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 2nd, 2019 / 9 a.m.
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Executive Director, First Nations Summit Society

Howard Grant

There is limited data being collected in regard to the right data. As an example, the government is applauding themselves, patting themselves on the back and saying, “Wow, look at this—from 1985 onward the graduation rate for post-secondary is on the rise.” Absolutely not. If you use the same factors prior to 1985 on reserve exclusively you'd see a decline, because all of the current investment for post-secondary in particular right now is going toward the more urban population, the so-called city Indians. They're taking advantage of that. You had Bill C-31, Bill C-3 and whatnot, and the new Indians and the self-identified natives, and all of those are put into your database, the government database.

Now, that rate looks like it's on the rise, but if you use exclusively on reserve, because those are the people who are going to stay at home.... They're raised there and they're culturally involved. When we send our children off reserve to communities, they lose that in the majority of cases. Imagine sending your children aged 7 to 14, who are living in rural and remote communities, to schools outside of your reserve because there are none there. It's a challenge, and the most important lesson of education is being lost. It's what I call the dinner table talk education. That's the important part. You have not only the education that you learn from high school or post-secondary, but the cultural side of your community as well that's quite important.

I'll give you an example. We have an individual who is a forester, an arborist, and is trying to manage an economic development opportunity. He saw a grove of trees up on the mountainside and said that we should cut that down, invest and make an economic opportunity, but that was a very significant archeological and whatever site for the community. That resource was never to be touched, but just because the person who was the band manager of the day or the forester didn't realize those kinds of things, it may as well be a non-aboriginal person moving in.

Indian ActGovernment Orders

November 30th, 2017 / 4:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Mr. Speaker, here we are again, at the 11th hour, attempting to send Bill S-3 back to the Senate for royal assent prior the December 22, 2017, deadline. I guess we would call this “flying by the seat of our pants” legislation. There is a court-imposed deadline, so the government is going to get it done regardless. We have talked about that in the House most of the day.

Bill S-3 was tabled in response to a Superior Court of Quebec decision, Descheneaux v. Canada, in 2015, and other clearly identified issues. The court found that several aspects of Indian registration under the Indian Act violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, because there were differences between how status was passed down from first nation women compared to first nation men. These provisions were struck down, and Parliament was given a limited time to pass an alternative. The new deadline to pass legislative changes, after two extensions, is next month, on December 22. The court has indicated that it has no interest at all, which we have talked about, in giving the Liberal government a third extension.

When Bill S-3 was first brought to the Senate about a year ago, in fact exactly a year ago this month, the government sought to remedy the situation by bringing it back to 1951. However, several independent senators proposed adding what is known as the “6(1)(a) all the way” approach. This amendment would have all Indians registered as 6(1)(a), with equal rights and entitlements regardless of matrilineal or patrilineal descendants, back to 1869. The government, though, rejected those proposals.

After rejecting them on June 21 this year, the Liberal government undertook behind-the-scenes consultations with senators over the summer months to seek consensus around an alternate proposal. The resulting proposed changes were tabled in the Senate earlier this month, on November 7, and would come into force in two stages. The first one we have talked about. The aspects of the bill passed by the House of Commons in June would come into effect by the court-imposed deadline of December 22. Second, newly added clauses, which would extend the proposed remedies for sex-based inequities in the Indian Act back to 1869, would not be enforced until after a consultation process with indigenous peoples on how to proceed. That is the million-dollar question. No date has been given as to when the process would begin or even conclude.

We have talked a lot about this bill, but let us talk about what the previous Conservative government did. It had a long history of supporting gender equity for first nation women. The Conservative government introduced the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act in 2013, which offers a balanced and effective solution to a long-standing injustice and legislative gap that affects people living on reserve, particularly women and children. As a result, many of the legal rights and remedies relating to matrimonial interests in the family home that are available off reserve, in the context of a relationship breakdown, death of a spouse or common-law partner, or family violence, are now available to individuals living on reserve.

The former Conservative government also reintroduced legislation to guarantee to people living on reserve the same protections that other Canadians enjoy under the Canadian Human Rights Act, which came into law on June 18, 2008. It also passed Bill C-3, the Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act, in 2010, in response to McIvor v. Canada in 2009. Bill C-3 allowed for the eligible grandchildren, or women who lost status as a result of marrying non-Indian men, to be entitled to registration if they or their siblings were born on or after September 4, 1951.

It should be noted that the Liberals, including the current Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, actually voted against the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act from 2013, which was introduced and passed by the former Conservative government. It should also be noted that the legislation that made the Canadian Human Rights Act apply on reserves was tabled by the Conservatives, and then all parties worked together to pass the legislation.

Essentially, prior to Bill C-3, the Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act of 2010, and the proposed changes in Bill S-3, Indian status was passed down to the next generation from the father but not through the mother. Therefore, if a first nation male had children with a non-first-nation female, his status would be passed down, but not vice versa. That is what we are talking about here today in the House.

I had a call this week from a friend in Saskatchewan. He is from the Cree first nation. He is unequivocally in favour of Bill S-3. He has a status Indian niece who is married to man from Honduras. Not long ago, they celebrated the birth of their first child. My friend said that he is the cutest little Honduran Indian anyone has ever seen. Perhaps with the passage of Bill S-3, that description should change and he would be the cutest little Indian Honduran anyone has ever seen. Would that not be nice? I think that is what we are headed for after December 22.

My friend also had a very good idea that he passed along to me earlier this week. It is regarding the “ 6(1)(a) all the way” approach back to 1869. He suggested giving non-status indigenous people up to 10 years to get their geneology sorted out. That seems like a long time. However, it could be a gradual process. Some people will have their family trees available now, while others will have to dig around and find the right roots and the proof. I think this is a pretty excellent idea he came up with. It would also give the department an opportunity to work through these changes and prepare for the financial implications they would entail.

At this point, it is unknown exactly how many Canadians would become eligible, or would even apply to register, and what the financial implications would be for the Canadian taxpayer. We have no idea whatsoever. It could be 200,000. It could be 400,000. It depends how far back people go in the tree. We need some time to figure this out. I do not know if it would have any implications for roughly one-half of my province's indigenous population.

We, the official opposition, as we have stated all day in the House, support Bill S-3 at second and third readings, because it contains several necessary changes to the Indian Act toward greater gender equality and is the next step beyond the amendments made by the former Conservative government with Bill C-3, back in 2010.

What I do not agree with is this “flying by the seat of their pants” method of legislating by the government. It has had more than enough time to table a good, clean piece of legislation that everyone could get on board with and get passed. Instead, it chose a path it knew would encounter resistance and delays, especially in the Senate.

I do not believe we can please all of the people all of the time, but we as legislators have an obligation to please as many Canadians as possible all of the time. That is our duty, and it really should not be muddied. However, we are going to support Bill S-3. I want to say, on behalf of the people of Saskatchewan, they are excited about the bill and are hoping it passes, and then we can move forward as of December 22.

Indian ActGovernment Orders

November 30th, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, the party did not have the benefit of having me for the past decade, but I am here now. We cannot change the past. We can only change the future. With that said, I am happy to talk about the record of the Conservative Party with respect to indigenous rights.

Let us not forget that we brought forward the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, a measure to restore gender equality in the way matrimonial property was treated, which most of the Liberals voted against.

We also gave people living on reserve the same protections other Canadians enjoy as part of the Canadian Human Rights Act. We also brought forward Bill C-3, the Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act, allowing eligible grandchildren of women who had lost their status as a result of marrying non-Indian men to be entitled to registration.

I think our record is clear. We were moving in a positive and good direction, and now that I am on board, it is even better.

Indian ActGovernment Orders

November 30th, 2017 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill S-3. I will be sharing my time with the member for Peace River—Westlock.

When I was chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, we did a number of studies, in particular on gender equality. Gender equality is built on many pillars, but essentially, its aim is to ensure that men and women are treated equally in all aspects.

Correcting an irregularity like the one raised in this bill is a simple and obvious way to move towards real gender equality. I am proud to support Bill S-3 and I appreciate having the opportunity to speak in favour of this legislation here today. An individual's status should not be based on their sex. It is a question of history and culture, and righting this wrong is a logical step.

I am very happy to talk about Bill S-3. For those who are not familiar with this bill, it amends the Indian Act. It seeks to remedy gender inequality for those born after 1951.

The changes to the act, specifically, are to replace the long title; to delete from the bill a clause that has been quite controversial, and there has certainly been some discussion about the “6(1)(a) all the way” clause today; and to add the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to the list of documents the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs has to consider during promised forthcoming consultation on those issues. Those are really the changes to the bill.

I am definitely in support of gender equality. I talked about my experience on the status of women committee. I would also mention that I have two non-status Métis daughters. Gender equality, when it comes to status, is very important. I am glad to see that this bill would take steps in that direction.

If we think about the record of the party I represent, we did a lot of things when it came to gender equality for first nations women. You may recall the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, which was brought forward to address differences in the way women were treated with respect to matrimonial property over men.

It is notable that the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs actually voted against that measure. I see that there is a change of tune now on the other side when it comes to gender equality.

In addition to that, we re-introduced legislation to guarantee people living on reserve the same protection other Canadians enjoy under the Human Rights Act. That was another thing the Conservative Party was proud to bring in. We also addressed, under Bill C-3, the Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act, in 2010, the McIvor v. Canada case to allow eligible grandchildren of women who lost their status as a result of marrying a non-Indian man to be entitled to registration.

Members can see that the party has a history of taking steps to try to restore gender equality in our first nations and Inuit societies.

With that, I am certainly glad to see this bill moving along. That said, I would be remiss if I did not talk about how botched this legislation already is. It is bad enough that the Supreme Court had to order the government to do something, but to then have to get two court extensions shows a lack of planning and a lack of an ability to execute.

I noted that there were lots of struggles on the way to getting this bill here. It does not seem that it is just this bill. It seems that the government has great difficulty executing any number of things when it comes to first nations people.

We know that there was a big push to spend $8.4 billion to eliminate the problem of not having clean water in first nations communities across the country. We see now 120 more boil water advisories than we had at the beginning, and we are two years into it. It really shows a lack of ability to execute.

The other example would be the murdered and missing aboriginal women effort. I have quite a number of things to say about that one. First of all, in almost two years, 20 people have resigned or been fired from that initiative.

The government talks about its nation-to-nation relationship and that it is going to consult broadly and everything else. Here is an example of a consultation where it has talked to very few victims. The Liberals have spent a huge amount of money, and it is two years up the road.

There has been a lot of press on this issue saying that people are dissatisfied: there is no plan, there is no schedule, there are inadequate computers and Internet access, there are limited aftercare plans for the family members who are trying to participate, there was an eight-month delay in opening offices, and there was a four-month delay in hiring staff. There is a whole shopping list of things that are wrong with the murdered and missing aboriginal women inquiry. It does not inspire confidence that the government will be able to execute properly in the go forward.

The Liberals need to not be all talk and no action. They need to learn how to execute and actually say the things they mean and then follow up and do the things they need to do.

If we want to talk about examples of places where the Liberals say they want a nation-to-nation relationship but then do not actually follow through, we can look at a number of examples. We see, for example, that the courts said that indigenous children were being discriminated against with respect to welfare, yet the government was ordered to pay $150 million and dragged its feet on that. How can they have a nation-to-nation relationship when they will not even do what the courts are ordering them to do to give restitution to children? It is ridiculous.

We can talk about the oral health of indigenous people. We see that the government would rather spend $110,000 fighting in court than pay $6,000 for dental work for an indigenous child. That again does not say to indigenous people that the government wants a nation-to-nation relationship. It is pretty much hypocrisy.

I am concerned about Bill S-3. I see that it is well intentioned, but in the execution of it, it could become problematic. There were amendments in the Senate, and I am glad to see that some of them were taken along, because that does not always happen. A lot of times, when the Senate has brought amendments, they are refused here. That is a total waste of the taxpayers' money in terms of the Senate, because if the Senate is doing all this work to bring amendments, and they are rejected here, it seems a little pointless.

The fact that there are so many Senate bills coming forward is also a bit problematic. We have a limited amount of time in the House, and the government is running on promises that it is having trouble keeping, but there are a lot of promises, and it is getting late in the mandate to start delivering on some of those things. Every one of the Senate bills disrupts the agenda of the day.

Although I am in favour of Bill S-3, and certainly of gender equality and the restoration of that to first nations people, I wanted to point out a few of those things I see.

In closing, I would like to reiterate my support for this bill. While the Liberal government seems to be incapable of keeping a single election promise, I am pleased that at least it appears to support this effort to achieve gender equality with respect to the transmission of Indian status.

I would again like to thank my colleagues across party lines for their efforts today, as well as the Senate for the hard work it has accomplished since the beginning of the study. The Liberal government has already managed to extend the deadline twice, but the court appears to have no intention of extending it a third time.

It is time to pass this legislation in order to solve a problem that the government seems to be avoiding.

Indian ActGovernment Orders

November 29th, 2017 / 5:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill S-3, an act to amend the Indian Act.

This Senate bill is in response to the superior court of Quebec's decision in Descheneaux v. Canada and has undergone several iterations. I am pleased to support this set of amendments, which will effectively eliminate sex discrimination under the Indian Act.

I want to begin by acknowledging that we are gathered here on the traditional unceded lands of the Algonquin peoples.

It is hard to believe that we are having this debate today, in 2017, on sex equality. It is even more disturbing that those making the decision on such a fundamental issue of Indian status for first nations peoples are not members of any first nations communities themselves but are primarily from settler communities. The irony is not lost on me. What is equally absurd is that it has been primarily men making these decisions. Our Indian Act, unfortunately, makes this absurd debate necessary.

The renewed relationship our government seeks to establish with first nations communities on a nation-to-nation basis will untangle first nations peoples from the shackles of colonialism and the Indian Act and will set our country towards a path of true reconciliation.

The Indian Act is deeply rooted in racism and has for generations resulted in uneven and racialized outcomes for our first nations peoples. The Indian Act essentially controls the lives of our first nations peoples. It defines who is and who is not an Indian, where they live, whom they should live with, and so on. It separates first nations peoples from the rest of Canada, physically, through reserves, but also in virtually every aspect of life.

The numbers speak for themselves. I am just going to give some examples. In 2011, 26.2% of first nations people on reserve lived in overcrowded housing, compared to 4% of non-aboriginal people. In education, 39.8% of first nations people do not have high school or a post-secondary degree. Only 12.1% of non-indigenous people do not have a high school diploma or a post-secondary degree. We could go on with life expectancy, suicide, and income.

On virtually every measure available to assess social well-being, Canada's first nations people rank lower in comparison to their settler counterparts. None of the constraints of the Indian Act, however, have been more scrutinized and more painful than the definition of who is and who is not an Indian.

Notably, this Indian Act discriminates against women in a systemic and structural way, leading to inequities in membership and having an effect on their daily lives. Discrimination based on sex has affected the children, grandchildren, and their generations of kin by excluding them under the Indian Act. The amendments to Bill S-3 we are debating today aim to correct that trajectory and ensure that sex discrimination is eliminated from the Indian Act once and for all.

I want to walk members through the history. The issue of sex discrimination has been dealt with by Parliament on several occasions. However, in each round, the amendments made in the House did not go far enough to ensure that sex discrimination was eliminated altogether.

The amendments initially considered under Bill S-3 were in response to a superior court of Quebec decision in Descheneaux v. Canada, rendered in 2015. The Quebec court deemed the provisions of the Indian Act to be in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as it treated grandchildren descended from a status Indian man and a status Indian women differently by providing status to the former and denying it to the latter.

Madam Justice Chantal Masse cautioned the government to ensure that any legislation that stemmed from the decision ought to have an expansive view of the issue of sex-based discrimination under the Indian Act. I would like to quote paragraph 239 of her decision:

When Parliament chooses not to consider the broader implications of judicial decisions by limiting their scope to the bare minimum, a certain abdication of legislative power in favour of the judiciary will likely take place. In such cases, it appears that the holders of legislative power prefer to wait for the courts to rule on a case-by-case basis before acting, and for their judgments to gradually force statutory amendments to finally bring them in line with the Constitution.

After considerable back and forth with the other place, we are here today to eliminate sex-based discrimination in the Indian Act altogether.

During debate this summer, we heard from many witnesses, including women whose lifetime of work advanced the issue of gender equality in the Indian Act. It was a very painful experience for most of them. We also heard from many bands and communities that they alone have the right to define the citizenship of their people. I believe that both seemingly divergent views are not incompatible. Ultimately, first nations people should have the say as to who their citizens are, but in a manner that does not discriminate against one particular gender.

I want to take a couple of minutes to outline previous attempts to remove sex-based discrimination from the Indian Act. The sex-based inequities in the law we are grappling with today have their roots in the patrilineal transfer of Indian status that existed in the Indian Act prior to 1985, and the subsequent imperfect attempts to end discrimination in the act.

With the introduction of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, explicit discrimination in the Indian Act finally had to be changed to comply with section 15 charter rights.

Bill C-31 was introduced to make the Indian Act charter compliant. It unfortunately did not go far enough. In fact, it is Bill C-31, including the introduction of the second generation cut-off and the subsection 6(1) and 6(2) categories of Indian status that inevitably opened new sex-based inequities and the inability of individuals to pass on status to their children and grandchildren. The residual sex-based inequities that remained in the act resulted in a rise in registration-related legal challenges.

One such challenge was launched by Sharon McIvor. Dr. McIvor's case centred on her ability to transfer status to her children. Since Dr. McIvor married a non-Indian, she was only able to transfer section 6(2) status to her son, Mr. Grismer. As Mr. Grismer also married a non-Indian, he was not able to transfer status to his children. However, had Sharon McIvor had a brother who was also married to a non-Indian, prior to 1985 their child would have been entitled to status under 6(1). Because of this discrimination, the B.C. Court of Appeal struck down paragraphs 6(1)(a) and 6(1)(c) of the Indian Act and gave Parliament one year to respond.

Bill C-3 was introduced by the previous Conservative government in response to the McIvor decision. However, the government decided that it would interpret the decision as narrowly as possible and that it would not address other obvious examples of sex-based discrimination in the act.

At the time, Marc Lemay, a former Bloc MP, rightly pointed out, “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.” I have no doubt that the cases in Quebec he was referring to were those of Stéphane Descheneaux and Susan and Tammy Yantha.

It only took six years for us to arrive back here again to pass amendments to the Indian Act to address discrimination, which should never have existed, with Bill S-3. Like Bill C-3, Bill S-3 did not initially take an expansive approach to addressing discrimination in the Indian Act. Initially, Bill S-3 addressed only the cases ruled by the Superior Court of Québec: the cousins and siblings issue and the issue of omitted minors.

I can continue to give more examples of where we have failed, but it is very clear that today, as we stand, we have the right balance to ensure that we eliminate sex-based discrimination from the Indian Act once and for all.

There would be a process of consultation that would ensure that people, particularly women, would not have to go to court to assert their rights. It is embedded in the legislation today. The bill would ensure that any discrimination based on sex, dating back to 1869, would be addressed once and for all. This is an important amendment we need to make to the Indian Act.

As my colleagues have previously said, as we walk toward elimination of the Indian Act, this is a necessary evil that will ensure that we do not continue to discriminate on the basis of sex.

Indian ActGovernment Orders

November 29th, 2017 / 4:50 p.m.
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Labrador Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

Yvonne Jones LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of comments I would like to make and a question. First of all, the member opposite talked about repealing the Indian Act, and it is probably the desire of all of us, at least on this side of the House, to repeal the act, but we also know that we have a fiduciary responsibility and that, in the absence of other legislation, it is not responsible for government to proceed in that way at this time.

