Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act

An Act respecting family homes situated on First Nation reserves and matrimonial interests or rights in or to structures and lands situated on those reserves

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

Status

Second reading (House), as of Sept. 22, 2010
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

This enactment provides for the adoption of First Nation laws and the establishment of provisional rules and procedures that apply during a conjugal relationship, when that relationship breaks down or on the death of a spouse or common-law partner, respecting the use, occupation and possession of family homes on First Nation reserves and the division of the value of any interests or rights held by spouses or common-law partners in or to structures and lands on those reserves.

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.

Bill C-56—Time Allocation MotionCombatting Counterfeit Products ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2013 / 4:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. President, we want to clarify something on this side of the House, as we have done for several other bills in recent weeks. What we want to tell this government is that some bills introduced many years ago have been delayed for reasons that are quite clear.

For example, in September 2008, the Prime Minister decided to call an election. At that time, no one was expecting an election. Obviously when this happened, everything slowed down and we were forced to start from scratch.

I will use the example of Bill S-2, which was first introduced as Bill C-47. The Conservatives were forced to reintroduce it as Bill C-8. What happened to Bill C-8? In December 2009, Parliament was prorogued, so we had to start again.

These are the kinds of delays caused by this government. This bill was then replaced by Bill S-4, and the Conservatives sat on their hands for seven months. In May 2011 it was reintroduced as Bill S-2. Two years went by while the Conservatives did nothing. Suddenly, in June 2013 it became absolutely urgent to pass this bill because it had been on the order paper for so long.

The fact is that this situation is a direct result of their delays—

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActGovernment Orders

June 10th, 2013 / 11:50 p.m.
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Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick

Conservative

Robert Goguen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak in favour of Bill S-2. When the time comes to vote on the bill, I intend to vote in favour of it and I encourage all members of the House to do the same.

No one can dispute the fact that the bill is in the best interests of individuals living on reserves and that it creates a more fair and just Canada. Currently, very few laws exist to protect the matrimonial real property interests and rights of people who live on reserve.

Bill S-2 proposes to fill a gap in legislation that continues to affect the most vulnerable people in Canadian society, specifically women and children living in first nations communities. For most individuals, the problem begins with a relationship breakdown, or the death of a spouse or common-law partner. In many cases, this results in a woman, or her children, being kicked out of the family home and the law is powerless to help them. Many end up homeless, impoverished and isolated from their home communities.

As difficult as these circumstances are for those who are directly impacted, the suffering extends even beyond them. Grandparents may be denied daily access to their grandchildren. Siblings and friends may be forced apart. As a result, the negative impacts of these events can often be felt through the entire community.

It is hard to believe that we as parliamentarians have allowed this inequity to endure for more than 25 years. It is in our power, and so it is our responsibility, to eliminate causes of inequity such as this one. Moving ahead with this legislation now before us is clearly in the best interests of all Canadians, most particularly those likely to be affected by this legislative gap.

Bill S-2 proposes to fill the gap with a two-part solution. One part establishes a legal authority that first nations can use to design, ratify and implement laws governing marital property interests and rights on their reserve lands. This means that first nations could develop their own laws to meet the community's cultural and social needs and that the courts could apply these laws. The second part of Bill S-2 is a set of provisional federal rules that would, once in force, provide protection for individuals living on reserves unless, or until, first nations have ratified their own laws in this area.

The proposed legislation and the issues it addresses are quite complex. There is little doubt that these complexities confounded previous attempts to enact legislation. However, if we remain focused on the crux of the matter, that the legislative gap hurts individual citizens and perpetuates injustice, the path forward becomes perfectly clear.

Bill S-2, like any legislation touching on complicated and emotional issues, has critics. However, what is often overlooked is that the legislation now before us is the product of a comprehensive and collaborative national consultation and engagement process.

Many critics deride the consultation effort as inadequate, but the truth is that two national aboriginal organizations helped stage more than 100 consultation sessions at 76 sites across the country. Hundreds of people actively participated in these sessions. Over $8 million was spent to facilitate the process. In addition, there was an extensive study of the previous version of Bill S-2, Bill S-4, when more than 30 witnesses appeared before the committee. Further, study by committee in the other place on Bill S-2 offered more opportunity for review and comment, as did the study by the Standing Committee on the Status of Women in the House. In total, 93 witnesses have appeared before committee. There should be absolutely no doubt as to the amount of consultation that has taken place. The changes that were made to Bill S-4, and now to Bill S-2, demonstrate that the government has heard the comments and responded.

