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.

April 3rd, 2014 / 12:10 p.m.
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Teresa Edwards In-House Legal Counsel, Director, International Affairs and Human Rights, Native Women's Association of Canada

Thanks so much, Gladys. I feel like I don't need to speak after that. It was very thorough and says it all.

Wela'lin. [Witness speaks in Mi'kmaq]

My name is Teresa Edwards and I am a Mi'kmaq of the Listuguj band. I am here today in the capacity as the legal counsel and director of human rights for the Native Women's Association of Canada.

I want to acknowledge the territory of the Algonquin people, where we are gathered today.

The Native Women's Association of Canada, otherwise known as NWAC, has worked for the last 40 years to advance the well-being of aboriginal women and girls, as well as their families and communities through activism, policy, trying to change legislation, making presentations such as these, and all forms of advocacy.

NWAC was incorporated in 1974 and is one of the five nationally recognized aboriginal organizations whose purpose is to represent and speak at the national level, on behalf of aboriginal women, primarily first nations and Métis. We do have some Inuit members, but defer to Pauktuutit to speak for them.

NWAC has identified a number of very specific concerns with Bill C-23 and the changes it makes to the Canada Elections Act. As you may or may not know, prior to 1960, registered Indians were not able to vote in Canadian elections or they would no longer be considered Indians under the law and would not be able to live within their territory, community, the reserves. The fact that some aboriginal peoples only fairly recently acquired the right to vote explains, in part, the low number of aboriginal women and men elected to the House of Commons. Since 1867, approximately only 18 people who have self-identified as aboriginal have been members of the House.

The relationship between first nations and the government has not always been positive, particularly as it relates to voting and elections. This has had an impact on first nations participating in elections for all levels of government, federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal, outside of their own communities. It's quite the reverse when you talk about participation in their communities. It's not a question of apathy or being ill-informed. It's a choice they are making, generally speaking, from what we've learned at NWAC, from what the women have shared with us and what our research has shown.

These first nations are extremely active in running as chief and/or council within their own communities and in voter participation. It's not a question of their not knowing about the process. They are very well-informed and do partake in the process within their own communities.

In the work that we've done on elections, aboriginal women have listed numerous reasons why they don't participate in federal elections. A few are: they don't see themselves as being represented by the government, particularly with this government; they don't recognize the federal government as their form of governance and leadership; and/or they don't believe the federal system will positively impact their lives. That's some of the reasons.

I would never want to speak for Six Nations, but for example they have their own passports. They have their own position on why they would never participate, from what we've heard from our women, in elections. It would be seen as complying or going out of their sovereignty, if you will.

Although there may be many reasons to explain why aboriginal women do not participate in federal elections, such as the ones I've listed, there should not be barriers put in place, as Gladys so eloquently listed, by this government to further limit their ability to vote, if they so choose.

Aboriginal young women are often single mothers. They live in poverty and have high rates of mobility, and are often forced to move several times a year, possibly. They could be moving on and off reserve or from different provinces to be with other family members. Sometimes it's due to housing crises, poverty or they're going after jobs, going away to school, or perhaps they are fleeing violence.

NWAC has been working this last year on a project for Elections Canada, and we hope to continue to do similar work in the future, to increase voter turnout among Aboriginal women and youth. We are targeting this group because statistics show that if you vote when you are young, you will continue to vote when you are older.

In 2007, in advance of the general election, a number of changes were made to the Canada Elections Act with respect to ID requirements. These changes required voters to have two pieces of ID, one photo ID and the other had to show a home residence.

Many aboriginal women do not use home addresses and are serviced by post office boxes. In fact today I was just filling out a form to be submitted to Canada Revenue, and two of our board members have post office boxes. There was a criteria that said “not allowed: post office boxes”. Well, that is their address, that is where they live. I'll have to go reconcile that problem when I get home, before I can file those papers for our board.

There's another form that is commonly used, as there are also many aboriginal women who live in urban areas, including students, or who have moved multiple times throughout the year, who may not have ID that corresponds with their current address at the time of voting. So that was mentioned by Gladys, and I mentioned that earlier.

