope the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Auditor General take note of the problem the member has just pointed out. Nobody wants people to be discriminated against, but the first nations and other aboriginal governments that are responsible for delivering services will now have 45,000 new members, if this passes.

First, there have to be audits to make sure the Department of Indian Affairs provides all the services to those 45,000 people, whether it delivers them directly or whether they have been devolved to the first nation, and transfer agreements would be passed on. However, those first nations, as the member has pointed out, also deliver a number of other services to people they determine to be members. How will they fund those? They will require extra funding.

Is the member, during committee hearings, aware of any study that was done by the government or statistics that were put forward to outline—

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 12:35 p.m.
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Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I completely agree with my colleague's comments. Obviously, the federal government has its work cut out for it. We have already identified 45,000 people and, as my colleague said earlier, there may be 200,000. It is time for Canada to integrate these first nations and stop treating them like cattle. That is how they are treated. We make decisions for them and do not allow them to participate in the development of this country and enjoy the benefits of that development. We must begin today to make that vision reality.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11 a.m.
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Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Durham, ON

moved:

Montion No. 1

That Bill C-3, in Clause 3.1, be amended by

a) replacing line 10 on page 3 with the following:

“3.1 (1) The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development shall cause to be laid”

(b) replacing lines 13 to 15 on page 3 with the following:

“force, a report on the provisions and implementation of this Act.”

(c) replacing lines 22 and 23 on page 3 with the following:

“review of any provision of this Act.”

Montion No. 2

That Bill C-3 be amended by restoring Clause 9 as follows:

“9. For greater certainty, no person or body has a right to claim or receive any compensation, damages or indemnity from Her Majesty in right of Canada, any employee or agent of Her Majesty, or a council of a band, for anything done or omitted to be done in good faith in the exercise of their powers or the performance of their duties, only because (a) a person was not registered, or did not have their name entered in a Band List, immediately before the day on which this Act comes into force; and (b) one of the person’s parents is entitled to be registered under paragraph 6(1)(c.1) of the Indian Act, as enacted by subsection 2(3).”

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11 a.m.
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Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-3, the gender equity and Indian registration act and I encourage all members of the House to join me in supporting it.

As we debate amendments to this bill today, we must remember that Bill C-3 is time-sensitive. This bill is a prompt and direct response to the ruling of the Court of Appeal of British Columbia in McIvor v. Canada.

As all members are well aware, last year the Court of Appeal of British Columbia ruled that the two paragraphs in section 6 of the Indian Act discriminate between men and women with respect to registration as an Indian and therefore violate the equality provision of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Without legislation to address the court's ruling, section 6 of the Indian Act would become invalid, meaning that any and all new registrations would be put on hold for the duration of the invalidity. This legislative gap would affect eligible residents of British Columbia and those affiliated with British Columbia first nations. To be clear, in British Columbia over the last few years there have been between 2,500 and 3,000 newly registered people per year. Clearly, the situation is not acceptable.

According to the court's ruling, Parliament was given 12 months to provide a legislative response. The court subsequently granted an extension until July 5. The time to act is now. If we fail to meet this deadline, a key section of the Indian Act, the one that spells out the rules related to entitlement to registration, also known as Indian status, will cease to have legal effect in British Columbia. As I have stated, this legislative gap could have serious consequences.

The legislation now before us proposes to avert these consequences by amending certain registration provisions of the Indian Act. What would it do? Bill C-3 would eliminate a cause of gender discrimination in the Indian Act by removing the language the court ruled unconstitutional. In doing so, we take another important step in support of justice and equality.

I believe that every member of this House stands opposed to discrimination based on gender. Bill C-3 would take Canada one significant step closer to achieving gender equality. The debate is about the ongoing effort to eliminate gender discrimination while respecting the responsibility placed on us as parliamentarians to provide a timely and appropriate response to the ruling by the Court of Appeal of British Columbia.

As a modern and enlightened nation, Canada champions justice and equality for all. Canadians recognize that discrimination weakens the fabric of society and that it erodes the public's faith in the justice system. That is why I am pleased to support this legislation to address the gender discrimination in the Indian Act that was identified in the court's decision.

Members of this House have demonstrated by way of example time and time again their willingness to address issues related to individual rights. In 2008, for example, Parliament supported the repeal of section 67 of the Canada Human Rights Act. Section 67 shielded decisions or actions taken in accordance with the Indian Act from human rights complaints. To rectify this situation, members of this House supported legislation to repeal section 67. This is an important and relevant example for the purposes of this debate.

Bill C-3 has much in common with the legislation that repealed section 67. Both strive to protect individual rights and promote equality.

The truth is that addressing issues such as gender discrimination in certain registration provisions in the Indian Act would have a positive impact on Canada as a whole, as did the repealing of section 67.

Bill C-3 is a progressive, responsive and measured response to the court's decision. It is rooted in the principle that all citizens should be equal before the law. What is more important, or as important, Bill C-3 represents a timely and appropriate response to the ruling by the Court of Appeal of British Columbia. It proposes to eliminate a cause of unjust discrimination and ensure that Canada's legal system evolves alongside the needs of first nations peoples.

For too long, first nations people have struggled to participate fully in the prosperity of this nation due to a series of obstacles. With the removal of these obstacles, first nations peoples would have greater opportunities to contribute socially, economically and culturally to this country and to their communities in their respective regions. Parliament, of course, plays a key role in this process.

Putting an end to discrimination against first nations women is advantageous for all communities and that is why I am urging all members of this House to join me in supporting Bill C-3 and the amendments before us today.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his comments and for his participation in the committee but I have a couple of questions.

First, he made a very good point about removing discrimination against women in the Indian act but witness after witness explained that this would only remove some of the discrimination. The government was implored by witnesses and by members of the opposition to actually deal with the rest of the discrimination and not just eliminate a small part of the discrimination against Indian women. Why will it not make those changes to the act?

Second, he did not talk about the report stage amendments that we are debating. Could he talk about them?

Third, why is there no money in the estimates to deal with the financial ramifications of Bill C-3?

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to emphasize that the exercise we went through at committee and the process before this issue was discussed and debated at committee and now in this House, dealt with a myriad of issues that we needed to understand better as a Parliament. In particular, we heard from stakeholders that, in moving forward, once this Parliament had dealt with the specific concerns that the court raised in its ruling, which Bill C-3 would achieve, it sounds like we may not have heard the same things but what I heard from a number of stakeholders, including first nations leadership, was that there was a need for some kind of reconciliation around a couple of key issues, namely status, membership and citizenship.

That is why we will be going through an exploratory process moving forward in an effort to get to the bottom of a number of other issues and concerns as a result of any changes that are being proposed in this bill.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:10 a.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will have a chance to say more about this a little later when it is my turn to talk about Bill C-3, but for now, I have a problem I want to point out to my colleague opposite.

Neither Sharon McIvor, nor the Aboriginal Women's Action Network, nor Quebec Native Women Inc., nor the Native Women's Association of Canada are in favour of Bill C-3 as it currently stands. The government says it wants to reduce discrimination, but I do not see how simply responding to the British Columbia Court of Appeal decision will reduce discrimination. Our amendments would have put an end to discrimination once and for all.

I know we do not have a lot of time. Is my colleague aware of a single native women's association that is favour of Bill C-3?

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:10 a.m.
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Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I guess I will not refer to the 2009 economic action plan, as usual.

I appreciate the member's participation in the debate. I point out the origins of today's discussion and debate. It centres around a decision from the British Columbia Court of Appeal. The decision therein compelled Parliament to respond to a very specific set of circumstances, which gave rise to discrimination.

There is no dispute that there continues to be groups who want to debate and discuss this issue. Our responsibility, as a government, is to address what the court laid out in its decision, and Bill C-3 does that. The exploratory process will further engage the stakeholders in an effort to understand what solutions can be brought forward in the future.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, first, I acknowledge four women with the AMUN March . They are marching 500 kilometres from Wendake to Ottawa. These brave women are opposed to Bill C-3. They are demonstrating by their actions just how opposed they are and how they continue to fight for equality for aboriginal women in our country, a fight that has been taken up by people like Mary Two-Axe Early, Ms. Lavell, Ms. Lovelace and Ms. McIvor. The struggle of Ms. McIvor is why we are in the House this morning debating Bill C-3 and, specifically, amendments to it.

However, let us take a very brief moment to find out how we got here. This is a 25 year struggle by aboriginal women for equality. They have gone through the court system. The courts have ruled in their favour, not once but twice, at the B.C. Supreme Court and at the B.C. Court of Appeal.

The government says that it only wants to respond to the B.C. Court of Appeal in the narrowest possible terms. The government had it in its craw, it had the will, to introduce a bill that would speak to the broader issues of discrimination. If it were sincere about discrimination under the Indian Act, it could have taken the measures to broaden the scope of the bill and to once and for all end all gender inequality and sex discrimination under the Indian Act. The Conservative government chose to make it very narrow.

The member opposite said as much. He said that we were one step closer. By his own admission, we are not there yet to end gender discrimination under the Indian Act. Therefore, the government could have taken the steps to do it but it did not.

The member went on to say, and I want to respond to some of what he said, that this was a situation of such urgency. The parliamentary secretary said in committee on April 27, when we put in a provision about reporting to Parliament, that the concern was after two years we just would really be getting going in terms of some of the registration numbers.

The parliamentary secretary by his own admission seems to feel, speaking on behalf of the government, that even if the bill passed, there would only be a negligible impact upon the new numbers that would come forward.

Therefore, the government, by its own admission, has said to each and every one of us that on the one hand it is so urgent, yet on the other hand it does not really know if it will have much of an impact at all. Where is the government when it comes to this bill.

To be quite honest, I think the government likes to play a charade on people. It loves to stand up for individual rights or gender equality, but it is not willing to put the heart or soul in to this to ensure it is done once and for all.

When it comes to Bill C-3, contrary to what the member opposite has said, every witness said that Bill C-3 was not adequate. It did not respond to all the issues of gender discrimination under the Indian Act. When asked, all the witnesses said that if they had the opportunity, they would definitely want the bill amended to ensure that once and for all there was no gender discrimination under the Indian Act.

We tried everything in the House. We put a motion before the House to try to expand the scope of the bill. The government shot it down. We tried to bring amendments forward and they were ruled out of order. Now we are debating amendments at report stage.

I will give an example of what some of the witnesses said, in particular the Quebec Native Women. They said:

—while Quebec Native Women recognizes the need to amend the archaic nature of the Indian Act, Quebec Native Women, as stated earlier, deplores the restrictive vision of the federal government based solely on a patchwork remedy to the specific problem of discrimination brought to light in the McIvor case...

Another quote is:

LEAF supports this demand to remove all vestiges of sex discrimination from the status provisions, and submits that the elimination of residual sex discrimination under the Indian Act best meets the federal government’s constitutional obligations to achieve substantive equality for Aboriginal women and Canada’s obligations under international law.

Sharon McIvor, Pam Palmater, an individual who came before us, CAP and the Assembly of First Nations all said the same thing. They were in unanimity when it came to this point.

I will speak to clause 9, which is one of the proposed amendments by the government. Interestingly, the government never spoke to the specific amendments it proposed. The member went on in some rhetorical terms about how the government stood up for the individual rights of women, and all that sort of thing.

However, when it comes to clause 9, we again hear two stories. The government officials came before us and said that clause 9 was a bit innocuous, that it really did not do much, that it was for greater certainty. Yet when the parliamentary secretary spoke at committee, he said that Bill C-3 could not pass if we clause 9 was not in it. When the vote comes, if clause 9 fails, we will see what the government will do.

Chief David Walkem of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs says that we should strike clause 9. On April 20, at committee, he said:

—we're recommending is to strike clause 9 to allow Indian women and their descendants who lost status due to the discriminatory operation of the Indian Act to pursue, through the courts or other negotiation, restitution or compensation for the losses their families suffered as a result of the historical discrimination imposed on them by this legislation, similar to the process followed for people who went to residential schools.

On Tuesday, April 13, CAP, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, said this about clause 9:

This section is an insult to Indian women and their descendants all over this country. Not only was Canada forced to make amendments to address gender inequality after fighting against the McIvor case for over 20 years; and not only has Canada proposed a very minimalist amendment; now Canada wants to ensure that it does not have to compensate the victims of gender discrimination?

It goes on to say that it cannot now be said that Canada did not knowingly discriminate against Indian women and their descendants.

This is what Dr. Pam Palmater had to say on April 20:

Clause 9 is an offence to Indian women and their descendants who have already waited more than 25 years for justice. It is also counter to both the spirit and the intent of the Charter of Rights.

The Canadian Bar Association said:

Section 9 is a concern, as it would remove the right of anyone to sue the federal government for not providing them with status as a result of the gender discrimination addressed by the Bill. If the federal government can be presumed to have been aware that Bill C-31 was not consistent with the Charter as far back as 1985, and did not act for over twenty years until the McIvor decision reached the BC Court of Appeal, the CBA Section is concerned with the justice of such a “no liability” provision. Further, we caution that including such a provision could make the Bill vulnerable to further Charter challenges.

Again, almost every witness who came before us was opposed to clause 9.

Then the government brings up the wonderful example of the repeal of section 67 of Bill C-21 passed in 2008. It said that this was a wonderful thing, that now complaints could be brought against the government and against Indian Act bands.

Guess what? It has said that there is a remedy for first nations women use the Canadian Human Rights Act as a vehicle. Over 30 complaints have been launched against the federal government by aboriginal people, first nations people, and the Government of Canada has gone before the Canadian Human Rights Commission and said that it has no jurisdiction and that it cannot provide a remedy because it does not provide a service.

Therefore, it tells us that we have a remedy on one hand and tries to deny us that remedy on the other hand. It is hypocritical.

Clause 9 is a no go. We will not support it and we hope all our colleagues in the House will join us. Certainly I know that in committee all of the opposition parties voted to not include clause 9 in the bill.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the intervention this morning by the hon. member who, as we know, is the critic for the official opposition on this particular subject and also the vice-chair of our committee.

My question actually goes to clause 9. He will recall that although there were differences of opinion when we talked about this item, we also recognized that it was a principle in law that when decisions are made in good faith by governments or, indeed, by first nations, and that legislation is found to be invalid at a later point in time, that particular event would not in and of itself attract liability. That principle exists.

It may well be that clause 9 does not have to be in the bill, but would the hon. member not agree that at the very least it provides clarity to the people who might be looking at this as the basis of possible legal action only to find that such action would in fact be invalid? It saves both parties a whole lot of time and expense by not pursuing something that would be found, for all intents and purposes, to be null and void.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I would say there was a similar clause about the same time the charter came into being in 1985. It did not stop certain challenges at that particular time; it did not provide the clarity the member speaks of.

I would say that the greatest clarity we can have in this House and the greatest clarity we can provide to first nations women across this country is to end gender discrimination once and for all. We have the ability as parliamentarians to do it. The government can withdraw Bill C-3 and come back with something that makes sense and puts this debate to bed once and for all.