I want to spend some time today explaining the degree to which Bill S-2 responds to the views expressed. The consultation sessions shaped the original bill in several significant ways. For example, as a direct result of the consultations, the bill rejects the application or incorporation of provincial family law. Instead, Bill S-2 proposes to enable first nations to design and ratify their own laws related to marital real property and interests. These laws would reflect a first nation's particular traditions and culture and could be applied by the courts.

Bill S-2 also proposes an interim solution to help first nations develop laws in this area.

Despite the best efforts of many talented people, at the end of the process full consensus on a legislative solution could not be reached due to the complexity of the issue. For further clarity on this point, I call to members' attention the final report of the ministerial representative. This wide-ranging document of more than 500 pages is a comprehensive resource for anyone who wishes to fully understand the issues in play. Point 213 of the report reads as follows:

The inability of the parties to articulate a link between the matrimonial real property initiative and the larger policy development processes that AFN and NWAC respectively are interested in, and that they have mandates to pursue, ultimately constituted a barrier to consensus.

This sentence goes a long way toward explaining why the effort initiated in good faith by this government, and funded by more than $8 million in public funds, failed to produce a full consensus. The parties could not separate the need to eliminate specific causes of inequity from other policy development initiatives. In other words, instead of focusing on a specific problem that this legislation was intended to address, debate on the bill became a proxy for a much broader discussion whose scope goes beyond the intent of this bill.

Ultimately, the legislative gap continues to affect individuals living on reserves, as it has for more than 25 years. As many may recall, in the last Parliament a previous version of this bill was before us for consideration. At that time, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights conducted a thorough review of the bill and, as I have mentioned, heard from more than 30 witnesses, including representatives of national aboriginal organizations. First nations chiefs and other stakeholders were included. This review led to the adoption of 12 amendments to the bill in the other place. Unfortunately, the bill died on the order paper before it could be considered by this chamber.

Before introducing this bill in this new Parliament, three further improvements were made: the verification process was eliminated; a 12-month transition period was added; and the ratification threshold was lowered. I am convinced that all three of these measures strengthen the bill and that all three would facilitate the development of a first nations law in this area. They also respond directly to criticisms that the previous version was paternalistic and that the process for the ratification of a first nations law was too onerous.

Bill S-2 would finally fill this gap with a balanced and effective solution. It would authorize first nations to establish laws in this area based on their unique cultures and traditions, and after a 12-month transition period, Bill S-2 would establish a provisional federal regime to protect individuals living on first nations reserves that have no such laws in place. However, even after the provisional rules were in effect, first nations could still, at any time, develop and ratify their own laws. At the end of the day, it is Parliament's responsibility to make decisions about legislation that affects Canadians and, in particular, to ensure we protect our vulnerable citizens. That is why Bill S-2 is before us today.

I believe that Bill S-2 would effectively balance the rights of individual citizens and the collective interests of first nations. It would eliminate inequity that continues to affect some of Canada's most vulnerable citizens. I urge all members of this House to set aside unfounded criticism and to endorse this legislation without delay.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActGovernment Orders

June 10th, 2013 / 11:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House that I will be sharing my time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance and member for St. Boniface.

I am proud to stand today in support of Bill S-2. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this proposed legislation offers a balanced and effective solution to an unjust problem that continues to affect individuals living on reserve today. The problem is that a legislative gap currently exists for individuals living on reserve that is preventing them from accessing the same rights and protections to matrimonial real property rights and interests as all other Canadians take for granted every day. That is because provincial laws only protect the MRP rights and interests of those who live off reserve.

The result is that some Canadian individuals have fewer protections and rights, simply because of where they live. Very few first nations in Canada have developed MRP laws under other enabling federal legislation, which means that the majority of individuals living on reserve lack protections and rights similar to those living off reserve. Given this reality, the legislative gap represents an inequality that can no longer be tolerated.