However, we are creating a way and a mechanism to get there. That is the broader agenda of what government is engaged in and what the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs has spoken to. In the meantime, we also have a responsibility to honour the rulings of the court. The rulings of the court indicate that we eliminate all sex-based discrimination against women within the Indian Act. That is exactly what we are doing.

In fact, it has been with the tremendous support of the Senate that we are able to get to where we are today. I would like to ask the member a question, because Senator Sinclair has said:

I would like to add my support for this motion and indicate that I intend to vote for it.... The amendments before us, to my relief, leave no legal distinction between indigenous men and women. It brings the act, therefore, into compliance with the Charter.

The member opposite also knows that we have gone beyond the 1951 cut-off amendment in Bill C-3. In fact, we have made amendments in the bill that would include circumstances prior to 1951 and remedy sex-based inequities back to 1869. I ask why the member opposite will not support these amendments in Bill S-3.

Motions in AmendmentIndian ActGovernment Orders

June 20th, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Madam Speaker, first, it was our Conservative government that gave women living on reserve the same matrimonial real property rights as other Canadian women living off reserve, something the Liberals voted against.

When the Liberals were in opposition, in response to Bill C-3, which dealt with McIvor case, the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs brought forward those exact same amendments, which senators have brought forward to amend Bill S-3.

Could the member tell us what has changed between now and then, other than she now sits on that side of the House of Commons?

June 15th, 2017 / 9:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

I totally respect where the member is coming from when it comes to human rights. I don't think anyone in this committee would disagree with his position in that respect.

The difficulty we have is this timeline. I know everyone says we can get an extension, but we did that once, and we're right back where we were at the end of the first extension. If we get another five-month extension, we're going to be in exactly the same place we're in today. There's not enough time to properly deal with some of the issues that the Indigenous Bar Association and Senator Sinclair....

We're bringing about significant legislative change, and we have a duty to consult all indigenous peoples on the changes that are going to have such a huge impact on many of their communities. We just finished discussing an amendment on DNA. We, around this table, can think that we have all the answers to solve it, but we also know that there are certain complexities that need to be dealt with, and those complexities are derived within what the Mohawks had to say. They said they don't care what Bill S-3 says, and that they're the ones who are going to decide who's a member of their community, not the government.

I know in an ideal world we'd like to blow up the Indian Act and let all indigenous peoples make that determination, and I think it's the goal of all of us here to see that happen sooner than later. Until then, we have a duty to consult with all indigenous communities, and that's going to take time. Another five-month extension—or three months, or whatever it is they would give us—is not enough time to resolve this. In the meantime, if we do find ourselves back here in five months in the same situation, those 35,000 people who could have already been starting the registration process are still going to be stuck waiting to start that registration process.

As MP Anandasangaree had communicated, I do truly believe that our ministers, Minister Wilson-Raybould and Minister Carolyn Bennett, do want to see this resolved once and for all, and to get it done right, not just rush into it and get it done under what Senator McPhedran has proposed here in “6(1)(a) all the way”. There are flaws in that amendment, so there's no sense in my mind of passing something we know has flaws when we should be taking the opportunity to get it done right.

I totally respect where you're coming from, but I just think the two-phase process will enable us to get this done right once and for all. Do we wish that Bill C-3 could have done it back in 2010? Sure, but it didn't. So now we're stuck here again at this table, trying to make this determination. Let's get this done right, take the time necessary to do it, and put this behind us once and for all.

Thank you.

June 8th, 2017 / 9:20 a.m.
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President, Quebec Native Women Inc.

Viviane Michel

Of course, we can see the contradiction. It is obvious. It's really the outcome of your laws. The expression “divide and conquer” applies, but we can't even agree amongst ourselves.

I can understand the challenges of aboriginal communities: their economic survival, the lack of access to housing, the lack of funding, underfunding, and so on. I can understand their whole situation. I am working with my colleagues at the Assembly of First Nations, and I understand those realities. I myself lived in an aboriginal community. So I know what I am talking about when it comes to things like language and culture.

However, today we are talking about issues that directly affect women. The existence of women is important. Why were women targeted in this piece of legislation? It's because we, as women, are responsible for transmitting language and culture.

In a different context, prior to 1985, a Quebec woman who married an aboriginal was considered a pure aboriginal. Don't you see how ridiculous that is?

The ultimate goal of the Indian Act truly was assimilation. Who was penalized? It was us, the women, as carriers of future generations and guardians of culture and language.

I know that there may be some contradictions today; that's clear. However, we will speak for women, as this act is truly founded on sex-based discrimination, and we, as women, are targeted. Nevertheless, I know that there are other issues related to life in aboriginal communities.

As part of Bill C-3, I walked from Quebec City to Ottawa and I understood why my colleagues were reluctant to support us. In fact, even though 40,000 aboriginals were registered, budgets in communities remained unchanged. That's the economic side.

Existence is truly an important issue. Why are you the ones who recognize who we are, through your laws? We are not given an opportunity to recognize ourselves. That would mitigate many issues. I believe that it would establish a better balance among our nations.

June 6th, 2017 / 11:10 a.m.
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Director, Board of Directors, Indigenous Bar Association

Drew Lafond

What's responsible is subjective assessment. In our view, what problems would arise in connection with the 6(1)(a) “all-the-way” approach.... You'll recall that during our previous submissions to the Senate in May—and this was identified in our written submissions as well—we identified that the draft language proposed by the Liberal government in 2010 in connection with the Bill C-3 negotiations and discussions at that time.... The clause during that round of negotiations was ruled out of order, so it wasn't considered and, unfortunately, it essentially died at that point.

We have now reintroduced the discussion in our written submissions. We raised it as a possibility during our oral submissions, as a good starting point for eliminating sex discrimination within the Indian Act. What appears to have happened is that Senator McPhedran has simply taken the language from the proposed Liberal amendment back in 2010, inserted that into 6(1)(a), and then added a provision under (a.2), which is simply an interpretation provision or clarification provision, which interprets (a.1). Therefore, there really hasn't been a lot of modification of the Liberal proposal put forward back during the Bill C-3 negotiations.

We cautioned against simply inserting that in its current form. We identified it at that time as a good starting point, as I indicated. You run into technical problems with the language by simply inserting that into a bill because you run the risk of inconsistencies or some unintended consequences with that. We haven't been able to identify the full extent of those.

When I looked at it last week, the only one who came to mind was the question of who we are referring to when we refer to a person who was born prior to 1985 and is a direct descendent of the person referred to. Looking at the person referred to in paragraph (a) or a person referred to in paragraph 11(1)(a), (b), (c), (d), (e), or (f), as read immediately prior to April 17, 1985, the first issue that came to mind was, does that refer to only peoples who are alive or peoples who are deceased? Or are we dealing with descendants of people who were living immediately prior to 1985 or people who had passed away? There is a deeming provision in the Indian Act, section 6, and it reads, “(a) a person who was no longer living immediately prior to April 17, 1985 but who was at the time of death entitled to be registered shall be deemed to be entitled to be registered under paragraph (1)(a);“ That's under (6)(3), but, unfortunately, that reference is only in connection with paragraph (1)(f) in subsection (2).

There are these small technical problems that you will encounter when you insert a paragraph like that into a bill, and our concern stems from that. I think it echoes the concerns of senators.

Also, we don't know if we can have a proper articulation of what the 6(1)(a) “all-the-way” approach is, and then moving to the next phase, does the legislation accurately implement that intention?

Dealing with subparagraph (a.1), I understand the political strategy. This was something that was introduced by the Liberals, so shouldn't the Liberals be more inclined to adopt it? It's a very admirable approach from a political standpoint. From a legal standpoint, we still have some questions that we haven't had an opportunity to fully canvas.

June 6th, 2017 / 9:50 a.m.
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David Schulze Legal Counsel, Council of the Abenaki of Odanak

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Ladies and gentlemen members of the committee, I will address you today in English.

Thank you for inviting us. I'm David Schulze. I was counsel for Stéphane Descheneaux, Susan and Tammy Yantha, and the Abenaki of Odanak and Wôlinak in the Descheneaux case. I am joined by Chief Rick O'Bomsawin of Odanak and Mr. Stéphane Descheneaux.

Now, I know we did this before Christmas, but I offered to briefly take the committee through the status rules again so that we know what we're talking about, because these issues are not simple.

By way of context, you will recall the challenge that Madam Justice Masse put before Parliament in her judgment. She said she was disposing of Mr. Descheneaux and Susan and Tammy Yantha's case, but as she said, “Parliament is not exempted from taking [other] measures to identify and settle all other discriminatory situations...whether they are based on sex or another prohibited ground.” We will look at whether this bill does that.

Briefly, how does status work? There are two subsections in section 6 of the Indian Act that give you status: 6(1) and 6(2). This chart quickly explains it to you, but it's not always easy to follow. Keep this in mind. A person registered under 6(1) will always have a status child. A person registered under 6(2) will never have a status child if they don't parent with another status Indian. It is always better, if you would like your children to have status and to be able to inherit your house on reserve, to be a 6(1) than a 6(2). That is the bottom line.

This system of 6(1) and 6(2) is the way the federal government, in 1985, tried to solve the discrimination in the Indian Act. Just as an aside: before 1985, status under the Indian Act was purely patrilineal, with one exception. Status was for Indian men, their wives, and their children. That was it. The only exception was for an Indian woman who had a child out of wedlock with an unidentified father. If they couldn't show the father was not an Indian, that child could be registered. Otherwise, there was no one on earth who had their Indian status from their mother; they had it from their father. An Indian woman lost it if she married a non-Indian man, and a non-Indian woman gained it if she married an Indian man. That's how it worked, and that had to be cured in 1985. Why 1985? Because that's when section 15 of the charter came into effect.

The government came up with what they called the second-generation cut-off. After two generations of parenting with a non-Indian, the third generation, the grandchild, has no status. If you look at the cabinet documents from the early 80s, they actually call this a 50% blood quantum. That's what they call it. It is, in effect, really a kind of grandparent threshold. Most of the time, if you have two status grandparents, you will have status, but as you'll see, it's not 100%. You see up here on the chart how a 6(1) will always produce a 6(2). If you have two 6(1)s, they each have a 6(2), and those 6(2)s marry: boom, you've got a 6(1) again. There won't be a quiz on this afterwards.

There's a sort of strength in having 6(1) ancestors, so that—as you'll see here—you can end up with a 6(2) grandchild, but it's not 100%. It won't always be enough. If you spread them out the wrong way, and if you don't have enough 6(1)s in your family tree, you can have the same number of status grandparents and end up with no status. The fact is, as I said, it's always better to be 6(1) than 6(2). The government likes to go to court and say there's no difference between 6(1) and 6(2); they're all Indians. That's very nice for everybody except somebody who is 6(2) and is facing the prospect of having children with no right to stay on the reserve.

Here's the other thing you absolutely have to understand. I'll just go back to one other chart. In this example, that 6(1) status doesn't mean the person was born an Indian. Remember, the non-Indian woman who married in, who married an Indian man before 1985, she got status. She is as 6(1) as anyone else. The 6(1) ancestors are counted whether or not they were born Indians or whether they acquired it by marriage.

When I said the name of the game is to have 6(1) grandparents and great-grandparents, that includes women who married in, and that's what gives us the “cousins” rule that led to the McIvor case.

That's how, in a nutshell, the grandchildren of a woman who married out before 1985, under Bill C-31, under the original amendments, weren't going to get status unless the woman's children parented with Indians. If her brother married a non-Indian, however, his grandchildren would get status. His grandchildren get counted as having two status grandparents and hers don't, because she got her status back in 1985, but of course her husband stays a non-Indian. That's the “cousins rule”. That's what McIvor was about.

The government said they were solving that in Bill C-3. As they often do in the Department of Indian Affairs, however, they didn't see what they didn't want to see. They figured that, because Sharon McIvor's son married after 1985, they would only look at women who married out and whose children had their children after 1985 under the new rules. So Sharon McIvor's son had status but her grandchildren didn't.

They ignored the fact that there were generations of men and their sons and their grandsons marrying before 1985. If a man married out before 1985, and if his son then married out before 1985, he didn't have 6(2) grandchildren; he had 6(1) grandchildren. He could not have anything other than status great-grandchildren.

The comparator is Mr. Descheneaux. Mr. Descheneaux's grandmother married out, and after 1985 he was a 6(2). His children still don't have status. His great uncle would produce 6(1) grandchildren and status great-grandchildren, which Stéphane couldn't, because he traced his lineage to a grandmother who married out, not to a grandfather who married out. That's the Descheneaux part of the Descheneaux case in a nutshell. Parliament messed up. They knew exactly what they were doing. The Abenaki came before them in 2010 and pointed this out.

This is the comparator. The grandfather married out and has six status great-grandchildren. Stéphane has children without status. Under Bill S-3, they will have status. That part of the discrimination is cured by Bill S-3.

There was another case, and I won't get into it in great detail, but I want you to understand what we're dealing with. It was all patrilineal before 1985. The result was, to make a long story short, if an Indian man had a child out of wedlock before 1985, his son could be registered but his daughter could not. Post-1985, they looked at the daughter and determined that since she had only one 6(1) parent she was a 6(2). That's how we got Susan Yantha, who had a different status from her brothers. That's how the same parents could have two children, a son and a daughter, each with a different status.

I want all of you to think about the absolute absurdity of the fact that I had to go before the Superior Court and argue that this was really discrimination under the charter, when Justice Canada stood up and said it wasn't. That is how first nations and their lawyers have to spend their time. That is also cured under this bill.

However, Indian Affairs managed to mess it all up. They messed it up in the bill that was provided and tabled, because now they've made sure that if an Indian man had a child out of wedlock before 1985, the status can go all the way to his great grandchildren through his daughter, but they forgot about the fact that there were women who had children out of wedlock before 1985 who could have their...and if it could be shown that the father was non-Indian, that kid's status could be removed. Again, I won't go through the details, but to make a long story short, they were going to leave that woman's descendants in a worse position than Susan Yantha's children and grandchildren.

They actually told me in a meeting when Chief O'Bomsawin and I met with the staff of the assistant deputy minister and Mr. Reiher, “Yes, we saw that problem but we didn't think it was discriminatory. Then, you know, the Indigenous Bar Association pointed it out before the Senate. Then we decided it was discriminatory, and we fixed it.”

They said they fixed it. Then they had to come back before the Senate last month and fix it again, because they actually hadn't gone enough generations forward. That's where we are with Bill S-3. It's a patch on a patch on a patch on a patch on a patch.

They also cured this problem. I think we really don't have time to take you through it, but it has to do with these particular effects. If an Indian woman had a child by an Indian man but then her second husband was non-Indian, her children under the age of 21 by the first husband would lose status. Those children would end up disadvantaged relatives to their older brothers if those brothers were too old to have lost status. That is cured by this bill and that's all to the good.

This is the scenario that I brought up with Mr. Reiher and that he thinks is not discriminatory. I will try to take you through it extremely quickly as well. Before 1985, an Indian man could decide to enfranchise himself, his wife, and his children. This leads to the following situation, and this is a real situation in Odanak.

A woman was enfranchised before the age of 21, when her dad enfranchised the whole family. Her grandchildren don't have status. Her older sister wasn't enfranchised by their dad, because she was already married to a non-Indian, so she benefited from the McIvor decision; she will benefit from the Descheneaux amendments; and she will have status great grandchildren. This woman will not even have status grandchildren.

The department tells me that this is not discrimination based on sex. I say it is. I say it is for the simple reason that this woman's mother had enfranchisement imposed on her by this woman's father. Indian Affairs says that's okay, because if her brother had enfranchised himself and the sister-in-law, they would be in the same place.

My vision of equality is not that. If we end up with men who have privileges, but are treated no better than women who have no privileges, I don't think that is equality. The Department of Indian Affairs and Justice Canada do.

That's where we are with Bill S-3. That's the overview, and now we have this amendment from the Senate. I'm going to try to make a few relatively simple points about it.

The first one is this, and it's very important that you understand it. Here are the points I want to make. Without the amendments the Senate has brought, the registration rules under the Indian Act, the status rules, will continue to discriminate, and they will continue to violate the charter. There's no dispute about that.

The second point I want to make is that the Abenaki nation was not consulted and not engaged with on Bill S-3.

The third point I want to make is that there is no confidence among aboriginal communities about stage two.

The final point is that there is time right now to do this right.

I want to come back to those points. The first point is that there will be discrimination and the charter will be violated, and you might say they're the same thing. They're not exactly the same thing. The department has told you that the McIvor decision means that they don't have to do this or that, and that the Senate is going too far because it is going further than what McIvor said they had to do.

Let's be very clear on what McIvor said, and I'll try to do this without taking you to the finer points of the double mother rule, which always gives people a headache.

December 5th, 2016 / 4:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

That's why we are here today, because Bill C-3 was flawed.

December 5th, 2016 / 4:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

I think that's the reason this has phase one and phase two.

Phase one is to deal with what the court told us we had to do, and we were able to include some simple parallel cases in that piece of legislation. We knew we would have to then go out and do all the rest.

With due respect, my department has had very little experience over the last decade in going out and talking to people. With due respect, we're here today because Bill C-3 wasn't consulted on properly; therefore, that is what we are having to turn around. We have to turn around to a culture where the solutions are found by the people who know the most, those with expertise and those with lived experience.

December 5th, 2016 / 4:10 p.m.
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Chair in Indigenous Governance, Department of Politics & Public Administration, Ryerson University, As an Individual

Dr. Pamela Palmater

I agree that it needs to be amended. My caution is that it should be amended to make sure that men and women, married or not, and their descendants are equal pre-1985 under paragraph 6(1)(a) so that there's no hierarchy. However, this was attempted before, with McIvor in Bill C-3, and that amendment was ruled out of order for procedural reasons.

If it comes up that there's some technicality or procedure that doesn't allow you to do that, and you can't amend it properly, then an extension should be sought from the court, with the consent of the Descheneaux litigants, which they've already given, to allow further time to go back and get it right and not leave it for phase two, because phase two has that standard of consensus, and as you know, no human society ever agrees on gender equality, and we don't have the option to do that.

December 5th, 2016 / 3:45 p.m.
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Dr. Pamela Palmater Chair in Indigenous Governance, Department of Politics & Public Administration, Ryerson University, As an Individual

[Witness speaks in Mi'kmaq] Pam Palmater. I'm from the sovereign Mi'kmaq Nation on unceded territories in Mi’kma’ki.

I want to thank you for allowing me to come today to speak to some of my concerns with Bill S-3. First, I think it's important to acknowledge that we're on Algonquin territory. Second, we're here today for the efforts of indigenous women who have continued this battle for many decades, like Mary Two-Axe Early, Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, Yvonne Bédard, Sharon McIvor, Sandra Lovelace, and now the second generation of litigants fighting for gender equality for indigenous women, including Jeremy Matson, Lynn Gehl, Nathan McGillivary, and of course, Stéphane Descheneaux.

My primary concerns will be laid out in the submission that is being handed out.

The most important one is that Bill S-3 does not address all known gender discrimination. It doesn't. You've heard from other witnesses who have given very specific examples. My examples are not exhaustive, but they include grandchildren who trace their descent through Indian women who married out pre-1951, the illegitimate female children and their descendants who trace descent from Indian men born pre-1951, and also the differentiation and hierarchy that was created between paragraph 6(1)(a), the male category, and paragraph 6(1)(c), primarily the female category. They have come to be known as the “real Indians” and the “wannabe Indians”. In fact, 6(1)(c)s are the same in descent; they just happen to be indigenous women and their descendants.

