Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act

An Act to amend the Indian Act (publication of by-laws) and to provide for its replacement

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Rob Clarke  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill.

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This enactment amends the Indian Act to require band councils to publish their by-laws and repeals certain outdated provisions of the Act.

It also requires the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to report annually to the House of Commons committee responsible for Aboriginal affairs on the work undertaken by his or her department in collaboration with First Nations and other interested parties to develop new legislation to replace the Indian Act.

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.

Votes

Nov. 20, 2013 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
Nov. 20, 2013 Passed That Bill C-428, An Act to amend the Indian Act (publication of by-laws) and to provide for its replacement, {as amended}, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments] .
Nov. 20, 2013 Passed That Bill C-428, in clause 3, be amended by replacing line 14 on page 2 with the following: “25, 28, 37, 38, 42, 44, 46, 48 to 51 and 58 to 60 and the”
Dec. 5, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement ActPrivate Members' Business

November 28th, 2012 / 7 p.m.
See context

Kenora Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand today to speak to the private member's bill from the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River. I count him not just as a colleague but as one of my personal friends. I could not be more pleased for the hard work he does, not just on the standing committee but as a first nations person in this place, starting a process that is long overdue and is a great opportunity for us as parliamentarians to debate.

Tonight I will address a couple of elements in the private member's bill. First is the issue of first nation bylaw publication; second, outdated sections in the act; and finally, the repeal of the residential school references in the act.

Currently, first nation band councils do not have the same opportunities that municipalities and rural municipalities have to independently develop bylaws. There is also no requirement for first nations to make their bylaws publicly available to their members. As a result, for years confusion has reigned as first nation residents and law enforcement officials have often found themselves in the dark as to the specific nature of the bylaws of each individual first nation.

In addition, first nation band councils have had to go to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs to request approval for each and every bylaw. This cumbersome process has caused many bands to wait for extended lengths of time for approval or even to have their bylaws declined. Others have chosen to completely bypass the minister and as a result do not openly inform their membership of the changes to band bylaws.

Bill C-428 would create a more transparent and accountable process for first nation band members wherein first nation councils would be required to publish their bylaws on their website or via some easily accessible communication channel, such as a band newsletter or widely read local newspapers, television, et cetera. The bill would also eliminate the need to request approval from the minister. The requirement to make each first nation bylaw publicly accessible would provide clarity for first nation residents, visitors and law enforcement officials seeking to understand their role in either abiding by or enforcing these rules. It would also place the responsibility for these bylaw-making powers squarely back in the hands of the first nation, where it belongs, and provide grassroots members of the bands with greater accountability from their band councils.

This change would benefit not only law enforcement officers who would more fully understand the expectations of the chief and council of each first nation for a given bylaw, but also those members of the council and band members eager to see the bylaws that they have enacted enforced in an efficient, effective and timely manner. Importantly, this change would also streamline the decision-making process by eliminating the unnecessary step of having to submit any and every new bylaw to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development for approval. Currently, following the submission of new bylaws to the minister, there follows a 40-day period during which the law may be disallowed by the minister.

Bill C-428 would also repeal sections of the Indian Act that, while they remain in the law, are no longer enforced. This is equivalent to what we would call “legal underbrush”, which confuses the real issues facing the Crown and the first nations. We must clear this underbrush away, so that we can see the parts of the Indian Act that are substantively affecting the daily life of first nations. One of these is the removal of restrictions on the sale of produce from reserves. There are several other similar examples of sections of the Indian Act that are no longer enforced and that simply have no place in modern legislation.

Though there have been numerous amendments to the Indian Act over the years, the substance of the statute remains very much in the 19th century and that fact is reflected in the language of the document. The bill would seek to do bring the language and content of the statute into the modern era. Incremental changes such as these would pave the way for future legislation to be developed in collaboration with first nation members that would benefit all Canadians.

Some of the detractors of Bill C-428 have chosen to ridicule this set of changes. That is misguided. As a lawyer, I feel very strongly that it is important to take those steps to remove from the law things that are no longer relevant, or in the case of residential schools, institutions we no longer support. It is a dark chapter in Canada's history and we must move on from that.

By taking concrete steps to amend the language and remove outdated and irrelevant sections of the Indian Act, this bill addresses some of the challenges facing first nations communities in regard to their political, social and economic development.

Bill C-428 would also remove the provisions allowing for the establishment of residential schools.