Our government believes that Canadians should not be denied access to basic rights and protections simply because of where they live. That is why our government is responding to the calls of aboriginal women, parliamentary committees, international bodies, and even the Manitoba NDP for urgent action to finally eliminate this long-standing legislative gap that has caused so much pain and suffering for some of the most vulnerable people in Canadian society, specifically women and children living in first nations communities.

We believe that family violence, wherever it occurs, should not be tolerated and that the rights of individuals and families to an equal division of the value of a family home must be protected, regardless of where they live. Aboriginal women and children living on reserves should not have to wait any longer to benefit from the same rights and protections people living off reserve are afforded. They deserve and expect no less.

On April 30 this year, Ron Swain, the National Vice-Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, appeared before the Standing Committee on Status of Women and argued that not backing this bill is disallowing equality for all aboriginal people. Our government agrees with this view, and I call on all hon. members to support this long overdue legislation, thus ensuring that the matrimonial rights of all Canadians are protected.

This legislative gap can lead to heartbreaking injustice. For example, an abusive husband can evict his wife and children from their family home, and no court in the country has the power to intervene. Bill S-2 would protect the matrimonial rights and interests of all individuals who live on reserve. Furthermore, it would allow the courts to apply first nations law, thus allowing first nations to formalize its traditional dispute resolution processes and remedies. The legislation would also ensure that until a first nation was able to create its own laws, federal rules would provide families with rights and protections similar to those afforded people living off reserve.

Over the years, a wide range of groups have studied this matter. Parliament has pursued legislative solutions for many years, including studies by parliamentary committees as to what such solutions might entail and how they might be implemented. In 2003, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights published “A Hard Bed to Lie In: Matrimonial Real Property on Reserve”, a report with many valuable recommendations. Central to its conclusion was the need for the development of cultural sensitivity laws.

The Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development also investigated the issue and heard testimony from dozens of witnesses. Bill S-2 was informed by the committee's final report, “Walking Arm-in-Arm to Resolve the Issue of On-Reserve Matrimonial Real Property”, presented in 2005. The report concluded with two principal recommendations. The first reads, in part:

That, consulting with the Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations to the extent possible, considering the urgency of the situation, the government immediately draft interim stand-alone legislation or amendments to the Indian Act to make provincial/territorial matrimonial property laws apply to real property on reserve lands.

Our government heeded this recommendation. Officials with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada began the planning process in collaboration with the two national aboriginal organizations identified in this recommendation. During the planning process, the parties agreed to implement the second principal recommendation of the standing committee's report, which reads:

That, in broad consultation with First Nations organizations and communities, the government collaborate with those organizations and communities to develop substantive federal legislation on matrimonial real property for those First Nations that have not created their own laws on the subject matter within the time frame set out in the interim legislation. This legislation should cease to apply to First Nations that subsequently develop their own matrimonial real property regimes.

Our government followed these recommendations and allocated over $8 million to aboriginal organizations and first nations to consult with members and stakeholders. A discussion paper outlining the issues and mapping out three potential legislative solutions was prepared. To coordinate the consultations and forge a consensus on a potential legislative solution, a ministerial representative was appointed.

During 2006 and 2007, more than 100 consultation sessions were held across Canada. Most of the sessions were led by the Assembly of First Nations and the Native Women's Association of Canada. The vast majority of the session participants were members of first nations. Dozens of groups also provided written submissions.

During the consultations, it became clear that there was overwhelming opposition to one of the potential solutions: incorporating relevant provincial and territorial laws into the Indian Act. As a result, this option was discarded entirely. The pattern of responsiveness to the stakeholder input has been repeated throughout the long development of the bill before us today.

Previous versions of this legislation were introduced in 2008, 2009 and 2010, and debates and committee review inspired a series of amendments.

When the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights studied a previous iteration of the bill, Bill S-4, a total of 12 amendments were made to the proposed legislation. All of these improvements are included in Bill S-2.

With Bill S-2, this government chose to change elements of the bill to specifically address three criticisms most commonly directed at the previous version.

I would also point out that amendments were made when the bill was in the other place to further respond to the views of stakeholders. I believe Bill S-2 is not only an important bill but a necessary one, as it would finally close the intolerable legislative gap that continues to reduce so many to poverty, hardship and, too often, homelessness.