A major problem is the form of ID that is used as the Indian status card. Right now there is no standard for service with the Indian status card within the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. NWAC deals with cases of women who have been waiting three years, five years, twelve years, for their status card. Or in a case like mine, I'm an expired Indian. Just out of sheer rebelliousness, I refuse to go and get my card renewed, because what other race would expire at a certain date. Sorry, I just had to add that.

That would be an acceptable ID. I've tried to use that. I expired last year in July, at my birthday, and I've tried to use it on numerous occasions. Although it's supposed to never be refused for services, if you can show other ID such as a passport, driver's licence, which I have, I'm constantly refused service because I'm expired.

As Gladys mentioned, that's the case for many aboriginal women. In the case of Bill C-3, the law that just came into effect a couple of years ago, where aboriginal women want to register their children they have to have birth certificates for each of their children. Perhaps she is a single mother with five children and she needs birth certificates for each child. The cost of that birth certificate could be up to $90, depending on the province or territory that you have to pay, for each child. Then you have to have pictures taken, and that could be $25 at your Shoppers Drug Mart to get passport-size pictures. Then you send the forms into the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

I know, for example, my daughter sent hers in three years ago. They have sent it back three times. The process took so long. They said everything she sent was accurate; however, the picture had expired. After a year, it was no longer any good. They hadn't finished processing it and it was sent to a new department, so she had to pay for the pictures to be done again. They also needed a new copy of the original birth certificate, and the first one hadn't been returned to her. So there she had two charges of $90 for birth certificates and two charges for.... This is all just to get an Indian status card, which is a primary card that is used in this process.

Bands were aware of the ID requirements and options available to resident voters, including the option to have authorized band officials using an attestation of residence; the use of voter information cards to establish current residency; or the option of vouching, as Gladys mentioned, where someone who is already a registered voter at the same polling division is able to confirm a person's residence and identity.

AFN's efforts in 2012—and they did this with Elections Canada—included phoning bands and using a series of scripts developed jointly with Elections Canada, basically, to inform eligible voters of what they needed for ID. What we found at NWAC, in the work that we've been doing with Elections Canada, is that there's a clear role for independent organizations such as NWAC or AFN to work with our populations, in collaboration with Elections Canada, to give information or workshops or help inform our people regarding election processes, and so on and so forth.

There are so many other things that can be done to enhance first nations participation in federal elections, such as the ones that we're doing and AFN's done in the past, in relation to Elections Canada, to build on past campaigns. Or we could even learn from the U.S. in this one instance with the Indian vote campaign.

It's in this context that we have specific concerns with the changes proposed under Bill C-23: the restrictive ID requirements and disallowance of vouching. So the provision of Bill C-23 that disallows the use of voter information cards as proof of residency will create a whole new barrier for us, and for women, in particular, especially for those residing in first nation communities that don't use their home address or have PO boxes.

Further, with the removal of vouching as an option, it's possible that some of these aboriginal women and elders, in particular, will have no other options available to them to enable them to vote in the next election. For example, you have students who are living away from home, a single mom, as I mentioned, who moves multiple times throughout the year, or an elder who is living with the family.

I know I'm running out of time. I also want to talk quickly about NWAC's working with Elections Canada. Basically, the changes we see happening to the current section 18 of the Canada Elections Act, which provides a broad mandate for Elections Canada with respect to public information and engaging with electors, would limit the ability of the Chief Electoral Officer to communicate with electors to provide information through unsolicited calls. We had hoped in the future to deliver the guidebook we're developing for aboriginal women and girls about voting and to work with our provincial and territorial member associations in a way that could be described as similar to this. This would prevent us from doing that work.

The role of Elections Canada has included providing impartial support for fair and accessible elections that enable all eligible voters to exercise their right to vote if they so choose. The changes noted above will limit or prevent this role from being fulfilled.

Therefore, NWAC recommends removing from Bill C-23 any amendment to section 18, so as to retain the current mandate for the Chief Electoral Officer to implement public education information programs to make the electoral process better known to the public.

Additionally and finally, NWAC recommends that provisions that remove the ability to use the voter information card as proof of residency and that disallow vouching be struck from this bill.