On June 11, 2008, the Prime Minister of Canada made an impassioned and heartfelt apology to the first nations people of Canada for the treatment of children in residential schools, a sad and shameful chapter in our nation's history. The Prime Minister deservedly received praise, not only for the sentiment of the statement but also for the eloquence with which it was expressed and the sincerity of his remarks. Following this momentous apology, the government also announced its intent to repeal those sections of the Indian Act that allowed for the establishment of Indian residential schools and the removal of children from their homes and communities.

Bill C-428 would do exactly that. It would remove from the Indian Act, once and for all, any mention of residential schools as well as the outdated language dealing with the religion of first nations residents in relation to their schooling. This would ensure that no future government could open a residential school for first nations.

The pain arising from the legacy of residential schools continues to affect constituents in the great Kenora riding and across the country. By removing this antiquated language and all references to residential schools, we can take another collective step on the path toward healing as a nation.

While the horrors of the residential school situation cannot be erased or forgotten, removing the segments of the Indian Act, which still to this day refer to residential schools, can provide a path to better understanding and can reassure our first nations' communities of our commitment to never see this happen again.

The Indian Act has had the effect of robbing children of their goals and ambitions. By nourishing and encouraging the dreams of first nations youth, we help not only these children but our entire community. For generations the Indian Act has allowed the potential of first nations youth to wither. We cannot afford to allow this waste to continue.

The colonial and discriminatory nature of the Indian Act has led to decades of discrimination and cultural division. The residential schools were a vehicle for the social, cultural and spiritual destruction that was embedded in the act. Removing offensive and irrelevant sections from the Indian Act is symbolic and will help residential school survivors on their personal path to healing.

Bill C-428 has as its primary goal the empowerment of first nations people and their governments. I am proud to stand here today in support of the work my colleague from Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River is doing in this regard. I thank the residents of the great Kenora riding, particularly our first nations communities, more than 42 in our jurisdiction.

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement ActPrivate Members' Business

November 28th, 2012 / 7:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to this bill. It is very clear that the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River has the best of intentions. With great regret, I have to join those who are opposed to this bill. For the most part, it is not because of the substantive changes the member has brought forward, which a number of members in his party have spoken for. The main problem with this bill is that it is breaking the constitutional obligation for advanced consultation, consideration and accommodation.

I would go to the preamble of the member's bill. My concern with the preamble is the reference to the commitment of the Government of Canada to exploring creative options for the development of new legislation “in collaboration with the First Nations organizations that have demonstrated an interest in this work”. Right off the bat, the member is narrowing the constitutional obligation to consult with all first nations. Perhaps this was unintentional. The member might want to reconsider that, because I think he has the best of intentions for his fellow first nations. It fails to reference first nations governments, and that will derogate from the overriding constitutional obligation.

The bill proposes, as a number of members and the member who tabled the bill have pointed out, a number of measures to rescind or amend provisions in the Indian Act. For example, there are specific provisions to do with residential schools, wills and estates, the duty to attend school, the process for enacting band bylaws and the sale of produce. Few would oppose the right of Canadian first nations to make these kinds of decisions for their own peoples. The problem is not the intention of passing over those powers. The problem is the way in which the member has gone about it.

Another measure I find problematic, which would be a good provision if the rest of the bill could stand and if it had been consulted on in advance, is that the bill would require the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to report annually to the aboriginal affairs committee on actions taken to replace the Indian Act. What would have been preferable in such a bill, and I would think first nations would agree, is that the report should be to Parliament, which is normally what happens with a matter of interest to this place. Of course, there should be the duty of prior consultation.

The member suggested when he tabled the bill that clause 2 of the bill, on the minister reporting to the committee, also requires a collaborative consultation between first nations and the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development on the Indian Act. Regrettably, there is no such provision in the bill. It would have been a useful one and would certainly be supported by first nations.

The biggest problem with this bill is the duty to consult. As I mentioned, and as should be known to members in this place, there is an overriding constitutional duty to consult. That duty was upheld in the famous Mikisew Cree case, which originated in my province, with the Mikisew Cree First Nation. It has been repeated in numerous cases since. That duty is on the Government of Canada to advance consultation, consideration and accommodation of first nation peoples' interests before any decision is made by the Government of Canada.

That duty is reiterated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in both articles 18 and 19. Article 18 states:

Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions.

Article 19 states:

States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.