A problem that also causes gender discrimination is with Bill S-3. They've now included even more complex differentiation in terms of categories. You have proposed paragraphs 6(1)(c.01), (c.2), (c.3), and (c.4). This also disproportionately impacts the descendants of Indian women who married out. Here's the problem with that. There is no legal or policy justification on behalf of Indian Affairs to have everyone identified in this way.

Programs and services are addressed through contribution agreements based on a membership or the status Indian registry. They never have to record whether you get health, if you're a 6(1)(a), (b), (c), (d) (e), (f), or 6(2). There's no justification for it, so then what's the alternative reason for it?

What it does is it places a scarlet letter on women and their descendants for having committed the sins of marrying out, having had illegitimate children, or worse, being born female. That's a scarlet letter that doesn't attach to Indian men and their descendants who have married out and have intermarried for many successive generations.

The other issue is the hierarchy of Indian status between subsections 6(1) and 6(2), those who can pass on status and those who can't. Those in the “who can't” section are somehow seen as defective and cannot pass on their status to others. It disproportionately impacts indigenous women, the children of unwed Indian mothers who cannot name the father, or who will not name the father because of the reasons that LEAF annotated, and also when fathers deny paternity or when they refuse to sign application forms. INAC has given the power to Indian men to have an impact on the children of indigenous women in this way. Last is the denial of compensation to women who have suffered discrimination for so long.

Bill S-3 also does not provide adequate protection for membership. You'll recall that pre-1985, Indian status and membership is synonymous. Even after Bill S-3, it will only be synonymous for Indian men, not for Indian women. Bill C-3 didn't provide those protections, and now Bill S-3 doesn't provide those protections.

The constitutional protection for gender equality is just that. Section 15 of the charter is equality for men and women. Subsection 35(4) of the Constitution, for anyone who wants to exercise aboriginal treaty rights, must be guaranteed equally between men and women. Article 44 of UNDRIP, which this government has said it's going to implement, also says there's equality between men and women. There is no legal option to negotiate, consider, consult, or agree our way out of gender equality.

If you look at the traditional laws of indigenous nations in this country, I have yet to find one in all of my research that promotes gender inequality.

Canada cannot proceed to phase two without addressing all gender inequality. It acts as a legal prerequisite. You cannot talk to our first nations without our indigenous women and their descendants there. It is unconstitutional. It violates all of our traditional laws, and it would act as a legal barrier to even starting the conversation in phase two.

Bill S-3 also needs to be accompanied by funding for first nations. You'll know that INAC has set aside millions of dollars for itself to deal with Bill S-3 applications, but it didn't set aside a single cent for first nations to deal with this at the community level.

Canada obviously failed to engage in any sort of legal consultations by its own admission.

The impact of Indian registration, as we discussed, is very serious. It's not just about programs and benefits; it's a root cause of murdered and missing indigenous women. It's lack of access to elders, language, ceremonies, and even access to powwows. There are powwows children cannot attend unless they have a status card, no matter how they were raised or whether they were raised in a first nation community.

It also won't address any of the pending litigation. Sharon McIvor's litigation is still outstanding. The Descheneaux cases are still in the hopper. There are Lynn Gehl's, Jeremy Matson's, and Nathan McGillivary's cases, and the Canadian Human Rights Commission has many. And of course, there's the Bill C-3 class action that was brought about because of gender discrimination.

My recommendations, very quickly, are for paragraph 6(1)(a) all the way. Every indigenous man and woman who had children prior to 1985, married or not, should all get the same kind of status so that indigenous women and their descendants don't have to wear the scarlet letter of paragraph 6(1)(c). You need rightful compensation for those who have been knowingly denied gender equality since 1982. For pre-1982, Justice said that's a barrier; there have been legal consultations.

My last word to you is that if we do not address gender discrimination now, in all likelihood, it won't happen. In phase two, they want us to deal with aboriginal treaty rights, nation to nation, getting rid of the Indian Act, and the minister has said that her standard for that is absolute consensus. There will never be, in the history of humanity, consensus on gender equality, but that's the law of the land.

Thank you.

December 5th, 2016 / 3:30 p.m.
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David Taylor Executive Member, Aboriginal Law Section, Canadian Bar Association

Thank you. Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and honourable members.

I'm pleased to appear before the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs.

I'll give my presentation in English, but I would be happy to answer questions in French.

The CBA aboriginal law section is pleased to contribute to the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs' pre-study of Bill S-3's subject matter.

I would begin by recalling the words of Madam Justice Ross of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in her reasons at trial in McIvor v. the Registrar, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada:

...it is one of our most basic expectations that we will acquire the cultural identity of our parents; and that as parents we will transmit our cultural identity to our children.

It is therefore not surprising that one of the most frequent criticisms of the registration scheme is that it denies Indian women the ability to pass Indian status to their children.

One of our main points concerns the manner in which this bill was brought forward and is being considered by Parliament.

When Bill S-3 was introduced at first reading in the Senate, consultations with regard to the first phase of the government's response to the Descheneaux decision were far from over. While we understand that the Indigenous Affairs consultations regarding Bill S-3 were to conclude last Friday, December 2, it remains the case that moving forward in the legislative process while there were still consultations under way undermines the fulfilment of the federal government's duty to consult indigenous peoples regarding legislative changes that affect them, as required by the honour of the crown and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. While the committee stages in the Senate and in the House are designed for the amendment of bills based on public feedback, the honour of the crown and the United Nations declaration require more than indigenous peoples being left to watch the legislative train leave the station.

We are also concerned by clause 8 of Bill S-3, which precludes those impacted by Bill S-3 from seeking compensation for their past exclusion from Indian status. Parliament and the federal crown have been on notice since at least the 2009 decision in McIvor by the British Columbia Court of Appeal that the amendments to the Indian Act in 1985 did not entirely resolve the discriminatory aspects of the Indian status system and, in fact, created new discriminatory elements.

On this point, Madam Justice Masse held in Descheneaux:

The year is now 2015. The 1985 Act from which the discrimination arises has been in force for a little more than 30 years.

The general finding of discrimination in the 2009 judgment of the Court of Appeal for British Columbia in McIvor could have enabled Parliament to make more sweeping corrections than what was accomplished in the measures in the 2010 act. The discrimination suffered by the plaintiffs arises from the same source as the one identified in the case.

Canada was aware that work remained to be done following McIvor and Bill C-3. Leaving clause 8 in Bill S-3 immunizes Canada from the consequences of its conduct and provides little incentive to ensure that the eradication of discrimination in the context of Indian status proceeds without delay.

By continuing to withhold eligibility for Indian status from certain women and their descendants, government realizes a cost saving: controlling costs by having fewer members. The result of discrimination should not be an economic benefit to the government.

Removing clause 8 from Bill S-3 would change the financial incentive going forward and would send a clear message from Parliament that the government will not be given a licence to discriminate through absolution for the past consequences of its actions where government was clearly on notice through prior court decisions that its broader legislative scheme was not on sound constitutional footing.

As a practical matter, sufficient resources should be provided to bands that will see an influx of new members as a result of Bill S-3, and sufficient resources should be provided to the relevant operational sectors at Indigenous Affairs in order to ensure that the registration of individuals who have been unconstitutionally excluded for more than three decades proceeds with all due dispatch.

The subject matter of Bill S-3 should also be referred to a parliamentary committee within 18 months of its coming into force. We understand that the government is committed to proposing further revisions to the Indian status system as part of its two-stage response to the Descheneaux decision. This is to be commended and is in keeping with Justice Masse's calls for a broader review of this question.

Indeed, in the second-last paragraph of her reasons for judgment, Madam Justice Masse held:

Parliament should not interpret this judgment as strictly as it did the [Court of Appeal for British Columbia's] judgment in McIvor. If it wishes to fully play its role instead of giving free reign to legal disputes, it must act differently this time, while also quickly making sufficiently significant corrections to remedy the discrimination identified in this case. One approach does not exclude the other.

Given the long history of discrimination involved in the Indian status system, the phase two process will benefit from timely parliamentary scrutiny long enough before the next election to ensure that parliamentarians' expertise and the views of community members do not get lost in the legislative crunch that accompanies the end of a parliamentary session.

In closing, it is important to note that the McIvor and Descheneaux decisions deal with aspects of the Indian status system that are discriminatory and contrary to section 15 of the charter. As such, they set the constitutional floor, the level of fairness below which the Indian status system may not fall. Certainly, the legislative process, both here and in the phase to come, should set its sights higher in an attempt to rectify the inequities that have long been identified in the Indian status system.

Those are our submissions.

Thank you.

November 30th, 2016 / 5:10 p.m.
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Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs

Sharon McIvor

I'm unclear about what they want to consult about. Perhaps it's membership. I don't know.

I know that they don't have the right to consult about discrimination. No one has the right to say it's okay to discriminate. They did it for Bill C-31. They did it for Bill C-3, and it looks like it's their intention to do it for Bill S-3. Whoever they consulted is saying that it's okay to discriminate. We don't want any more. There are some that want more members, as well, but the consultation has never, ever been sufficient. I cannot think of any consultation in the last 50 years that has resulted in anything. You go and talk, and you do what you want to do anyway.

My immediate concern with Bill S-3 is that it seems that instead of taking out all the known discrimination in the Indian Act, the minister has now decided, “Well, we won't take it all out, even though we know it's there, and we'll consult with people about how we're going to do it.” It doesn't make any sense to me.

I'm not a big fan of consultation in this kind of legislation.

Yes, when you're looking at land, resources, all those kinds of things, absolutely. But on whether or not you should take discrimination against an identified group out of the Indian Act, consultation won't get you anywhere. You can't do it. You cannot consult and get somebody's agreement and then continue to discriminate, and then continue to discriminate while you're consulting.

November 30th, 2016 / 4:50 p.m.
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As an Individual

Jeremy Matson

As an individual, I wasn't privy to any information about nation to nation. I belong to a nation and I have a relationship with my nation. Just as I have a relationship with the crown and with section 6 of the Indian Act, I have my own relationship with my own nation.

Also, every family within the Squamish Nation is affected by Bill C-31 and Bill C-3 and now Bill S-3, so it's important to communities such as mine.

November 30th, 2016 / 4:20 p.m.
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Jeremy Matson As an Individual

Hello. My name is Jeremy Matson. I would like to thank the Algonquin people for allowing me to speak on their traditional territory. I would also like to thank Mr. Descheneaux, Ms. Yantha, Ms. Sharon McIvor, her son Jacob, Ms. Sandra Lovelace Nicholas, Ms. Bédard, Ms. Lavell, Mary Two-Axe Earley, and many others who continue to advance or who have advanced indigenous peoples' rights here in Canada.

Currently, I'm registered under subsection 6(2) of the Indian Act under Bill C-3, the McIvor bill, which is the Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act. I'm a Squamish Nation member and I have direct ancestral connections to the Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam, and other Coast Salish nations.

I am married to my wife Taryn Matson, née Moore. We have two children: Iris Matson, who is eight years old, and August Matson, who is five years old.

I am one of many grandsons of Nora Johnston and Vino Matson. My grandparents were married in 1927, and because of her marriage to my non-aboriginal grandfather, my grandmother was commuted under the 1927 Indian Act and remained disentitled to her identity.

My father, Eugene Matson, was one of seven children born to my grandparents Nora and Vino between the years 1928 and 1942. My grandparents had approximately 30 grandchildren. We'll go into the effects of the upcoming Bill S-3 on those 30 grandchildren.

My grandmother remained disentitled as a band member or as a status Indian—a recognized Indian under the Indian Act—until April 17, 1985. Under Bill C-31, the amendments back then, my grandmother was registered under paragraph 6(1)(c) of the Indian Act and registered as a band member under section 11 of the Indian Act under the Squamish Nation.

My grandmother's seven children were registered for the first time under subsection 6(2) of the Indian Act, Bill C-31.

Canada has imposed discriminatory legislation against my family for 90 years. The intergenerational impact is significant. Canada has denied our cultural identities and/or placed my family members in an inferior position compared with those in other indigenous families in Canada, and the sole reason is gender discrimination and its adverse impacts.

I'll go a little bit into the nuts and bolts of Bill S-3 as drafted and its shortcomings and the way it affects my family.

I will be potentially entitled to paragraph 6(1)(c.2) registration under the proposed amendments. I'm going to go through my children's case. That means they'll be entitled to subsection 6(2) Indian status under this bill.

But there are a few inequalities in your tinkering with the Indian Act. You've created more problems—not you the INAN committee, but the drafters. I'll go through proposed paragraph 6(1)(c.4)—this is part of the Bill S-3 draft amendments—and show how my children meet some of these categories but will be left out from proposed paragraph 6(1)(c.4) Indian status.

The first category is for those for whom:

one of their parents is entitled to be registered under paragraph (c.2)

That would be me, as my children meet that criterion—and then they qualify under item (ii) of that proposed paragraph 6(1)(c.4) if:

their other parent is not entitled to be registered

That would be my wife.

Then item 6(1)(c.4)(iii) states, as its qualifying criterion:

they were born before April 17, 1985, whether or not their parents were married to each other at the time of the birth, or they were born after April 16, 1985

My children meet that, and then it says:

and their parents were married to each other at any time before April 17, 1985

My children do not meet that category, so they're not entitled under that item of proposed paragraph 6(1)(c.4).

The newly entitled under Bill S-3—that means the generation below mine and descending generations from there, the newly entitled great-grandchildren or the second-generation cousins of my grandmother—the descendants of my grandmother, will be treated in a differential manner.

Some will be entitled to proposed subsection 6(2) Indian status, some to proposed subsection 6(1) Indian status under the Indian Act amendments in Bill S-3.

In my submission, I broke down all 30 grandchildren and how their standings would fall under Bill S-3. The first three grandchildren of my grandmother will not be entitled under this bill. They were not entitled under Bill C-3, because they were born prior to September 4, 1951, and they will remain disentitled under proposed subsection 6(1) Indian status, and their descendants will, too.

I also broke down.... I don't know what version of my submission you have. The first-generation cousins, the grandchildren, are highlighted in red. Those would be the individuals who were married prior to April 17, 1985. They will be entitled to pass proposed subsection 6(1) Indian status to their children, and the remaining non-highlighted grandchildren, which I fall under, will only be able to pass proposed subsection 6(2) Indian status to their children.

There is going to be differential treatment of siblings and families. In my family, first-generation cousins are going to be left out or left with an inferior status.

On page 6, in a detailed chart for the INAN committee, I broke down how I, my family, and my children will be treated differently, in comparison to my first-generation cousins' families and their breakdown.

I would encourage this committee to look at that, as it could be a possible recommendation. If you are staying in all the four corners of Bill S-3, and what Justice Masse has done with her decision in the Descheneaux case, my submissions and recommendations would stay within those four corners, but it would be nice to have everybody who was born prior to April 17, 1985 under proposed paragraph 6(1)(a) Indian status, as Ms. McIvor mentioned.

Not too long ago, on October 25, Canada went under review by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Canada is a treaty member of that particular United Nations committee, and Canada's review was in the 65th session. On November 18, only a couple of weeks ago, CEDAW, from the United Nations, with the report CEDAW/C/CAN/CO/8-9, called Canada out about this very bill, Bill S-3. I provided that in there, but I didn't provide the reference and the web link. I forgot to put that in my submission.

Paragraph 12 of the report states that the committee:

further notes that a new Bill [S-3] amending the Indian Act is currently being developed. However, the Committee remains concerned about continued discrimination against indigenous women, in particular regarding the transmission of Indian status, preventing them and their descendants from enjoying all the benefits related to such status.

In paragraph 13 the committee recommends that parliamentarians fix that.

This is the third CEDAW report that has announced to Canada to abolish or fix this discrimination. I currently have a petition before CEDAW about section 6 of the Indian Act and the relationship between the state and me as an individual, my children, my grandchildren, and my future descendants.

I also listed numerous other United Nations reports calling on Canada to abolish this, and I have provided links.

I'll now get to the the recommendations for Bill S-3.

It would be nice for this committee to provide a recommendation for proposed paragraph 6(1)(a) Indian status for everybody born prior to April 17, 1985, and also to provide future amendments, because there are implications, too, about April 17, 1985 to the present day. It's not just between April 17, 1985 and back to 1876, and before, that that there was discrimination. We also have to go forward after that date.

Staying within the four corners of this bill, under proposed paragraph 6(1)(c.4) I recommend providing Indian status to all the newly entitled, meaning my children's generational level, and not create differences between first-generation cousins or siblings.

Recommendation two is to provide Indian status or entitlement for all those individuals born prior to September 4, 1951. As my family history clearly displays, I have three first-generation cousins who remain disentitled under Bill S-3, even though CEDAW has recommended to Canada to fix all discrimination.

November 30th, 2016 / 4:10 p.m.
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Sharon McIvor Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs

Thank you.

My name is Sharon McIvor. I'm appearing at this committee for the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, which is a B.C. group of chiefs that has been in existence since the mid-1970s, and whose major focus is aboriginal title right and treaty rights.

Today I'm just speaking specifically to Bill S-3, the amendment to the Indian Act. You have to understand that status under the Indian Act is exclusively the jurisdiction of the federal government. It's in 91(24), so it's a relationship or recognition of who the federal government recognizes as Indians. It has nothing to do with self-determination or self-government. Those issues are out there to be discussed at another time and place.

Up until 1985, the Indian Act was blatantly discriminatory against women. Lots of pressure was brought, but mainly the Charter of Rights and Freedoms kicked in on April 17, 1985, and forced the government to deal with that ongoing discrimination.

With Bill C-31, there was an agreement at that time between Minister Crombie and his department that although he wanted all the discrimination gone, I understand that it was too expensive, so he allowed the second-generation cut-off and said that those guys could come and fight for themselves.

I took up the challenge. In July 1989 I started a case that was called the McIvor case about the ongoing discrimination in the Indian Act.

In 2010, after court decisions, the government got together to do Bill C-3. Bill C-3 continued with the discrimination. We've been here before and done this before because of the ongoing discrimination, and the government decided it was okay to continue to discriminate against aboriginal women and their descendants.

Looking at Bill S-3, it's exactly the same thing.

I can tell you what happened in 1985. The government threw out this thing to say that they had to consult with the people about whether or not they should end this discrimination.

From my perspective, and for most people who believe in human rights, discrimination isn't negotiable. As the Government of Canada, it's your responsibility to make sure your legislation complies with the charter, so you can't go out and ask all of those aboriginal organizations, which are mainly led by males, if it is okay to continue to discriminate against the Indian women. I can tell you that most of them will say, yes. We know, because in Jeannette Corbière-Lavell's case, the Assembly of First Nations and their allies were sitting against her with the government. In other cases we've taken, those male-dominated organizations sit on the other side.

It's your fiduciary responsibility to make sure that your legislation, no matter what you pass, complies with the charter. Bill S-3 does not. What Bill S-3 does is it continues the discrimination.

I have a petition with the UN Human Rights Committee to say that Bill C-3, the McIvor amendment, did not take all of the discrimination out of the Indian Act. That's sitting there. It was to be heard in July 2016. The Department of Justice put in a request to the UN committee to suspend the hearing of my petition, because of the bill—now S-3—that will bring gender equality to the Indian Act in February 3, 2017.

I handed a package to the clerk. There is a media release in which Carolyn Bennett promises that. I also have in the package the request to the UN committee by the Government of Canada, and in several places they said that by February 3, 2017, all known discrimination will be out of the Indian Act.