Why do we want another generation to have to fight sections of Bill C-31 and the residual discrimination that will continue to exist under the Indian Act?

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:25 a.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague from Labrador. There is a small detail worth mentioning and I may get a chance to come back to it. Ms. McIvor, who was at the origin of the bill, could have benefited from the court challenges program, but that program was abolished by the Conservatives. It is not complicated. Today, aboriginal women can no longer benefit from the court challenges program. Bill C-3 hurts these women and it will continue to hurt them.

I have a question for my colleague. Where does he propose that aboriginal women—who will continue to be hurt if this bill is adopted as is—find help to continue defending their rights?

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue raised a very good point. It seems that once Bill C-3 goes through—and there are problems with it, as the government and all witness have acknowledged—the onus will be on individual first nations women or first nations organizations to lodge a complaint. The onus will be on them to fight it and to find the resources, and the Conservative government has cut off a valued avenue of support for those who seek such redress.

Therefore, the government offers a remedy on the one hand, but says that it will deny people access to that remedy at every opportunity. It will deny them access to funds and deny them any type of remedy at the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The government is being two-faced: it offers a remedy on the one hand, but denies people any access to it on the other hand. The court challenges program is just another example of this.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:25 a.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the hon. member could address the following point. I notice there have been a lot of complaints and a lot of witnesses who have appeared to say would have preferred much broader amendments.

Could the member speak to the issue that the government seems to be responding only to the order of the court, instead of going more broadly and looking at the requests of the affected first nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples?

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, the member certainly sums up very succinctly.

The government has chosen to draft a bill with the narrowest possible grounds. It has not at all responded to the larger appeal of first nations women across this country to once and for all end gender discrimination. The government had that ability, it had that flexibility, and it made a choice.

Some will say, what about an amendment? Well, an amendment to the Indian Act may be fine, but is it justifiable to help some people and then leave thousands and thousands of others to be subject to the discriminatory aspects of the Indian Act? I believe it is not.

We could have settled this once and for all, and the government chose not to.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:25 a.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-3, which is coming back with amendments at report stage.

I will quickly move on to these amendments after I draw the attention of the House to the presence today on Parliament Hill of the group of women participating in the Amun march. These women, who left a few days ago from Wendake, near Quebec City, took a break from their walk to come here today and support the opposition parties' demands that this bill go no further and that we vote against the amendments presented.

I would also like to draw the attention of members to the presence today on the Hill of the President of Quebec Native Women Inc., Ms. Gabriel. I believe that it is important to point out that, under the Indian Act—and I will come back to this as it is extremely important—women are victims of discrimination and have been ever since the Indian Act was adopted.

Women have always had to suffer the consequences of the government's actions. It is women who have always been excluded from band councils, from bands and from being registered, and they will continue to be excluded if this bill is passed as is.

Let us deal with the amendments immediately. There are two: Motion No. 1 and Motion No. 2. Motion No. 1 does not present a problem. It is straightforward, and no one can disagree with it. The government finally realized that we were right to ask that it report on its progress in implementing Bill C-3 if it were unfortunately—and I use that word advisedly—passed as is. We will support this amendment, as it does not represent a major change.

But we cannot support Motion No. 2, which we need to read and understand:

...no person or body has a right to claim or receive any compensation, damages or indemnity from Her Majesty in right of Canada, any employee or agent of Her Majesty...for anything done or omitted to be done in good faith...

I said a couple of minutes ago that women would continue to be hurt if this amendment were adopted. Its wording implies that women have not been deliberately hurt. Yet that is exactly what has happened under the Indian Act: women have been deliberately hurt by successive governments since 1876. And things have not gotten any better since 1985.

I will digress for a moment, because I will have a chance to speak again when the bill comes back for third reading. We had introduced amendments and had accepted the Liberal amendment, but the Speaker unfortunately decided that that amendment could not be adopted, so the bill remains unchanged.

If this bill is passed as is, it will solve only a very small problem. I recognize that this problem does affect thousands of aboriginal people in British Columbia, but more than 100,000 aboriginal women and their children will continue to be hurt if the bill is passed as is.

What did the B.C. Court of Appeal tell us in the McIvor decision? It told us that it was our duty as politicians to review this law, which is unfair and unacceptable in 2010 and which perpetuates and will continue to perpetuate systemic discrimination against aboriginal women.

That is exactly what we did. We heard from witnesses, we heard from organizations like the Native Women's Association of Canada and Quebec Native Women Inc., we met with individual aboriginal women like Ms. Palmater and Ms. McIvor, and we also heard from organizations like the Barreau du Québec, the Canadian Bar Association, and the Assembly of First Nations. Every single one of them told us that amendments were needed to eliminate the discrimination once and for all.

We had a historic opportunity to put an end to the discrimination that exists and will continue to exist if this bill passes. No one is in favour of this bill.

The Aboriginal Women's Action Network has said that Bill C-3 maintains the discrimination against aboriginal women because they will still be required to declare the father of their child. That makes no sense, and that is not the practice anywhere else in Canada. Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that no one can be discriminated against based on sex, religion, national or ethnic origin, and so on. It is strange that this does not apply to aboriginals, and especially not to aboriginal women.

Aboriginal women will be forced to continue to declare who is the father of their child, if they want their child to be registered. If they do not declare a father, it will be assumed that the father is white. Is this 2010 or 1876? This bill is setting us back 30 years.

We have an opportunity to fix the problem by voting against this bill. The opposition parties must vote against this bill. That is the beauty of a minority government: the opposition holds the power. We can vote against this bill and ensure that it is not passed. The government will say that it is urgent, and that the court gave it until July to pass this legislation; otherwise, some Indians cannot be registered.

I am asking Indians if they are willing to wait another year so that we can address this discrimination once and for all. If we vote against this bill, the government will be forced to introduce another one. We have said it loud and clear: we want to finally address the discrimination that aboriginal women are victims of.

It is unacceptable that this type of discrimination still exists in 2010. The icing on the cake is that the government is saying that Ms. McIvor's case must be remedied once and for all because the British Columbia Court of Appeal has told it to do so.

In an open letter to everyone, Ms. McIvor has asked us to vote against Bill C-3 because it will not put an end to gender discrimination. I will read it in English, since that will be easier and clearer for the members across the way.

Ms. McIvor said that Bill C-3 will not end sex discrimination in the statute's registration provisions under the Indian Act.

That could not be more clear. If I were allowed, I could speak all day long about the discrimination that aboriginal women continue to be subjected to. Bill C-3 will not put an end to this discrimination. That is why we will vote in favour of Motion No. 1 and ensure that the government can report. But will we vote against this bill at report stage in order to rescind section 9.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments made by the Bloc Québécois member, who sits on the committee.

I just have one question for the member, and I appreciate his suggestions this morning regarding the limits of the bill, on which it is quite well agreed there are limits, as we will discuss a little later this morning. But would not the hon. member agree that what we have in front of us is the ability to give possibly upwards of 45,000 first nations people the ability to gain their status? If the bill is not passed, the possibilities for that group of people who have been waiting a long time, and we are now into the second decade where these people should have been given the ability to gain their status, would be reduced. Yes, there is more to be done, but would not the member agree that we should at least take this first step and ensure that we can move forward for that group of people and then continue the work to address some of these other issues that we all agree are there and that must be discussed and for which measures ought to be brought forward to address?

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:35 a.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to hear him say that. My answer is no and I will explain why. In fact, the Court of Appeal forced the government to take action and it took the opposing stand. Now it does not have a choice. Luckily it decided not to take the matter to the Supreme Court. If not for the courts, the government never would have introduced such a bill. The proof is that the government introduced the bill only to satisfy the B.C. Court of Appeal.

So when I hear that, I think it would be better to wait another year and resolve the problem once and for all. It might be hard to wait another year, but they have already been waiting for 25 years. Can we not wait another year and solve the problem once and for all with a bill that will put an end to the discrimination?

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:40 a.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I enjoy working with the member on committee. I have one question for him and it is related to why the government would not remove all the discrimination in this bill. Does he have any hypothesis as to why?

I do not think government members want the discrimination to continue. My suggestion is that it is a lack of consultation. Over and over in committee, we have heard that there has been a lack of pre-consultation. Had there been sufficient consultation, the government would have found out about this residual discrimination in the bill and would have taken it out.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:40 a.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, the answer is yes and no, and I will explain why. We have known since 1876, since 1951 and especially since 1985 that the Indian Act was discriminatory. The discrimination is clear. As much as I respect aboriginal peoples, and everyone knows that I respect them a great deal, I do not believe much consultation is needed to answer the question as to whether subsections 6(1) and 6(2)of the Indian Act are discriminatory. The answer is yes.

The second question is knowing how to end the discrimination. The answer seems simple at first: eliminate subsections 6(1) and 6(2). It seems simple. Yes, many different things are involved at the governmental level, but as long as we continue this piecemeal approach with lawsuits that drag on for years and years, aboriginal people and aboriginal women in particular will never ever be able to achieve their full potential, because that is the problem.

Ms. McIvor spent 15 years fighting in court. That poor woman had no time to take care of anything else; she only had time for that. So it has to stop, and this is our opportunity to put an end to it once and for all.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the amendments that the government has brought forward. I want to make a couple of points to put this in context.

First, I want to acknowledge the women who took part in the AMUN March to Ottawa who are here today, along with Ellen Gabriel from the Quebec Native Women's Association.

What we have before us is a very troubling response to a very complex situation. The government, and I say this quite cynically, has called Bill C-3 the gender equity in Indian registration act. As we have heard from other members, the bill does not deal with the full range of gender discrimination that still exists under the Indian Act. We have a much broader and more complex problem with citizenship and status. Many Canadians are not aware that there is a difference between citizenship and status, and I want to highlight a couple of points on that.

We have heard about the urgency of this matter. I want to point to the ruling by the Court of Appeal of British Columbia. The court did allow an extension when the government asked for it until July, but it also indicated that under the circumstances it might well have acceded to a request for a longer suspension had it been sought. The government said this was urgent, that we had to get on with this right away instead of following the appropriate process. That simply is not true. The court indicated that it would allow the time required to do the kind of job that is needed.

I want to cite article 33 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which says:

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.

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

Under the Indian Act, status is imposed by the state. The state determines who is an Indian. Leading up to 1985 women were discriminated against for marrying white men. We have seen decades of fighting. A bill in 1985 introduced some changes, but the changes created all kinds of problems, which is why we now have Bill C-3 before us. From 1985 to the present we have seen a number of court cases. Ms. McIvor's is the one that prompted Bill C-3. There are 14 other outstanding court cases.

The first nations registration status of membership research report, which is from where I cited the United Nations declaration, also indicated the generations that this has been ongoing. The 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples report acknowledged that the Indian Act and other such legislation and policies have had a detrimental impact on aboriginal people, resulting in the muting of the collective consciousness in respect of aboriginal nationhood and citizenship in an aboriginal nation. According to RCAP, citizenship is not vested in the Indian Act band but rather in the aboriginal nation, and calls for the reconstitution of aboriginal nations and nation governments that would in turn determine criteria for citizenship.

We are not dealing with the much larger issue. As long as we continue to deal with status on a piecemeal basis, many women and men are being forced into the courts to get the government to deal with this and we are going to continue to have this kind of conflictual discussion. The government had an opportunity to do a far better job than it has done on this.

I want to specifically reference the amendments that have been proposed, but specifically the one with respect to clause 9. Others have quoted from a number of witnesses and I want to touch on a couple.

When the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission came before us at committee, she said two really important things. She said that the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act would allow women and men to take these discriminatory status provisions to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. In her testimony, the commissioner indicated:

My key message to you today is that this is by no means definite. The Commission’s ability to redress allegations of discrimination under the Indian Act remains uncertain.

Even the Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission questions whether the remedy proposed is possible.

In addition, during questions and answers later when she was asked specifically about clause 9 and the impact it may have on the Canadian Human Rights Commission to bring forward a remedy if discrimination was found, she indicated that she was uncertain about the impact of clause 9. Therefore, that remedy may simply not be available.

I also want to reference the national aboriginal law section in the Canadian Bar Association's briefing note of April 2010, which said:

Section 9 is a concern, as it would remove the right of anyone to sue the federal government for not providing them with status as a result of the gender discrimination addressed by the Bill. If the federal government can be presumed to have been aware that Bill C-31 was not consistent with the Charter as far back as 1985, and did not act for over twenty years until the McIvor decision reached the BC Court of Appeal, the CBA Section is concerned with the justice of such a “no liability” provision. Further, we caution that including such a provision could make the Bill vulnerable to further Charter challenges.

There are two points on that. Nobody is clear what the repeal of section 67 means in the context of what clause 9 would do. The government has indicated that Bill C-31, back in 1985, had a similar liability clause. It has argued that in Bill C-31 in 1985 that clause has not prevented first nations from taking their cases to court. However, we are in a completely different context in 2010 because we now have the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

This question around what clause 9 would mean in this new context has not been analyzed and nobody has been able to give a clear answer about whether first nations would still have any remedy, whether they would be able to continue with the practices that have happened since 1985 in terms of bringing court cases forward and seeking remedies. We are in a different context and I do not believe there has been the kind of analysis that would indicate the impact on that.

The other issue is that the government has claimed that part of the reason for clause 9 is to protect first nations chiefs and councils from any liability issues. If that is the case, then why was clause 9 or a similar clause not brought forward that protected chiefs and councils but still left the government open for redress?

The Canadian Bar Association raised the issue of whether the government was aware that there was ongoing gender discrimination. In the 1988 fifth report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development it outlined that there were numerous issues of gender discrimination still in the act. They are clearly outlined. Whether it was unstated paternity or children born prior to 1951, there were all kinds of gender discrimination issues.

This report was tabled in the House, so clearly the government and successive governments were well aware that there was residual gender discrimination in the Indian Act. Therefore, it would be hard to claim that the government was not aware. This has been brought up in any number of other venues.

This is outside the scope of the amendments, but a very troubling question around funding continues to be unanswered. We know that with a 2% funding cap imposed in 1995, continuing increases in population and new people coming on as a result of changed status, it is very difficult for bands to manage their funding with increased populations. It seems unreasonable to put forward legislation that does not have the financial resources attached to it.

There are a number of unanswered questions that remain before us when we consider the amendments before the House.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:50 a.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to my colleague, who is doing excellent work as a member of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. I really enjoy working with her. However, I do not think she told us what we really want to know. Allow me to explain: I listened to everything in both English and French just to make sure, but I did not hear her say what the NDP's position at report stage is.

What does the NDP plan to do about the amendments before us, Motions Nos. 1 and 2 concerning clause 9? I would really like my colleague to tell the House what the NDP's position on this issue is, without violating the seal of confession, of course.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:50 a.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was not attempting to equivocate. We will not be supporting the amendment.

The member knows full well that I am from British Columbia and how very difficult this decision has been for me and my colleagues.