At the Crown-first nation gathering, as a number of members have pointed out, including the member who tabled the bill, the Prime Minister made certain commitments regarding the Indian Act. He stated:

To be sure, our government has no grand scheme to repeal or unilaterally rewrite the Indian Act.

Thus he undertook to work in collaboration with first nations should any changes be made to the Indian Act.

The member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River has advised the House that he had consulted first nations in the development of the bill and had found support. I conferred with a number of first nations, particularly in the Prairies, to determine their views so that I could share them in the House and confirm if they had been expressed to the member. This is what I have been able to determine. In the first nations that I was able to reach in Alberta, I was advised that several presentations were made by the member to the Alberta first nations after the tabling of the bill. That is not a case of advance consultation. Moreover, both of the sessions that were brought to my attention were ticketed events at a cost of $575, including for students. The notice for the meetings clearly said that space was limited and that it was not a consultation.

Alberta Treaty 8 Chief, Rose Laboucan, the regional chief responsible for legislation, advised me today that neither she nor her first nation had been consulted in the drafting of the bill.

I also contacted Saskatchewan first nations. I was provided with the following information. The Assembly of Chiefs of Saskatchewan and the Federation of Chiefs of Indian Nations were so upset by the presentation made by the member that they issued a series of press releases, which I can share. They said:

First Nation leaders attending the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Legislative Assembly were outraged and insulted by Member of Parliament [for Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill's] presentation on his proposed private members Bill C-428.

In particular, Vice Chief Morley Watson stated:

Mr. Clarke requested due to his ongoing work on this Bill that he wouldn't allow questions from the floor at our Legislative Assembly on his Bill C-428. Chiefs were not consulted nor do we view his attendance yesterday as a form of consultation on what Mr. Clarke is trying to undertake with his proposed amendments to the Indian Act. This is furthering the White Paper Policy of 1969.

The vice chief then stated:

If you read the bill as presented there is grave concerns. It is designed to bring into reality the steps to get rid of the Indian Act. [The member] is putting in place the steps needed to accomplish this task. There are many—

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement ActPrivate Members' Business

November 28th, 2012 / 7:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

I believe the member was referring to a member of the House by name, other than the name of the constituency, so I would ask that you ensure that members are referred to by the name of their district rather than by their first or last names.

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement ActPrivate Members' Business

November 28th, 2012 / 7:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, as you will probably confirm, I actually conferred with you in advance to find out if I could say the name of the member and you confirmed to me that I had to say the name of his riding. I apologize if I am having trouble with the pronunciation. I am doing my best.

Continuing on, Vice Chief Watson said:

There are many issues with the Indian Act and this private members bill will not go ahead with the full inclusion and support of all First Nations. FSIN has a consultation policy and the federal government needs to recognize our Inherent, Sovereign and Treaty Rights.

The second release states:

The Member of Parliament for Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River...addressed Chiefs-in-Assembly regarding his Private Members Bill C-428 to amend the Indian Act. The approach used by Mr. Clarke to not take any questions from the Chiefs-in-Assembly offended and disgusted—

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement ActPrivate Members' Business

November 28th, 2012 / 7:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I should have said the approach used by the member to not take any questions from the chiefs and assembly offended and disgusted his audience. The federation has sent a formal response letter to the Prime Minister's Office regarding the bill.

There was a third release in October expressing strong concerns with the bill. I will not read that out again, but strong concerns with the process followed.

I will share the words of the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. He e has expressed concern:

Federal attempts to repair the much-hated Indian Act are not going to work because First Nations have not been involved in designing the way forward.

He then said:

...Ottawa has taken a piecemeal approach to First Nations reform—fiddling with education here, clean drinking water there—without tackling the fundamental problem of aboriginal treaties and rights not being respected.

He was quoted on Friday saying, “You've got to do them at the same time. They are one piece”.

I commend the member for coming forward and trying to spur changes in this avenue but. regrettably, there does not appear to have been sufficient prior consultation and, therefore, we cannot support the bill.

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement ActPrivate Members' Business

November 28th, 2012 / 7:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is truly an honour to rise and speak about a subject that is dear to my heart, which is the replacement and eventual repeal of the Indian Act.

I have to commend my colleague for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River for the courage he has shown in taking on this important issue. This is an individual who, as a first nation man, has conducted his whole life living under the Indian Act. He is someone who has been able to interact with his fellow first nation brothers and sisters for his entire life. This is consultation. It is a degree of consultation that no one in the House currently has, in my opinion, in their past. He has been meeting with people across Canada on this important subject. However, I do know of some recent bills that have not been consulted on.