Bill S-2 is a progressive piece of legislation that would recognize first nations are best placed to develop their laws in this area. It would enable the courts to apply MRP laws developed by first nations. It would support sound governance practices in first nation communities and encourage self-reliance. Most important, Bill S-2 would protect some of the most vulnerable citizens and eliminate the injustice that tarnishes our country and has led to international criticism.

Under Bill S-2, first nations could develop, enact and implement MRP laws for their reserves. The content of the laws would be determined between the first nation government and its members alone. This would mean more transparency and accountability between first nation members and government.

For more than 25 years, women and men on reserves have lacked legal protection of their matrimonial real property rights and interests. Surely we can all agree that it is unacceptable to deny legal protection to a group of Canadians any longer simply because of where they live.

The time has come to eliminate this fundamental inequality. It is in our power as parliamentarians to do so.

I urge all members of the House to lend support to Bill S-2.

Sitting ResumedFamily Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActGovernment Orders

June 4th, 2013 / 1:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is one thing to debate a bill and we are to debate a bill on its own merits, but the sanctimony and hypocrisy coming from that side of the House is mind-boggling.

The member said let us look at ourselves in the mirror. Let me remind her, this bill started off as Bill C-47. What happened to it? It died on the order paper because the Prime Minister called a sudden election in 2008. It came back as Bill C-8. It died again on the order paper. Why? Because the government prorogued in December 2009. It came back again, this time as Bill S-4. They had seven months and the Conservatives did not do a thing with it. It came back as Bill S-2 in May 2011. It has been there almost two years. What did they do?

But now we are in a big rush. What does the government have to say about the priority of the bill?

May 2nd, 2013 / 11:55 a.m.
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Regional Chief, British Columbia, Assembly of First Nations

Jody Wilson-Raybould

Certainly.

The third concern that was raised, a fundamental concern, looks to addressing the issues that lead to the situations in the first place, the underlying issues, which I can speak more about in questions.

In closing, I wanted to make note of the work that has been done by the Canadian Bar Association. It has made a number of recommendations with respect to this piece of legislation as it was then, Bill S-4. I would recommend that the committee consider looking at these and other recommendations.

Further, Bill S-2 can and should only be viewed as an interim step, which unfortunately may prove to have more limited benefits than its strongest advocates would suggest.

April 25th, 2013 / 12:10 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Thank you for that, and also working to have real timelines on that, on the before and after.... I mean, Bill S-2 is not Bill S-4. It's Bill S-2, right?

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2012 / 4:30 p.m.
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NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I sincerely appreciated the speech from the member for Manicouagan and his direct experience with the first nations' life and living conditions. It adds a lot to this debate.

I also want to take time to acknowledge our critic for Indian and northern affairs, the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, who has done excellent work in the past and also adds a lot to this debate and this discussion.

Today we are talking here about Bill S-2, an act concerning matrimonial real property on first nations reserve lands. It makes changes to the Indian Act to allow for provincial family law to apply on reserves in the event of a matrimonial breakdown or the death of a spouse or common-law partner.

There is a legal vacuum concerning real property on reserves due to the jurisdictional divide, wherein provinces and territories have jurisdiction over property and civil rights within the provinces, and the federal government has jurisdiction to legislate “Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians” under section 91.24.

The Indian Act does not provide for a division of MRP upon marriage breakdown, and first nations jurisdiction is not explicitly recognized by Canada. This has led to major legal cases, such as Derrickson v. Derrickson, 1986, and Paul v. Paul, also 1986, which were dismissed by provincial courts because the provincial laws cannot apply to lands on an Indian reserve. Thus, there is this legislative gap.

Bill S-2 is the fourth iteration of similar legislation that the Conservatives have tried to pass since 2008, and the NDP has opposed every time it has come forward for debate.

There have been five parliamentary studies that have been conducted on MRP: A Hard Bed to Lie In by the Senate in 2003; Still Waiting by the Senate in 2004; Arm-in-Arm by the aboriginal affairs and northern development committee in 2005; the report by the status of women committee in 2006; and a ministerial report by Wendy Grant-John in 2006.

I just want to mention the latter, which stated that no consensus has been found regarding legislation that could apply to MRP. Among other things, it recommended that concurrent jurisdictional models be used where first nation law was paramount and that the government needed to identify the real costs of implementing provincial legislation on reserves.

All previous bills, and now Bill S-2, neglect almost all of the recommendations made by all of the aforementioned reports.