We fully recognize that up to 45,000 people across this country could gain status as a result of Bill C-3. We also have a responsibility, as parliamentarians, when a bill comes before us, to examine the full implications of that piece of legislation. When it comes to clause 9, I am not sure that we understand the full implications of this piece of legislation. I raised the issue on the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. I am not sure that we really understand, in this new environment we are operating in, what the implications of clause 9 would be, whether there would be remedies available, and whether the Canadian Human Rights Commission could actually hear these cases and determine awards.

I am very concerned about what would happen in British Columbia, where paragraphs 6(1)(a) and 6(1)(c) will have no force and effect if this legislation is defeated. Perhaps the government will use this as an opportunity to bring back a more reasonable piece of legislation, which, of course, it has the full ability to do.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:55 a.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, clearly, the government does not want to do the right thing here and end discrimination. I would think that it is partly because of the costs, or maybe it has no plans to actually fund the costs.

The first nations band councils have not heard whether the government will be increasing spending for the roughly 45,000 people who will be gaining status. If the government is not tying the funding to population growth, and if there are many fast-growing communities already under strain as we speak, how are the liabilities of the government and the band councils going to be affected if there is no increase in funding and services cannot be offered to all the new claimants?

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:55 a.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Elmwood—Transcona is absolutely correct. We have seen, even without any increase in the number of people with status, that since 1995 there has been a 2% funding cap on Indian and northern affairs funding and a 3% funding cap on first nations non-insured health benefits. The status population growth in bands has far outstripped that funding.

It was very troubling to see in the estimates tabled in the House that even though the government was fully aware that Bill C-3 would be coming forward, with its own numbers saying that there would be an increase of up to 45,000 people, there was absolutely no additional funding to deal with that increase.

In addition to that, we know that there are many other issues facing band councils. They are already squeezed for money. With the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, we know that band councils are going to be facing increased pressure from their own members, because claims can be filed against them under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Of course, bands have a limited ability to increase access to things such as housing, education, clean water, and health benefits.

One of the things we also notice is that the living index in first nations communities is down at the level of third world countries, and their ability to deal with this increased population is simply not there.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 11:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted this morning to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-3, the gender equity in Indian registration act, at report stage, and to remind all members that there are two goals this legislation now before us is set to achieve.

First, Bill C-3 would eliminate a cause of gender discrimination in the Indian Act. Second, it represents a timely and direct response to the ruling of the British Columbia Court of Appeal.

We are well aware that there are a number of broader issues related to the question of registration and membership. We heard that intently, during the course of our committee hearings, in testimony from a good margin of witnesses.

However, given the short timeframe and an interest in avoiding a legislative void in British Columbia, we are seeking to implement changes that directly respond to the British Columbia Court of Appeal decision. Bill C-3 offers a solution to the specific issues identified by the Court of Appeal by amending the Indian Act to address the gender discrimination identified by the court.

As I mentioned, we are quite aware of the broader issues of registration and membership, because the consultations prior to the tabling of this legislation involved collaboration with the people who are most greatly affected by it.

Last year, following a thorough review and analysis of the court's decision, officials from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada had technical briefings with representatives of five national aboriginal organizations to discuss the decision and Canada's proposed response. Following those briefings, 15 engagement sessions were held throughout the country to present Canada's proposed response to the McIvor decision and to solicit feedback. Hundreds of participants came to the engagement sessions, and many written submissions were received. Several common themes quickly emerged.

Many people expressed concerns about the broader issues of registration, membership, and citizenship. We appreciate the fact that these broader issues are complex. We saw in committee that even among first nations representatives and leadership there is a diversity of views. One could not conclude that there is even a singular consensus within the population or the community itself.

For these reasons, we will be undertaking a collaborative process with national aboriginal organizations to plan, organize, and implement forums and activities that will focus on gathering information and on identifying more fully those broader issues for discussion.

I would like to quote the first witness we had at the committee hearings on this bill. We heard from the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. He said, “We know that broader reform of these matters cannot be developed overnight” or “in isolation”. He went on to say, “I've announced that over the next few months we will be setting up a separate exploratory process to gain further insight into these issues, as was requested by many first nations during” the McIvor engagement process.

It is that kind of engagement that has given rise to some of the discussion, a two-part discussion, on first, putting legislation in place that addresses the decision by the British Columbia Court of Appeal, and second, on acknowledging and understanding that there is more to be done. Members here this morning have alluded to it. There is much more to be done on the issues of registration and citizenship.

The Government of Canada believes that this separate exploratory process should be collaborative and thorough. The wide array of views on status, membership, and citizenship must be shared and considered carefully. These are issues that cannot be discussed in isolation, as I have said.

However, as important as this work might be, it cannot take precedence over Bill C-3. We must not lose sight of the fact that the legislation now before us responds to a specific court ruling and a prescribed deadline. The ruling and deadline inform the design of Bill C-3. It is for this reason alone that the proposed legislation is precise, compact, and focused.

Let me remind the members of the House of the deadline we are working towards. On March 9, 2010, the government sought an extension of the British Columbia Court of Appeal's declaration of invalidity to avoid a legislative gap in British Columbia. That extension was granted on April 1, 2010, and it extended the original deadline out to July 5, 2010.

We are about six weeks away from the deadline on which there would, in fact, be a legislative gap or void on the issue of registration, particularly and specifically in British Columbia. That could potentially mean upwards of 2,500 to 3,000 registrations per year in British Columbia alone. People who would otherwise, and should, have access to registration would be denied it if this bill, in its limited and prescriptive way, is not passed. That would be the effect. There would be no ability to register those new registrants in the province of British Columbia.

As I have said, if no solution is in place, paragraphs 6(1)(a) and 6(1)(c) of the Indian Act, which deal with an individual's entitlement to registration, commonly referred to as Indian status, will for all intents and purposes cease to exist in the province of British Columbia. This would create uncertainty. Most importantly, this legislative gap would prevent the registration of individuals associated with British Columbia bands.

The positive impact of Bill C-3 should not be overlooked. Based on demographic estimates undertaken by Stewart Clatworthy, a leading expert in the field of aboriginal demography, the proposed legislation would entitle upwards of 45,000 people to have access to register under the Indian Act. That would essentially equate to 45,000 new people in our country having access, as other status Indians have, to non-insured health benefits, post-secondary education funding, and things that they are at the cusp of being able to receive. They can only do so if this bill is passed.

We all know that discrimination is one of those obstacles that prevent many aboriginal people from participating fully in the prosperity of our nation. With the removal of these obstacles, aboriginal people will have more opportunity to contribute socially, economically, and culturally to our country. That is good news for all Canadians.

Bill C-3 represents a timely and appropriate response to the British Columbia Court of Appeal ruling. It proposes to eliminate a cause of unjust discrimination and to ensure that Canada's legal system continues to evolve alongside the needs of aboriginal peoples. I would urge all members to join me in supporting the timely passage of Bill C-3 and the amendments before us today.

We have discussed some amendments this morning. There are two motions. The first motion on clause 3.1 addresses some specific items related to ensuring that the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is responsible for reporting to Parliament within two years of the amendment coming into force. That is the reporting provision.

There has been some debate on clause 9 this morning. I would simply remind members that it is not only the Government of Canada that would be seeking to uphold this legal principle so that it would not be facing untoward legal action. It is also for first nations communities and governments. They too could be in a position of having to face that kind of action and would not be in a position to do it.

This is a legal principle that should be upheld. Clause 9 makes it clear that this would be the case.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 12:05 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I have two questions for the member, one on costing and one on the timeliness.

The member has stated that the Minister of Indian Affairs considers that this is a critical issue to address and yet 22 years have lapsed since the recommended reforms have come forward. The government has been in power for four years. I would hardly call that a timely response to a report that has been languishing for 22 years. I wonder if the member could speak to that. We have had 22 years of Liberals and Conservatives who have not addressed those proposals.

Second, it has been the policy and practice of the government every time a private member's bill is tabled to demand that costing be done and yet the government tables for debate this very significant bill in which band councils and first nations will incur substantial costs. Could the member please advise why there is not a line in this year's budget where we could not find billions of dollars to reduce corporate taxes but no resources are available to support the bands in delivering on the bill?

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Madam Speaker, one of the unique aspects of the bill, particularly as it relates to the provisions that would allow this new group of upwards of 45,000 people to be able to receive these kinds of benefits, is that it is based on an application much of which has been the case in the past as well. When there have been changes in registration, it falls on the shoulders of potential applicants to make the decision if they wish to go ahead and apply to receive that status. They would look at what allows a person to gain status, as would be prescribed by the bill and the amendments to the Indian Act, but it would then be incumbent upon them to make that decision to go through the process.

It is very uncertain as to how many on a year-by-year basis would be applying to make that. It is one of the reasons that the uptake on the bill may be very quick. On the other hand, it might be staged over a period of time. However, these are the kinds of programs that are required. The government provides support for things like post-secondary education and non-insured health benefits. As the people who are eligible for those benefits grow and registrations grow, then the government responds accordingly.

As to what the exact number will be is very hard to predict because we just do not know how many people will sign up year in and year out.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 12:10 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, I know there is a debate on whether it is a good idea to reinstate clause 9 of the bill, which was eliminated at committee. A concern we have, which was raised with me repeatedly, is that this clause, a greater certainty clause, that would allow first nations people particularly who are concerned about any kind of frivolous lawsuits that might come forward, vexatious things that happen at a local band level, that they would have to defend in court even though it is not their responsibility. The bill is just coming in now and clause 9 says basically that for greater certainly no one can go way back in history and try to sue a band council and chief for what happened 20 years ago.

I wonder if the member could comment about the necessity of clause 9 in the bill.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 12:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the minister for his leadership on this bill. He is absolutely right. This is a legal principle that must be upheld but particularly so for first nations because even a first nation government, which has made decisions with respect to programs and services that it offers its members, cannot be held up with the possibility of legal claims coming that are completely contrary to that principle in law. That is why clause 9 needs to be there.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 12:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak at report stage of Bill C-3. I, too, want to acknowledge the efforts and the presence in the House of the AMUN walkers and the president of the Quebec Native Women's Association. The fact that they took the time to come to the House today to hear the debate on this bill at report stage underlines the importance of the outcome of this legislation to them.

Many of my colleagues know that for generation after generation individual aboriginal women, like Sandra Lovelace, Jeanette Corbiere Lavell and Sharon McIvor, have had to take the government to court to gain entitlement to their status, status that was denied them only because they descended from a status woman rather than a status man. We know that gender discrimination has existed in the Indian Act since its enactment.

The Conservative government introduced the legislation that we are looking at here today, Bill C-3, that would continue to leave residual gender discrimination in the Indian Act, forcing another generation of aboriginal women to fight for their rights and, as my colleague from the Bloc said, to fight for their rights without having the opportunities of the court challenges program.

We have heard a near unanimous call from aboriginal women's organizations, individual aboriginal women, including Sharon McIvor, aboriginal governments and chiefs, academics and national organizations, such as the Canadian Bar Association and LEAF, to amend or otherwise rewrite Bill C-3 to comprehensively and meaningfully end sex discrimination under the Indian Act.

We have heard a lot of conversation about the deadline but we have also heard that the courts allowed for the deadline to be extended further than the date that we are currently dealing with. For whatever reason, the government has chosen not to go back to them to extend that deadline. The government has chosen instead to deny repeated attempts to introduce comprehensive legislation that would, once and for all, end gender discrimination by the Indian Act. It has appealed the 2007 decision of the B.C. Supreme Court in the case of McIvor v. Canada. It voted against a debate on a motion that would broaden the scope of Bill C-3. It voted against amendments in committee that would guarantee full gender equality. It challenged these amendments in the House, despite the testimony of witnesses and the unanimous support of the opposition parties. It also attempted, as we are discussing here today, to reintroduce clause 9 of Bill C-3, which we were asked to eliminate in committee by all witnesses.

What does denial of status mean? I will quote from a LEAF submission. It states:

Denial of status perpetuates stereotypes against Indian women that have been entrenched in law since 1867; that they are less worthy, less Aboriginal and less able to transmit their Aboriginality to their children simply because they are women.

We actually heard poignant testimony at committee from women who talked about the personal impact it had on them, their children and their families.

Bill C-3 leaves intact significant areas of sex discrimination. It continues to perpetuate sex-based hierarchy for the transmission of status. Grandchildren who trace their aboriginal descent through the maternal line would continue to be denied status if they were born prior to September 1951. It would also continue to perpetuate inequalities between siblings within the same family, again based on their date of birth. The proposed amendment is restricted to the grandchildren of women who lost their status due to marrying non-Indian men but it does not deal with situations where marriage is not involved in cases of unconfirmed paternity or where Indian women co-parented with non-status men. It continues to perpetuate the discrimination.

We have no difficulty supporting report stage Motion No. 1. It reminds me and it brings back the nightmares of Nisga'a but, nonetheless, we have no problem supporting it.

Motion No. 2, unfortunately, gives us great difficulty. We have heard much argument about the challenges of clause 9. I understand the minister talked about it as being for greater certainty. However, I want to read into the record two submissions, one of which was referred to in part by the Canadian Bar Association. It states:

Section 9 is a concern, as it would remove the right of anyone to sue the federal government for not providing them with status as a result of the gender discrimination addressed by the Bill. If the federal government can be presumed to have been aware that Bill C-31 was not consistent with the Charter as far back as 1985, and did not act for over twenty years until the McIvor decision reached the BC Court of Appeal, the CBA Section is concerned with the justice of such a “no liability” provision. Further, we caution that including such a provision could make the Bill vulnerable to further Charter challenges.

I also want to quote from the Congress of Aboriginal People. It is unusual to hear criticism from the Congress of Aboriginal People. It states:

This section is an insult to Indian women and their descendants all over this country. Not only was Canada forced to make amendments to address gender inequality after fighting against the McIvor case for over 20 years; and not only has Canada proposed a very minimalist amendment; now Canada wants to ensure that it does not have to compensate the victims of gender discrimination? The court record provides more than enough evidence that Canada was well aware that it was discriminating against the descendants of Indian women.

I will not go on at length. We have heard members opposite say that this would provide equality and fairness. I want to end by saying that we heard from one of the members across the way that all citizens are equal before the law but not under this law. Under this legislation, some women would be more equal than others. Of particular concern to me is that some aboriginal children, their descendants, their grandchildren and their grandchildren's children would be more equal under the law.

I will conclude with a comment by Sharon McIvor who has been fighting this battle for many years, who has taken it to court after court and who has turned her life over to fighting on behalf of herself, her son and his children. She said in committee:

I am here today to ask you, to plead with you, to include all of those women and their descendants who are discriminated against, not just the narrow view that the B.C. Court of Appeal addressed. As parliamentarians you know that the court does not draft legislation. They just put it back into your lap so you can do what is right.

I submit that it is incumbent upon us as parliamentarians to do what is right and ensure that gender discrimination for women and their descendants is not perpetuated in this country.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 12:20 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, I have a couple of comments and questions for the member.