The member for Edmonton—Strathcona has referred to article 18 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. She is quite right, there is an obligation to consult with indigenous peoples. I wholly support that and I thank the member for bringing it up. However, there are cases where it has not happened.

Yesterday, I was at the justice committee. Currently, Bill C-279 is before the committee and we had witnesses from the Canadian Human Rights Commission. I asked the commission whether that bill had an impact on first nation people. Are first nation communities impacted by this act and does it have an impact on the lives of first nation people? Their answer was yes, that bill absolutely does affect first nation people.

My question then became whether there was consultation on the bill? In fact, there was not. The member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca did not indicate that there was any consultation. I spoke with the Assembly of First Nations, which the member for Edmonton—Strathcona referred to as an important entity with which we discuss these issues. They are the bona fide organization of first nation people. However, they were not contacted on that bill. Also, during those deliberations, the member for Gatineau, in a cavalier way, just set aside that there was any obligation to consult with first nation people on that bill.

Therefore, I take offence to what the member is suggesting. The member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River is truly a hero to me and others in the first nation community for the work that he is doing. To suggest that we are not reaching out to our aboriginal friends is, in my opinion, not reality. It is something that we are endeavouring to do.

I would ask the member to talk to some of her colleagues about some of the bills that they are proposing and the impact they have on first nation people. She shakes her head much like the member for Gatineau, who cavalierly set it aside that there was any obligation to consult with first nation people on a bill that would impact their communities.

As I said, this is an important day. The bill is timely and necessary. With each passing day, the Indian Act is revealed to be unfit for the times in which we live. When it was first enacted in 1876, it disenfranchised first nation people and it still disenfranchises everyone who lives under it today.

Just recently, we have seen a clear example of why the Indian Act must go in my home province. In fact, in Manitoba in Buffalo Point First Nation there are residents, women and children, living in that community who risk being put out on the street because of political disagreements with their chief. Because of these protests, they could have their homes taken away from them and be disenfranchised through the powers granted under the Indian Act.

Imagine if this were to happen off reserve. Imagine if someone disagreed with their city councillor and all of a sudden were evicted from their home and put out on the street. There would be mass outrage and nobody would stand for that. This is the exact point I would like to make about this community and unfortunately sometimes other communities as well.

Disenfranchisement is occurring. It violates not only any sense of justice or decency but all democratic principles, which is one reason and just one reason why the Indian Act needs to be replaced. It is an archaic, oppressive and unjust legislation. It denies aboriginal Canadians the rights they deserve. It denies individual rights. It denies matrimonial and property rights, leaving women in danger of losing everything due to disputes outside of their control.

Many people may not be aware, but the Indian Act denies first nations people the right to control their own wills and estates. The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development has the power to void the will of a first nations person if he or she so chooses. As my colleague has said, Bill C-428 would repeal the sections of the Indian Act that gives this paternalistic power to the minister. It would be a step toward true freedom and independence for first nations people.

Bill C-428 would also return the authority over the creation of bylaws on reserves where it belongs, with the leadership of that reserve. As it currently stands, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development must sign off on bylaws made by leadership on reserves. First nations people can govern themselves. They do not need this pre-Confederation prison to remain. As with the wills and estates rules, this is a further denial of independence and decision making for first nations people.

The Indian Act has no place in the 20th century or the 21st century. It is time to replace this act.

The member for Kenora, who was here earlier, has done great work as the parliamentary secretary to aboriginal affairs and has been a great advocate for the Métis people in my community and first nations Inuit people as well. I think back to previous members from other parties in that riding who have also done great work. A former member of the Liberal Party, Mr. Robert Nault, who was the then minister of Indian Affairs, brought forward some very innovative solutions, namely the First Nations Governance Act, which I thought was a step in the right direction. Many first nations did not like that approach, but many did.

One of the aspects of that bill on which everyone agreed was the Indian Act needed to be repealed. The starting point that everyone in the House agrees on is the Indian Act must be replaced.

I have had the opportunity to work with first nations people from across Canada. I have had the opportunity to work with first nations chiefs, councillors and regular community members. There is no question that everyone believes it is time for this act to be replaced. I believe the Indian Act is nothing less than a prison that shackles aboriginal people in our country and prevents them from achieving economic actualization.