Thanks very much. I'm sorry for going over.

Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation ActGovernment Orders

March 7th, 2014 / 1:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, this has to do with, quite frankly, liability, fairness, and equity.

Clause 4 in the bill provides certainty that no compensation or damages will be paid either by Canada, the first nation, or any other party to the individuals who are determined not to be members of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq first nation once the enrolment process is completed. However, it does not prevent those individuals from appealing the enrolment committee determination pursuant to the agreement, nor does the clause prevent court challenges to the agreement or to the schedule to the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band Order.

Such a clause is not uncommon in this federation. Similar clauses are found in both the 1985 legislation removing discrimination from the Indian registration provisions of Bill C-31 and the recent Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act, which was Bill C-3.

Clause 4 supports the overall integrity and credibility of the membership enrolment process of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq first nation by ensuring that applicants who are found not to be entitled to registration do not obtain compensation for the benefits that are only intended for registered Indians.

Once again, it relates to the first question of fairness and equity and making sure that our agreements strike the right balance.

Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation ActGovernment Orders

March 7th, 2014 / 10:50 a.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a very puzzling point. In the case of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq, they had to go to court. In 1989 they brought forward a lawsuit against Canada seeking Indian Act recognition. Unfortunately, this is too often the case: in order for first nations to get their rights recognized, they are forced into court situations to have that determination. The government loses the case and then appeals the case, and eventually it will end up in the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court will side with first nations. First nations have taken 187 cases to court to have their inherent rights, their constitutional rights, recognized.

The other question that has not been resolved in debate around Bill C-25 is whether or not the government would put in adequate resources to move forward on recognizing status. Status cards need to be issued, and the department has been incredibly slow in issuing them, and that impacts on people's access to benefits and other things that are guaranteed with regard to the status card.

I posed a question to the government earlier with regard to whether the government would invest the required resources to make sure the backlog around membership applications is cleared up. I did not get a substantive answer. A backlog has already been generated as a result of Bill C-3, the McIvor decision, and this would only add to that workload.

I am hopeful that the government will recognize it has an obligation not only to pass legislation but to put resources in place to make sure the legislation can be implemented appropriately.

Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation ActGovernment Orders

March 7th, 2014 / 10:25 a.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is a question that has arisen with respect to resources for membership. We know from Bill C-3, called the McIvor bill, which reinstated membership for a number of people who had been denied membership because of some gender discrimination, that there is a lengthy list of people waiting to get their status cards. This current legislation would increase that list of people waiting for their status card, which also impacts the ability of people to access benefits.

I wonder if the member could comment on whether the government is prepared to put additional resources into processing applications for status.

Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2014 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, although I do not know if the hon. member heard it, I was clear in my speech that those 23,877 members who received status in the initial enrolment will continue to receive Indian status benefits until this process is completed and the appeals process has been exhausted. We are looking at late 2015.

These people have been receiving benefits. They will continue to receive benefits during this phase, even as a result of this bill. However, everyone is aware now and has been put on notice that there is a new process and that everyone will be evaluated again. That will give some time to those individuals. There is no cutting-off of benefits right now, which might be a concern of the member.

Also, clause 4, the legal clause in the bill about protecting the government, which the member talked about, would not prevent individuals from appealing the enrolment committee's determination, nor would this clause prevent court challenges to the agreement or to the exclusion from the schedule of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band order. This is a very limited clause that has been enacted in other pieces of legislation.

It was also part of Bill C-3, the Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act. It says that if people are determined not to be members of the Qalipu band, they do not have the right to seek compensation for that decision. They still have the right to the court process on the actual enrolment order. I want the member to be aware of that.

November 28th, 2013 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Excellent.

There's also some funding that is being reprofiled for the registration of applicants for Indian status as a result of the Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act. Can you explain why it was delayed from 2012-13 to 2013-14? Is there going to be a need for additional reprofiling or should this take care of that?

June 13th, 2013 / 9:05 a.m.
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NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Madam Chair, I would like to clarify that it really is an interpretation problem, I feel, because I did not say that they were playing the victims.