Although the Canadian Bar Association did make the representation that she mentioned on clause 9, I ask her to comment on the counter argument. I hate to say this but in one sense the federal government is not at issue. The federal government could be sued but it has hundreds of lawyers and, arguably, infinite resources and it will defend itself or do whatever it has to do regardless of who is in charge of the government. The government has endless resources and will do whatever it needs to do to defend itself.

However, that is not so for first nation governments. They can be sued as well. People may come along and say that they should have had a house for the last 20 years and that the chief did not provide them with one so they will take the chief to the cleaners. They will not sue the federal government. They will sue the local chief and council for services not rendered.

While it may or may not succeed, who knows what the courts would say, it would conceivably put an obligation on first nation governments and they do not have the resources nor the ability to defend against, even if it is vexatious. For example, people may want to get even with the chiefs for something else that happened but could use this as an avenue to run them through the courts for years and years.

I think that is a serious issue but less so for the federal government, frankly, because it will do whatever it takes to manage the issue. However, I am concerned about the chiefs and councils who would have to deal with this, whether the case brought before the court is a serious one or not.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank the minister for his comments and questions, and I am very pleased actually to have the opportunity to respond to him.

First, if it were such a significant item, I would say to the minister that it might have been identified as a separate clause in the bill as it relates to first nation communities.

He is absolutely right. The government has the might of hundreds of lawyers at its disposal, at its will. I think it is all the more important to acknowledge the Herculean effort of someone like Sharon McIvor in using the court challenges program and the resources she had to get this far.

However, I would say to the minister that this was not a concern of his when we were dealing with Bill C-21, the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, and I am struck by the irony of having it brought forward in this case.

I am also struck by the fact that we are hearing in regard to the repeal of section 67 and its exclusion of first nations human rights complaints to the Human Rights Commission that the government is challenging every aboriginal community and aboriginal group that is going before the commission in order to get to the tribunal.

Thus, there is a lot of inconsistency here.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 12:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened to the good minister attempt to demonstrate a little paternalism toward aboriginal women. I have a brief question. Can my colleague tell us whether this form of discrimination will end should Bill C-3 unfortunately be adopted? Also, should Bill C-3 unfortunately be adopted as written, what sort of discrimination will aboriginal women still be subjected to?

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, in my comments, I identified the areas in which aboriginal women will continue to be discriminated against, and I commend the hon. member to look to those.

However, it is important to realize that we have an opportunity here as parliamentarians to ensure that this discrimination does not take place. If this bill were drafted with the generosity of spirit of a full commitment to the reduction of the gender discrimination under the Indian Act, we would not be having this discussion here today. I think it incumbent on us, as I said in the words of Sharon McIvor, that we do the right thing. We have the opportunity as government and the opposition to work together to ensure that this is not perpetuated in this country.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Madam Speaker, I would first like to point out that this is good legislation on an issue that goes back more than 100 years. This government is trying to address this very concern now, and I hope the opposition takes this legislation forward. I also hope that once the bill is passed, the government will address, in talking with its stakeholders, the further situations this gender equity in Indian registration bill does not currently meet.

I want to state at the outset that I will be speaking in support of Bill C-3, the gender equity in Indian registration bill. With the amendments before us, this bill is an important piece of legislation that must be passed without further delay. Bill C-3 proposes to amend the Indian Act and eliminate a cause of gender discrimination that has had a negative impact on first nations for far too long.

The bill now before us responds directly to a decision rendered last year by the Court of Appeal for British Columbia that two paragraphs in section 6 of the Indian Act are contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In order to allow Parliament to take action to resolve the issue, the court suspended the effect of its decision until April 6 and, subsequently, granted the government an extension until July 5 of this year. Time is running out for the House to act.

The solution proposed in Bill C-3 is to amend the Indian Act to remove the distinction between male and female lines that the court ruled was discriminatory. If passed, Bill C-3 will ensure that the eligible grandchildren of women who lost their Indian status as a result of marrying non-Indian men would become entitled to Indian status in accordance with the Indian Act.

First nations, like all Canadians, recognize the connection between equality and prosperity, and rightfully expect to be treated fairly before the law. Bill C-3 would be another step in this direction.

As my hon. colleague surely recognizes, the Indian Act defines much of the legal relationship between Canada and first nations. Clearly the process of identifying, analyzing and proposing potential reforms to the Indian Act must necessarily be done in close collaboration with first nations and individual stakeholders, but this process will take time. The Government of Canada fully recognizes that more consideration is required of the broader issues of registration, membership and citizenship. Accordingly, over the next few months, our government will be collaborating with first nations and other aboriginal organizations in setting up an exploratory process for a separate and distinct process of legislation on these broader issues.

If we fail to meet the July 5 deadline set by the Court of Appeal, a key section of the Indian Act, the one that spells out rules relating to the entitlement of registration, also known as Indian status, will cease to have legal effect in British Columbia. This could have very serious consequences. As the members of the House recognize, Indian status is a legal concept that confers a particular set of rights and entitlements. Should the two paragraphs of section 6 cease to have legal effect, this would result in a legislative gap that would prevent the registration of individuals associated with the British Colombia bands.

The legislation now before us proposes to avert these consequences by amending certain registration provisions in the Indian Act. Bill C-3 addresses the root of the problem by removing the language that the court ruled unconstitutional. In the larger context, Bill C-3 is another contribution by Parliament to help strengthen and modernize the relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in this country.

Bill S-4, our government's proposed legislation to resolve the long-standing issue of on-reserve matrimonial real property, currently before the Senate, and the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, are two prime examples of recent contributions by this House to reinforce and transform that relationship.

Bill C-3 is similar to the repeal of section 67, in that it addresses issues of rights and equality. At the same time, Bill C-3 is different in that it responds directly to a court ruling, whereas the repeal of section 67 was driven by recommendations made by several national and international groups, including the Canadian Human Rights Commission, two parliamentary committees and the United Nations.

What is most striking, however, is that the repeal of section 67 and the legislation now before us both strive to strengthen the relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people by protecting individual rights and promoting equality. It is in the context of these accomplishments, I believe, that we must endorse Bill C-3. Canadians rightfully expect that the law should keep pace with current aspirations, needs and attitudes.

I would remind my hon. colleagues that as parliamentarians, we are required by the Court of Appeal for British Columbia to take action to ensure that legislative amendments are in place to address gender discrimination in certain registration provisions of the Indian Act. How to address other sources of possible gender discrimination in the Indian Act is an issue that can be looked at during an exploratory process in partnership with our aboriginal groups.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Madam Speaker, it is interesting that my hon. colleague says the government must respond to the B.C. Court of Appeal decision. I take it that the government's position is that if Bill C-3 does not go through, it will have to provide alternative legislation in order to comply with the B.C. Court of Appeal's decision.

The member also says we have to meet the deadline because of the huge impact it is going to have on first nations people who might be eligible to register in B.C. However, if we talk to the member for Simcoe North about the financial implications of this bill, we do not know how many people are actually going to register. We cannot quantify that. We do not know if it is going to be one or 45,000. We do not know if it is going to be one or 3,000.

The government does not know if it is punched or bored on this particular bill. I wish it would get its story straight so that Canadians and first nations people could at least have a clear understanding of where the government is with this.

I ask the member, what is the interaction between repealed section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and clause 9 of the bill? I ask because government seems to say, on the one hand, that because of Bill C-21 aboriginal people can go to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, but the government, on the other hand, denies them at every turn and wants to limit its liabilities with clause 9.

I would ask the member what the interaction is between those two different provisions.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Madam Speaker, the hon. member brought up an interesting point in regard to clause 9. It is fair for first nations individuals and band councils that we adopt clause 9. Clause 9 protects both government and first nations officials who make decisions in good faith on the basis of the statutory provisions as passed by Parliament and that existed at the time of the decisions of the former. The Court of Appeal for British Columbia found that certain provisions in the Indian Act adopted in 1985 did not meet the standard of the charter, and it turned to Parliament to adopt the proper remedy for the future.

Clause 9 is there for greater certainty. This means that it actually reflects an existing principle of law, according to which decisions made in good faith on the basis of legislation later found to be invalid do not attract liability. This principle would normally apply even in the absence of clause 9. However, clause 9 is important because it sends a clear message from Parliament and it will avoid having persons who are unaware of the principle wasting their time and energy in sterile litigation against the Crown or first nation councils.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 12:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to tell the minister that I am going to ask a very good question, because as usual, I am very concerned about the issue. I know that my colleague, who sits with us on the committee, is also very concerned about the aboriginal issue.

Is it not true that the problem with clause 9 is that if it is restored as is—the current wording is why we want the clause to be repealed, and I hope my colleague will agree with me on that—aboriginal women will still lose their rights? These women have been hurt since 1876, which is an important date, since 1951, another important date, and especially since 1985, when everyone knew they were being discriminated against, yet that discrimination was perpetuated so that there would not be too many status Indians.

If clause 9 is restored, is it not true that aboriginal women will still be hurt?

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Madam Speaker, through the exploratory process, the government, in co-operation with national 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. Therefore, comprehensive reform in respect to these matters cannot be resolved overnight or in isolation. That requires the gathering of information and identification of issues for further discussion as a first step.

However, we must not lose sight of the business at hand before we turn to gathering information on complex broader issues that aboriginal individuals and groups may want to raise in the exploratory process. We must ensure that the Indian Act registration provisions are amended in order to maintain the authority to register newborns in B.C.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to rise in support of Bill C-3, the gender equity in Indian registration act, and the amendments before us today.

As stated previously by my fellow members, the legislation we are now considering is a timely and direct response to the ruling of the British Columbia Court of Appeal in McIvor v. Canada. We are aware that there are a number of other issues that have been raised in the context of Bill C-3. However, given the short time frame and the interests of avoiding a legislative void in British Columbia, we are seeking to implement changes that directly respond to the court's decision.

Bill C-3 offers a solution to the specific issues of gender discrimination identified by the British Columbia Court of Appeal in the Indian Act. As I mentioned, we are aware of broader considerations of registration and membership. Our government has been working in collaboration with the people directly affected by these issues.

Last year, following a thorough review and analysis of the court's decision, officials from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada had technical briefings with representatives of five national aboriginal organizations to discuss the decision and Canada's proposed response. Following those briefings, 15 engagement sessions were held throughout the country to present Canada's proposed response to the McIvor decision and to solicit feedback. Hundreds of participants came to the engagement sessions and many written submissions were received.

Several common themes emerged. Many people expressed concerns about the associated issues of registration, membership and citizenship. We appreciate the fact that these broader issues need to be considered and discussed. These are complex questions and there is a diversity of views among first nations. Therefore, we will be undertaking a collaborative process with national aboriginal organizations to plan, organize and implement forums and activities that will focus on the gathering of information and identifying significant issues for discussion.

This separate exploratory process will allow for an examination of the broader concerns. The Government of Canada believes that this process should be collaborative and thorough. The wide array of views on status, membership and citizenship must be shared and carefully considered. These issues cannot be addressed in isolation without the input of our aboriginal people and they certainly cannot be addressed in a rushed manner.

The findings of the exploratory process will be considered as we work on next steps regarding further initiatives on these issues. However, as important as this work might be, it cannot take precedence over Bill C-3. We must not lose sight of the fact that the legislation now before us responds to a specific court ruling and prescribed deadline. The ruling and the deadline have been the driving force behind Bill C-3. The proposed legislation has been devised to answer a very specific requirement. Therefore, it is precise, compact and focused.

Another beneficial aspect of Bill C-3 is that it complements actions and initiatives taken by the Government of Canada in recent years. In essence, a new spirit of effective collaboration now permeates the relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.

Collaboration has been a defining characteristic of a long list of recent initiatives to improve the quality of drinking water in first nation communities, to eliminate the backlog of unresolved specific claims and to modernize on-reserve child and family services and education, 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 across a whole spectrum of issues. The engagement process used to develop Bill C-3 furthered this collaborative spirit.

As discussions about the exploratory process continue, it is vital that Canada respond effectively to the ruling of the British Columbia Court of Appeal. Bill C-3 offers an appropriate response. The rationale and intention that has inspired the proposed legislation are sound and they are worthy of our support.

Bill C-3 would have a positive effect on all Canadians, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal. It would complement the collaborative approach adopted by the Government of Canada on many issues that affect the lives of aboriginal peoples. The proposed legislation, along with the exploratory process, will strengthen the relationship between Canada and first nations.

Bill C-3 represents a timely and appropriate response to the ruling of the British Columbia Court of Appeal. It proposes to eliminate a cause of unjust discrimination and ensure that Canada's legal system continues to evolve alongside the needs of aboriginal peoples.

I urge all members of the House to join me in supporting the timely passage of Bill C-3.

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May 25th, 2010 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciated the presentation of a fellow colleague from Alberta. There were some very interesting points. However, I have the same questions for the member as I put to a number of other members of the government.

First, the government is talking of the need and the interest in beginning discussions on broader reforms. Would the member commit to supporting the tabling of a white paper to bring forward the long awaited reforms that were first recommended in 1985 by a parliamentary committee? The reason I recommend a white paper is we have a practice in the House of landing substantive bills and very little opportunity to amend. Therefore, in deference to first nation, aboriginal, Métis and Inuit communities, will he support a white paper so there can be broad discussion and so we can bring forward a consensus report?

Second, how much money has the department budgeted to deal with the process going forward to the end of this fiscal year to continue the consultation and does it include the issuance of a white paper?

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May 25th, 2010 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Madam Speaker, a few weeks ago the member and I were in Edmonton at the Esquao Awards. We had an opportunity to speak with many aboriginal women leaders. As a member of Parliament, along with my colleagues from all parties, I am really pleased that I had this great opportunity to meet with those leaders in the aboriginal community.

The key point is the government acknowledges that there are broader issues above and beyond the issues addressed in Bill C-3. As a result, the government will be establishing a broader process to explore these issues in first nations and other aboriginal organizations, groups and individuals. Similar to the opportunities we had in Edmonton at the awards ceremony, we look at those opportunities to determine what the needs are for individual groups and organizations.

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May 25th, 2010 / 12:45 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for so properly putting into context the fact that there are many other issues. The government has been clear from the beginning. We have indicated that this is not the end of the discussions. This is really the beginning of exploratory talks.

In answer to the question from the hon. member previous, the budget has not been set for these exploratory talks because we need to work with first nations to find out exactly what they want to do. Over the last few days there have been increased discussions on the role of the regional organizations as opposed to just the national organizations. These are important issues at the local and regional levels and we have to ensure they are properly engaged. I said at committee that it was not the government's intention to say this is the way it is going to be, or this is the way we consult here, or whether it is a white paper, and these are the only things we are prepared to talk about.

We must admit that there are more issues on the table. We must do more. Let us have exploratory talks and keep them quite open so that aboriginal leaders, whether they be regional, local or national, have a chance to talk about the issues that the hon. member described, many of which are as important, or more important in some cases, than Bill C-3 itself.

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May 25th, 2010 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank the minister for his intervention and for coming to committee to explain just those facts.