They knew it and they could do it, and then they were going to do a second phase, consulting nation to nation with the aboriginal people. The only thing that I'm saying today is yes to the consultation. You cannot consult about ending discrimination. You cannot consult about asking somebody else's permission if it's okay to continue to discriminate against me.

It's totally unacceptable and the position that you're taking as parliamentarians is really untenable. I absolutely can't understand why you're doing it. Discrimination is contrary to the charter and you know and I know, and you've heard probably from a lot of people, that there's still discrimination in the Indian Act. You have the ability to scrap the bill and do something that's going to take all of the discrimination out.

In 1985 the Government of Canada did something that helped take care of some of the bands' problems. The bands are not nations. The bands are an artificial construct by the Government of Canada, but what they did is they separated the membership and status. Section 10 allows absolutely every band in Canada to decide who can be a member. They cannot take membership away and the women who married out were to be put back into their birth bands, but second generation can be left out. You don't have to give membership to them. They separated that out.

The Government of Canada is determining who is an Indian and who do I have responsibility for and who do I have a relationship with. Absolutely every band in Canada has the right to make a law that determines who their membership is.

I just don't want the waters to be muddy there. What we're looking at is the Government of Canada deciding whether they're going to recognize me as an Indian. The other piece that's really important is that when I was born, I had birthrights. Outside of the human rights that every human is born with, I have aboriginal rights that come from my heritage. Those cannot be defined away. I cannot be discriminated against so I cannot exercise those rights, and recognition of me as an aboriginal person is one of those rights.

When we're looking at what you're doing with Bill S-3, what you did with Bill C-3, what you did with Bill C-31, you violated my rights as an aboriginal person. My plea to you is you can clean it up. If you look at in May 2010 the House of Commons committee reviewing Bill C-3 brought to the House an amendment to Bill C-3 which for the most part alleviated all of the concerns about the ongoing discrimination based on gender. That was rejected.

Actually, it wasn't rejected. The Speaker ruled most of it out of order and it was left in one piece, but you know how to do it. It's there. I put that in the package as well. It's a two-pager and it will alleviate most of the discrimination, all of the known discrimination. There are some things still there that need to be fixed, but for the most part it's doable and that's your fiduciary responsibility. You cannot continue to make legislation that has known discrimination in it. It's your fiduciary responsibility to take it all out. That's what the charter is all about.

Thank you.

November 23rd, 2016 / 5:25 p.m.
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Senior Manager, Engagement, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

Frankie Coté

I just find it a little odd—and please don't take this as an insult or anything, because I don't mean any disrespect—coming from the Conservative side, considering that the Harper government appealed this decision from the onset, and the Liberal government is the one that withdrew the appeal.

That being said, let me finish that first part. For consultation, yes, it's guaranteed that there needs to be more consultation, but that's just in general on all aspects. The courts have been clear about consultation within the legislative body. In the legislative process, through Mikisew, they went to court and they won in dealing with the omnibus bill and the changes to CEAA.

Going to the second part of your question, yes, there needs to be more money injected into it. When Bill C-31 was enacted, there was some money, but definitely not enough. There was some housing money given, but definitely not enough to meet the demands that the communities faced. With Bill C-3 there was no money injected when it came into effect.

When these people returned to their communities and asked for programs and services, it was a huge strain on communities, so definitely more money is always welcome and needed.

November 23rd, 2016 / 4:40 p.m.
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Jeannette Corbiere Lavell Citizenship Commissioner, Anishinabek Nation, Union of Ontario Indians

Meegwetch.

[Witness speaks in Ojibwe]

I'm giving you greetings from my people, the Anishinabek Nation in Ontario. I am a member of the Wikwemikong unceded territory based on Manitoulin. I also shared my Anishinaabe name, which is Giiwedanang, which is North Star.

Having listened to the previous presentations, I am here to share with you the work that we have been doing within the Anishinabek Nation. It is what we are all talking about . It's called the Anishinabek Nation Citizenship Law or E-dbendaagzijig—“Those Who Belong.” This is the appointment I was given by the Grand Chief of Anishinabek Nation many years ago—well, not that long ago: in 2007, actually.

Just listening to everyone and looking around the table, I was thinking it might be good to take a few steps back and take some time to share with you my own personal experience with the Indian Act. It might have some relevance and bearing on what we're going through right now.

This is my status card. It says: “Jeannette Corbiere Lavell”. For 15 years, I didn't have it.

By the way, this one expired too. The irony is how can a citizen or a status member expire? But that's what happens.

In 1970, I married David Lavell, who is non-Indian—and as I pointed out, I was a member of the Wikwemikong unceded reserve—and then my rights as a member of my community were automatically taken away. I received a cheque in the mail for $35, which said that's it; you're no longer a member.

It was really hard-hitting for me, because I grew up there; my family is there; and that was my whole life—even though I did travel to Toronto, where I met my husband, but that was for work.

What I want to share with you is that changes and revisions of the Indian Act have been ongoing. Prior to that, it was revised so that our people could imbibe liquor. In 1970, when I looked at the Indian Act and the impact it was having on me, when I had no choice in the decision, it gave me that challenge. I took it all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. That's the Lavell case, from which Bill C-31 was the result, many years later.

In 1970, we approached the chiefs—at the time it was the National Indian Brotherhood, and now it's the Assembly of First Nations—but no one really wanted to tackle this discrimination within the Indian Act, because of course it only affected indigenous women or Indian women with status.

We're still dealing with this. Here we are, 46 years later, with the same problem, so it has been ongoing. Nonetheless, this is the task you have been given as members of this committee. I understand the timeline; however, realizing the hardships that have taken place among many of our people in our communities, I say that decisions have to be made and change must be made. It is not relevant in this day and age to continue to have this kind of discrimination, especially against our women, within the laws of Canada. It must be changed.

I would like to see whatever we can do as members within our Anishinabek Nation to assist in bringing about this change.

Just to also relate, in 1973, we lost by one vote, so there wasn't any change for me and, as I've said, I didn't have my Indian status for 15 years. However, I guess the biggest impact was that legally I would not have been able to even visit my family or reside with my parents, my aunts, and my community, and this is also who I am. I have my language; I grew up there. We have our own spirituality.

When we say that Indian status is only getting access to health benefits, that's not true. To us, this is who we are as a people, that recognition. No matter where you go, you can say, “I am a member of my community, I am Anishinabek”. For me, I'm an anishinaabekwe, which is an Indian woman.

When we dealt with it in 1972-73, we didn't have any aboriginal women's organizations, but because of the determination of our women and the fact that no one was listening to us, we had to get that word out. So we formed our own provincial aboriginal women's organizations in 1973, and here they are. They just left. I am a member of the Native Women's Association of Canada as well through our provincial group.

I guess what I'm really trying to say is that there have been changes, and they have been good. They haven't been perfect, and here we are. Then Sharon McIvor worked on behalf of her grandchildren. That went through the B.C. Supreme Court and, as you well know, then we had Bill C-3. So we have Bill C-31, Bill C-3, and now we have the next step. So it's ongoing, and it won't be resolved because there will be other aspects coming out.

I hear what you're saying, that the Indian Act is not the best. However, it is the only protection that many of our people recognize, the only protection that we have. Unless we can be assured that we will have something that is strong, and that we will be a part of it, and we will have a say in the development of a governance structure, our own constitutions, and our own citizenship act, it just can't be done away with. It may take a little while longer, but as members of the Anishinabek nation in Ontario—there are 40 first nations who are members—we have started on that process.

I don't know how much time I have.

November 23rd, 2016 / 3:45 p.m.
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Viviane Michel President, Quebec Native Women Inc.

[Witness speaks in Innu]

Good afternoon, everyone. I thank the Creator for having brought us here, and I also wish to acknowledge the vast non-surrendered Algonquin territory we are on.

Ladies and gentlemen members of Parliament, Kwe. The Quebec Native Women's association wishes to acknowledge the Anishinaabe Nation that welcomes us today on its vast non-ceded territory. Today, this welcome has particular significance, given the recent events in Quebec. It was on Anishinaabe territory that aboriginal women courageously denounced the abuse and violence there were subjected to by Sûreté du Québec police officers. The Quebec Native Women's association reiterates its message: we believe these women, and we demand an independent provincial judicial commission of inquiry in Quebec. IKWÉ solidarity.

Quebec Native Women Inc. is an organization of aboriginal women that has worked to put an end to injustice since 1974, so that our children may grow up amongst their own people and know their language, culture and traditions, and be proud of them. Since 1974, Quebec Native Women Inc. has been fighting against policies intended to assimilate our peoples, and against sex-based discrimination, that constitutes the basis of the Indian Act. Still today, in 2016, our societies are being torn apart by this.

According to the aboriginal oral tradition of the pre-colonial era, life between men and women was well defined. Although our roles were different, there were valued equally. There was mutual respect between the sexes and the generations. Aboriginal women benefited from a level of respect, equality and political power that European women of the the same era could only dream of. Several aboriginal societies were in fact matriarchal and matrilinear.

As you know, that balance between the sexes was violently destabilized by the colonial policies that were subsequently put in place deliberately by Canada. Colonization had devastating effects on our peoples, due notably to increasingly aggressive assimilation policies. These targeted our women and children in particular. The Canadian government was well aware of the importance of women in our society, particularly their role in passing on knowledge. It knew that to achieve its objectives and to eliminate the “Indian issue” and the Department of Indian Affairs in Canada , it had to uproot our peoples and tear us away from our lands and traditions.

It was expressed quite clearly in black and white that this law was created to accelerate territorial dispossession and decrease the number of aboriginals in Canada. In its annual report in 1895, the Department of Indian Affairs clearly expressed its intent to target our languages in order to assimilate us as peoples. To reach that objective the government intended to target the pillars of our societies, our women, who passed on knowledge to our children, the future of our societies.

The Indian Act served as a tool to achieve that by defining in a patriarchal and paternalistic way who was recognized as an “Indian” in Canada. During the 1800s, only those whose fathers were aboriginal were considered “Indian”, and any woman who married a non-aboriginal lost her aboriginal identity under the law.

It was this same law that imposed the residential school system on us. Its purpose was, and I quote, to “kill the Indian in the heart of the child”.

This law was built on a foundation that sought the abolition of our societies by attacking our women and children, as well as the transmission of our cultures, languages and way of life.

If Canada sincerely intends to bring about reconciliation with aboriginal peoples, it must be accountable and accept history and its repercussions on our current societies. Quebec Native Women Inc. believes that it is impossible to achieve reconciliation if our relationships are governed by a law that does not give us the right to determine our own identity, keeps us in wardship, and is based on racist and discriminatory principles.

Since the beginning of the 1970s, there have been court challenges to the Indian Act. After the very long and worthy battles led by Ms. Mary Two-Axe Early, Ms. Jeannette Corbiere Lavell and Ms. Sandra Lovelace Nicholas, Canada, that refused to recognize the sex-based discrimination of the Indian Act, saw its decision invalidated at the international level by the United Nations, which asked it to amend this act.

In 1985, Bill C-31 was passed to alleviate this discrimination. However, it did not put an end to it. On the contrary, it created new ones. It led to the creation of two categories of status. Status aboriginals were now divided into two groups: the one described in subsection 6(1) and the one described in subsection 6(2). This is painfully close to eugenics. These provisions inserted into the Indian Act the concept of the purity of bloodlines that once again divided our peoples and imposed a foreign system on our ways of governing.

In 2011, Sharon McIvor continued the struggle by standing up to sex-based discrimination due once again to the Indian Act. This led to Bill C-3, which failed to put an end to these years of discrimination.

Here we are together again today in 2016 to deal with these same issues. Quebec Native Women Inc. is asking you, ladies and gentlemen, to acknowledge the absurdity of the current context and the insidious nature of exercises like this one.

Quebec Native Women Inc. wishes to highlight the courage and perseverance of the women and men who waged these legal battles, but is forced to recognized nevertheless that each of these amendments was only a small bandaid on the serious and gaping wound of the cultural genocide attempted by Canada on aboriginal peoples.

Quebec Native Women Inc. wishes to remind Parliament of article 33(1) of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which establishes that “indigenous peoples have the right to determine their own identity or membership in accordance with their customs and traditions.”

Indian status, that has been divided into categories and is awarded according to criteria that will remain sexist even after the current proposed changes, represents a blatant violation of this right we have to decide who we are.

In 2011, our association held a gathering of the nations where the theme of identity was discussed with its members. Together, they expressed the nature of language, culture, belonging to a territory, values and traditions that are the markers of our identity and indigenous citizenship, and not blood quantum or the number on a card issued by the Government of Canada.

In today's context, Quebec Native Women Inc. is asking the Government of Canada to eliminate once and for all the discrimination practised against aboriginal women, including those who, for several reasons, do not declare the paternity of their child.

We also ask that the women who have suffered from discrimination since the period before 1951 may recover their status before it is too late for them.

Finally, we ask the government to eliminate the categories of status that set registered aboriginals apart and give rise to a contemptible and discriminatory hierarchy based on racist and shameful criteria such as the purity of blood.

Quebec Native Women Inc. is asking the Government of Canada to allow first nations themselves to determine who they are.

Given the government's intent to begin the second phase of the work in February 2017, the Quebec Native Women's association is proposing its collaboration with you in this process. We have expertise on this issue developed since 1974, and we believe that we can make an important contribution to reconciliation for the future of our peoples, of our women and children, for the next seven generations.

I would also like to say that we are going to run out of time to consult the 54 aboriginal communities of Quebec. This process is really inadequate. Our organization, Quebec Native Women Inc., met with representatives of the department. I invited them myself to come to our general assembly to discuss the Descheneaux decision, but only 66 women will be present. There are 54 communities to consult. The process is not adequate.

Thank you. Tshinaskumitin.

November 23rd, 2016 / 3:30 p.m.
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Grand Chief Denise Stonefish Deputy Grand Chief, Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians, Assembly of First Nations

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about Canada's effort to eliminate sex-based discrimination through this latest amendment to section 6 of the Indian Act.

As indicated, I represent seven first nations, mainly in southern Ontario. I am also the chair of the Assembly of First Nations' Women's Council. This council is an essential consultative body of the AFN under its charter, representing the interests and perspectives of first nations women who are members of our 634 first nations across Canada. As chair, I participate in meetings of the executive committee, our chiefs in assembly, and other meetings, including presentations to parliamentary committees on occasion.

As we are all painfully aware, the Indian Act was founded on the goal of complete assimilation of first nations as distinct nations. Since 1876, the Indian Act has undermined our kinship systems, our systems of governance, and many other aspects of our lives, including by enabling the imposition of the residential school tragedy. A primary tool to achieve those ends has been discrimination targeting first nations women.

This is the third time Parliament has attempted to rectify the sex discrimination in the act. In 1985, changes made under Bill C-31 left the task incomplete. In 2009, the British Columbia Court of Appeal found that the combination of the two-parent rule, the hierarchy of different types of status under subsections 6(1) and 6(2) of the Indian Act, and the second generation cut-off perpetuated sex discrimination under the act. Now the Descheneaux case has forced Parliament to make a third attempt.

We understand the compelling need for the government to respond to the discrimination identified in Descheneaux. Unfortunately, Bill S-3 will result in continued discrimination. In addition, the proposed amendments in Bill S-3 will compound the existing complexity of the Indian Act registration provisions by adding three additional subparagraphs to paragraph 6(1)(c).

The basic approach of this bill is to continue arbitrary federal control over first nation identity and simply push the residual gender-based discrimination down one generation.

Our review of Bill S-3 suggests other discrimination that will not be addressed. Number one, under Bill C-3, which addressed the McIvor decision, a woman who regains her status is deemed to be under subsection 6(1), and her children would also be eligible for subsection 6(1) status, passing on through future generations. However, a woman who lost and regained status for any reason other than that addressed under Bill C-3 was deemed to be under subsection 6(2), disadvantaging any future offspring.

Number two, Bill C-31 attempted to address the decision of the United Nations Human Rights Committee in the Sandra Lovelace case, as well as charter compliance issues. Now, under Bill C-31, a woman who regains status is deemed to be under subsection 6(1). A person, male or female, who lost and regained status under any circumstance other than marriage, under Bill C-31, is deemed to be under subsection 6(2), and any future offspring may be ineligible for status.

In our view, Canada's continued imposition of a two-parent rule, combined with the hierarchy of status transmission established by Bill C-31 under subsections 6(1) and 6(2), lies at the heart of the ongoing sex-based discrimination. We note with considerable concern that there is apparently no remedy yet for the unfair and long-standing discrimination in the department's policies respecting so-called “unstated paternity”.

I emphasize that these are not usually situations of paternity being unknown but most often of a woman having other reasons for not identifying the father of her child.

Thank you.

November 21st, 2016 / 4:20 p.m.
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Executive Director, Indian Registration and Integrated Program Management, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Nathalie Nepton

As indicated, $19 million has been set aside for over five years to deal with the registration of those who will become entitled as a result of Bill S-3. Definitely, when we look at lessons learned from Bill C-3, we'll take what we've learned and apply that, because that process went very well, but that process can't completely be transferred. For example, as Madam McLeod indicated, $700 I think is the figure she provided to process a file. When we process a file, we go from A to Z. We also look at genealogical research that's required, as well as other administrative issues. That means, for example, everything from requesting additional information of provinces to looking at what's required potentially for vital statistics, and trying as much as possible to assist the person who's seeking to be registered under Bill S-3.

November 21st, 2016 / 4:20 p.m.
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Executive Director, Indian Registration and Integrated Program Management, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Nathalie Nepton

Okay. For registrants seeking to be registered under Bill C-3, the process, as far as I know, hasn't signalled that there is a sufficient or a significant backlog. I can confirm that in writing to the committee later and provide you with an exact statistic.

November 21st, 2016 / 4:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Bill C-3, yes.

November 21st, 2016 / 4:20 p.m.
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Executive Director, Indian Registration and Integrated Program Management, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Nathalie Nepton

I'm sorry, a backlog for Bill C-3?

November 21st, 2016 / 3:55 p.m.
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Executive Director, Resolution and Individual Affairs Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Candice St-Aubin

Just with regard to programming and the numbers we've provided, there are two tranches of programming. There are those that are federally led programming for registration. Those are the two we talked about: the non-insured health benefit, as well as the post-secondary education.

The other programs are the residency-based on-reserve programming. Based on the demographics and the trends analysis that we've done, the impact will be quite minimal for those programs delivered on the ground based on residency. We do not see mobility on and off reserve to be quite large based on the 1996 census data, the 2011 household survey, and, of course, the implications and trends we saw with Bill C-3. It's been pretty stable at about 49%, 51%, and then 48%. It's really quite consistent. We're not anticipating a large impact on programming on reserve.

November 21st, 2016 / 3:50 p.m.
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Executive Director, Indian Registration and Integrated Program Management, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Nathalie Nepton

In terms of individuals who were registered as a result of McIvor, Bill C-3, it comes out to, as of today, 38,467 individuals.

What I should say is that this only includes individuals who were actually registered. There's a whole other factor of applications that still has to be looked at, who weren't registered. We still have to go through with the whole work of assessing the file on an individual basis.

I'm sorry, I forgot—

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.

November 29th, 2011 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Thank you.

In keeping with talking about legislation, I'm wondering if you could give us an update on the state of the implementation of Bill C-3.

November 15th, 2011 / 12:05 p.m.
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Chief Betty Ann Lavallée National Chief, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good morning to the members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

It's an honour to be here on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people to present you with some priority issues of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.