Madam Chair, if we needed proof that this bill is no longer what it was at the outset, a private member's bill, that is, we had that proof yesterday evening. We certainly have confirmation that it is now a government bill. The 30-day extension in order to expand the scope of Bill C-425 shows the same thing.

Let us tell those who are listening to us that the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism is perfectly capable of introducing a government bill himself. It will give him all the freedom he needs to include his own amendments that he wants to make to Bill C-425 and, not to put too fine a point on it, that he wants to impose on this committee.

Before resuming the remarks that I was making last night, or, perhaps I should say, very early this morning, I would like to insist once more on the importance of the level of decorum and respect to which we as parliamentarians are held.

As a result of this request for the extension and the amendments submitted during the study on the amendments introduced during the discussion on Bill C-425, this became a question of privilege. I would like to share the matter of privilege with the committee and also the decision made by the Speaker of the House in reply to that request:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on the question of privilege—which is not truly a question of privilege—raised by my colleague from Toronto Centre. The question has to do with the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, which recommends to the House that it: ...be granted the power during its consideration of Bill C-425, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian Armed Forces) to expand the scope of the Bill such that the provisions of the bill be not limited to the Canadian Armed Forces.

Clearly, a question of privilege had to be raised so that we could see if the eighth report could make a claim for Bill C-425 to be extended.

From the outset, Bill C-425, the bill the committee has been dealing with, was a private member's bill, and I can never remind you of that enough. With the request to expand the scope of the bill, here we are again discussing the procedure.

I would like to review for you the reasons why the request should be ruled out of order. However, before I do so, I would like to set the record straight about what my colleagues have said up to now.

When the honourable government House leader, the member for York—Simcoe, spoke last April 25, he misled the House by insinuating that the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration was asking for:

…the House to debate it for a number of hours and decide whether we think it is within the scope…

As you know, Madam Chair, that is not the case at all. The report does not ask us to judge whether the suggested amendments are within the scope of the bill. On the contrary, as I will explain later, the committee has clearly demonstrated that it knows the proposed amendments go beyond the scope of the bill. In fact, the bill, which was really limited to recognizing and honouring the Canadian Forces, was all of a sudden fixed up with amendments that clearly went beyond its scope and changed it into a different bill entirely. The report asked the House to empower, or not empower, the committee to expand the scope of the bill, not to pass judgment on amendments that could subsequently be introduced at committee.

I must also add that the honourable member for Toronto-Centre clearly did not do his homework by hastily talking about adopting the report before a motion to adopt it had appeared on the Order Paper. Procedure follows procedure and things are moving quickly, but they did not really conform to the legal procedures of the House. This caused some problems and led us to turn to the Speaker of the House.

So a committee is within its rights to ask for instructions from the House about extending the scope of a bill. In the second edition of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, O'Brien and Bosc are clear on the matter:

Once a bill has been referred to a committee, the House may instruct the committee by way of a motion authorizing what would otherwise be beyond its powers, such as, for example:…consolidating two or more bills into a single bill, or expanding or narrowing the scope or application of a bill. A committee that so wishes may also seek an instruction from the House.

That is precisely what the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration is seeking to do through its eighth report. However, and I am now getting to the point of my comments, there is a limit to the instructions that the House may give to a committee. Once again, I quote O'Brien and Bosc:

A motion of instruction will be ruled out of order if it does not relate to the content of the bill, if it goes beyond the scope of the bill (for example, by embodying a principle that is foreign to it …)

Madam Chair, this passage is critical and fundamental, because it indeed states that the main essence of the original bill will be transformed. I will continue to quote my comments on the matter of privilege:

That is why, Mr. Speaker, I firmly believe that you must intervene and rule that the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration's request for instruction is out of order. This request is far too broad and does not allow the House to determine if the committee is likely to include a principle that is foreign to the bill. There is some precedent where motions of instruction were deemed to be in order and were debated in the House. However, in each of those instances, the instructions were far clearer than those sought by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration today.