Consultation is so important. To go back to some of the other comments, the exploratory process will expand those broader concerns that were brought forward during the engagement process in the McIvor decision last fall. It will be looking at that as well as all of the other types of issues. To get caught up in those kinds of concerns is something that had to be looked at in this particular bill. We had to ensure that it would proceed, and proceed carefully and effectively.

The comprehensive reform in respect of these matters cannot be resolved overnight or in isolation. It requires the gathering of information and identification of issues for further discussion. I have faith in the process and the generosity of spirit that our government has shown to assist all first nations people.

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May 25th, 2010 / 12:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I too would like to pay tribute to the women here today from the AMUN March and Ellen Gabriel, and to highlight the problems with Bill C-3. Today we are debating, at report stage, a couple of amendments to Bill C-3, one which we support and the second which we do not.

The member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue asked a very good question during this debate that the government could not answer. He asked why there are no Indian women's organizations in favour of Bill C-3, when of course the whole benefit of such a bill is aimed at first nations women. The government speaker who introduced the bill could not answer the question.

The government member who just spoke talked about working in partnership with aboriginal groups and that Bill C-3 furthered this collaborative process. How could the government have possibly worked with aboriginal groups and further the process when all the aboriginal groups that came before committee were against the bill as written? There were all sorts of major amendments needed that the aboriginal groups brought forward. How could the member have the nerve to get up and say that the government worked in partnership with aboriginal groups, and that Bill C-3 furthered this collaborative process? It is beyond imagination when so many witnesses spoke about the inadequacies in the bill, simple inadequacies that could have easily been rectified by the government had it done a comprehensive removal of discrimination against aboriginal women in the bill.

Another point the government has not explained or answered was why there was no money put in the budget to cover people who will be registered? Conservatives said people may register at different rates, but they are predicting 45,000 people will register. There are enormous costs to that. Imagine if children went to their parents and said they are going to university and the parents are paying. Without any outline of costs, it just does not make any sense at all in a good government planning process. Those costs should have been estimated and put into the budget.

At least two speakers from the government side have said that it was urgent to get the bill through quickly. The courts determined a July 5 deadline. The government has put up a number of speakers saying the same thing over and over again. We will see the test of how serious the government is about getting it through if the debate continues after question period. If it just puts speakers up now so the bill does not get finished before question period and then it changes to another bill, we will see how serious the government is when speaker after speaker has said how urgent it was to get this through quickly as per order of the courts.

Today we are debating two amendments. The first one is an administrative amendment which may broaden the scope slightly and we are totally supportive of that amendment.

However, the second amendment restores clause 9 and puts it back in. Based on what we heard at committee and the reasons brought forward through this debate by my colleagues, we definitely disagree with that.

A very important point was brought forward that this bill bringing justice forward for some aboriginal women would never have come here, as we have said at length, were it not for the funding cuts to the court challenges program. Now the government has ended that program. How are similar forms of justice going to be continued in Canada to make the system better not only for aboriginal women but for all Canadians who would have otherwise used the court challenges program?

What about the Law Reform Commission, which the Conservatives also closed? Aboriginal groups in my community were in the middle of processes under the Law Reform Commission which would have made the laws of Canada better. The government stopped funding the Law Reform Commission of Canada as well.

The minister suggested, and I am delighted that the minister is taking great interest in this bill and can hear this, that if clause 9 is not put back in, then people could indiscriminately sue first nations. There are over 640 of them in the country, I believe, and I am wondering why I have not received letters from a majority suggesting that it was important to put clause 9 back. In fact, I have not received one letter, but if the minister has some I would appreciate his passing them on to help convince me of the importance of this to first nations.

I cannot imagine the federal government saying to first nations people that are not legally status Indians, that, “Oh, yes, you are a status Indian, we have to give you”—I think the example the minister used was—“a house” or whatever, virtually breaking the law and giving out benefits they are not entitled to. No court would ever pass that. As it was the federal government that made the mistake, of course first nations would then sue the federal government if such a situation were ever to occur.

I have not received a groundswell of support from first nations people saying that it is very important to include clause 9 to protect them, and I am certainly not convinced at this time.

The purpose of committee work in Parliament is to study bills in depth, to bring forward witnesses whose expertise is in those areas, to give committee and parliamentarians enlightenment on how they should proceed, and to take advice from those committees. Hopefully, that is how the committee system works and how it should work. It should edify legislation-making in Canada.

I am going to comment on two things we heard at committee with respect to this particular bill, and perhaps the lack of listening to those two things by Parliament. The first thing we heard, and of course we have heard it over and over again during the debate on Bill C-3 and also through the debate on the amendments, is that the bill is not comprehensive, that there are all sorts of first nations women who are still discriminated against.

The second thing we heard is that we should remove clause 9. Once again, the committee has reacted to what it heard and removed clause 9. Unless we ignore everything we heard at committee, we cannot just proceed with Bill C-3 as it is, because it does not at all reflect, and it is amazing, the overwhelming, preponderance of witnesses who came forward to say it was inadequate. It could simply be altered to include, so that no aboriginal women are discriminated against.

I appreciate that the minister has put forward a consultation process, but on the particular items of removing discrimination, as the witnesses said, this is not rocket science, either there is discrimination or there is not. There is no need for an investigation, discussion, collaboration or hearings. The discrimination against aboriginal women could just be removed.

One of the Conservative speakers recently said that this bill is precise, compact and focused. That is the problem. It is focused on a few of the aboriginal women who have been discriminated against, but it is not focused on all the other women, as was stated in committee.

The government could easily rectify that situation by making a couple of technical changes so that aboriginal women are not discriminated against. Then it could go on with its collaboration hearings to deal with a number of the other issues that the minister has rightfully brought forward, relating to membership, the costs that will have to be provided to first nations, et cetera.

I am surprised the bill came forward with such limited clauses related to removing discrimination, if indeed all the collaboration that we heard about occurred before this bill was brought in. Quite often we have had witnesses before our committee who were disappointed that there was not enough consultation with first nations. Obviously the consultation would have raised these problems and it could have been put into the bill before it came to committee.

The government could have moved amendments after the bill came to committee, when it was seen that a majority of people wanted amendments to remove discrimination completely against all aboriginal women.

We do not agree with putting clause 9 back. That is the position of our party on these amendments.

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May 25th, 2010 / 1 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, the hon. member for Yukon said that we should remove the obvious discrimination. When the Liberals had power for 13 years, they did not do a thing to remove any obvious, non-obvious, or any discrimination, so it is a bit rich to say that now we have to do something more fulsome. For 13 years there was no move to fix any of this.

This is admittedly only part of the entire answer. I agree with the hon. member that there are other big issues, but I would point out to him that, for example, when I met with representatives of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians, they gave me what they called their citizenship act. They said it was a complete discussion of all the greater issues that need to be dealt with. When I asked them if that was the position of the Assembly of First Nations, they said no, it was the position of the Saskatchewan first nations under treaty. When I asked about Alberta, they said that was different. They said it was different for Manitoba as well.

The Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs Secretariat tells me that it is different for them.

In Yukon, where the hon. member is from, they say that they have self-government and they want to control their own membership. That is important to them. They do not want us to pass a law telling them what to do.

With this bill we are trying to address in part, and I realize it is only in part, the obvious discrimination that exists right now. The court has identified this and has said to do a surgical strike and fix the obvious discrimination.

Does the hon. member not think we should move ahead with this and then do the exploratory talks so we can get the consensus on the other difficult issues?

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May 25th, 2010 / 1 p.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, the minister has just made our point. We are discussing a report stage amendment, basically one amendment to put back clause 9. There was no support from first nations to make the amendment the government is proposing and the minister did not even come up with any when he had a chance to speak to it just now.

I agree with him about doing a surgical strike. We should do a surgical strike and simply remove the couple of items that continue discrimination in the Indian Act against aboriginal women, and then carry on with this collaborative process about all these points related to membership that are being brought forward to the minister.

Hopefully during that time he will also come up with a better estimation of the costs of removing this discrimination, because it will be the Government of Canada's responsibility. Obviously there are more costs when there are more status Indians approved. Certainly this should not be going on in isolation to estimates, and estimates for the first nations as well because, as the minister mentioned, there are costs to the first nations and to their memberships.

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May 25th, 2010 / 1:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague and the minister. I am a bit shocked at how they are passing the buck.

In 1985, amendments were made to a law that had been passed and implemented several years earlier. Unfortunately, aboriginal people did not like those amendments, because the discrimination against aboriginal women continued. Ms. McIvor went to court and took her case as far as the B.C. Court of Appeal. With Bill C-3, the government is trying to perpetuate systematic discrimination that will not be addressed, despite the McIvor decision.

I do not believe in the exploratory process the government wants to put in place to perhaps resolve this issue one day, if possible. Does my colleague really believe that exploratory talks can accomplish something if Bill C-3 should unfortunately be passed?

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May 25th, 2010 / 1:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, as I tried to outline in my speech, I agree with the collaborative process but I also agree that there are very complicated items related to membership and who can determine membership.

In self-government and land claims, first nations can determine their own membership, which is a whole different area than whether or not one is a status Indian. The very simple and obvious clauses related to who is a status Indian that discriminate against women should simply be removed. That is not an item of debate. It is just a technical item in law. They should be removed. I also do agree with the minister regarding having a collaborative process to deal with all the other issues not related to the discrimination--

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May 25th, 2010 / 1:05 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-3, the Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act, and explain why I am encouraging all members to join me in supporting it and the amendments we have before us today.

I believe all of us in the House stand opposed to discrimination based on gender. Obviously, the Court of Appeal in British Columbia has identified some specific clauses in the Indian Act that are discriminatory under the charter of rights. If we do not fix those clauses before the July deadline, there would be a period of limbo where the courts have said that the Indian Act would not apply, but we do not have a new act to bring it into line. Children born after that date would not be able to be registered, which would be a shame. Admittedly, there are many other issues to be dealt with. We have to deal with issues that came up during our consultation process.

It is important for people to understand that these changes are not being made in a vacuum. These changes are not being made willy-nilly. This is being done after extensive consultation. There was, if not a white paper, certainly a discussion paper that was circulated based on the Court of Appeal ruling. That ruling was quite specific about the changes in the clauses that were contrary to the charter of rights. The court was very specific about what we should do about that and said that we needed to move quickly. The court gave us a year to do that, in order to fix the gap that would occur in the legislation if we did not do that.

There were broad consultations. Consultations were done with national organizations. They were done at the regional levels. They were done on the Internet. People could make proposals, identify other issues, identify steps to move forward and so on.

While everyone wants to fix the problem of gender inequality, it became clear over the last year during that consultative period that there is no consensus in first nation country on how far we should go or what the next steps should be or all the other issues. Those issues include everything from membership, who can vote, who can run for office, who determines citizenship on a first nation, how treaty first nations are dealt with, how self-governing first nations are dealt with, whether people under the Indian Act are different, separate. On and on the questions went. It became clear that there is no consensus on just fixing it, as I hear sometimes from the opposition. It is not as easy as fixing it if we are serious about consultation.

We had extensive consultations and it became clear that we needed a process that engaged people at a more serious level on the other bigger issues of the day. It is not a matter of simply throwing in an all-encompassing amendment, the amendment that came forward in committee, which was ruled by the chairman to be outside the scope of the bill, overruled by the majority on the committee, and came back to the House. The Speaker himself had to rule on it that yes indeed it was an inappropriate amendment. However, that is committee life and that is life in a minority Parliament. The reality is that the House agrees that we are dealing with the issue of discrimination against aboriginal women in this case, and what we can do about it based on the Court of Appeal decision.

We have taken a measured approach in dealing with this. We have expanded it slightly in order to make it equal among family members. We have not only followed the spirit, but we have followed the ruling that came down from the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court refused to hear any appeals to that ruling. In other words that was the ruling and we had to deal with it. We cannot go to the Supreme Court on this. We have to deal with it and we have to do it quickly.

We came up with the suggestion of not only fixing the gender inequality identified by the court, but also in freely acknowledging and recognizing there are other issues, that we need another exploratory process. We have been working hand in hand with the national aboriginal organizations and other interested bodies to determine what they would like it to look like, how extensive they want the consultation and exploratory talks to be.

I mentioned last week what came back to us is that we need more representation at the regional level. That makes some sense, because there are regional differences. We do not want to chat only with the national organizations when there are regional differences that need to be addressed in these exploratory talks.

We have also struck an expert panel to discuss what the costs will be. Everybody is taking a guess at how many people will sign up, how many people will want to move back to reserve if they currently live off reserve and how many people will be affected by this. We have an expert panel of not only demographic experts but also experts who have been through the Bill C-31 experience and people who can make sure the costs and implications will all be part of the mix.

We could speculate and pull numbers out of the air, but it would be much better to have an expert panel with first nation representation on it to give us ideas of what the implications are and what their experiences are. When I was in Atlantic Canada about a month ago, first nation representatives mentioned that they had certain experiences on Bill C-31. I said that was exactly what we needed to hear. I told them to tell us exactly what the implications are, because we want to know. I do not want to sit here in the rarefied air in Ottawa and say that I have all the answers.

It is clear that we have to work with first nations. When we work with first nations, it means that we work hand in hand. We explore the next steps. We do not come down by fiat. Those days are long gone. We work in partnership with first nations and aboriginal people to find out the next steps and where they would like to go.

That is exactly what we are doing. The exploratory talks are being developed hand in hand with first nations people who tell us what they think should be involved, what issues should be on the table, how they would like to proceed, how much could be done electronically through the web, how much could be done in face-to-face meetings and so on.

We want to be complete. We want to be open to the ideas that first nations will be presenting to us. Even the process itself needs to be developed by working hand in hand with first nations so that they do not come back later and ask who dreamt up this consultation process. We want them to be satisfied. That is why there is a genuine effort to make sure that the exploratory talks are worked on closely. They are being worked on as we speak in order to make sure that they are as complete as possible.

I point out the problem with rolling the dice and throwing them on the table because that is exactly what I felt happened in committee in the study of this bill. A proposed amendment came forward. It was ultimately ruled by the Speaker of the House to be outside the gamut of this bill. It should not have been brought, but they have the numbers to force it through in committee. It would have more than doubled the number of status first nations people in this country.

It would have eliminated the Métis completely. The Métis would have been toast if that amendment had gone through. It would have doubled the number with no idea of the costs and implications on membership, voting, who can run for office and how they would handle more than a doubling of the number of status first nations in this country.

To me, it is irresponsible to throw that amendment on the table without any consultation with first nations. First nations have never asked me for that amendment. I have never been given that amendment in the exploratory talks we had previously or in the discussion paper. It has never been given to me by any national organization at all. We need to work closely and hand in hand with first nations groups so that we do not surprise them in committee with an amendment.

What we have is a measured approach on the bill itself, which addresses the needs of the court. We were ordered to do so by the court and we are happy to comply. We also have a measured approach on a process that engages first nations meaningfully at regional, local and national levels so that we get the best information and advice on how to move forward.