With me today is our new vice-chief, Dwight Dorey, who will be speaking to you concerning the Daniels case and subsection 91(24) of the Constitution Act of 1867. My presentation to you will focus on remaining discrimination in the Indian Act, matrimonial real property, band membership, along with aboriginal citizenship, education, and the long-gun registry. There are many more issues that will need to be discussed at a later date, including health, economic development, housing, homelessness, language, and culture.

Since 1971, the congress has been at the forefront of the aboriginal people's movement in Canada, advocating for our constituency of forgotten peoples. We advocate for the rights and interests of status and non-status Indians living off reserve and Métis. The year 2011 marks the 40th anniversary of the founding of our organization. Despite the successes that have occurred over the last 40 years, the Canadian public continues to associate aboriginal issues with Indians living on reserves. The reality is that 80% of the ancestral aboriginal population now live off reserve, with 60% living in urban areas. This is the most significant demographic factor for policy makers, yet it's the one where the least action takes place because of jurisdictional issues.

On May 18, we were pleased to learn that Prime Minister Harper had changed the name of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. This was an important step, better to reflect the scope of the minister's responsibilities for all aboriginal peoples. This type of straightforward thinking and inclusive decision-making is what we need to make progress.

The Indian Act remains the principal expression of the federal government's jurisdictional policy over Indians and lands reserved for Indians under subsection 91(24) of the Constitution Act of 1867. The political and social reality affecting aboriginal peoples is based by and large on this outdated legislation. The Indian Act status and membership rules have a long history of impacting the lives of aboriginal peoples. For example, of the almost $10 billion per year that the federal government invests in aboriginal-specific programming, almost 90% goes to assist on-reserve status Indians. This outdated policy framework needs to be reshaped and recast to reflect the fact that the federal government has the responsibility to act in a fiduciary capacity for all aboriginal peoples.

This was the central finding of the largest, most extensive inquiry undertaken in Canadian history, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. In 1996, it reported that the relationship between aboriginal peoples and non-aboriginal peoples needed to be fundamentally restructured. The facts of aboriginal life have changed, and it's time for policies and frameworks to reflect the new reality.

CAP is pleased that the government has reintroduced Bill S-2 concerning matrimonial real property. This legislation will address a longstanding gap and will better protect the rights of aboriginal people, particularly women living on reserve. For many years, we've been calling for an effective MRP regime on reserve. Aboriginal women on reserve face unfair and unconstitutional discrimination in the exercise of their right to a fair share of matrimonial real property after the breakup of a marriage or common-law relationship. We view the bill as a positive step to ensure that aboriginal women and children receive equitable distribution of matrimonial real property assets in the event of divorce, separation, family violence, or death.

The congress has never bought into the Indian Act, and we have a long history of fighting this legislation. Back in 1974, with financial assistance from our organization, Jeannette Corbiere Lavell was the first non-status woman to bring a challenge to the Indian Act. Today, our women continue to be discriminated against through the Indian Act, but through the brave work of people like Sharon McIvor, Sandra Lovelace Nicholas, as well as many others, we are taking this legislation apart piece by piece.

I'm a registered subsection 6(2) Indian. Under the law, my son is not entitled to be registered as an Indian. We are graded like cattle or grades of beef. It is unadulterated discrimination, and fighting this is the central priority for the congress.

In January of this year, Canada proclaimed into force Bill C-3, Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act. This was a direct result of the McIvor decision, which took 20 years to move through the courts. Because this legislation is very narrow in scope, sex discrimination, unfortunately, remains in the status registration provisions. Not all descendants of the Indian women who lost status through marrying out have gained status back. The first generation was covered by Bill C-31 in 1985, the second generation through this year's Bill C-3, but further generations remain cut off from Indian status.

The only way to be sure that such discrimination is eliminated from the Indian Act is to place descendants of status Indian women on the same footing as descendants of Indian men. Today aboriginal women are not treated equally as transmitters of status. As a result of this discrimination, thousands of their descendants have been forgotten.

Another remaining problem relates to the post-1985 Indian Act registration rules and how they operate in cases of unstated paternity. In 1985 Canada went from a one-parent descendancy rule, which favoured Indian men, to a new system called the second generation cut-off rule. Now whether you were an Indian man or woman, mixed parenting is only allowed for one generation. After the second generation of mixed parenting, a person is no longer an Indian. Today, when a status mother does not disclose the father's identity, the child's registration can only be based on the mother's entitlement. From 1985 to 1999, this resulted in the downgrading or outright loss of Indian status to approximately 50,000 Indian children.

The new second-generation cut-off rule will result in a drastic reduction of the status Indian population over the course of a few generations. Status Indians, like many other Canadian citizens, fall in love and have children with people from other cultures. This common social occurrence, when paired with the second-generation cut-off rule, has the perverse result of depriving the children of these unions of either their Indian status or the ability to pass status to their own children.

It has been estimated that within 60 years only one-third of the descendants of the current status Indian population will be entitled to status. The number will continue to decline. Academics and demographers alike have argued that the Indian registration rules introduced in 1985 will lead to the legislative extinction of status Indians.

A clear solution to this problem would be for Canada to return to a one-parent descendancy rule for Indian status and apply it equally to men and women. However, everyone here can acknowledge that the capacity of courts to deal with these issues is very limited. CAP is seeking a political commitment to examine and address aboriginal citizenship, with all the associated broader questions.

Since the passage of Bill C-3 in December 2010, the federal government has launched the exploratory process. It is not a consultative process, which we like, and I'm pleased to say the government has not pre-determined or pre-defined the agenda or questions with regard to Indian registration, band membership, and aboriginal citizenship. CAP is currently engaged with the process and we're hosting dialogue sessions across Canada.

Section 74 of the Indian Act allows bands to elect chiefs and councils according to their own customs. Currently about 30% of bands have adopted their own custom codes. Under these rules a band can admit to membership people who do not have status. They can also deny membership to any status Indian except Indian women restored under paragraph 6(1)(c).

Despite this apparent opportunity to break away from the Indian Act, 30% of the bands have adopted membership rules that are more restrictive than the Indian Act itself. CAP was pleased when the Conservative government delivered on its promise to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Since 1977, section 67 has shielded bands from complaints of discrimination stemming from membership codes plus other issues.

In June of this year the transition period ended. We expect that many of the custom election codes will now be challenged under the Canadian Human Rights Act. My understanding is that Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development has not provided any resources to the bands to review and update their membership codes or to ensure they are in compliance with the Canadian Human Rights Act or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That is really unfortunate, because there are some bands that are being very proactive in addressing this issue. I believe in giving credit where credit is due.

In regard to aboriginal citizenship, CAP takes the position that the right of aboriginal peoples to determine our own citizenship is an inherent right derived from the Creator and protected both under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Our right to self-government was never distinguished.

We view the exploratory process as the beginning of a long process of questioning and thinking, and as we move towards self-determination and citizenship, we are being given the chance to come up with the solutions to long-lived problems we've had to face.

The possible self-government structures for urban aboriginal peoples are wide-ranging. CAP has been working on these challenging issues for many years and at the same time struggling with the reserve focus of federal government policies and programs. Federal and provincial wrangling has slowed progress for urban aboriginal populations.

With the resolution of the federal government's responsibility regarding Métis and non-status Indians, aboriginal and state relations will be very clear, and some of the on-reserve and off-reserve distinctions will be resolved.

My colleague Dwight will speak further to that.

The education of our children and youth is a priority of the first order for us. Aboriginal youth have the highest dropout rates, the lowest levels of literacy, and the lowest levels of skills development. The odds are better that our youth will end up in jail than that they will graduate from high school. It is education that will improve our economic situation and our lives. It is education that is integral to reducing poverty in our communities and eliminating our dependencies.

At the Summit on Aboriginal Education held in February, we were encouraged by the discussions about strengthening aboriginal success in education. The provincial and territorial ministers of education have recognized that in the next 15 years, aboriginal students will represent over 25% of the elementary student population in some provinces and territories. We encourage the Prime Minister to call a first ministers meeting on education at which an interjurisdictional commitment to improve school experiences for our students could be mobilized.

Last, I want to talk to you about the Canadian firearms registry. Currently, aboriginal firearms owners who are not compliant with the Firearms Act can incur criminal liability for unauthorized possession of non-restricted firearms under sections 91 and 92 of the Criminal Code. In the last couple of weeks, the government gave notice concerning the bill to abolish the long-gun registry.

CAP joins many other aboriginal organizations across Canada in calling for an end to the long-gun registry. We view the licensing and registration requirements imposed by the registry as an infringement on our right to hunt. Aboriginal hunters and harvesters are not part of the crime problem, and the registry is ineffective and wasteful. The infringement on aboriginal treaty rights to hunt, trap, or fish is not acceptable to our organization. CAP remains supportive of regulations requiring hunters and harvesters to secure an acquisition licence and to follow rules for the safe storage of firearms.

In conclusion, I wish to express our appreciation for the attention the Prime Minister has brought to aboriginal issues by meeting with national aboriginal leaders. In the days ahead, my colleague and I look forward to active engagement with various House of Commons standing committees that have an important role to play in moving the aboriginal agenda forward.

At this point I'll turn to my colleague, Vice-Chief Dwight Dorey, to speak on the issue of section 91.24.

March 10th, 2011 / 10:25 a.m.
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Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

In response to your first question, we can provide the lists of specific projects. For the fiscal year starting on April 1, there will be a list of schools, treatment plants and so on. We can provide you with very specific lists from our budget for next year.

As for housing, there may be a little more flexibility with regard to possibilities for the building season, but we'll do our best to provide you with that kind of list. We had a long list of projects that were ready to start under the Economic Action Plan. There have to be projects, including all the plans, characteristics and sites, which are approved by the community. That adds a little time because these are very important projects. They're going to discuss and decide on the details for each project, and that adds a little time. However, there are still projects that are in an advanced state across the country.

I believe the question you asked me about Bill C-3 is the same as the one raised by Mr. Rickford. We'll see how soon people register as Indians. It's true that, from the moment they're registered, they're eligible for Health Canada's programs and for our post-secondary student support program. We've sent our analysis to our colleagues. They're ready to receive it. These programs will not draw any distinction between a "Bill C-3 Indian" and other Indians.

March 10th, 2011 / 10:20 a.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Wernick, since your staff is extremely competent, I invite you to get hold of the Saturday, March 5 edition of La Presse. I know you can't engage in politics, but I'm inviting you to read the article by Michel Girard on the Harper government's sense of priorities. It concerns a number of things about Indian affairs that I find very interesting.

I don't need an answer today. You're going to cut $289 million. With all due respect to the parliamentary secretary, he will no longer be able to talk about Canada's Economic Action Plan as of next week. The government created expectations with Canada's Economic Action Plan, particularly among the aboriginal communities, which learned late—and I mean very late—about the possibility that they could request new schools, housing, water mains and sewers.

I don't need the answer today; you can send it to me in writing. I'd like to know, for the Quebec region, how many schools will be built, altered and transformed using funds provided under the 2011-12 Estimates. How many water mains and sewers will be modified and transformed? How many houses will be built and in what communities? I need that information unless you can give it too me right now.

I have a question for you on Bill C-3. I've been told, and I'd like you to confirm for me whether that is the case, to watch out because Bill C-3 should have a specific effect. New people will become status Indians, but those status Indians will be living outside the communities, taking advantage of post-secondary education and education, and also health care. Can you confirm that for me? If so, have you informed your colleague the deputy minister of health? I get the impression he'll be paying the bill. In your case, have you set aside any budgets for, among other things, the post-secondary education of a lot of aboriginal students, who will now become status Indians or become status Indians again?

If you can't answer those questions, you can send me answers in writing.

March 10th, 2011 / 10:20 a.m.
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Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

We're trying to bring together the card issuance with the registry process. Bill C-3 is an opportunity to try that out with a specific target population to perfect our business process. If we can do it well for the Bill C-3 intake, we'll be able to do it for everybody over the next few years.

March 10th, 2011 / 10:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Because we are televised today, I might take this opportunity to say that I understand there is a special application form for Bill C-3 now available on the INAC website. This is available through the regional offices, Service Canada centres, or call centres. Do you have any information you'd like to put out there right now?

March 10th, 2011 / 10:20 a.m.
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Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

The minister referred to the bill. It's a significant accomplishment. It's also going to be a significant piece of work to implement it. We have some resources in place for the registration process, and we've set up a dedicated unit to deal with Bill C-3 claims, some of which are going to be fairly straightforward and some of which are going to be complex because of family history, genealogy, and documentation.

The latest numbers I have show that a little less than 4,000 people sent in some kind of application or request, even before the bill got royal assent. We will handle them. We're not going to send them back.

March 10th, 2011 / 10:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and my thanks to the witnesses.

You worked through a number of different files. We'll take this opportunity to talk about a few things.

Could you tell me a little bit about the state of Bill C-3 implementation? I want to get a firmer sense of how many applications will be received, some of the activities on your website, and a description of the team you have put together that's dedicated to this Bill C-3 process.

March 10th, 2011 / 9:55 a.m.
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Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

Yes.

We have a fairly steady business at the registry, as long as there's an Indian Act and people have status defined by the Indian Act. People are born, die, marry, adopt, and so on, so there's a lot of business at the Indian registry. We'll also have new business because of the people enfranchised under Bill C-3. It was identified about a year and a half ago that a backlog was building up. Things were coming in faster than we could get them out. I'm very pleased to say that with some hard work and process engineering, that backlog has been eliminated.

March 10th, 2011 / 8:55 a.m.
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Vancouver Island North B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Thank you very much, Chair.

I apologize for being a tad late. There were some countermanding instructions as to where I was supposed to be this morning, but I'm happy to be here.

Thank you for inviting me to discuss the 2010-11 supplemental estimates (C) of the department. These complement the recently tabled main estimates in the report on plans and priorities. I'd be pleased to speak to any of them.

This committee plays a valuable role in ensuring Canadians' tax dollars are used wisely and achieve the intended results. I welcome your review of my department's expenditures, which demonstrate that we are doing exactly that.

Through these estimates the department accesses the funds required to continue delivering on our government's commitment to improve the quality of life for first nations, Inuit, Métis, and northerners. Our progress has been noteworthy. My department is achieving concrete results in areas such as the construction of new schools and housing, women's rights, land claims and self-government, economic development, and safe drinking water.

I've witnessed this program first-hand. I've had the privilege of travelling across the country from coast to coast to coast meeting extraordinary Canadians. I've seen how our government's investments are making a meaningful difference in the lives of aboriginal people.

Take the example of the new Frenchman's Head elementary school in Ontario's Lac Seul First Nation, which I officially opened last November. Education is a priority for this government. Equipping children with a quality education is the best possible way to make sure they have the means to succeed. That school, by the way, took 14 months to build, from the time we made the announcement to the time they opened the school. It shows what can be done if the local first nation has a project that is shovel-ready.

Our government is committed to ensuring first nation children achieve the same educational outcomes as other Canadians. That's why we are collaborating with the Assembly of First Nations to establish a national panel that will lead a broad engagement process. The panel is mandated to advise on the development of options, including legislation, to improve elementary and secondary education outcomes for first nation children who live on reserve. We are working to ensure that students always come first.

I've also had the opportunity to initial several groundbreaking agreements that are empowering aboriginal communities.

Just last month I signed an agreement with Teslin Tlingit Council that recognizes its jurisdiction to administer, enforce, and adjudicate its own laws. This agreement represents a significant step in the implementation of first nation self-government in Yukon and nationally.

A few weeks earlier, in January, I travelled to Yellowknife to co-sign the Northwest Territories devolution agreement-in-principle, a historic development for the territory.

I was happy to participate in ceremonies marking major milestones reached in the Fort William First Nation boundary claim, as well as the Toronto Purchase and Brant Tract specific claims agreements with the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, both in Ontario.

I've also taken part in moving ceremonies that acknowledged past wrongs and set them right. I was honoured to be in Inukjuak to deliver, on behalf of the government, the high Arctic relocation apology. I visited Resolute and Grise Fiord as well, where I participated in the unveiling of monuments commemorating the lives and hardships of those who were relocated.

Another of our accomplishments is Bill C-3, the Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act. It ensures that eligible grandchildren of women who lost status as a result of marrying non-Indian men are entitled to Indian status in accordance with the Indian Act.

Mr. Chairman, I am especially excited about some of the promising economic development activity taking place across the country.

In January my department was proud to co-host the second Métis economic development symposium in Vancouver. This was a follow-up to the very successful first symposium in December 2009. Along with Métis nation leaders and the aboriginal affairs ministers from the five westernmost provinces and industry leaders, we explored successful approaches to economic development. We also discussed practical ways to strengthen entrepreneurship among Métis women, because our government is committed to ensuring that Métis fully share in economic development opportunities across Canada.

I also took part in the alternative energy for B.C. first nations gathering in Vancouver last month. First nations in B.C. are involved in wind, solar, biomass, and hydro projects throughout the province.

We are making headway on important social priorities as well. Access to safe drinking water is a significant challenge for some first nation communities and one we are working hard with our partners to address. Our government has allocated approximately $2.5 billion for water and waste-water infrastructure in first nations since 2006.

We are determined that first nations will have access to the same quality of drinking water as other Canadian communities. I made that clear when I spoke to the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples just two days ago about Bill S-11, an act respecting the safety of drinking water on first nation lands. This act will allow for the development of federal regulations for drinking water and waste water in first nation communities.

I'm pleased to announce today the reappointments of two treaty commissioners: the Honourable Bill McKnight as treaty commissioner for Saskatchewan, and James Brook Wilson as commissioner of the treaty relations commission of Manitoba. In addition to their appointments, the mandates of the Saskatchewan and Manitoba treaty relations commissions will be extended for another three-year term.

Tomorrow I will be in Saskatchewan to announce a new memorandum of understanding to promote active measures strategies focused on first nation labour market participation. Our government is joining forces with Saskatchewan first nations, tribal councils, the Government of Saskatchewan, provincial employers, and training institutions. Together, we're pledging to increase first nation participation in Saskatchewan's workforce and enhance employment outcomes for first nations.

Meeting the needs of northerners also remains a high priority. As committee members are aware, the cost of living north of 60 is very high, particularly in isolated communities. This includes the cost of food. We want to make sure that northerners, like other Canadians, have access to good-quality, nutritious food.

Yesterday I was in Iqaluit. We announced that the Nutrition North Canada program would re-list the items that had been de-listed as of last October until October 2012 to allow for two more sealift seasons. This will ease the transition for the retailers and make sure that there's a smooth transition through the supply chain, which was turning out to be a bit of an issue. That's a very significant development, but the program itself is still going kick in on April 1, just three weeks from now.

This new program will provide higher subsidies in eligible communities for nutritious perishable foods such as fruits, vegetables, bread, meats, milk, and eggs, along with reduced subsidies for less healthy items.

We saw the problems with this program, we said we were listening, and we made changes.

During my travels to the north I've had the opportunity to make a number of important announcements that support the development of a prosperous northern economy. The Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, also known as CanNor, is a key player in delivering on this priority, and we continue to take action across a variety of sectors to support a strong, diversified north that benefits northerners and Canadians.

A key sector in building a sustainable and dynamic northern economy is tourism. Attracting more visitors to the north will help create and build significant long-term business opportunities and create local jobs.

Since February 20 we've invested something over $5.5 million in tourism-related projects across the north to promote the region throughout Canada and around the world as a dynamic tourism destination. Those have been very well-received programs, and their statistics on tourism are very good, actually.

Northerners have many exciting developments to look forward to in the coming years. One important initiative for the north is the Nanisivik naval facility. This deepwater docking and refueling facility for Arctic offshore patrol ships and other Government of Canada vessels will be a valuable economic and security addition to the region. To date, a contract has been awarded for the facility design, and a site assessment is in progress. The construction of the on-site administration building to support military exercises is expected to be completed this year.