When I mention amendments that are far clearer, it simply means that, when making amendments, attention must be paid to the nature of the original bill; amendments must be restricted so that they cannot alter the nature of the original bill. We have an example on April 27, 2010, when my colleague, the honourable member for Nanaimo—Cowichan proposed the following motion of instruction:

That it be an instruction to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, that it have the power during its consideration of 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) to expand the scope of the Bill so that a grandchild born before 1985 with a female grandparent would receive the same entitlement to status as a grandchild of a male grandparent born in the same period.

Madam Chair, that motion was very clear and was rightly ruled to be in order. The Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development was therefore given permission to expand the scope of the bill, but within very precise limits on the way in which the committee could do it. There were clear and precise instructions to prevent the scope of the original bill from being transformed and diverted away from its original intent. By stating its position on the bill, the House could be assured that the committee would not include in the bill a principle that would be foreign to it.

Conversely, the motion of instruction that we have before us comes right out and asks the House for the power to expand the bill to the extent that it would not just apply to the Canadian Forces. Exactly what does that mean? How does the committee want to amend the bill so that it would no longer apply solely to the Canadian Forces?

As it currently stands, the bill allows, among other things, permanent residents who are members of the Canadian Forces to obtain citizenship more quickly. Of course, we are in favour of that. By asking that the bill apply not just to the Canadian Forces, is the committee hinting that it would like to amend the bill to allow permanent residents working in professions that have no relation to the Canadian Forces to obtain citizenship more quickly?

In our discussions at committee, in the presence of the witnesses we called, we have actually brought up the possibility of extending Bill C-425 to others, not just those who want to enlist in the Canadian Forces. Clearly, this private member's bill was limited to the Canadian Forces and our suggestion was ruled out of order.

Madam Chair, this is not clear at all. How can the House make a decision about a motion of instruction like this when it is impossible to know how the committee will proceed and whether or not it will try to include in the bill a principle that is foreign to it?

I would also add that, if this motion of instruction to the committee were to be deemed in order, it would create a dangerous precedent. If we allow a standing committee to expand the scope of a bill without precise instructions, we will be opening the door to very sensitive issues, given the current context. Let us not overlook this majority government's propensity for using private members' business to promote its own agenda. When used like that, private members' bills become a way for the government to get round the rules.

Catherine Dauvergne, a professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of British Columbia appeared as an individual when the committee was studying Bill C-425. She could not have more clearly expressed the danger of asking for this kind of instruction:

Second, such a profound change to our Citizenship Act such as the one the minister is proposing must not be done by a process like this, by a private member's bill. That process reduces the time allowed for debate and for this committee to do its work and it protects the changes that the minister is proposing. This is controlling democracy.

We do indeed find ourselves in a situation where debates are scheduled as if the process were for a private member's bill. Those debates will not have the same breadth and scope as they would if we were dealing with a government bill or a departmental bill to which additional hours of debate had been assigned. This would not be the case for a private member's bill.

The question of citizenship is essential; it goes so deep that it affects all Canadians. We cannot decide on a whim that we are going to change the Citizenship Act so quickly and with such little regard for the constitution as we would be doing with the expansion that the minister is asking for in order to get his amendments through.

For the sake of our democracy and our work as parliamentarians, we must have democratic control over our procedures and over the way in which they are used. Section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Examination Regulations stipulates the following:

3. In the case of every Bill introduced in or presented to the House of Commons by a Minister of the Crown, the Minister shall, forthwith on receipt of two copies of the Bill from the Clerk of the House of Commons: (a) examine the Bill in order to determine whether any of the provisions thereof are inconsistent with the purposes and provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;…

These examinations allow us to establish and keep our bills within a legal framework, so that we can be sure that the provisions are not going beyond the limits prescribed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The examinations are necessary and fundamental.

By asking standing committees to expand the scope of bills to include suggestions by ministers, the government is avoiding its responsibility to examine legislation as prescribed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Examination Regulations. With the amendments suggested by the minister, we are in a situation where a private member's bill will be expanded. This makes the bill lose its original nature and turns it into a departmental bill.

With the legal procedure associated with a government bill, we have a legal rationale that allows us to identify the content of any government bill. That is a principle of Parliament and a principle of our democratic roots in the House of Commons.