We need to proceed with the initiatives that the member has proposed before the House. He started a debate that I am glad we are having. There are opinions from all sides on this matter, but what we can all agree on is that the Indian Act must be replaced. I would hope that at some point in the near future we can get to that moment where first nations people will be enfranchised and have the autonomy they deserve.

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement ActPrivate Members' Business

November 28th, 2012 / 7:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand here today and close debate on my Bill C-428, An Act to amend the Indian Act (publication of by-laws) and to provide for its replacement.

As a member of Muskeg Lake First Nations and as a former RCMP officer who spent a large part of my 18 years on the force doing first nations policing, I have seen first-hand the cultural, societal and economic barriers that the Indian Act has built. It is an archaic and colonialist piece of legislation that institutionalizes racism and represses the self-determination of first nations.

The Indian Act is completely contrary to Canadian values and has kept first nations from taking advantage of the same rights and opportunities that have been available to all other Canadians for 136 years.

Clearly, something needs to change. All Canadians recognize the hardship the Indian Act has caused my people and we are all eager for positive, enduring change.

After engaging with many first nations organizations, leaders, band members and other interested stakeholders, I believe we have arrived at an important turning point. My private member's bill is the result of significant open discussion and represents the desire of first nations to be self-reliant and free from the shackles of the Indian Act.

Throughout this engagement process, I have always welcomed feedback on ways the bill could be improved. I recognize that there may be a need for amendments that will clarify certain aspects of the bill and I have indicated that I am open to that.

I look forward to hearing more from grassroots members and leaders of first nations and other interested parties before, during and after committee hearings. Their suggestions and concerns will certainly be valuable to this process and will be taken very seriously.

I have been heartened recently to hear that first nations leadership has acknowledged that the Indian Act and its bureaucracy must go. It is important that first nations take leadership and initiative in order to ensure success.

I am proud that my Bill C-428 has provided the opportunity for a frank discussion and debate, and has led to a recognition of the fact that the Indian Act is a blemish on Canadian society in a way that has never been done before. Until we can provide for its replacement, it hinders first nations' success and prosperity.

I believe that my bill is only the first step in doing away with the Indian Act entirely, and we must continue to focus our efforts on fulfilling that goal. That is why I believe one of the most crucial components of my bill is the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development's duty to report to the aboriginal affairs committee on all work undertaken by his or her department in collaboration with first nations organizations, leaders, band members and other interested parties to develop new legislation to replace the outdated Indian Act.

The introduction of such a process accepts the need for ongoing collaboration between the Crown and first nations. Other parts of the Indian Act, like the subsections on will and estates, and the bylaw publication, emphasize the need to move beyond the Indian Act.

It is hard to believe that, in 2012, first nations reserves must seek permission from the minister to sell their produce and that they are prohibited from doing business with anyone they choose. These paternalistic features stand in the way of first nations independence and perpetuate the paternalism. It is about time that first nations are afforded the same rights and opportunities that all Canadians expect and deserve.

We have a unique opportunity today to fulfill this vision. My bill transcends partisan politics and I urge strong multi-partisan support.

The opposition needs to understand that first nations are as rich in diversity and opinion as all Canadians are. To think otherwise is outdated and out of touch.

Bill C-428 is just the beginning of a long road of empowering first nations people and doing away with paternalistic and offensive policies. I am confident it will spur the necessary change we are all striving.

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement ActPrivate Members' Business

October 18th, 2012 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

moved that Bill C-428, An Act to amend the Indian Act (publication of by-laws) and to provide for its replacement, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure today that I open the debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-428, Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act. I am proud to be first nations and as a former member of the RCMP for over 18 years, just as proud to have achieved the rank of sergeant. During that time I was in charge of two detachments. All of my service involved policing on and off first nation reserves.

In 2008, I was elected to represent Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, a constituency containing over 23 first nation communities and the second largest first nation population in Canada.

Having had to enforce the Indian Act across Saskatchewan, I am keenly aware of the challenges posed by the outdated, racist, colonial statute referred to as the Indian Act. The problems created by this archaic piece of legislation are far-reaching, extending to every aspect of the lives of every first nations person and the root cause of the Attawapiskats of our country.

During the Assembly of First Nations election speeches in July of this year, all the candidates stated that the Indian Act must go. Clearly, everyone agrees that changes must be made to the Indian Act in order to start a process of consultation, in order to start a dialogue and in order to amend the Indian Act. I hope in my lifetime to see the complete repeal of the Indian Act and see it replaced by a more modern set of laws that reflect today's values, but also respect the past.