The Canadian high Arctic research station in Cambridge Bay is another big project that will be taking shape in the north in years to come. The station will advance Canada's knowledge in areas including economic development, sovereignty, the environment, and healthy communities for the benefit of northerners and all Canadians. A feasibility study is currently under way to establish the functions of the facility and outline the preliminary project costs and building schedule.

Mr. Chair, we need the committee's approval of these supplementary estimates to maintain this momentum. The department's spending levels for the 2010-11 year, which is drawing to a close, will be $8.3 billion. This will include $51 million in these supplementary estimates.

In addition to the items I've already noted, these supplementary funds will be used to address health and safety concerns in first nations communities through the emergency management assistance program; advance outstanding land claim and treaty issues in Yukon; enhance the northern regulatory system and implement the cumulative impact monitoring program in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut; and renew the Naskapi capital funding agreement and the Naskapi operations and maintenance funding transfer payment agreement. These initiatives, along with those from Budget 2010 and Canada's economic action plan, are essential.

I look forward to discussing these issues with you and I welcome your questions.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

February 3rd, 2011 / 12:15 p.m.
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Executive Director, Native Women's Association of Canada

Claudette Dumont-Smith

I'm not a lawyer, but I know there are things that are being addressed with Bill C-3. There was a lot of inter-family conflict, and I think that was addressed and it's moving forward.

I don't know if that's what you're referring to. Maybe Kat can add to this.

January 21st, 2011 / 12:05 p.m.
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Professor, University of Calgary, As an Individual

Prof. Jennifer Koshan

I have a couple of thoughts as a result of what you've said. First of all, no one speaks with one voice. We have a huge diversity of aboriginal people across the country, so we need to recognize that aboriginal women are not going to speak with one voice, whether it's on Bill C-3 or on issues of violence against women. It's important to hear all of those different voices.

I know in politics sometimes compromises have to be made, so I understand the difficulty of the situation you are facing. But I think, again, there's a more fundamental systemic issue here, and that's the ongoing colonization of the aboriginal peoples of Canada through the Indian Act. So we're tinkering with that through Bill C-3. We're not addressing the fundamental systemic problem of that ongoing colonial document, and that needs to be addressed.

January 18th, 2011 / 7 p.m.
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Representative, B.C. CEDAW Group

Shelagh Day

I want to talk very briefly about root causes. We've heard a lot of people say colonization. Remember that the colonizer was also a patriarch. Patriarchy is part of what colonization means. We're still doing it. When we talk about matrimonial property, when we talk about Bill C-3, which just went through and has not taken out all of the discrimination in the Indian Act, the government is still legislating, overtly, about aboriginal women in a way it doesn't legislate about any other group of women in the country. So we are still in the process of playing out the patriarchy of the colonizer. Aboriginal women and children are still suffering from it. And that's part of the violence and part of the gravest conditions.

January 13th, 2011 / 11:40 a.m.
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War Lake First Nation, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

Chief Betsy Kennedy

My name is Betsy Kennedy. I'm the Chief of War Lake First Nation. With me is Chief Francine Meeches of Swan Lake First Nation.

We have many notes here, I notice, and a lot of information, but we would like to speak to the family violence prevention programs, the missing and murdered women, and also the sexual exploitation of our girls and women in our communities.

To give you the history of the AMC women's committee, the chiefs sit on this committee. It works toward improving the situation of first nations women and ensuring that Manitoba first nations are involved in decision-making. This is comprised of chiefs and councillors in leadership roles in their communities.

The issue of family violence and intervention is one of our major concerns and takes up many of the lead initiatives. Bill C-3 is supposed to highlight this, but I think some of these things also pertain to what's happening in the communities and how these women are being exploited.

Bill S-4 deals with matrimonial and real properties. When women have to leave the communities because they're just not going to be able to stay on their reserves, they are coming into the city, and this is where many of them are being exploited. I mention this because I believe you wanted to know some of what happens here.

There's also our section 37, which we would like to see. I know this is going to go to the Commons. This has to do with the missing and murdered women of Manitoba and Canada. Following the directions of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the committee continues to advocate on the issues of missing and murdered women, as a disturbingly high number of women have gone missing and have never been found. Most are aboriginal. According to the Native Women's Association of Canada, approximately 580 aboriginal women have gone missing and have not been found across Canada; 84 are from Manitoba. The AMC has called upon the federal government to initiate a public inquiry into this number of missing and murdered women. There has also been an announcement by the federal government that the amount of $10 million is to be spent within the two years.

Also, in 2009 Grand Chief Evans developed an agreement with the RCMP to have a first nations community liaison worker, Constable Monique Cooper, to be located at the AMC office in Winnipeg. This was established when the parents, the mothers of these missing and murdered women, came to us. We had a working relationship with the RCMP, and now have a woman working exclusively at the AMC office. We would like to recognize that work, which is happening right now. To this day, in both southern and northern Manitoba, there has not been any word on these women to their parents that they've...or how far this was going. The AMC continues to work closely with the families of these missing and murdered women and with the RCMP and Winnipeg Police Service's missing persons unit.

There's also the issue of human trafficking. Since 2009 AMC has been actively addressing human trafficking. The grand chief and the women's committee continue to raise the issue for discussion at the chiefs assemblies.

I want to tell you that when we have our annual assembly, women's issues are being brought out to the forefront, and we do have the support of all our chiefs. We are very proud to say that they really recognize what we've been doing. In turn, these discussions bring awareness into our homes.

The next part will be on family violence. We sit on a committee on family violence and--

December 15th, 2010 / 4:35 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber His Excellency the Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:

Bill S-3, An Act to implement conventions and protocols concluded between Canada and Colombia, Greece and Turkey for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income--Chapter No. 15

Bill S-210, An Act to amend the Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Auditor General Act (involvement of Parliament)--Chapter No. 16

Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts--Chapter 17

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)--Chapter 18

Bill S-215, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (suicide bombings)--Chapter 19

Bill C-464, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (justification for detention in custody)--Chapter 20

Bill C-36, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products--Chapter 21

Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act--Chapter 22

Bill C-28, An Act to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy by regulating certain activities that discourage reliance on electronic means of carrying out commercial activities, and to amend the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act, the Competition Act, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Telecommunications Act--Chapter 23

Bill C-58, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2011--Chapter 24

Bill C-47, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures--Chapter 25

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, Canadian Council on Learning; the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway, Public Safety.

December 6th, 2010 / 5:20 p.m.
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Bloc

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

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ms. Lavallée, earlier we raised the issue of adopting and implementing Bill C-3, which has to do with matrimonial affairs. Larry told us a few things about it. Now, you startled me when you said that this would help the children be more secure.

Most of the community members who came to meet us expressed their concern regarding this almost crazy reflex that many people will have to require that their membership to first nations communities be recognized. They also discussed the growing population in the communities. This is a great and worrisome concern for the communities.

You are already short of funds with regard to help for children. How will the children be better protected? Could you explain this to us?

December 1st, 2010 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

I was here last week, and I was before the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights this week, so this is my third committee appearance since last week.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for inviting me to appear before the committee today.

This is, as you know, my second appearance before this committee, and while I'm happy to discuss the supplementary estimates (B) of my department, I'll also take this opportunity to touch on some important other issues.

In the four short months since my appointment as minister, we've seen some significant developments that underline the government's commitment to making real progress on the issues that matter to aboriginal peoples and northerners.

I was particularly proud that one my first actions as minister was to apologize for the relocation of Inuit from Inukjuak and Pond Inlet to Grise Fiord and Resolute Bay in the High Arctic in the 1950s, and for the hardship, suffering, and loss they experienced as a result of that relocation. Our government is working to renew our relationship with the Inuit, and to support social and economic development in the north as part of the northern strategy.

Also as part of the northern strategy, I was honoured to be in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, with the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health and minister responsible for the north, to announce the location of the new Canadian High Arctic Research Station in that community.

The Northern Strategy is, of course, only one component of our government's plan to improve the quality of life for aboriginal peoples and northerners. The main estimates, for the first time, included $61 million in funding for an important part of the government's Northern Strategy.

The Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, CanNor, was created in August 2009 and is the first ever regional development agency for the north and the only federal agency headquartered in the north.

In little more than a year, CanNor has made great strides. The agency has established regional offices in all three territorial capitals and is developing its headquarters in Iqaluit in a new office facility being built by a local, Inuit-owned enterprise.

In May of this year, CanNor launched the Northern Projects Management Office, based in Yellowknife. This service works with the proponents of major development projects, federal departments, and regulators in the north to help improve the timeliness, predictability, and transparency of regulatory processes. It is a key part of the government's work to improve northern regulatory systems.

As you know, CanNor is the lead federal agency for the delivery of Canada's Economic Action Plan in the territories and its investments in the northern economy and northern communities have doubled as a consequence. To date, CanNor has supported 307 economic development projects in the north and has allocated over $66 million to strengthening the economies of the three territories. In this way, CanNor is not only fulfilling the vision of the government's Northern Strategy, but also is helping northerners and northern communities to manage the impacts of the global economic downturn.

The investments included in supplementary estimates (B) support this commitment and enable us to address our priorities. Take child and family services for example.

Earlier this year, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Canada, and Manitoba negotiated a framework to improve on-reserve child and family services. Included in the estimates is $17.6 million, which is part of a five-year commitment of $177 million to implement the framework in Manitoba. As I explained when I appeared before this committee last week, a similar framework was completed three years ago in Alberta, and the preliminary results are very promising.

The key to success, I believe, has been working in partnership with first nations groups and provincial governments. Manitoba is the sixth jurisdiction to start implementing the new preventive approach. This government hopes to complete frameworks in the four remaining provinces by 2013.

Also included in the supplementary estimates is $295 million for the funding of awards to claimants resulting from the independent assessment process and alternative dispute resolution related to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. The process is designed for former students who suffered serious physical or sexual abuse while attending an Indian residential school. The additional funds are needed because the number of claims filed and the average settlement per individual are higher than originally forecast.

Mr. Chairman, we are also working with first nations and provinces in the area of education.

As we all know, access to quality education is essential to long-term, sustainable improvement for communities, as well as personal success. Together, we've been working to ensure first nations children receive the education they require to prepare them for the future.

Since I've been minister, we've signed two more tripartite agreements with the provinces and first nations. There was a sub-regional agreement in Saskatchewan and another in Prince Edward Island. So there are now seven agreements in place across the country that give first nations communities greater control over education and, most importantly, first nations students a greater chance for success.

Settling claims is also important to ensuring that first nations have the resources they need to prosper. Through claim settlements, the relationship between Canada and first nations is strengthened, and first nations can access the lands and resources they need to allow their communities to prosper. For instance, in October, I was pleased to join community members to celebrate the final settlement of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation's Brant Tract and Toronto Purchase specific claims.

Included in the supplementary estimates is the department's request to re-profile $308 million from the previous fiscal year to fund specific claims settlements. This amount was originally set aside for specific claims during the last two fiscal years but was never spent. Re-profiling this money makes it available to fund specific claims settlements in the current fiscal year.

These initiatives are but a few examples of the concrete actions that support the department's goal of improving the quality of life of aboriginal peoples and northerners.

Canada's economic action plan invested a total of $1.4 billion over two years in programs for aboriginal peoples. This includes programs and initiatives led by many government departments. Significant amounts are going to skills development and training programs for aboriginal peoples. Most of this investment, however, is going to infrastructure projects in first nations communities: water and waste-water treatment facilities, schools, and housing.

The provision of safe drinking water, the effective treatment of waste water, and the protection of sources of drinking water in first nations communities are critical to ensuring the health and safety of first nations people. The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that significant progress is made in improving water conditions on reserves across Canada.

These investments are very much in keeping with our ongoing priorities. Furthermore, INAC currently has four bills before the House and Senate which seek to address these same priorities.

Bill S-11, the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, will enable the Government of Canada to continue making tangible progress on its commitment to improving water conditions on reserve. This bill is currently being considered before the Senate.

Bill C-25, the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act, will ensure clarity, consistency, and legal certainty with respect to land use planning and environmental assessment processes in Nunavut.

Bill S-4, the matrimonial real property act, proposes legislation to resolve the long-standing issue of on-reserve matrimonial real property.

Finally, Bill C-3, the Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act, is an important piece of legislation that provides for movement toward the elimination of discrimination in the Indian Act.

Mr. Chairman, this government recognizes that money alone cannot address the issues facing northerners and aboriginal peoples. This is why we continue to seek and expand partnerships with groups that share our larger goal of ensuring that all Canadians, regardless of where they live, can participate in and contribute to this country's prosperity.

Every specific claim settlement, every tripartite agreement on education and on child and family services, and every aboriginal employment training partnership program brings us one step closer to this goal. I'm confident that the investments included in the supplementary estimates will lead to further progress.

Thank you. I'll do my best to answer any questions that members of the committee might have.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Questions

December 1st, 2010 / 3:05 p.m.
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Vancouver Island North B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, in terms of the exploratory process we will launch once Bill C-3 becomes law, assuming it does, it is an exercise that will be led by the national aboriginal organizations. They will set the terms of reference for the most part.

I do not understand where the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan is coming from on that.

November 24th, 2010 / 4:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

I don't want to make you disclose any secrets. However, we know that the implementation of Bill C-3 is imminent. It will soon be passed by the Senate; that's clear. In our view, it's a matter of weeks.

The next budget is coming. Perhaps I should have put the question to the minister, but here it is. In preparation for that next budget, is the implementation of these tripartite agreements being taken into account in order to make requests? Have you prepared any items for the next budget taking into account the requests for implementation of these tripartite agreements?

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 / 5:15 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 / 5:10 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 / 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.

Gender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

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.

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.

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 / 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 / 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 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

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 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Business of the HouseOral Questions

November 18th, 2010 / 3:05 p.m.
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Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, let me make an undertaking to my colleague, the House leader of the official opposition, to make enquiries into that and respond to him in short order.

The House will continue today with the opposition motion.

Tomorrow we will continue debate, and I know the NDP will be excited about this, on Bill C-10, Senate term limits; Bill C-19, regarding political loans; followed by Bill S-3, tax conventions implementation.

On Monday and Tuesday of next week, we will call Bill S-3, tax conventions implementation; Bill C-3, gender equity in Indian registration; Bill C-28, fighting Internet and wireless spam; Bill C-22, protecting children; Bill C-29, safeguarding personal information; and Bill C-30, response to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Shoker.

On Wednesday and Friday we will call Bill C-41, strengthening military justice; and Bill C-43, RCMP labour modernization.

Thursday will be an allotted day. I believe this allotted day will go to the Bloc Québécois.

With respect to a take note debate, there have been discussions amongst the parties. There have not been a lot of take note debates. Two weeks ago we had one on veterans issues. I believe next week we will be having one on the issue of pensions, which I know is a concern for all of us, but particularly this was brought forward by the House leader for the official opposition. I believe we are looking at Tuesday night for that.

I appreciate the co-operation we have had from all parties. This gives members an opportunity to bring issues relevant to their constituents forward in the House.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

November 4th, 2010 / 3:05 p.m.
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Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, today we are debating the NDP opposition motion.

Pursuant to any order adopted by the House earlier today, the vote on that opposition motion will take place on Tuesday, November 16 at the end of government orders.

Tomorrow the House will have the occasion to debate at second reading Bill C-32, Copyright Modernization Act, and the backup bill, should debate conclude at second reading, will be Bill S-9, Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act, which I know is a key priority of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

Next week, as the member opposite said, is a constituency week. I encourage all members to remember and recognize the sacrifices made by the men and women of our armed forces, on November 11.

When we return on Monday, November 15, we will call a number of bills, including Bill C-3, Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act, Bill C-31, Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act, Bill C-35, Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act, Bill C-20, An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission, Bill C-28, Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act, Bill C-22, Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act and Bill C-48, Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act. We would also consider calling other bills that may have returned from committee by the time we return.

Thursday, November 18, shall be the next allotted day.

In closing, I wish all members a productive constituency week.

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.

The House resumed from May 25 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), as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

October 21st, 2010 / 3:05 p.m.
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Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I did want to stand in my place and correct the record.

Earlier today, in answering a question, I neglected to mention the good work of the Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification as a woman serving in this cabinet. As well, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the hon. Marjory LeBreton, makes a very powerful and substantial contribution to this government.

I am also pleased to report that the four House leaders are working well together. We have got off to a very good start.

Today is an opposition day for the Bloc Québécois and we will continue to debate on that for the rest of the day.

Tomorrow, we will resume debate on second reading of Bill C-46, the Canada-Panama free trade agreement; followed by Bill S-9, the tackling auto theft and property crime legislation.

On Monday and Tuesday we will begin with Bill S-9, on tackling auto theft and property crime; followed by Bill C-46, the Canada-Panama free trade agreement; report stage of Bill C-3, gender equity in Indian registration; Bill C-42, strengthening aviation security; Bill C-29, safeguarding Canadians' personal information; Bill C-30, on the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R v. Shoker; Bill C-41, strengthening military justice in the defence of Canada; and Bill S-2, protecting victims from sex offenders.

On Wednesday we will begin debate on Bill C-49, the preventing human smugglers from abusing Canada's immigration system act. If debate on Bill C-49 concludes, we will continue with the business that I outlined on Monday and Tuesday.

The House leader for the official opposition also requested to know about the second budget bill, for the fall. We have begun debate on that. We have already adopted the ways and means motion, but we certainly will be calling it again before the November Remembrance Day break week for constituents. That is obviously an important piece of legislation that we look forward to having the opportunity to debate in this place.

I also neglected to mention the hard work of another member of the priorities and planning committee, the hon. Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.

October 19th, 2010 / 10:45 a.m.
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Chief Guy Lonechild Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Good morning to all members and of course a special recognition for MP Kelly Block from Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar. Good morning.

She got us here. She invited us. So thank you very much.

I'm joined by Chief Marie-Anne Day Walker-Pelletier. My name is Chief Guy Lonechild, from the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. As chief of the FSIN I represent 74 first nations in Saskatchewan. Our organization is committed to honouring the spirit and intent of the treaties. This means promoting, protecting, and implementing our rights under treaty.

It has been almost a decade since the FSIN last presented to this committee during a pre-budget submission consultation. The last time was October 30, 2001. Unfortunately, not a whole lot has changed from ten years ago. Although some gains have been made, the disparity between first nations and other Canadians remains virtually unchanged in many areas. I'm going to highlight only the most important priority areas where all levels of government should focus their resources to effect positive change.

First nations education is a prerequisite to all other issues on the agenda. It is key to improving the overall economic and social wellbeing of first nations. However, a majority of first nations people in Saskatchewan are failing to utilize education as a foundation for building better lives for themselves, their families, and communities.

Only about one-half of the aboriginal adult population in Saskatchewan has a high school diploma, at 51% compared to 72% of the non-aboriginal population in the province. The situation is worse on reserve, where only 46% of residents have graduated from high school.

Saskatchewan first nations have outstanding capacity for delivering improved education services to first nations. There's no other region in Canada that can clearly demonstrate a more comprehensive educational infrastructure, which has been built over the last 30 years of experience and capacity. The FSIN is committed to addressing the issues preventing first nations living on and off reserve in Saskatchewan from achieving a level of education comparable to the rest of Canadians.

What is required for us to tackle these longstanding issues is a new partnership with the federal and provincial governments in the area of education. What happens in Saskatchewan can be a model for the rest of Canada.

The federal government is cognizant of the need to collaborate on education. In the 2010 Speech from the Throne, a commitment was made by the federal government to work hand in hand with aboriginal communities and provinces and territories to reform and strengthen education, and to support student success and provide greater hope and opportunity. I expect a similar commitment from the throne this year, accompanied by financial support.