The constitutionality of private member's business is studied only at the Subcommittee on Private…

Scope of Private Members' BillsPrivilegeGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2013 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on the question of privilege—which is not truly a question of privilege—raised by my colleague from Toronto Centre. The question has to do with the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, which recommends to the House that it:

...be granted the power during its consideration of Bill C-425, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (honouring the Canadian Armed Forces) to expand the scope of the Bill such that the provisions of the bill be not limited to the Canadian Armed Forces.

I want to share why I think this question should be ruled out of order. However, before I share my arguments, I would like to correct what has been said so far. When the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the member for York—Simcoe, spoke on April 25, 2013, he misled he House. In speaking about the amendment, he implied that the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration is:

...asking the House to debate it for a number of hours and decide whether we think it is within the scope [of the bill]...

As you know, Mr. Speaker, that is not at all the case. This report does not ask us to determine whether the proposed amendments are within the scope of the bill. On the contrary, as I will explain later on, the committee clearly showed that it knows the proposed amendments are outside the scope of the bill. The report asks the House to give the committee the power to expand the scope of the bill and not to make judgments about amendments that could be made in committee.

I must also add that the member for Toronto Centre clearly did not do his homework before he spoke prematurely on the concurrence of this report before a motion to concur even made it to the order paper. A committee may seek an instruction from the House to expand the scope of a bill. In the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, O'Brien and Bosc are clear:

Once a bill has been referred to a committee, the House may instruct the committee by way of a motion authorizing what would otherwise be beyond its powers, such as, for example...expanding or narrowing the scope or application of a bill. A committee that so wishes may also seek an instruction from the House.

That is exactly what the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration is trying to do with its eighth report.

However, and this is the reason for my speech, there is a limit to the instruction that the House can give to a committee. I would like to quote from O'Brien and Bosc once again:

A motion of instruction will be ruled out of order if it does not relate to the content of the bill, if it goes beyond the scope of the bill (for example, by embodying a principle that is foreign to it...

That is why, Mr. Speaker, I firmly believe that you must intervene and rule that the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration's request for instruction is out of order. This request is far too broad and does not allow the House to determine if the committee is likely to include a principle that is foreign to the bill.

There is some precedent where motions of instruction were deemed to be in order and were debated in the House. However, in each of those instances, the instructions were far clearer than those sought by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration today. One example is from April 27, 2010, when the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan moved the following motion of instruction:

That it be an instruction to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, that it have the power during its consideration of 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), to expand the scope of the Bill so that a grandchild born before 1985 with a female grandparent would receive the same entitlement to status as a grandchild of a male grandparent born in the same period.

This motion was very clear and was ruled to be in order with good reason. It gave the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development permission to expand the scope of the bill in question, while providing strict limits as to how the committee could do that. By voting on this motion, the House was assured that the committee would not include a principle that is foreign to it in the bill.

In contrast, the motion of instruction that we have before us is simply asking the House for the power to expand the scope of the bill so that it is not limited to just the Canadian Armed Forces. What does that mean exactly? What amendments does the committee want make to the bill so that it applies to more than just the Canadian Armed Forces?

As it currently stands, the bill allows permanent residents who are members of the Canadian Armed Forces to get their citizenship more quickly. By asking that the bill apply to more than just members of the Canadian Armed Forces, is the committee suggesting that it would like to amend the bill so that permanent residents who are working in professions that are not related to the Canadian Armed Forces can also get their citizenship more quickly?

It is not at all clear. How can the House decide on such a motion of instruction when it does not know how the committee will proceed or whether the committee will try to include a principle that is not foreign to it in the bill?

I would also like to add that, if the committee's motion of instruction were to be found in order, it would set a dangerous precedent. By allowing a standing committee to expand the scope of a bill without specific instructions, we would be going down a very dangerous path under the current circumstances. Given this majority government's tendency to use private members' business to forward their own agenda, private members' business would be used as a way for the government to get around the rules.