If we do that today, if we pass the bill, fix the gap, address the court case and then work with honour with first nations to get to the next steps, we will have done a good thing for first nations and for relationships between us going forward.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 1:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, you will understand that I cannot agree with the minister because, on the pretext that the court asks one thing of it, the government does only that one thing. What I find revolting is that discrimination will not be eliminated. We know it exists. We know it will continue to exist with Bill C-3 if it is unfortunately passed, and we are told that there will be a consultative, exploratory process and so forth. We know, as does the minister, what the problem is. There is discrimination and it will continue to occur.

We are told that if the bill were adopted with the amendments presented in committee, there possibly may be no more Métis. It is true that there would no longer be any Métis because they would be considered Indians. The problem for the minister is that if Bill C-3 is not adopted by this House, what would the government's position be?

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Chuck Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Madam Speaker, to address the first part of the member's question, he says that he is revolted, and I think that is the word in English, by the obvious discrimination in the fact that it has not been addressed. He is so revolted that there has never been private members' business come forward from the member in all the years he has been here to address this. He is so revolted that the Bloc has never used an opposition day motion to address this issue. I have been the minister now for three years and never has the Bloc come to me ahead of this court case to ever say to me or my predecessor that it is time to deal with this revolting discrimination.

I wish the Bloc members would see that this is a step forward, not only to address the court case, which is what we are doing here, while fully admitting that there are other issues. We could agree other issues need to be worked on. That is why by working with first nations, local, regional and national, we can address it through an exploratory process that gets to all those questions and gets answers for them so we can all move forward, working hand in hand with first nations instead of acting by fiat here—

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 1:20 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development this. I appreciate that he has reminded the House of the constitutional duty to consult, consider and incorporate the input of first nations when a law or policy is being passed which would impact them.

My question for the minister is twofold.

First, we have heard testimony in the House today, and I have heard from my colleagues who participated in the committee, that not a single first nations women's organization supports the bill. I guess the obvious question would have to be on whose input did the minister rely to bring forward these changes to the Indian Act.

Second, he mentions the need to consult. We have been doing that for a century. We have been consulting probably for two decades on aboriginal safe drinking water. In fact, as the minister mentioned, he will have an expert panel. There was an expert panel on aboriginal safe drinking water to address the serious problem. First nations peoples do not have the legal protections to safe drinking water. The government promised legislation in the last budget. When will that legislation be forthcoming?

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 1:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Chuck Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Madam Speaker, this is a good debate and I hope we come to a good conclusion.

First, on the water legislation, I hope to have that water legislation before the House very shortly. We have again the Atlantic Policy Congress and many of the Yukon first nations have suggested that they would like to be pilot projects even for that legislation. I think we will have that before the House fairly quickly.

We need this because first nations, like everyone else in Canada, deserve to have water quality legislated, not just under policy. We have a policy right now but they deserve that legislation so they get clean drinking water like anyone else in the country. We need to have that and I agree with the hon. member it needs to be done quickly.

The other question was on whose information was this bill brought forward. Over the many months that we did consultation on the bill, what was clear was the inability of first nations organizations to say that the bill was good. I asked them if they wanted me to bring it in or not. What they said was the issues were too broad. They said that we needed another process, that we needed something bigger than the bill in order to address it. They said that the bill was okay but that we needed a bigger way to address the bigger issues because it simply was inadequate to address everything. That is why the exploratory process is so necessary.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 1:20 p.m.
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Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today at report stage of Bill C-3, the gender equity in Indian registration act.

As my fellow members are well aware, Bill C-3 proposes to amend the Indian Act and to eliminate a significant and long-standing case of gender discrimination. To appreciate the logic behind the proposed legislation, however, we must understand the problem that Bill C-3 aims to fix.

Last year, the court of appeal for British Columbia issued a decision in McIvor v. Canada, which is now known commonly as the McIvor decision. The ruling required the Government of Canada to amend certain registration provisions of the Indian Act that the court identified as unconstitutional as they were inconsistent with the equality provision of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The court initially suspended the effect of the declaration until April 6, later granting a short extension until July 5 of this year. In other words, if no solution is in place in just a little over a month, paragraphs 6(1)(a) and 6(1)(c) of the Indian Act dealing with an individual's entitlement to registration for Indian status, for all intents and purposes, will cease to exist in the province of British Columbia. This would create uncertainty and, most important, this legislative gap would prevent the registration of individuals associated with bands in that province.

Even though we have been granted a brief extension on the implementation of the court's decision in McIvor v. Canada, we must continue to work toward resolving the issue now. This extension should not be perceived as an opportunity to delay the process of Bill C-3 as this bill would rectify a long-standing case of gender discrimination. I want to emphasize that Bill C-3 offers a solution to the specific issues identified by the court by amending the Indian Act to eliminate the language that gives rise to the gender discrimination identified in section 6.

The impact of this bill would be important. We expect 45,000 people to be newly entitled to register as status Indians as a result of Bill C-3. In anticipation of the influx of requests, the Indian registration program has developed an implementation strategy to effectively deal with the new applications for registration under the Indian Act in accordance with the proposed amendments.

The Government of Canada is also carefully examining the program and financial impacts associated with the implementation of the bill. An internal financial impact working group has been established to examine all the costs associated with the implementation of the proposed legislation.

The legislation now before us proposes to change the provision used to confer Indian status on the children of women such as Ms. McIvor. Instead of subsection 6(2), these children would acquire status through subsection 6(1). This would eliminate the gender-based discrimination identified by the court.

As I mentioned earlier, it is important to recognize that Bill C-3 offers a solution to the specific issues identified by the court of appeal for British Columbia and does so in a tightly-focused fashion in order to respect the looming deadline. We can all appreciate the need to act quickly to respond to the court's ruling and provide new entitlement to registration in a timely manner.

I am convinced that this is a wise approach. As parliamentarians, we know the importance being placed on us by the British Columbia Court of Appeal to provide a legislative solution to a recognized case of gender discrimination. As a compact piece of legislation, it is my hope that Bill C-3 can make swift progress through Parliament.

The proposed legislation has much to recommend. It proposes a timely and direct response to the ruling of British Columbia Court of Appeal. In addition, it would eliminate a cause of gender discrimination. In essence, Bill C-3 represents a progressive step by a country committed to the ideals of justice and equality.

I urge all members to join me in support of Bill C-3.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

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

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Madam Speaker, as the minister indicated earlier, as part of the overall process with respect to Bill C-3 the Department of Indian Affairs had a consultative process with some first nations individuals and organizations. It is really important that we understand they are looking for something much broader. That consultative process will continue once we pass this bill.

It is important to recognize that we will be able to work with first nations on this issue of discrimination and other larger issues particularly around registration.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

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

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Madam Speaker, the member will recall that we heard testimony from the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Clause 9 brings greater certainty and that is why we have chosen to amend and restore it in today's amendments. In a question the parliamentary secretary indicated that if clause 9 were not in place in the bill, it would cause a certain amount of litigation and a greater lack of certainty around the legislation. In response to the question the commissioner said:

In my view--and of course I've been a member of the bar for over 30 years--if a legal issue can be referred or dealt with or clarified in an act of Parliament, that's far better than asking the Sharon McIvors of the world to go forward to make the law.

This was a direct reference to the whole issue we are talking about today.

Does the member recall those discussions and could I have his opinion on that?

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

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

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Madam Speaker, as a member of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, we heard testimony from the commissioner on clause 9 of the bill. As I understood it, this was an extremely important piece that needed to be included in the bill. If we do not include it, this item will be open to litigation by who knows how many people and this will put some first nations people in a position where they may be sued, thereby causing great harm to first nations treaties already in place and to the Government of Canada.

It is important that we understand this would have a major effect not only on the Government of Canada but on first nations people themselves and the registrations that they have, which might be challenged in a court and open to some very heavy financial penalties.

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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March 29th, 2010 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP 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.

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March 29th, 2010 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP 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?

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March 29th, 2010 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP 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?

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March 29th, 2010 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP 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.

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March 29th, 2010 / 4:20 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP 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.

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March 29th, 2010 / 4:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc 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.

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March 29th, 2010 / 4:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

I said “le yâble” not “le diable”. That would be too easy to translate. So this was a very exceptional situation and the problem was still not fixed. Not only was the problem not fixed, but others were created. Basically, bands were given control over the status of their members. Bill C-31 gave bands some powers, but you had to belong to one.

So why would you want to register as an Indian? This is an extremely important concept. Indian registration is indeed the first step in gaining not only Indian status, but also peer recognition in the community. Membership is a very important concept, as it entitles individuals to live on reserve, participate in political processes such as the election of band chiefs, own property on reserve and share band resources. It permits recognition of one's origins and the practice of one's culture. And that is the problem.

Bill C-31 was passed in 1985 and that is when the problems began. Ms. McIvor is one of its victims. It is the reason we are discussing this in Parliament. She went to the courts. She found, she still finds and I hope that she will always find the double standard to be discriminatory. I do not want to go into technical details, but the double standard is found in subsections 6(1), 6(2) and 6(3) of the Indian Act. To sum up, nothing changed. If an Indian woman marries a white, she loses all her rights. Bill C-31 did not fix this problem. It upheld it. However, a limit was set. If the woman was born before 1951, she had the right to Indian status. If she was born after 1951, she did not have that right.

So what happened? Ms. McIvor took it to the British Columbia Court of Appeal. As we speak, a dozen or so of these complaints are before the courts in various jurisdictions across Canada, including one or two similar cases currently before Quebec courts. The fundamental argument is that we must put an end to the discrimination that exists when an Indian woman marries a non-Indian man. The operative word is “marriage”. Indeed, in the Indian Act, there is no mention of couples. So under that piece of legislation, if a couple lives together without being married, any children born to the couple are illegitimate. Bill C-3, which we are debating here today, does not address that issue. It always talks about marriage.

As soon as an Indian woman marries a non-Indian man, she loses all her rights. She will not get them back under Bill C-3.

So Ms. McIvor took her case to the British Columbia Supreme Court, which ruled in her favour. The federal government appealed the decision before the Federal Court, and the case was then heard by the Federal Court of Appeal.

On April 6, 2009, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that section 6 of the Indian Act is discriminatory and that the government had to take steps to correct the situation. That is why we are currently examining the Sharon McIvor bill, that is, Bill C-3, to amend the Indian Act.

The problem is that it does not correct the situation. In 1985, regarding the changes proposed by Bill C-31, the government was asked how many new aboriginal people would be registered. It estimated that approximately 56,800 people would become new members of aboriginal communities.

Unfortunately for the government, on December 31, 2000, 114,000 people obtained Indian status, which helped stop assimilation. In the event this bill is passed, how many new aboriginal people will be registered? The government is unable to answer that question.

The worst answer came from departmental officials. For now, INAC estimates there will be roughly 40,000 or 45,000 new people, but the majority probably live off reserve. It is the “but” that is important here. Even if Indian status is given to new people who live off reserve, they will probably be assimilated, like many aboriginals living off reserve and in big cities.

Today, the question is whether there is enough money to include these new people. We do not know and that is worrisome. The federal government has frozen the annual budget increase for aboriginal people at 2%. There will be a serious problem when Bill C-3 comes into force.

We will see the reaction of aboriginals appearing before committee. The Bloc Québécois will ask that it be mostly women because they are the ones being discriminated against. With all due respect, the men have not lost anything. Initially, large band councils were headed by women. The Indian Act put an end to the passing on of tradition by women.

I will stop here, but if the House gave me permission to continue for another 10 minutes, I would be very happy.

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March 29th, 2010 / 4:40 p.m.
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Vancouver Island North B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I will ask the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue a question that will give him an opportunity to speak some more, because I know he has not had a full opportunity.

I will mention a couple of things and ask a question.

First, there was not a lot talked about in either of the previous two speeches by the members for Nanaimo—Cowichan and Abitibi—Témiscamingue, but there is an exploratory process that goes beyond this legislation that has been announced. That has sent the right message on the other issues that keep creeping in, which is registration, membership and citizenship issues, a broad range of issues that the bill brings to the floor.

I would also like to make a comment. The member for Nanaimo—Cowichan talked about how we were dealing piecemeal with the Indian Act. In full recognition of that, the legislation is addressing a narrow court decision, but what we have also discovered is that one size does not fit all.

Finally, the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue made reference to Mary Hurley, our committee researcher. I would like to think the other members of the committee would join with us in congratulating her on her work. She is in her last week. I understand she is retiring this week, so special significance and special recognition to her. We wish her a long, prosperous and healthy retirement.

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March 29th, 2010 / 4:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, am I to understand that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development agrees with my colleagues that I should keep talking for 10 more minutes? No? Oh well, it was worth a try.

I agree with my colleague. There have been pseudo-consultations. With respect, I would add that I am not sure that the Supreme Court Act required the government to hold broad consultations. Nevertheless, I hope that the government is not expecting this bill to pass quickly, certainly not before Easter. That will not happen. It may pass before Easter 2011, but certainly not before Easter 2010. We want to hear from women. I hope that many women's groups are listening today. I would invite aboriginal women who have been negatively affected by this unfair, arbitrary and discriminatory law to talk to committee members about what they would like to see happen.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

March 29th, 2010 / 4:40 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue gave a very thorough speech. It is no surprise that I have a couple of questions for him in reference to the process that has been set out for some sort of consultation. As always, the devil is in the details.

At this point, it is whether it will be the kind of process that was done with matrimonial real property. A report tabled by Wendy Grant-John outlined some processes around consultation and they were promptly disregarded.

There are a couple of other thorny parts around what is being disregarded. Clatworthy, back in 2001, identified the fact that the contribution of unstated paternity was a factor in determining membership. The presumption is if the woman does not identify who the father is, that he is non-status, that has accelerated the non-status position. That problem is not dealt with in this legislation.

The second one is around resources. We know the resourcing issue is critical to allow bands to deal with people who could potential regain status. Could the member elaborate on the issues around resources.

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March 29th, 2010 / 4:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague.

Quite humbly, I must say that I do not know who would be entitled. That will be a priority issue when the committee begins its study of Bill C-3 and its application.

Women's rights were compromised by Bill C-31 in 1986 and especially by the 1951 Indian Act. We must not let that happen again. The problem started in 1951. I know, that is an important year—it is the year I was born—but that year some problems made their way into the Indian Act, and governments have been trying to fix those problems ever since. I hope that this government will find the resources and give aboriginal peoples a chance to make progress. Many aboriginal people will go back to the reserves. These are people who have always wanted to go back but cannot because the reserves do not have adequate funding to accept them. Let us hope that Bill C-3 will make it possible for people to go back to the reserves.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

March 29th, 2010 / 4:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague for making us aware of this issue. When I was the critic of the status of women in 2004-05, I was truly struck by the plight of aboriginal women. These women truly experienced extreme violence. It is disturbing that a bill such as this heaps more discrimination on them. We wonder how they will find a way to turn things around.