Currently the FSIN is advancing two important initiatives targeted at significantly improving the substance and quantity of the first nations educational attainment. These include a trilateral task force and a youth action plan with the FSIN as an equal partner in the development, design, and delivery of first nations education in Saskatchewan. It will address major issues such as comparable funding and incorporating language and curriculum into the education system, both on and off reserve.

As mentioned in our written brief, we urge you to provide support for first nations education by providing capacity funding for the urgent work of the education task force and providing a level of funding for first nations schools comparable to that of the province.

Although we couldn't go into detail in this verbal briefing, we also need support for an aboriginal youth employment strategy in Saskatchewan and additional financial support for the restructuring of First Nations University of Canada. Increasing funding for the post-secondary student support program is also necessary.

On March 3, 2010, the Minister of Indian Affairs introduced 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. Bill C-3 proposes to make the grandchildren of women who lost status as a result of marrying non-Indian men eligible for registration for Indian status in accordance with the Indian Act. The proposed amendments do not extend to other situations. Approximately 40,000 people nationwide would become eligible. Additional funding will need to be provided to first nations for this increase to the population, as this will affect housing, health, education, and social assistance for first nations.

In July 2009 the FSIN created the chiefs' task force on citizenship to develop a first nations citizenship framework to support the first nations legislating their own citizenship act. The treaty governance office and the chiefs' task force on citizenship developed a proposal to which INAC has not yet responded. The work of the task force must continue, so we are asking for support on this.

Finally, INAC is not consulting on Bill C-3, promising only to provide an engagement process after Bill C-3 is passed.

Chief Marie-Anne Day Walker-Pelletier insists that first nations have a right to self-government. A fundamental part of this is determining the criteria of their own citizens. INAC has established a financial impacts working group to analyze and make recommendations on how to address the financial requirements and the impact of additional registrations on first nations and the department.

We have not had full disclosure from this committee. We will file an access to information request to get full disclosure. Canada and INAC should not be setting our Indian governments up for failure. On a matter of citizenship, the first nations' agenda is far ahead of INAC's, which is simply to plug one more small hole in a sinking ship called the Indian Act.

September 29th, 2010 / 4:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

I don't have much more to add, but I would like to explain something to the parliamentary secretary. Our committee has delegated the responsibility of establishing the procedure and the agenda to the subcommittee ever since it was created. When we come back before the committee, the agenda is presented. The committee as a whole may decide to review the agenda. Not all committees operate in the same way, but the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development decided that the large 12-member committee should not sit all the time and that the subcommittee would be responsible for pruning down the daily routine and preparing the meetings in order to save time.

For example, if we adopt—we have since adopted it—Mr. Lévesque's motion, the subcommittee will set the number of meetings and make a recommendation. It will probably also ask the members of the committee if they want to call witnesses and to let the subcommittee know as soon as possible. It would be the same procedure for all the other motions. With all due respect, that is why I find the parliamentary secretary's motion premature. So I encourage her to withdraw it, even if we discuss it in subcommittee. Otherwise, we would certainly not be able to support the motion if we had to vote. It would be a shame to start our work with the parliamentary secretary by defeating her motion. I urge her to withdraw this motion and present it to the subcommittee, which will be sitting in a few minutes.

To conclude, Mr. Chair, I would like to point out that it has been like this since 2006. The subcommittee is made up of representatives from each political party.The subcommittee decided that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development would be present to provide us with information that will allow us to move our work forward. Initially, there was only the chair of the committee, the two vice chairs and a representative—in this committee's case—from the Bloc Québécois. We wanted to be more open and allow the parliamentary secretary to be present without the right to vote in order to get information and get things done faster.

Let's take Bill C-3 for example. We ask the parliamentary secretary to check with the minister when he'll be available to appear before us and so on. That way, we save a lot of time. For us, the subcommittee is like a working committee that reports to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. It saves us a huge amount of time.

September 27th, 2010 / 12:35 p.m.
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Representative, B.C. CEDAW Group

Shelagh Day

Thank you very much.

Maybe I could add just one very brief comment about Bill C-3. As it stands at the moment, Bill C-3 still leaves out many hundreds--and perhaps thousands--of aboriginal women and their descendants, purely because of the sex discrimination in the Indian Act that for decades has preferred the male line of descent over the matrilineal line of descent.

So it is a very strong appeal to you to fix this problem once and for all and actually include the Indian women and their descendants who have been discriminated against. I thank you for raising the question, because it's extraordinarily important, and Canada has the chance now to get this one right. It would be wonderful if Parliament would do that.

September 27th, 2010 / 12:35 p.m.
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Spokesperson, B.C. CEDAW Group

Laura Holland

I'm going to ask Shelagh to talk about the law specifically, but what I can tell you is about the lived experience and the effects it has on aboriginal women. Real matrimonial property rights are something aboriginal women have been dealing with for decades, if not centuries. To put it realistically, the issue has always been a problem.

It's almost impossible for a woman to leave an abusive or violent relationship or to leave a man who is violent or sexually violent towards her children. When she does leave, she is leaving a reserve and going to another reserve or a town or a city to live in poverty, and then the whole cycle of women living in poverty starts all over again. We think this is something that needs to be remedied, and it needs to be taken care of right away.

Bill C-3is Sharon McIvor's bill. I can tell you how it affects my life today. One of my grandparents was what we call disenfranchised in 1947 so he could actually go to work and have a paying job off reserve. He said he wasn't an animal and he didn't deserve to be penned up like one. He wanted to be able to travel and vote, so he was disenfranchised and he lost his Indian status.

I got mine back in 1986 under Bill C-31, as did my daughters. But my sons' father is white. My sons have the life experience of aboriginal men. They have the life experience of aboriginal men who have lived in poverty most of their lives, and they do not have status and have no chance of getting status the way it is right now, even with the way Bill C-3 stands today. It's still discriminatory against my children and me.

June 11th, 2010 / 10:25 a.m.
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Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador

Grand Chief Anne Archambault

Thank your for your question, Ms. Demers.

You referred to the silence that prevails with respect to violence against women. But the Aboriginal Women's Association was created several years ago. Mary Two-Axe Early, who lobbied in favour of Bill C-31, did a lot of advocacy work towards combating violence against women and poverty quite a few years ago. Naturally, a lot of Quebec and Canadian media seize on these issues. But there are few Aboriginal journalists. For a number of years now, we have been denouncing violence and women's poverty. Mary Two-Axe Early and Evelyn O'Bomsawin, the two founders of the Quebec Aboriginal Women's Association were engaged in that work. In fact, they took me by the hand and showed me how to continue the struggle.

In public, people say that Indians drink and take drugs. We are speaking out against this in whatever way we can, but our demands seem to fall on death ears.

As regards the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, my view is that this document is written in simple terms and tells the truth about Aboriginal peoples, particularly the article dealing with women and children. From the very beginning, we have been victims of discrimination. We are also victimized by the poverty imposed on us. We are trying to extricate ourselves from this cycle of victimization, but we have neither the means nor the budget to do so. Using the little we have to work with, we are trying to make our voices heard.

Yesterday we met with parliamentarians, including one senator. We are at the point now where we are prepared to do anything and everything. Our quest is one that began a long time ago. Many women have been living through this for many years. There was Bill C-31, and then there was Bill C-3, some of which is discriminatory, and there are also a number of other articles in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

June 11th, 2010 / 9:45 a.m.
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Renée Brassard Assistant professor, School of Social Work, Université Laval, As an Individual

Good morning, my name is Renée Brassard. I teach at the School of Social Work, but I am a criminologist by training.

Today my comments will be quite brief, because some of the points I intended to address have already been made by the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador. I have jotted down a few comments and will limit myself to those. I have also tabled a summary of recommendations with the committee and you will see what I had in mind in so doing.

It is a well-known fact that violence against Aboriginal women in both Canada and Quebec is one of the direct consequences of colonialism and a history punctuated by government policies that have resulted in cultural erosion, the ongoing breakdown of family and other relationships, and poverty and underdevelopment which persists to this day.

I would like to draw the attention of committee members to the fact that, over the last two decades, several Canadian commissions of inquiry, expert reports and studies have all reiterated the fact that Aboriginal women constitute the segment of the population most affected by violence in Canada. It is also acknowledged that violence against Aboriginal women is an endemic problem. So, this is not something that is receding. Quite the contrary, it is a persistent problem which is growing worse.

That violence can take several different forms, as you so aptly pointed out, Madam Chair. The forms of violence faced by Aboriginal women are many: physical, sexual, psychological, systemic, institutional, legislative—as we see at present with the discussions on Bill C-3—communal, and also spiritual. By “communal” violence, I mean abuse of authority against Aboriginal women in communities all across Canada, whereas spiritual violence refers to the loss of traditional values and the destruction of individual cultural or religious beliefs.

The current state of knowledge regarding violence against Aboriginal women in Canada is such that we now know that different factors that are still in play conspire to keep Aboriginal women in Canada in these sad circumstances and allow the violence that afflicts them to be perpetuated. What I wanted to specifically address are the main factors which encourage or allow the violent situations facing Aboriginal women in Canada to occur and recur. Of these factors, I would like to mention these in particular: a lack of political will at the federal, provincial and local levels; the lack of autonomy of Aboriginal communities in terms of directing their own development; a system of economic and legislative dependency which keeps the Aboriginal communities in a state of underdevelopment and gives rise to social inequality and multiple forms of discrimination; limited access to power by Aboriginal women; the presence—obviously—of a vicious cycle of violence because of the relational proximity within the communities, complete silence on this issue and an attitude of resignation in relation to the violence; and, finally, inadequate social responses, which have been recognized over and over again in a variety of reports as being ineffective and culturally inappropriate.

When I refer to social responses to violence against Aboriginal women, I am obviously referring to piecemeal interventions, a lack of resources for Aboriginal men—we tend to prefer incarcerating Aboriginal men, rather than helping them to heal and be rehabilitated—and, Madam Chair, the criminalization and overrepresentation of Aboriginals in our prison institutions. I'm sure you also know that Canada is one of the countries that jails more Aboriginal people than any other country in the world, compared to societies such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

If we want to stop violence against Aboriginal women in Canada, it is necessary to acknowledge the valuable potential solutions and recommendations that can be found in the major studies carried out in Canada in the last two decades, and which are underused even now. The report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People, which does suggest potential solutions, should also be revisited.

Furthermore, I think it is important to point out that this work, which was often carried out under the auspices of several Aboriginal organizations in Canada, has the merit of having given a voice to many Aboriginal women, as well as many different Aboriginal groups in Canada with respect to violence against women, children, men and a whole people. As a means of guiding the committee's work, I have gathered together here a number of recommendations which warrant your attention.

In closing, in light of these facts, we urge the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women to take full advantage of whatever flexibility it has to ensure that these recommendations are actually implemented, in order to foster the well-being of women, men and all Aboriginal communities in Canada.

Thank you.

June 10th, 2010 / 12:10 p.m.
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President, Quebec Native Women Inc.

Ellen Gabriel

I was going to throw it in there. One of the challenges we face with regard to matrimonial real property is that there is a housing shortage in the community, so it's difficult to start a business. The other thing is that a judge will have to look at matrimonial real property and know the Indian Act. How many civil court judges know the Indian Act? If they don't know it, how is the community supposed to filter through this?

The other issue is that in remote communities, those women do not have access to legal aid, as we do closer to cities like Montreal or Quebec City. So there's a vacuum with regard to their access to justice. The bill does not address that particular section and that reality of aboriginal women.

There was a lack of adequate consultation. We had a month and a half to consult. I think most Canadians, if there are going to be legislative changes in Canada, are granted a year. There was a 500-page report from Wendy Grant-John, who was the minister's appointed representative. There were hardly any, if any, recommendations from that report: 500 pages and nothing in it talks about what the communities were saying.

I think the problem we have among ourselves is a lot of our communities don't even know what MRP is. They don't know the details involved in MRP. From what I've heard, they're asking for the rejection of this MRP bill, which we don't want to happen. We want the MRP bill to pass with amendments, just as we want Bill C-3 to pass with amendments, but the government is not listening. They're not accommodating our concerns.

Consultation...it's not just about our opinions. It's about accommodating our concerns. It's about a dialogue. It's about a partnership. That has not happened in any of the engagement sessions I have been involved in, nor the brief consultations there were on MRP.

For fee simple, yes, we have certificates of possession. Yes, we have these tiny pieces of land that are reserved for our benefit and use. I think what has not been discussed for our communities is that we want to be able to have the same kinds of economic opportunities that other people have. If we're to put up our land as collateral and we lose that land, it's taking what little we do have from our communities.

I know Mr. Jules is travelling right across Canada. For me, it's just another form of the white paper policy that was rejected in the 1970s. It's not adequate. You can't take what happens in the rest of Canada and put it in our communities. It doesn't work.

We want to have protection for our land, for future generations and for the present generation. Fee simple is not the best idea, I think, to help economic development. We need access to our land, to our resources. We need to sit down and dialogue with government. We should not have this “talk down” or “talking at”.

The government deals with the issues of aboriginal people in a very archaic, paternalistic way. It's 2010, for goodness' sake. We know all about your culture, but it's as if our culture is irrelevant: “It's going to be put in a museum, so you should be happy. That's how we're going to protect your culture.” It just doesn't work.

Thank you.

May 27th, 2010 / 4:55 p.m.
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Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Michael Wernick

On the first one, my understanding would be the Powley program the minister referred to sunsetted so we couldn't get it in the main estimates. It was renewed. Cabinet took the decision. It was approved by Treasury Board and it has shown up in supplementary estimates. That is typically what happens with sunsetters. It's not always helpful to Parliament to understand the flow of that, but that's what's happened on that one.

On Bill C-3, the minister explained that since we didn't know whether the bill would pass, when it would pass, and in what form it would pass it wouldn't be possible to get money appropriated or ask for money to be appropriated relative to the cost of implementing Bill C-3. Depending on how the bill goes, there could be very different numbers of people entitled to registration.

We have the expert panel presided over by Mr. Emerson, and we would expect to go to cabinet this fall based on the final form of the bill, if it passes, and some work on its likely cost. We have put a lot of that out there, and there are really only two areas likely to experience immediate pressure, because we expect about 95% of the people who will be enfranchised to be off reserve on day one, so they would be eligible for Health Canada's health benefits program, and we can do the ballpark of how many people multiplied by typical use of that program. The other would be our own post-secondary program that Ms. Crowder was asking about.

Other than that, you have to make some assumptions about whether people will ever want to move back to their reserve communities or not.

May 27th, 2010 / 4:55 p.m.
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Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Todd Russell

I really appreciate that, sir.

My last question deals with the Office of the Federal Interlocutor. In the main estimates there was a huge decrease, and then in supplementary estimates A there seemed to be a replenishing of the funds at OFI. Can you explain just what's happening there?

My final question is about Bill C-3. If Bill C-3 were to go forward, have any moneys whatsoever been budgeted for the possibility of new entrants, even based on Mr. Clatworthy's sense of when people might come on stream?

May 27th, 2010 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Thank you, Mr. Minister, for coming before us today. It's probably no surprise to you that I have a number of questions.

Just around Jordan's Principle, on pages 11 and 25 in the plans and priorities your department mentions its ongoing commitment to implementing Jordan's Principle, but I can't tell how much money is earmarked for it. You may not be able to tell me that today; I just wondered whether somebody could tell me how much money is earmarked for the implementation of Jordan's Principle.

I want to follow up on the status piece that Mr. Lemay asked about. Page 26 of the report on plans and priorities—and it may be that I'm not understanding this—talks under “Managing Individual Affairs” about the process around status. There is a significant increase in that line item over last fiscal year on page 15-8 in the main estimates. There is a substantial difference from last year, a substantial increase.

I know that the fate of Bill C-3 is unknown, but it's not only the money for people who may increase the number with status; it's also money for the department in terms of dealing with a potential increased registration process.

May 27th, 2010 / 3:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Thank you.

Here is a trick question. Were Bill C-3 to be passed—which would be unfortunate, in my view—would the funds be available? It is estimated that 40,000 to 45,000 more people would be integrated. I do not see any administration funding anywhere in the supplementary estimates. Has money been allocated for that?

May 27th, 2010 / 3:30 p.m.
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Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. And I'm glad to see that none of your committee members yelled “Debate” when you mentioned how the chair looked. I thought it was obviously a sign of respect for the chair.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I welcome this opportunity to bring committee members up to date on activities within my portfolio.

With me today are Michael Wernick, Deputy Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, and Nicole Jauvin, President of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.

The main estimates before this committee reflect the resources we are asking Parliament to appropriate, to fulfill the many responsibilities of my mandate as minister. You mentioned that the other supplementaries are also included in this discussion. I'd be very pleased to answer questions on these estimates following my opening remarks.

However, I would like to first talk about the key issues on which I want to focus in the next 12 months. Many of these you will recognize as they are a continuation of our long-term agenda to make tangible improvements to the quality of life for aboriginal and northern peoples and communities. As the Speech from the Throne and budget 2010 reinforced, our government remains committed to building a stronger, healthier relationship with aboriginal people and to realizing the vast potential of Canada's north. We're focusing our efforts on achieving a real and measurable difference in the lives of aboriginal people and northerners.

And we are making steady progress.

A special acceleration of these efforts came from Canada's economic action plan. Our government earmarked $1.9 billion over two years for investment in aboriginal skills and training, in housing and infrastructure, and in support of the northern strategy. I've been pleased to table quarterly progress reports on these investments, most recently in March of this year. All these reports are available on my department's website.

As members of this committee will know, my mandate is a broad one. Today I would like to divide my remarks into two parts. Let me discuss aboriginal issues first. Our activities in the past are a good indication of where we intend to concentrate our efforts in the future.

We are pursuing a busy legislative agenda. For instance, I strongly encourage all parties to support Bill C-3. Without this important legislation, the key section of the Indian Act dealing with entitlement to registration will cease to have legal effect in British Columbia. This could have serious consequences. Approximately 3,000 people per year will be denied their basic right to register for Indian status and to access associated benefits if we don't pass that bill—as well as the many other thousands of people across the country who could access it as well.

Bill S-4, proposed legislation to resolve the longstanding issue of on-reserve matrimonial real property, is being considered in the Senate, and I will be speaking fairly soon in the Senate committee as well.

Bill C-24, introduced on May 12, proposes to facilitate the development of major commercial real estate on reserve land. I thank many committee members for speaking to me about that, and I appreciate your support for that bill.

Bill C-25, also introduced on May 12, would ensure clarity, consistency, and legal certainty with respect to land use, planning, and environmental processes in Nunavut.

Just yesterday we introduced Bill S-11, the safe drinking water for first nations act, which would enable the Government of Canada to continue making tangible progress on its commitment to improving water conditions on reserve.

I would like to thank the committee members for their work and encourage their cooperation and support in moving these important legislative initiatives forward.

We are also working hand in hand with aboriginal communities and the provinces and territories to reform and strengthen child and family services and education. Building on that, budget 2010 commits $53 million over two years to ensure further progress toward a prevention-based approach to child and family services for first nation children and parents.

It's obvious these investments are very necessary. The aboriginal population in Canada is young. It's growing. For example, the population of first nations on reserve has a higher proportion of youth under 24 than the population of Canada as a whole. Certainly, Inuit population growth is even higher.

An increasingly young population creates a growing demand for education, social development, and community infrastructure, and these vital investments play an important role in building strong communities and enabling aboriginal people to reach their full potential.