Catherine Dauvergne, a law professor at the University of British Columbia, appeared before the committee as an individual during the examination of Bill C-425. She could not have provided a better explanation of the danger associated with such solicitation of instructions. She said:

...such a profound change to our Citizenship Act such as the one the minister is proposing must not be done by a process like this, by a private member's bill. That process reduces the time allowed for debate and for this committee to do its work and it protects the changes that the minister is proposing. This is controlling democracy.

Mr. Speaker, as you know, section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Examination Regulations states:

In the case of every Bill introduced in or presented to the House of Commons by a Minister of the Crown, the Minister shall, forthwith on receipt of two copies of the Bill from the Clerk of the House of Commons, (a) examine the Bill in order to determine whether any of the provisions thereof are inconsistent with the purposes and provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms...

By asking standing committees to broaden the scope of bills to include suggestions from ministers, the government is not fulfilling its responsibility to examine the bills, as stated in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Examination Regulations.

Pursuant to Standing Order 91.1(1), the constitutionality of private members' business is studied only by the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business, before a bill is debated at second reading.

By trying to expand the scope of the bill after second reading, the government is avoiding the constitutional test and will therefore be able to amend private members' bills as it sees fit, instead of presenting those concepts in government bills that must pass the constitutional test of the Minister of Justice.

Mr. Speaker, let me conclude by urging you to pay particular attention to the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, which the NDP feels should be ruled out of order.

Such a request for instruction is much too broad for the House to be able to ensure that the changes subsequently made by the committee will not include concepts that are foreign to the bill and will not violate the charter.

Giving such latitude to a standing committee will set a very dangerous precedent that this majority government will certainly use in a partisan and anti-democratic fashion.

Thank you for your attention. To help you with your study of this important issue, I will provide you with the evidence from the study of Bill C-425 conducted by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

I am convinced that, once you look at the evidence, you will also agree that the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration is out of order.

March 21st, 2013 / 9:25 a.m.
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Director, International Affairs and Human Rights, Native Women's Association of Canada

Teresa Edwards

No, that's not what I was referring to. I wasn't referring to being protected from Indian men. Michèle also made reference to how we're marginalized in the Indian Act, even currently, with issues such as status. I know that's not the matter at hand, but when we talk about protections.... When you have Indian status, that directly correlates with membership, benefits, housing, schooling—all of your treaty or band rights. Right now, even with the implementation of Bill C-31 and Bill C-3, we still have a situation that hasn't been rectified, where women and men with the exact same parents are not sitting with the same Indian status, thereby leading to their not having the same rights to pass on to their children and grandchildren.

Although it looks on the surface that it's addressed by Bill C-3, if you examine Sharon McIvor's case, which she's taking to the UN, you will see that she still does not have the same, as it were, “Cadillac of rights”, as her brother. They have the exact same parents, but for the fact that she is a woman, she has lesser rights. That has an impact when you are talking about their continuing to pass on those rights. Those were more the protections that I was looking at.

In 2013, half of the aboriginal women population are not married—80% of women are single mothers raising their own children alone. When they go to register their children for Indian status with their band, it's not up to their band but the registrar at Indian Affairs. The mother will indicate who the father is on the Indian birth registry to ensure that her child has status. When that form gets to the national registrar in Ottawa—one registrar—the office will strike it out as void if the father has not signed that birth registry. That's a practice that is currently under way. In many cases, the woman is not with the man. She could have been raped. It could have been a case of incest. She could have had a child with a man who is married. Of course he's not going to want to sign the birth registry. She is at the will of the man. Therefore, there's a negative assumption that the child is not native, thereby removing the mother's rights to be eligible for housing for possibly five children. She'll be allocated a house for herself, because the way that the funding agreements go, they will only count status Indians. That's what I refer to when I talk about women being further marginalized and having lack of protections within the Indian Act. It's more a result of the impositions of the Indian Act and the inequalities in government processes. It's not something aboriginal men are doing.

March 21st, 2013 / 9:15 a.m.
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Director, International Affairs and Human Rights, Native Women's Association of Canada

Teresa Edwards

For me, the idea isn't that I would not want the words “Indian residential school“ removed from the act. What I am cautious about is any history being taken from the Indian Act that demonstrates what occurred with Indian residential schools at a time when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is under way and in the process of making ongoing recommendations about implementing strategies that could heal the generations who currently exist.