The Conservatives are trying to say that the recommendations from the 2006 ministerial report by Wendy Grant-John are being implemented, but that is absolutely not the case.

There is no question that this issue needs to be addressed. However, the Conservatives are trying to pass a law that appears to be in favour of first nations women's rights while ignoring the voices of first nations women themselves. They are fast-tracking legislation without addressing all the relevant non-legislative problems that first nations women and families have identified.

The Conservatives are not interested in a fulsome discussion of the bill or any first nations issues. They want to hastily enact a bad law just so they can say they have done something.

The problem requires a comprehensive response led by first nations. This approach must address family support services; more on-reserve housing and shelters; police support services; building first nations capacity to resolve disputes; solutions to land management issues; and resolutions of matters relating to citizenship, residency and Indian status.

Bill S-2 is an insincere and overly simplistic attempt to rectify a complex problem that was brought about by the Indian Act.

The Assembly of First Nations facilitated a dialogue, which identified three broad principles that are key to addressing matrimonial rights and interests on reserve. I will identify those: recognition of first nation jurisdiction; access to justice, dispute resolution and remedies; and finally, addressing underlying issues such as access to housing and economic security.

Based on these principles, I would like to take a closer look at two important themes that underpin the position of the New Democrats on Bill S-2: the absence of meaningful consultation with first nations; and the need to address the non-legislative problems surrounding the issue of matrimonial property rights.

I will turn to what others had to say on this in elaborating on meaningful consultation and non-legislative problems.

Ellen Gabriel, the former president of the Quebec Native Women's Association and AFN grand chief candidate, said:

It is reprehensible that the Government of Canada is so eager to pass legislation [that seriously impacts the collective human rights of Indigenous peoples] without adequate consultations which requires the free, prior and informed consent of Aboriginal peoples.

This is a growing trend of the Conservatives thrusting legislation upon Canadians without first consulting.

For example, the fisheries and oceans committee studied several clauses of Bill C-45, including a clause relating to the definition of what constituted an aboriginal fishery. There was an absence of consultation with first nations. It was only a one-way dialogue.

I will offer another quote from Stuart Wuttke from the Assembly of First Nations. He said at the fisheries and oceans committee:

—we feel if there's consultation and accommodation with respect to first nation interests, there may be a balanced approach. We would definitely prefer that, and we would recommend that consultation and accommodation take place in order to alleviate any potential problems that may exist in the future.

Consultation allows a legislative to find a balanced approach that serves the best interests of all stakeholders and to alleviate any potential problems that may exist in the future. For example, if the government had properly consulted on Bill C-38, it probably would not have found itself making so many amendments now in bill C-45.

According to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to which Canada is a signatory, consultation requires consent. While Canada has conducted limited consultation, no consent was given by rights holders. Therefore, if we endorse Bill S-2, we will be in violation of article 32 of the UNDRIP, which ensures free, prior and informed consent of any matter relating to the lands or welfare of the rights holders.

I will further add what other first nation women are saying. The Native Women's Association of Canada says:

NWAC is being told by its members that the MRP legislation is too prescriptive and does not adequately support Indigenous legal systems. As well, no financial resources will be allotted to support First Nations Governments to actually implement the legislation, if it were to get passed.

The NWAC testified at the Senate hearings on Bill S-2 and said the following:

—our women and population and constituents have repeatedly told us 12 months is not a sufficient transition period if this bill were to go ahead. First Nations are dealing with governments that are already overloaded with many socio-economic issues.

We are looking at a longer-term plan: two years, five years and ten years. Those are the types of plans that need to be developed in cooperation with First Nations, not government designing it and having patchwork input from First Nations. You will have a holey quilt, if you will. Too many resources will also be spent, and it will not be a satisfactory result for anyone.

We would rather take the time, do it right and stop pushing ahead in a rush to have a quick resolution that might not be a good one for anyone.

The image of a holey quilt is a good one and identifies the need for co-operation with first nations that the government should have.

About Bill S-4, which was a previous incarnation of Bill S-2, Pam Palmater, a professor of aboriginal law at Ryerson, said:

The Minister also said that Aboriginal women are in need of “immediate protection”. If the Minister actually listened to the voices of Aboriginal women, he would have heard that Aboriginal women do not want Bill S-4 as it is currently drafted. He would also have heard that what they do want is gender equality addressed in all of Canada's legislative initiatives....