That's why budget 2010 provides $30 million over two years to support an implementation-ready tripartite K to 12 education agreement. I am pleased to report further progress to develop tripartite partnerships in education. In February, a memorandum of understanding was signed by the Assembly of Treaty Chiefs of Alberta, the Government of Alberta, and the Government of Canada, ensuring that first nations students receive comparable instruction and obtain comparable results whether the classroom is located on or off reserve.

Aboriginal leadership, including National Chief Shawn Atleo, has identified economic development as a key driver toward greater independence and self-reliance. This government agrees. Investments in economic development enable aboriginal people and northerners to achieve a better quality of life through economic participation built on strong foundations of governance, human capital, and infrastructure. After all, the best social policy is to create a strong economy.

In addition to expenditures for basic services, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada promotes economic development in aboriginal communities and business opportunities, both on and off reserve. My department also negotiates and oversees the implementation of comprehensive and specific claim settlements, including the implementation of practical forms of self-government.

Let me turn now to my northern mandate.

Our government is moving forward with the implementation of the northern strategy. We are making significant progress in creating a world-class high Arctic research station. Twenty partners across Canada's Arctic have seen their science and research facilities improved thanks to our Arctic research infrastructure fund.

Furthermore, we are actively reforming the northern regulatory regime to ensure that the resources in the region and their potential can be developed, while securing a better process to protect the environment. On May 3 I announced our government's action plan to improve the north's regulatory regimes, which builds on progress we have seen to date and takes important strides to make regulatory frameworks strong, effective, efficient, and predictable. We are working to give northerners a greater say over their own future and taking steps to pave the way to successful devolution.

Budget 2010 laid out our vision and investments under year two of Canada's economic action plan. Strategic investments valued at more than $100 million over two years will improve the business climate and address key health care challenges in the north.

Of course, one of the perpetual challenges of life in the north is access to healthy food. To help northerners meet this challenge, just last week I announced a new northern food retail subsidy program I call “Nutrition North”. This new program will make healthy food more accessible and affordable to people in isolated northern communities. Northerners helped us to design that. A lot of consultation went into this, and northerners will help oversee its implementation through an advisory board.

The main estimates for the first time include $61 million in funding for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, or CanNor. CanNor was created in August 2009 and is the first-ever regional development agency for the north and the only federal agency headquartered in the north. Its specific mandate is to coordinate and deliver federal economic development activities tailored to the unique needs of northern Canada and is an important achievement of our northern strategy.

Mr. Chairman, with respect to our main estimates, the $7.3 billion that is allocated to programs and services at INAC reflects a net increase of about $367 million. That's a 5.3% increase over last year. With the addition of the supplementary estimates (A) for my department, tabled in the House on May 25, INAC's budget for 2010-11 will reach approximately $7.5 billion.

Mr. Chair, these expenditures reflect our government's commitment to address the essential needs of Métis, Inuit, first nations peoples and northerners.

The main estimates will advance these goals by taking timely, targeted action in areas such as housing, education, self-governance, and land claims. Working collaboratively with aboriginal people and northerners, these investments will make a difference and help secure a prosperous future.

I'm honoured that Prime Minister Harper has entrusted me with this important mandate, and I look forward to maintaining a very constructive relationship with your members as we continue to advance what I think is a very ambitious agenda both in Parliament and here in committee.

Thank you very much.

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

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

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

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

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

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

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

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

Motions in AmendmentGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 1:40 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.

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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.

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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.

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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 / 1:25 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.

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

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Madam Speaker, my colleague introduced the idea that there was in fact engagement with aboriginal groups prior to the introduction of Bill C-3. Could he just add a few comments on that part of the discussion?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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 / 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 / 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 / 12:45 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 / 12:35 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 / 12:30 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.

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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 / 12:25 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 / 12:10 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 / 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 / 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 / 11:50 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 / 11:40 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 / 11:25 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 / 11:25 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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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 / 11:20 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 / 11:10 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 / 11:10 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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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 / 11:05 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 / 11:05 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 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.

Speaker's RulingGender Equity in Indian Registration ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2010 / 10:55 a.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

There are two motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-3.

Motion Nos. 1 and 2 will be grouped for debate and voting patterns for the motions are available at the table.

I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1 and 2 to the House.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

May 13th, 2010 / 3:05 p.m.
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Prince George—Peace River B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we will continue today with Bill S-3, the tax convention bill, followed by Bill C-15, nuclear liability. It would be by intention to call these two bills tomorrow if they are not completed today.

Might I add that, thankfully, as my hon. colleague noted, next week is a constituency work week.

When the House returns on May 25, it is my intention to call Bill C-3, gender equity in Indian registration, which will be at the report stage. Following Bill C-3 will be Bill C-20, the National Capital Act, and Bill C-10, Senate term limits.

My hon. colleague asked about the committee of the whole. I would inform the House that pursuant to Standing Order 81(4) I would like to designate May 27 for consideration in committee of the whole of the main estimates of the Department of National Defence and May 31 for the Department of Natural Resources.

Friday, May 28 shall be an allotted day.

May 11th, 2010 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Thank you, Mr. Bagnell.

Members may know that this afternoon, after question period, the Speaker did rule on the point of order that was put forward by the parliamentary secretary to the House leader--I think I have that right--in respect to the admissibility of amendments to Bill C-3.

The Speaker upheld the original ruling from this committee and ruled that the first amendment, which was to paragraph 6(1)(a), is inadmissible.

The second amendment pertained to the amendment to the short title. You'll remember that a short title can only be changed if amendments made to the scope of the bill compel a change in the language. In that the first amendment was ruled by the Speaker to be inadmissible, similarly the amendment to the short title was also inadmissible.

Members, where that puts the bill is that the Speaker has sent the bill to be reprinted without the amendments.

As a footnote, the removal of clause 9, which was agreed to by this committee, remains. That was admissible. Committees have the power to not agree with certain clauses of the bill, so that stays.

The House will now consider Bill C-3 at report stage, and the parties have the opportunity to propose amendments at report stage. As to when those amendments will be heard, that will be a discussion of the House leaders, I'm sure.

Unless there are any questions, we'll leave it at that and proceed with our witness.

Welcome, Mr. Eggertson. As we discussed, you have approximately 10 minutes, and then we go to questions from members.

May 11th, 2010 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

This is the 16th meeting of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

On the agenda is our study, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), of northern territories economic development: barriers and solutions.

I want to welcome our witness this afternoon, Mr. Bill Eggertson.

Mr. Eggertson comes from the Canadian Association for Renewable Energies.

Members, we only have the one witness today. It was not through a lack of trying; you will know we usually try to have a full panel. This has been partly because our schedule has been somewhat irregular these last two weeks, with the completion of work on Bill C-3 and the study on the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

We have our first hour today with Mr. Eggertson. At that point we'll go in camera for our second hour, when we'll be talking about the instructions for the report on AHF.

Mr. Bagnell, you have a point of order.

Admissibility of Amendments to Bill C-3—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderOral Questions

May 11th, 2010 / 3:05 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons on April 29, 2010 concerning amendments contained in the report from the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development on 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).

I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for having raised this important matter as well as the hon. members for Labrador, Abitibi—Témiscamingue and Yukon for their comments.

In presenting his point of order, the parliamentary secretary argued that two of the amendments to Bill C-3 contained in the first report from the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, tabled on April 29, 2010, were beyond the scope of the bill as approved by the House at second reading.

The first motion presented by the member for Labrador during clause-by-clause consideration of the bill reads as follows:

That Bill C-3, in Clause 2, be amended by adding after line 16 on page 1 the following:

(a.1) that person was born prior to April 17, 1985 and is a direct descendant of the person referred to in paragraph (a) or of a person referred to in paragraph 11(1)(a), (b), (c), (d), (e) or (f) as they read immediately prior to April 17, 1985;

As reported by the parliamentary secretary, this motion was ruled out of order by the chair on the basis that it went beyond the scope of the bill as approved by the House at the second reading stage. The ruling was appealed and overturned by a majority vote and the amendment was subsequently adopted by a similar vote.

In respect of the second amendment under dispute concerning the short title of the bill, the parliamentary secretary argued that it had only been allowed to proceed because of the adoption of the first amendment. He noted that in the absence of any amendment requiring it, no motion to amend a bill's title was admissible under our rules.

The member for Labrador argued that the court ruling in which the bill responded identified discriminatory provisions related to registration in the Indian Act beyond those specific to the McIvor case. He stated that in its ruling the court of appeal pointed out that there may be other parts of the act that caused gender discrimination. He also drew to the attention of the House that there existed considerable latitude for the government to respond to the court's decision. In doing so, he cited a number of examples where legislation had gone well beyond the modifications to the law required by court decisions. He concluded that the amendment in question was entirely consistent with bills responding to court rulings.

The Chair has carefully examined Bill C-3, the Committee’s report as well as the proceedings in the Committee dealing with clause-by-clause consideration of the bill.

As has been frequently noted, the Speaker’s involvement in committee matters is limited except in cases where a committee has exceeded its authority. The adoption of amendments that are beyond the scope of a bill is such a case.

I would like to remind the House that the Speaker's role in these matters is limited strictly to determining the procedural issue that has been raised. While some members may be of the opinion that a different bill, perhaps broader in scope, ought to have been introduced, I must base my decision on the bill that actually was introduced and approved by the House at second reading.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, p. 766, states:

An amendment to a bill that was referred to committee after second reading is out of order if it is beyond the scope and principle of the bill.

In the present case, in order to determine the scope of the bill, we need to put this legislative measure in its unique context. Bill C-3 was drafted in response to a ruling of the court of appeal for British Columbia, which struck down certain provisions of the Indian Act based on unequal treatment with respect to registration accorded to the descendants of some Indian women arising out of earlier amendments to the Indian Act made in 1985. The bill seeks to redress the specific inequality identified by the court. As such, it is of extremely narrow scope. It removes gender discrimination arising from transitional effects of the 1985 amendments as they relate to a particular family structure.

The amendment, adding a new sub-paragraph a.1 to the conditions of registration in section 6 of the Indian Act, deals with all persons born prior to April 17, 1985 who are descended from those registered under the Indian Act, or entitled to be so registered, prior to that date. Individuals, whose status is not affected in any way by Bill C-3 as adopted at second reading, would have a different status as a result of this amendment. It may be that the amendment seeks to redress an inequality arising out of the Indian Act, but it is not addressing the specific inequality identified by the Court and initially targeted by Bill C-3. Consequently, the amendment exceeds the scope of the bill as set by the House at second reading and is therefore inadmissible.

The second amendment, changing the short title of the bill, is dependent on the broadening of scope resulting from the first inadmissible amendment. As such, in the absence of any other amendment requiring a change to the original short title, it too is inadmissible.

I therefore rule that the amendment to clause 2 of Bill C-3 and the amendment to the short title are null and void and no longer form part of the bill as reported to the House. In addition, I am ordering a reprint of Bill C-3 be published to replace the reprint ordered by the committee.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

Admissibility of Amendments to Bill C-3Points of OrderRoutine Proceedings

May 6th, 2010 / 10:15 a.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. If possible, I would like to add to what my colleague just said.

The member from Labrador presented this very important amendment. We are asking the Chair to accept this amendment, which is very important to the development and the future of aboriginal communities.

If I may, I would like to talk about something important. Two days ago, a group of about 100 aboriginal women left Wendake, a Huron community near Quebec City, headed for Parliament. They will stop in Trois-Rivières, Montreal and Gatineau, before arriving here on June 1. They are marching to speak out against Bill C-3. Why? Because this bill does not do enough—that is what they told us in committee—and because Bill C-3 will continue to allow the systematic discrimination that aboriginal women have been subjected to since 1876.

When I spoke in this House after Bill C-3 was introduced, I told the government that it could expect amendments to this bill, because it was very important to listen to what the aboriginal peoples had to tell us. We did our job.

There are things in life that I do not understand, and this is one of them. We, the politicians, are criticized for not doing our job. But when we do our job, we are told that we did it too well. Something is wrong here. It is true that Bill C-3 is a response to the McIvor decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal, but it is important to read this decision in its entirety, which the legislator, the Conservative Party, does not seem to have done.

I wonder why the Conservative Party did not read the full decision. Because if it had, it would have realized that the judges of the British Columbia Court of Appeal say that this is the issue before them and that they are going to rule on it. They rule that Ms. McIvor has been the victim of discrimination under section 15 of the charter since 1985. Therefore, the problem has to be addressed. The judges add, however, that the discrimination against aboriginal communities and specifically against aboriginal women under sections 6.1 and 6.2 of the act will continue unless the government puts an end to this discrimination. I am not the one who said this; it was the judges of the British Columbia Court of Appeal. That is what we did, and my colleague from Labrador proposed amendment No. 1, which is extremely important and would put an end to this discrimination.

I believe that you have the power to accept this amendment. I will not repeat my colleague's arguments, which are very solid and which I agree with completely. As my anglophone colleagues would say, I concur with my colleague. I concur with his legal arguments. It seems clear to me as well that you can go as far as we were asked to go thanks to amendment No. 1.

But it gets worse, Mr. Speaker. If you rejected this amendment, what would happen? Women would no longer have any recourse and would have to keep on going to court. But the Conservative Party, in its wisdom, closed the door to potential court action by cutting funding for the court challenges program, which Ms. McIvor had used to stand up for her rights.

So what will happen? If this amendment is not accepted, not only will aboriginal women continue to be discriminated against, but the government will be taken to court again, and it will be another 20 years before we end this debate.

Admissibility of Amendments to Bill C-3Points of OrderRoutine Proceedings

May 6th, 2010 / 10:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to respond to the point of order raised on Thursday, April 29, 2010 by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons concerning two amendments to Bill C-3 adopted by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

The parliamentary secretary shared in his opinion that these two amendments should be ruled out of order because he felt they went beyond the scope of the bill.

Given the significance and profound issues; that is, sex discrimination and gender equality, that have prompted the introduction of Bill C-3, I feel it is vitally important to present counter arguments before you give your ruling, Mr. Speaker.

First, I would like to quote from the sixth edition of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules & Forms. At page 205 it states in subarticle 689(2):

The committee may so change the provisions of the bill that when it is reported to the House it is in substance a bill other than that which was referred. A committee may negative every clause and substitute new clauses, if relevant to the bill as read a second time.

Article 694 on page 206 states:

Amendments may be made in every part of a bill, whether in the title, preamble, clauses or schedules; clauses may be omitted; new clauses and schedules may be added.

Beauchesne's sixth edition also states on page 205 in subarticle 689(3):

The objects (also referred to as the principle or scope) of a bill are stated in its long title, which should cover everything contained in the bill as it was introduced.

The long title of Bill C-3 as listed on the bill's cover page under the number assigned to the bill is “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). Therefore, the principle and/or scope defined in this title is to respond to the decision of the B.C. Court of Appeal. To understand what “to respond” means in the context of this legislation, it is necessary to return to the decision of the B.C. Court of Appeal that is referenced in this legislation.

The court ruled that two 1985 amendments to the Indian Act failed to eliminate gender discrimination in the second and subsequent generations. Paragraph 161 of the ruling states:

Sections 6(1)(a) and 6(1)(c) of the Indian Act violate the Charter to the extent that they grant individuals to whom the Double Mother Rule applied greater rights than they would have had under s. 12(1)(a)(iv) of the former legislation. Accordingly, I would declare ss. 6(1)(a) and 6(1)(c) to be of no force and effect, pursuant to s. 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982. I would suspend the declaration for a period of 1 year, to allow Parliament time to amend the legislation to make it constitutional.

Nowhere in its ruling did the court prescribe a remedy to the Government of Canada. In fact, in paragraph 160 it states:

In the end, the decision as to how the inequality should be remedied is one for Parliament.

Although the court arrived at a narrow constitutional finding based on the specific facts of the McIvor case, it accepted the broad harms suffered by aboriginal women and their descendants because of non-entitlement to Indian status. In fact, the Court of Appeal left open the possibility of future equality challenges to the status provisions.

More important, previous precedent exists to support the notion that the court's ruling in McIvor v. Canada does not create a rigid constitutional template. The Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed the role of Parliament to build on a court's ruling, particularly where the judicial scheme can be improved by the legislature.

In its decision in R. v. O'Connor in 1995, the Supreme Court of Canada laid down a procedure for the disclosure of confidential records of sexual assault complainants which purported to balance the equality rights of complainants and the rights of accused to full answer and defence.

In 1997 Parliament enacted amendments to the Criminal Code which differed from the procedure delineated by the court and which ostensibly went further to protect women's equality rights and protect their confidential records from disclosure to those accused of sexually assaulting them.

In upholding the new legislation in R. v. Mills in 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada emphasized the importance of Parliament building on the court's earlier decision in O'Connor. In this case the government chose a more expansive legislative remedy than that suggested in the O'Connor ruling after hearing from women's organizations and others.

Another example is the case of M. v. H. in 1999, which involved a section 15 charter challenge to the definition of spouse under the Ontario Family Law Act. The remedy ordered by the Supreme Court impacted only the definition of spouse in the Ontario Family Law Act, but the government of Ontario introduced omnibus legislation to change the definition of spouse in all provincial statues. Further, the federal government, which was not even a party in M. v. H., brought in the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act in 2000 to respond to the court's ruling.

There are other examples. These precedents confirm that the governmental response to a court ruling can clearly include the implications of the decision but is not restricted by it. Therefore, we argue that the amendments to Bill C-3 are admissible.

I would like to reiterate that the B.C. Court of Appeal did not order a specific remedy in its ruling, and instead ordered a declaration of invalidity. The purpose of a declaration of invalidity is to give the legislature the scope and flexibility to respond to a declaration of constitutional invalidity in the most appropriate way, after the democratic process of hearing the submissions of those most impacted.

Constitutional scholar Peter Hogg explains in chapter 36 of his text, Constitutional Law of Canada, that in many cases where the court has found a law to be unconstitutional, the court would prefer the legislature to design the appropriate remedy.

This is exactly what has happened in McIvor v. Canada. The B.C. Court of Appeal left it to Parliament to determine an appropriate remedy. The government introduced Bill C-3. The committee then heard unanimous testimony that residual gender discrimination would remain under the status provisions of the Indian Act if Bill C-3 were not amended. All witnesses encouraged the committee to amend the bill in order to eliminate all residual discrimination.

The amendment I introduced in committee to clause 2, which was fully supported by all opposition parties, is a response to this testimony. It will once and for all eliminate this residual discrimination and ensure that the Government of Canada lives up to its responsibilities concerning gender equality.

Based on this precedent and the broad implications of the B.C. Court of Appeal ruling in McIvor v. Canada, which is referenced in the long title of Bill C-3, I would argue that the amendment I introduced to clause 2 should be considered one of many possible responses to the court's ruling, and as such should be considered admissible. If this amendment is admissible, the parliamentary secretary's challenge to the admissibility of the amendment to the title should also be dismissed.

In Bill C-3, the Conservative government has introduced a piece of legislation that purposefully leaves gender discrimination in the Indian Act's provisions on status entitlement. If we know, which we do, that gender inequality or sex discrimination exists, as parliamentarians we have an obligation to remedy it. Common sense as well as unanimous testimony of witnesses at committee dictate that this is wholly unacceptable. My amendment responds to this fact and, as I have argued, is fully within the scope of Bill C-3.

I respectfully ask, given that generation after generation has fought for this equality, these arguments be given great consideration, as I am confident they will. Let us once and for all end sex discrimination that exists under the Indian Act.

First NationsStatements By Members

May 5th, 2010 / 2:10 p.m.
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