I hope one day the amendments proposed in my private member's bill will help lead us to build a more modern, respectful relationship between federal government and first nations, and finally kick-start this larger process to repeal and replace the entire Indian Act. These amendments to the Indian Act can be an important stepping stone on the path of achieving self-sufficiency and prosperity in first nation communities. The acronym for this path would be ARRC: amend, repeal, replace, and most importantly, consult.

The bill would amend the bylaw section of the act; repeal and replace several outdated, unused and patronizing sections of the act; and create a process that would enable collaborative consultation with first nations. The goal is to replace the Indian Act with laws which would both describe and enshrine a more respectful and modern relationship between first nations and the Crown.

I would like to expand on the content of Bill C-428. The bill would enable first nations and band councils to publish their own bylaws without having to seek the permission of the Aboriginal Affairs or the signature of the minister. Empowering first nation communities to take control of their lives and the environment in which they live is a crucial step toward autonomy and self-reliance.

Under this amendment, a band would also be required to publish bylaws created by their council on one of a variety of forms of media, such as the band website, the First Nations Gazette, or in local newspapers or newsletters that have general circulation in their first nation communities and to their band membership.

By making plain the bylaws of each first nation, we create greater transparency and accountability for first nation residents and for those enforcing the bylaws. This will take the minister out of the equation and put the responsibility for the bylaws squarely where it belongs: with the band council and band members. It will provide first nations with the same rights and responsibilities that rural and urban municipalities have today.

I would like to stop here for a moment and talk about the everyday challenges that are faced by first nation governments. We are all aware of the crisis of alcohol, drug and solvent abuse that has led to the high rate of suicide in many of these first nation communities. It is with this in mind that I want to see first nations able to act on these problems expediently and to create legislation that would reflect their culture and communal standards without having to seek the permission of the minister to act.

The bill would replace section 85.1, which prohibits the sale of alcohol on first nations land and will place that option back into the hands of the band council. In fact, the decision to allow the sale of alcohol on reserve has been in the hands of some bands for some time, but the Indian Act is not up-to-date with the current policy.

First nations people also do not have the same rights as other Canadians in regard to wills and estates. The Indian Act gives extraordinary powers to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, including the ability to appoint executors of wills for first nations people and to appoint administrators.

What most Canadians and first nations do not know is that the minister also holds the ability to declare the will of a first nations person not valid. No will pertaining to a first nations resident is valid unless approved by the minister as dictated by the Indian Act. I call this a paternalistic approach. This does not belong in a free and democratic society. My bill would repeal the sections of the Indian Act that grant the minister these exceptional powers in the administration of the wills of all first nations residents.

Bill C-428 would also remove impediments to trade in the form of the repeal of section 92, which restricts certain members of society from engaging in trade with first nations individuals.

It is important to note that the bill would at last remove the archaic educational element of the Indian Act, which led to the formation of residential schools, and remove the term “residential school” from the act.

I am proud of the accomplishments of this government in regard to recognizing the tragedy of and apologizing for residential schools. I am proud as a first nations man, whose grandparents attended residential schools in Duck Lake, Saskatchewan, to be privileged to be a member of the House of Commons and to repeal this particularly shameful section and wording of the Indian Act. I fear that having this remain in the Indian Act will enable future governments to create residential schools on first nations reserves.

I am proud that our Prime Minister has apologized for the travesty of the residential schools, for the pain and destruction they brought to all first nations and for the shame they have brought to Canada.

I sat only two seats from the Prime Minister as he delivered this apology and personally witnessed the emotion with which he delivered the speech. The Prime Minister deservedly received praise not only for the sentiment of the statement but also for the eloquence and sincerity with which he expressed his remarks.

However, for me the most important part of the bill is the mandate that would be given to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs to report annually on the progress being made toward the repeal and replacement of the Indian Act. This report would be specifically on the collaborative work being done by first nations and the Crown to get out of the Indian Act. This section of my bill requires a collaborative consultation process between first nations and the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs specifically on the Indian Act. A report must be published to the House of Commons committee on aboriginal affairs by January 31 of each year. This will ensure that first nations can hold the government accountable for moving forward toward the complete removal of the Indian Act in a meaningful and respectful way.

It should be clear to all that the substance of the bill provides no cause for alarm among first nations people. Nor is there any cause for false alarms to be raised by first nation leaders.