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2012 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Susan Truppe Conservative London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, in addition to the Senate amendments to Bill S-4 , changes were also made to the bill before it was introduced as Bill S-2. These changes encourage and assist first nations in developing their own laws. The verification process, including the role of the verification officer, has been removed. First nations are still required to ensure voters are informed of the first nations proposed law and when and where the vote will take place. The ratification threshold for first nations matrimonial real property laws has been lowered to a single majority with a set participation rate of at least 25% of all eligible voters. The lower threshold will help first nations approve their own laws and a 12 month transition period before the federal provisional rules come into force.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2012 / 11:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on my question to the minister and again insist that the bill needs to go to the aboriginal affairs committee, not to the status of women committee.

Regarding the record of the status of women committee, including its recent study, “Improving Economic Prospects of Canadian Girls”, I would refer the members to the dissenting report of the Liberal Party, including the hon. member for York West. We were appalled that despite all of the evidence gathered from people such as Vivian O'Donnell and Susan Wallace, the committee refused to include any recommendations in the report, stating that it would exceed the mandate of the Minister for Status of Women. It thinks its mandate is the 40-year old written mandate for status of women committee, as though it were the responsibility of the current Minister for Status of Women.

It is clearly an issue, as my colleague from the NDP has said, for the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. Given the complexity of dealing with property and aboriginal rights, those can only be properly studied at the aboriginal affairs committee. I cannot repeat that strongly enough. It is totally inappropriate that this go to a committee not used to studying legislation, and which has, in its very last study, refused to deal with the issue of aboriginal girls and young women, stating that it is not the specific responsibility of that minister or her department.

The Liberal Party does not question the need for legislation to address the legal gaps and other problems surrounding family breakdown for first nations living on reserve.

Many national and international reports have called on Canada to address the legislative gap with regard to matrimonial real property on reserves, and a number of parliamentary committees have examined this issue.

However, the bill would not effectively deal with the problems associated with the division of matrimonial property on reserve and would fail to provide first nations with the tools to implement appropriate measures for families to resolve disputes safely and in a culturally appropriate way.

Bill S-2 would not improve gender equality for aboriginal women, as claimed by the Conservative government. Instead, it would create the potential for new open-ended interests for non-first nations individuals on reserve and would fail to address the root causes of family breakdown and domestic violence, namely the lack of housing, inadequate funding for child welfare and inadequate access to legal aid for aboriginal women.

The Liberal Party of Canada believes that all legislation, or policies concerning aboriginal peoples, requires the government to work with, nor for, aboriginal peoples, as we promised to do in the original treaty relationship and as expressed by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. It commits Canada to uphold indigenous rights and ensure first nations enjoy the same quality of services and care as other Canadians. It explicitly says that there must be free, prior and informed consent on any issues dealing directly with first nations in Canada.

We also must recognize and affirm aboriginal or treaty rights as laid out in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 and Canadian courts. As well, it is imperative that we provide sufficient resources so as to guarantee that aboriginal communities have the capacity to implement the legislation and our policies on which we have worked collaboratively. Unfortunately, yet again, the government has failed to meet any of these criteria in the approach to matrimonial real property on reserve. It is raining down legislation in “thou shalt” kinds of ways without the resources and the support to actually achieve the objectives of the legislation.

Yet again, consultation has been inadequate. Consultation requires both a substantive dialogue and the government to listen and, when appropriate, incorporate what it hears into its approach. Although consultations were done on MRP in general in 2006-07, consultations were not done specifically on Bill S-2, in particular prior to the introduction of the bill.

The Native Women's Association of Canada is not confident that the legislation will solve the problems associated with matrimonial real property on reserve and has been clear that the current bill fails to address many of the recommendations repeatedly raised each time the legislation has been brought forward. NWAC held meetings with first nations women from its provincial and territorial member associations and produced several reports that included their views to address MRP. Bill S-2 still neglects most of those recommendations.

The Conservative government failed in its constitutional duty to consult the first nations when drafting this bill and did not take into consideration the serious problems identified by stakeholders when the Senate examined Bill S-4, the previous version of this bill, in the last Parliament.