This is the first I have heard about the bill. My colleague spoke of the loss of privileges when an aboriginal woman marries a white man. Can he give concrete examples? What are these privileges?

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March 29th, 2010 / 4:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Trois-Rivières. An Indian woman who marries a white man loses all her rights. This means that she is no longer a band member and she is thrown out of the band. She has to leave the area and generally, she and her children are literally—and I do mean literally—removed forcibly from the reserve. That has happened. Therefore, she is no longer an Indian within the meaning of the Indian Act. She cannot own property on the reserve. She and her husband cannot own a house. They are expelled from the reserve.

That has happened in Quebec. It has actually started happening again with the Mohawks. It has happened in a number of other communities. There is a shortage of land. If a woman is not an Indian under the law, she is turned out. She loses her rights, her children lose all their rights under the Indian Act, that is, the right to be recognized. What is worse, they lose their culture. When you are expelled you have no rights. You are on the outside.

You would not believe that this could happen in Canada. However, that is exactly what has happened to aboriginal women over the past century and it is unacceptable. Women had power because tradition was passed on by women, by mothers. Overnight, they had their rights trampled on. This was confirmed in 1951 and in 1985. Let us hope that this is not the case when we have finished studying Bill C-3.

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March 26th, 2010 / 10:05 a.m.
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Vancouver Island North B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-3, Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act and explain why I encourage all members of the House to join me in supporting it.

Bill C-3 proposes to accomplish two objectives. First, this legislation would remove a cause of gender discrimination in the Indian Act. Second, it would meet the deadline imposed upon Parliament in a ruling of the Court of Appeal for British Columbia.

My remarks today will describe not only how Bill C-3 achieves these objectives, but also how it would serve the larger national interest.

In last year's decision by the Court of Appeal for B.C. in McIvor v. Canada, the court ruled that the two paragraphs in section 6 of the Indian Act discriminate between men and women with respect to registration as an Indian and therefore violate the equality provision of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Rather than have the decision take effect right away, the court suspended the effects of the decision until April 6, 2010, and explicitly called on Parliament to enact an effective legislative solution.

What this means is we have until April 6 to implement a solution and if we fail to meet this deadline a key section of the Indian Act, one that spells out rules related to entitlement to registration also known as Indian status, will cease to have legal effect in the province of British Columbia.

This will have some significant consequences. As the members of the House will recognize, Indian status is a legal concept that confers a particular set of rights and entitlements. Should the two paragraphs of section 6 cease to have legal effect, it would lead to uncertainty and confusion about entitlements to registration in British Columbia.

The legislation now before us proposes to avert these consequences by amending certain registration provisions of the Indian Act. The bill addresses the root of the problem by removing the language that the court ruled unconstitutional.

I have no doubt that every member of the House stands opposed to discrimination based on gender. Despite this conviction, I expect that all members appreciate that equality between men and women is difficult to achieve at times.

Bill C-3 would take Canada one significant step closer to this important goal and this is what this debate is all about, the ongoing effort to eliminate gender discrimination.

Parliament, of course, has played an important role in taking corrective actions to address this issue. For example, the House endorsed the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is recognized internationally as a milestone in the fight against discrimination. To understand the origins of the McIvor decision we must go back to the 1980s when the charter was first enacted.

The charter required the Government of Canada to amend or rescind federal legislation that caused, aided or abetted discrimination based on gender. A significant effort was undertaken to amend the Indian Act, which clearly discriminated against women.

Perhaps the most egregious example of this discrimination was the Indian Act's treatment of a status Indian who married someone without status. If the status Indian were a woman, she would immediately lose her status. If the status Indian were a man, he would retain his status and furthermore his wife would become entitled to registration.

So these effects were dramatically different of course on their children. Children of a woman who lost status and her non-Indian husband were not entitled to registration, while children of a status man and his non-Indian wife were entitled to registration.

A provision in the former Indian Act, which was commonly referred to as the “double mother clause”, discriminated against children whose mother and paternal grandmother gained status upon marriage. These children, born after September 4, 1951, would lose their Indian status at age 21.

In an effort to eliminate these types of discrimination, Parliament endorsed a series of amendments to the Indian Act in 1985. These amendments are still known, colloquially, as Bill C-31 changes, and they remain controversial and lie at the heart of the McIvor ruling at the Court of Appeal for British Columbia.

The problem lies with the mechanisms that Bill C-31 used to rectify gender discrimination related to status entitlement and registration. I will do my best to simplify two of the key amendments from 1985.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2010 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

Yes. “Good luck”, somebody just said.

Subsection 6.(1) provided a way for Indian women who had lost status through marriage to regain it and subsection 6.(2) made it possible for the children of these women to be registered.

Although this approach earned the approval of Parliament, and many other groups, subsequent generations were still subject to residual gender discrimination, and that is what was ruled on by the Court of Appeal for British Columbia.

Now, let me provide members with a little history to the court's decision.

Sharon McIvor is an Indian woman who married a non-Indian man before 1985. They had children together. According to the Indian Act, at that time, Ms. McIvor would have lost her status and her children would not be eligible for registration.

Through the amendments to the Indian Act, in 1985, Ms. McIvor was registered in accordance with subsection 6.(1) and her son was registered under subsection 6.(2). When this son had a child with a non-Indian woman, their children were not eligible for registration. This fact formed the basis for Sharon McIvor's arguments in McIvor v. Canada: that her descendants were not in the same position to transmit registration to their children as they would be if she were male.

To determine if this constituted bona fide discrimination, the Court of Appeal for British Columbia reviewed the Indian Act's provisions for registration following the Bill C-31 amendments to the Indian Act in 1985. The court specifically examined Ms. McIvor's situation in comparison to that of a brother. It found that the consequences of two successive generations of parenting with non-Indians actually significantly differed in the male and female lines.

While the 1985 amendments in Bill C-31 succeeded in eliminating gender discrimination in the first generation, it failed to eliminate it in subsequent generations. This is the core, essentially, of the court's ruling.

It is important to note that Bill C-3 responds directly to the court's decision by amending certain provisions of section 6 of the Indian Act. By any measure, this is a progressive and desirable step because it removes an identified cause of gender discrimination.

As a modern nation, Canada champions justice and equality for all. Canadians recognize that discrimination does weaken the fabric of our society and erodes public faith in our justice system. That is why I am pleased to bring forward this legislation identified in the court's decision.

Members of this House have demonstrated over and over again that willingness to address issues related to individual rights. It is something they wish to do. In 2008 Parliament supported the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, for example. Section 67 of this act had created an exception so that complaints for people subject to the provisions of the Indian Act could not seek redress under the Canadian Human Rights Act, which was the only exception for Canadians in the act. To rectify this situation, members of the House supported legislation to repeal this section.

Bill C-3 has much in common with the legislation that repealed this section of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Both strive to protect individual rights and promote equality. Putting an end to discrimination against first nations women is advantageous for all Canadians, which is why I am asking members to support this bill.

When speaking about protecting human rights, I would also like to take this opportunity to remind members of the House that this government has been actively seeking to address a legislative gap that undermines our justice system. I am talking about matrimonial real property legislation. I am talking about eliminating the gap that leaves first nations people, most often women and children, vulnerable and without legal protection.

Addressing issues such as gender discrimination in certain registration provisions in the Indian Act, repealing section 67, and filling a legislative gap respecting matrimonial real property will have positive and lasting impacts. For too long aboriginal people have struggled to participate fully in the prosperity of the nation due to a series of obstacles. By removing these obstacles, Canada enables aboriginal people to contribute socially, economically and culturally to this country. Parliament must play its key role in this process.

We should consider the Specific Claims Tribunal Act. The legislation was a crucial component in a larger action plan to resolve another major obstacle to good relations between first nations and the federal government, and that was a backlog of unresolved specific claims. Thanks in part to the House's endorsement of the Specific Claims Tribunal Act, every claim settled brings a first nation one step closer to realizing its full potential.

To help achieve similar progress, the government has taken action on a number of issues, from human rights to other basics, such as drinking water, education and housing. A multifaceted and collaborative action plan continues to increase the number of first nation communities with access to safe and reliable supplies of drinking water.

A series of tripartite partnerships with individual provinces and first nation groups continues to generate improvements in on-reserve educational outcomes and the quality of child and family services. The government is acting in collaboration with the people directly affected by the issues at play and Bill C-3 is no exception.

Last year, following a thorough review and analysis of the court's decision, department officials had technical briefings with representatives of five national aboriginal organizations to discuss the decision and Canada's proposed response. Following those briefings, 15 engagement sessions were held throughout the country to present Canada's proposed response to the McIvor decision and solicit feedback.

To help focus the sessions, the Government of Canada researched, published and distributed copies of a discussion paper. Hundreds of participants came to the engagement sessions and many written submissions were received.

We had several common themes emerge during the sessions and in the written submissions. Many people were expressing concerns about the broader issues of registration, membership and citizenship.

Based on the views expressed during this engagement process, we announced broader measures that extend beyond the scope of the bill before us and will be discussed in a separate forum. This will be done in partnership with national aboriginal organizations and will involve the participation of first nations and other aboriginal groups, organizations and individuals at all levels.

The findings of the exploratory process will form the federal government's next steps regarding further initiatives on these issues. As important as all of this work might be, it cannot take precedence over the importance of passing Bill C-3.

We must not lose sight of the fact that the legislation now before us responds to a specific court ruling and prescribed deadline. The ruling and deadline inform the design of Bill C-3. The proposed legislation is a precise, compact and focused response.

As Bill C-3 proceeds through the parliamentary process, the plan is to work in partnership with first nations and other aboriginal groups and organizations to identify and discuss the critical issues surrounding registration, membership and citizenship. This process will be separate from Bill C-3 in recognition of the court's deadline and the importance of acting quickly to address the situation of gender discrimination in the Indian Act.

Bill C-3 is progressive, responsive and measured. It is rooted in the principle that all citizens should be equal before the law.

Bill C-3 represents a timely and appropriate response to the Court of Appeal for British Columbia's ruling. It proposes to eliminate a cause of unjust discrimination and ensure that Canada's legal system continues to evolve alongside the needs of aboriginal peoples.

I urge all members of the House to join me in supporting Bill C-3.

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March 26th, 2010 / 10:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his words and for helping to clarify what is a very complex issue.

He did mention in his remarks the timeline that we are facing of April 6, which is only days away and we are only at second reading of this particular bill.

The government had intended to table this bill last fall or when the House came back in late January or early February. How does the member feel prorogation affected the timing?

It is my understanding that the minister or the government has asked the B.C. Court of Appeal for an extension. I may be correct or incorrect on that particular assumption, but has the government asked for extension and, if so, what was the reply?

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2010 / 10:20 a.m.
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Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, in terms of the request for an extension from the courts, we did ask for an extension but we have not heard a response.

I did make a commitment in the aboriginal affairs committee that as soon as we received a response I would certainly let the other parties know, although I think it would generally be a matter of public knowledge at that time in any case.

In terms of the timing of getting this bill before Parliament, we are doing quite well. This is our second week here and I have been pressing to get this bill before the House, which I have, and I think we will give it quick passage through second reading and then into committee where we can deal with it.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2010 / 10:20 a.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, would the parliamentary secretary agree with me that perhaps he should have prefaced his comments with the statement that this House of Commons, this Parliament believes that the Indian Act is a paternalistic, obnoxious instrument of oppression that is unworthy of any western democracy and, in fact, is unworthy of any civilized free society?

I believe that the parliamentary secretary could have prefaced his remarks by recognizing that the social condition and the status of aboriginal people in our culture is perhaps Canada's greatest shame, and that there is and should be a sense of urgency to remedy some of the historic atrocities contained within the Indian Act.

Perhaps he should have acknowledged that the Indian Act was really designed as an instrument, not only of oppression but of extinction. In fact, it had recipes for extinction built into it. For instance, when a 6(1)(a) Indian, they categorized rights as 6, chapter (1) section (a), and a 6, chapter (1), section (c), marry. the results shall have a 6(1)(c) that forfeits their rights. It is not called disenfranchised. It is called enfranchising because they then become full status human beings as non-Indians.

I would just like my colleague to acknowledge and perhaps explain the position of his government. Does he acknowledge that Bill C-3 does not confer rights on aboriginal women, that this bill recognizes and finally acknowledges the inherent rights of those people who gained those rights by their birthright not bestowed upon by the government?

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2010 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Indian Act is very controversial of course and we do have some first nations in Canada who have negotiated their way out of the Indian Act for all provisions of the Indian Act with the singular exception of the registration provision very often because this whole determination of who is and who is not a registered Indian or a status Indian is a very complex and debatable issue.

Even after Bill C-3, we have bands that operate under custom code that will determine who their members are without reference to Bill C-3. We also have bands that have chosen to remain strictly under the Indian Act provisions that will have members added to their roles through the bill.

Therefore, there is no single response or catch-all phrase, but this is a narrow targeted and focused bill.

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March 26th, 2010 / 10:25 a.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on the excellent questions from the member for Labrador and the member for Winnipeg Centre this morning.

I thank the government for introducing Bill C-3. The fact is that Sharon McIvor should never have had to launch a court case in the first place. It took 21 years for this process to take place and it should never have taken that long in the first place.

We will be supporting the bill. We feel that it is long overdue to rectify this situation.

However, I do not understand why this was left until the last possible minute. The parliamentary secretary indicated that April 26 is our date. The question really is, as the member for Labrador suggested, whether the government could have acted earlier and given us more time to deal with the issue.

Having said that, we will be supporting the bill to get it to committee and then if there are any amendments we can deal with them at that time.

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March 26th, 2010 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would remind members that the engagement process was an ongoing process that continued right through into the new year. Therefore, we have not lost any time over this.

Beyond the engagement process, an exploratory process will carry on subsequent to the passage of the bill at second reading. I do not see us as being tardy in any way.

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March 26th, 2010 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the comments of the member for Winnipeg Centre and he is quite correct. Why has this taken so long? I am not talking about the most recent period because, as the parliamentary secretary said, there is a process to go through.

The Liberal government was in power from 1993 to late 2005, a total of 13 years. It had ample time within that vast period of government to deal with this issue and yet the Liberals treated that issue as if it were so far below the importance in their minds that it was never even contemplated.

I congratulate our minister for having the mind to realize the importance of this issue and bring it to our government's attention, and we have dealt with it.

Could the parliamentary secretary tell the House whether there was any justification for a 13 year hands off approach to this most important issue that the Liberal government displayed?

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March 26th, 2010 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know about the specifics on what we are now calling Bill C-3 in terms of that comment or question, but there has been a whole host of areas, whether it has to do with drinking water, housing or child and welfare services, where I believe we have had a sense of urgency and we have improved the circumstances very significantly in our time in office.

I would like to think that we will continue in a dramatic way in that same direction.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2010 / 10:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in the House today and 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).

The bill is in response to a long-running battle in the courts spearheaded by Sharon McIvor. This action is being taken because the courts have said that the government must take action on this particular case. I congratulate Sharon McIvor and the others who have walked with her on the journey to heal the wounds of inequality and injustice.