I would hate to think that the Indian Act would be amended in a piecemeal fashion, striking out the section on Indian residential schools so that we could thereby look back, without an alternative in place, and say that never happened. We already have many members of Parliament and Canadians who say that was 100 years ago, when in fact it wasn't. The last school closed in 1996. This is a very real issue.

I respectfully submit that despite the MP’s personal experience, Michèle and I, as first nation women, have lived the personal experience that we have been advocating about for some 30 years, and we've been personally affected by Indian residential schools. We've been impacted by Bill C-3 and by Bill C-31. However, I would never propose that I have the solution or would never come forward to tinker with the Indian Act in a piecemeal fashion for my personal benefit when I know, even as a lawyer, that any case that goes forward to the Supreme Court of Canada is a huge risk because it's not only about my case but also about the 633 first nation communities and hundreds of thousands and millions of people who will be impacted by this legislation and by cases that go forward and are decided by the Supreme Court of Canada.

With all due respect, personal issues aside, we still need to proceed in a manner consistent with the UN declaration, in a manner consistent with how it's been set out in the Supreme Court of Canada decision.

February 16th, 2012 / 4:20 p.m.
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Chief, Band No. 38, Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte

Chief R. Donald Maracle

It's really a resourcing question. We have a very successful revolving community housing loan fund. We mortgage the houses to our members. We currently have about $17 million in mortgages to our members.

The problem is with the various pieces of legislation that have been passed over the years: Bill C-31 in 1985 and now Bill C-3. The growth of our membership has quadrupled since 1985, and the resources have not kept pace with the growth in the community. Really, the Government of Canada doesn't have any growth funding to deal with growth pressures, oftentimes resulting from the very legislation that it passes of granting membership to additional people to cure the injustices of the Indian Act.

It is true we won a number of national awards. Also, we had an apprenticeship program in the nineties, where we trained 20 people to become licensed carpenters. Many of those people were able to carry on and set up very successful businesses, where they were able to build homes on the reserve through contracts, and off reserve. They're in the business, much like any other off-reserve builder building homes for non-natives and running very reputable companies and also employing a lot of our people.

There needs to be more training done in the area of the trades. We need electricians; we need plumbers. They're always building roads or installing sewers, or repairing them in the municipalities. There would be work opportunity there if there were proper apprenticeship programs set up in our community to train our people to fill those jobs.

Canada does not need to import people from the far ends of the earth. What it needs to do is focus more effort on training people who are unemployed in this country and first nations people to help fill some of those jobs. As I have indicated, 75% of our members live off reserve in various cities and towns. Our people have been engaged historically on building some of the most prominent buildings in the world, the highest skyscrapers. The Mohawk people were high-steel workers. There is plenty of opportunity through adequate training programs. I think they just need to be organized. You need to get people, find out about the labour market, and maybe find out more information on what the labour market need is out there, where the jobs are. You need to provide the training and then help our people relocate and maybe get established in some of these cities and towns where there are good-paying jobs. Our people do go where those jobs are.

November 30th, 2011 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

I gather there have been a lot of efficiencies created since the process started. There was a staff of 55 dedicated solely to that function of registering Bill C-3 applicants. The department also augmented its call centre capability and capacity to ensure efficient client services.

We are anticipating the completion of 23,000 files by the end of March, which will bring us within our service standard to register applicants within six months.

November 30th, 2011 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

We approved $20 million over five years to ensure that Bill C-3 applicants could be registered efficiently. That started on January 31 of this year.

November 30th, 2011 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Thank you, Minister.

Now I'm going to shift gears here. My colleagues and I have a number of matters that were addressed in your speech that we'd like some further information on. I'm going to start, Minister, with the state of the implementation of gender equity in the Indian registration act, referring of course to Bill C-3. Could you give us an update in regard to that?

November 29th, 2011 / 4:05 p.m.
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Assistant Deputy Minister, Resolution and Individual Affairs Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Élisabeth Châtillon

I'm sorry, that was for Bill C-3.