The non-derogation clause in Bill S-2 does not sufficiently affirm constitutional rights to self-government, that is nothing in the act shall be construed “so as to abrogate or derogate from...aboriginal or treaty rights recognized and affirmed under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982”. This is not acceptable.

As my colleague from the New Democratic Party has said, the resources are inadequate to achieve the objectives of the bill. As I said In the letter I sent to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs a year ago August, it is completely unfair to legislate when the resources are not there to implement the objectives of any legislation.

This afternoon we will see the same thing on the water act, that “thou shalt have clean drinking water” and there are no resources to make sure it happens. This is exactly the same thing. In the objective of the bill on matrimonial real property, there are just not the resources to actually give women real choices with their families for them to remain safe in situations of violence.

Any proposed measure must be based on a holistic approach designed to address family breakdowns and domestic violence in aboriginal communities and tackle the problems of poverty, the housing shortage and the tragic legacy of the residential school survivors and their families.

In 2006, then INAC minister, Jim Prentice, announced that the nation-wide consultation on MRP reserves would take place, and appointed Wendy Grant John as the ministerial representative.

The report of the ministerial representative proposed establishing new stand-alone federal legislation that would be based on recognition of first nations jurisdiction and respect for aboriginal and treaty rights, while establishing interim federal rules that would apply until the first nation had exercised its jurisdiction and enacted its own laws on MRP.

The report of the ministerial representative also noted:

The viability and effectiveness of any legislative framework will also depend on necessary financial resources being made available for implementation of non-legislative measures...Without these kinds of supports from the federal government, matrimonial real property protections will simply not be accessible to the vast majority of First Nation people.

At the time that report was tabled, the time we were able to see it, everybody who we spoke to said it was imperative that the government of the day not be allowed to cherry-pick this report. Yet cherry-pick the report is exactly what the government has done.

The government has not provided any additional resources to help first nation governments build the capacity needed to address the underlying issues, meet their new obligations under the bill, or allow their citizens to have access to the legal system or develop new community-specific laws regarding matrimonial real property.

The provisional federal MRP rules are based on a provincial court system and require first nations and their citizens to take on additional costs to access the court system.

In many rural and remote communities, the cost of legal access, including transportation, can be prohibitive. Yet there is also no commitment to provide funding for alternatives to the court system, like community-based dispute resolution, which would be more cost effective and culturally appropriate.

Further, Bill S-2 was tabled without a plan and without resourcing to address the myriad issues that contributed to family breakdown on reserve and the disproportionately high levels of domestic violence against women.

Witnesses who appeared before the Senate committee mentioned the chronic shortage of housing on reserve, the underfunding of child welfare and the lack of shelters and temporary housing. These are substantive issues that must be addressed as part of the federal government's MRP approach.

The government has made no commitment to provide resources to help first nations move past the provisional federal rules and develop their own MRP code, other than to promise to create a centre of excellence, subject to further future Treasury Board approval.

The government's approach to developing the bill has been misguided and the resulting legislation is totally inadequate.

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 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.

Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime ActGovernment Orders

October 5th, 2010 / 5:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I believe that my colleague knows the Bloc Québécois's position on the Senate. The only option is to abolish it. But we are not there yet.

If the government thought that it would be quicker to go through the Senate, it was wrong. It is trying to do the same thing with Bill S-4 on aboriginal matrimonial rights. The Conservatives may be able to get any bill they like passed in the Senate, where they have the majority, but there are still 12 members of this House on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which meets twice a week. They cannot make anything up. They are trying to hurry us, but they will have to wait a bit.

I personally thought this bill would be introduced right away. It is the type of bill we all agree on. The same goes for Bill C-22 on child pornography. Everyone agreed on Bill S-9. I do not understand why it is being introduced through the Senate. I agree with my colleague, and as we like to say, enough is enough. Let us just leave it at that.

I find the government is trying to push things through the Senate where it thinks things will move more quickly because it has a majority and the Senate sits in June and July. When a bill arrives in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights or in the House, it does not move any more quickly. We have been waiting for this bill since April 2008, two years and six months ago. It is time to act. We could have come to an agreement with the House leaders. These are bills we all agree on. Let us proceed more quickly than planned.

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights ActRoutine Proceedings

September 22nd, 2010 / 3:25 p.m.
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Vancouver Island North B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

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 / 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.