It is pertinent for the House to know that it has taken 20 years. The court case was launched in 1989 and it took 17 years, until 2006, for it to be heard. Every obstacle was thrown in the way. I will not get into a debate about what government was in power when. The case was launched under the Mulroney government, carried on under the Chrétien and Martin governments, and continued on under the present Prime Minister's government.

However, there is something wrong with the system when it takes 20 years in the courts to resolve an issue of inequity. It takes time and resources and eats up people's lives, and we are talking about people's lives. I really do not care what government was in power. There must be a better way. There are smart lawyers in the Department of Justice. Someone must have sat back and thought that this really was an issue of inequity. They must have wondered if there was a better way to deal with it, such as through discussion or negotiation.

I note as well that, when it comes to resources, Sharon McIvor used the court challenges program, as have many other women, to try to advance their particular cause of equity. It was in 2006 that the current government killed the court challenges program that promoted the cause of equity. That added further to Sharon's struggle for money to see this case through to its successful conclusion, at least in some people's minds.

Does the title of this bill accurately reflect the intent of the bill, which is to provide equity? Many would argue that it tries to achieve that particular objective but it would be wrong for the House to think that this legislation would resolve all of the issues of inequity based on sex or on one's maternal line. Many other issues have not been addressed.

Let us take a quick look at what Bill C-3 is about and put it into context.

The McIvor case was the first of many cases to reach a decision under section 6 of the Indian Act. The case is about Indian status. It does not talk about band membership, citizenship or section 35 rights.

Sharon McIvor challenged the constitutionality of the Indian Act under section 6 as a violation of section 15 of the charter. The argument was that there was preferential treatment for descendants who traced their Indian ancestry along the paternal line over those who traced their ancestry along the maternal line, and that there was preferential treatment for male Indians who married non-Indians and their descendants over female Indians who married non-Indians and their descendants.

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled in favour of Sharon McIvor. It said that there was discrimination on the basis of sex and matrimonial descendance and ordered that section 6 was of no force and effect only with respect to the conferral of Indian status. The order resulted in inequality, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled, regarding the passage of status.

However, even though Sharon McIvor had won, Canada appealed the decision to the B.C. Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal found discrimination in section 6 as well but on a much narrower basis. The court said that Bill C-31 created a new inequality because it enhanced the position of those affected by the double mother rule. Children of non-Indian mothers and non-Indian paternal grandmothers lost status at age 21 but restoring their status in section 6(1) meant that they could pass status regardless of the status of one parent.

The court only struck down sections that gave this enhanced status, and that is sections 6(1)(a) and 6(1)(c), so the ruling was in relation to a more limited category of people affected, which is why the government did not appeal because there were protected vested rights. The court gave the federal government one year to amend this provision.

Sharon McIvor in fact felt that even though she had won, the ruling was not what she wanted or felt she needed to resolve the issue of inequity. She filed for a leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. The appeal was denied on November 5, 2009.

The B.C. Court of Appeal's decision does not result in those who are already registered under the impugn provisions being struck off the registry, which basically means nobody will lose the rights they now have under the Indian Act, as this would result in a charter challenge itself.

What was the government's response? The government had a deadline to meet of April 6 of this year. The court said that it would give the government one year to bring in the legislation to deal with the inequity under section 6 of the Indian Act. The government released a discussion paper outlining what some of the options might be, some of the processes that it would go through. It then went through an engagement process. Engagement is an important word. It is not a consultation process because the government felt it had no legal requirement to consult, but only to engage the opinions of people to listen.

People had problems with that. People felt the engagement process was limited. Only about 150 individual submissions were made to the department. There were some regional and national meetings, but people, as a whole, felt it was very limited, that they did not get the full range of views they should have on this important legislation.

After the engagement process, the government gave notice that it would table a bill back in December. We were informed that the bill would be narrowly scoped to only deal with the equality as set out by the B.C. Court of Appeal. The government did admit that it would only deal with the B.C. Court of Appeal decision, that it would not deal with other issues arising out of the Indian Act, other issues of inequality or discrimination that exist.

Up against this April 6 timeline set by the Court of Appeal, the government has now brought forth legislation at the eleventh hour. The timing constraint is certainly compounded, and was compounded, by the prorogation of Parliament, which removed many days from the parliamentary calendar. I know the government says it is serious, but if it is serious about getting the legislation through, then annual prorogations are not the way to do it.

In examining this bill, we want to be diligent, we want to be expeditious, but we should not be rushed.

When we look at some of the content of the bill, people have written to me and to the department. They have indicated there are certain provisions of the proposed legislation that are still very problematic, and that they may raise other potentially new cases of discrimination.

I refer to a briefing note, a submission that was made by Dr. Pamela Palmater, who did her doctoral thesis on the Indian Act and the whole issue of status and the conferral of status. I will only refer to one section, just to give members and those who are listening a sense of where some other issues of discrimination may arise.

She says that section 6(c.1)(iv) of the proposed Bill C-3 provides that a person:

—had or adopted a child, on or after September 4, 1951, with a person who was not entitled to be registered on the day on which the child was born or adopted;

She says:

This section has the effect of creating a new way to determine entitlement to registration and, as a result, creates a new form of discrimination as between the siblings of the Indian women who married out. What this additional criterion does is determine entitlement to registration based on the status or lack thereof of the applicant's children. Status has always been determined based on the entitlement of one's parents, i.e. parents transmit their status to their children - not vice versa.

I mention this because the committee will have to take the time to understand what the implications are of this legislation. We do not want to make the situation worse. We want to improve the situation. We want to respond effectively and efficiently to the B.C. Court of Appeal's decision.

Neither does the legislation address the second generation product rule or situations of undeclared or unknown paternity. Again, these are matters that the committee will seriously have to consider.

The case is also shrouded in other fundamental rights issues, which the Government of Canada says this bill does not raise. I tend to agree that the bill does not raise these issues, the issues of jurisdiction, who determines citizenship, who determines membership. Why do we have a very paternalistic piece of legislation, one of the greatest examples of colonial infrastructure left in the western world that determines who is Indian and who is not. It is not determined by birth, by culture or by descendancy. It is determined by a statute in the House. There is definitely something wrong with the legislation, for which there are many descriptions. We are only dealing with one part of it now, but this whole bill raises other fundamental issues.

People ask this question. Why should Canada interfere in the determination of who can be registered as an Indian under the Indian Act? They say that it contravenes international conventions like the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, which states that indigenous people 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 state in which they live.

Indigenous peoples have the right to determine their own identity or their own membership. I believe all members of the House would agree. Hopefully in the future we will be able to deal with these matters. The government acknowledged that by announcing an exploratory process to deal with these more substantive and fundamental questions.

The government should not delay or prolong that process. National aboriginal groups, regional aboriginal groups and individuals want to see this go forward in an expeditious manner. We want to ensure that it is done in a proper way and properly resourced, and let us call it a consultation process as opposed to an exploratory process.

We also have to be cognizant of questions around implementation. Is the department ready? Is the Office of the Indian Registrar ready? Are people being notified of possible changes that are coming? It will not be automatic that one gets status. The fact is people will have to apply and provide documentation, so there will be an onus on individuals to provide, in some cases, some very personal information. That in itself can be problematic, but is the system ready to take on new registrants?

Also, what are the impacts? There is a possibility that there could be up to 45,000 new registrants. That is what a noted demographer, Mr. Clatworthy, has indicated in his study commissioned for the department. He also gives a breakdown of how many people would likely register on reserve as opposed to off reserve, and what the implications would be then in terms of program and service implications and cost. We have asked the government this question. The government says that while it is looking at it, it does not know what the impact will be on programs such as non-insured health benefits, post-secondary education and if there is an influx of people on a reserve and what happens to the existing housing prices and the need for other services, other types of infrastructure.

While we ask all these questions, we believe the intent of the bill is to try to meet the test or dictates of the B.C. Court of Appeal. We believe it is worthy of support at second reading. We hope it will close one gap in the law, even if it does not address others that remain. It definitely requires full examination in committee.

Despite the shortened time frame due to the court decision and the government's prorogation, we hope there will be a full and fair hearing with a broad cross-section of witnesses. I look forward to hearing those witnesses and, if possible, to making the bill a better one.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2010 / 10:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, those of us who are dedicated to understanding the issues facing our first nations are very concerned with respect to the issues that the bill raises and the issues on which my colleague has given us an overview. From what the member has said, my observation is that section 6(c.1)(iv) is very pertinent and of concern to the first nations community. It has introduced a new form of discrimination based on the status of children.

This seems to be the nature of the appeal stemming from the McIvor initiative that attempted to focus on the whole issue of inequity between paternal and maternal rights. The inference I draw from the member's overview is that this added form of discrimination is contrary to the very intent that Sharon McIvor had. In fact, it will contribute to the saying that justice delayed is justice denied.

Is it within the purview of the committee, given that the Court of Appeal really established the parameters of the B.C. decision within which the inequity could be legally addressed, to address that new form of discrimination, or is this a case where we are trying to catch up on bad legislation?

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2010 / 10:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, it seems there can be, and many times is, some very confusing wording and approaches to status. I have talked to experts and asked them a question on this bill or on the Indian Act as it now exists. There are many confusing circumstances.

We have to ensure the bill does not create other cases of discrimination. That is our fundamental role. We have to ensure we respond appropriately to the B.C. Court of Appeal to ensure we resolve the issue of inequity on which it had passed judgment. That is what we have to do and that is what the committee's work will be.

There are many who will pass opinions. As I mentioned, Dr. Pamela Palmater has gone through the bill and found some areas where she feels that discrimination may arise from what we study in Bill C-3. Whether that is the case or not, the committee will have to judge this. If it is possible to make amendments to deal with any further cases of discrimination that may arise, I think we will do everything in our power to make those amendments so other cases of discrimination do not arise.

We know one thing for sure. Many times, when the government responds to this, it creates other possibilities of inequity. We have to look forward and not deal only with the present situation.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2010 / 10:55 a.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

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).

The Bloc Québécois supports the principle of this bill designed to allow those who suffered discrimination because of Bill C-31 passed in 1985 to reconnect with their origins.

Indian registration is indeed the first step in gaining not only Indian status, but also peer recognition in the community.

Membership is a very important concept, as it entitles individuals to live on reserve, participate in political processes such as the election of band chiefs, own property on reserve and share band resources. It permits recognition of one's origins and the practice of one's culture.

In 1996, many questions were already being raised about the impact of Bill C-31. There were concerns about possible adverse effects on the debate about whether or not someone is a band member, an issue that is not only complex, but also an integral part of a person's identity. To illustrate this complexity, I will read two excerpts from a report prepared by the Library of Parliament in February 1996 and revised in 2003.

The debate over membership is complex and multifaceted. A consideration of the issue leads to questions about what it means to belong to a community, about who has the right to define community membership, and about the changing nature of the Indian population. For many years, externally imposed rules for status and membership have produced internal divisions within Indian communities. The impacts of Bill C-31 have further emphasized political, social and financial concerns and introduced new problems.

The growth in the number of status Indians living off reserve as a result of Bill C-31 has also increased the need to clarify the responsibilities of federal and provincial governments in providing and funding the services required. Problems have arisen, moreover, because many of the programs and funds for status Indians are available only to those who live on reserve. Some of those who wished to live on reserve could not, however, because of a lack of services, such as housing. Furthermore, despite the increase in services, many off-reserve Bill C-31 registrants did not know how to access them and thus did not take advantage of them. INAC has been criticized for not making this information more readily available.

These quotes show just how complex recognition is.

Does the implementation of Bill C-3 raise new questions about the implementation of Bill C-31? The Bloc Québécois thinks it does.

The McIvor decision forced the government to close the loophole created by the 1951 act and the unacceptable amendment to the 1985 act, which was itself trying to close the enormous loophole created by the enactment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The 1876 Indian Act stated that a woman marrying a non-Indian would lose her status and stop being an Indian in the eyes of Canadian law. The act and all of the legislation succeeding it marginalized women in aboriginal society and considerably diminished their social and political role in community life. Indian women were subject to a law that discriminated against them on the basis of their race, gender and marital status.

In 1951, the Indian Act was amended, but still marginalized women marrying non-Indians. Such women could not be registered on the new federal register of status Indians.

In 1985, after new provisions were added to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Bill C-31 attempted to close the loophole in the Indian Act, but women's children still did not have the same rights as men's children.

The federal government waited 25 years to introduce a bill recognizing the Indian status of individuals who had been discriminated against in the past. This issue is not just about First Nations and women. It is about equality and human rights. The Indian Act discriminated against women because it denied Indian status to the grandchildren of aboriginal women, but not to those of aboriginal men. Bill C-3, which was introduced today, will correct part of the problem.

If not for Sharon McIvor's hard work and perseverance, if not for the 2007 British Columbia Supreme Court ruling, which was confirmed by the British Columbia Court of Appeal on April 6, 2009, the federal government would never have introduced this bill.

The bill must go to committee so that various stakeholders can have an opportunity to express their opinions about the effect that Bill C-3 will have on their communities. The committee will also have to come up with a better plan for implementing the bill so as to avoid making the same mistakes that were made in 1985 with Bill C-31.

Count on us to help make that happen. The Bloc Québécois' excellent critic for this file, the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue, will do everything in his power to ensure that the committee hears what everyone has to say.

At December 31, 2000, more than 114,000 individuals had acquired Indian status.

I will be speaking about Sharon McIvor's struggle, which is the basis for our debate.

In 1985, the federal government amended the Indian Act through Bill C-31, which gave Indian status to women married to non-Indians. However, in many cases, these women could not pass this status to their children.

In 1985, Sharon McIvor, a law student from British Columbia and descendant of the Lower Nicola Indian Band—her mother was a status Indian woman and her father a non-status Indian man—applied to regain her status. She obtained her Indian status but was told her children were not eligible.

In 1987, Ms. McIvor wrote a letter requesting a review of the decision. In 1989, she received a reply upholding the denial of Indian status to her children. She launched a court case challenging the Indian Act.

Shortly before Ms. McIvor's case was heard in court in 2006, the federal government agreed to restore status to her children. Ms. McIvor continued with the court case. In 2006, Ms. McIvor's case was first heard in court.

In October 2006, the federal government abolished the court challenges program, which had helped Ms. McIvor defend her case. It was the Conservative government that made this decision. With the elimination of the program, Ms. McIvor found it difficult to fund the defence of her case. The government's decision came just after Ms. McIvor won her case in the British Columbia Supreme Court.

In June 2007, Justice Ross of the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled in favour of Ms. McIvor. She maintained that the law “implies that one’s female ancestors are deficient or less Indian than their male contemporaries. The implication is that one’s lineage is inferior.”

In July 2007, the federal government announced that it would appeal the decision. In 2008, the case was heard by the British Columbia Court of Appeal. On April 6, 2009, a decision was made in favour of Ms. McIvor. I—