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.