I have arrived at the current set of changes through consultation with other first nation members within my constituency as well as around the country. I have had four drafts in the past and I am open to the amendments that may come forward through this important dialogue.

There is no larger agenda at play. The repeal of sections of the Indian Act represent a step toward a modernized relationship between our government and the first nations of Canada, nothing more. It is plain for all to see that there is no suggestion that the Indian Act be repealed in its entirety with nothing left in its stead. Rather, my bill simply seeks to remove outdated concepts and language from the existing act.

I hope that individuals will be inspired to reflect upon and review the Indian Act and my private member's bill in this light. It is my hope that this debate will start a larger process to look at outdated language in the act.

When I started this journey four and a half years ago, I hoped this bill would open a discussion and meaningful dialogue and debate. I hoped that with the passage of this bill we could look forward to a better relationship and a true partnership between first nations and all Canadians, and I mean all Canadians.

Today as I stand here, I feel strong emotions about what I am doing. This is not a partisan effort. I am doing this as a proud Canadian who has served my country and also as a first nations man who wants to see a better life for first nations and all Canadians.

I am hoping that the opposition will support this bill because it is not a partisan issue. I encourage all members of the House to support my bill to modernize this outdated and colonial paternalistic legislation called the Indian Act.

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement ActPrivate Members' Business

October 18th, 2012 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for outlining his intention behind the bill. My question for him has to do with consultation. Vice Chief Watson from the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations states that his organization “has a consultation policy and the federal government needs to recognize our Inherent, Sovereign and Treaty Rights”.

Since this could have a wide impact, and under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples it is well recognized that there needs to be free, prior and informed consent, would the member tell the House exactly which nations he consulted with and what their approach was to this particular piece of legislation?

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement ActPrivate Members' Business

October 18th, 2012 / 5:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have 23 first nations in my constituency. One of them is Pelican Lake First Nation. That is a start.

First of all, I am a first nations person. There are 633 first nations across Canada and in the process all 633, on four separate occasions, have received communications from me, asking for their input and their recommendations to amend my act if they saw anything that they would like to improve.

I stand here in bewilderment of the parliamentary process, of my being a first nations person and not being given the opportunity to bring a bill forward as a first nations person in the House of Commons, as every other member in the House has that right.

First nation leaders also have a responsibility to consult with their membership and make decisions. On many occasions, as a first nations leader, I am not consulted.

To reply, many first nations chiefs are afraid to come forward right now in fear of reprisal. They also have to face elections in the near future. It is a peer-pressure system that the Indian Act has created.

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement ActPrivate Members' Business

October 18th, 2012 / 5:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, we all, as individual members, have the right to bring forward legislative ideas. We within the Liberal Party are disappointed in the fact that the current Prime Minister has not recognized how critically important it is to work with aboriginal and first nations leadership, in particular, from coast to coast to coast. When dealing with the many different issues, it is important to sit across the table in a comprehensive way, much like what Paul Martin did and ultimately came up with the Kelowna accord, which was something that would have had a very positive impact on our first nations.

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement ActPrivate Members' Business

October 18th, 2012 / 5:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

I can see the Conservatives are a little sensitive, given that it was their government that ultimately burnt that particular accord.

Does the member not see that the Prime Minister of Canada needs to start talking with the stakeholders, in particular our first nations? He must sit at the table and treat the first nations as strong partners and try to come up with ways to resolve the many outstanding issues that exist.

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement ActPrivate Members' Business

October 18th, 2012 / 5:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I recall the Prime Minister standing up at the first nations gathering in the January of this year. However, we also heard first nations come forward and ask government to remove the barriers or handcuffs of the Indian Act.

What I have heard in years past from the Liberal Party are all of these false promises. We have heard the Kelowna accord. We heard Robert Nault stand up to introduce a government bill to get rid of the Indian Act. We have heard about the white paper.

The Liberal members are over there squawking and a little upset because they did not get it done over 13 years. They had 13 years during which they introduced the Kelowna accord and the implementation act, but they did not get it done. They had the opportunity.

In talking to my colleague here on the consultation process, our government is working hard in consultation towards a new modern relationship to address the needs and crisis that is facing first nations today.

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement ActPrivate Members' Business

October 18th, 2012 / 5:30 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to address Bill C-428, an act to amend the Indian Act (publication of by-laws) and to provide for its replacement.

I want to begin by saying that New Democrats will be opposing the bill for a number of very good reasons.

The bill seeks to amend the Indian Act by deleting sections dealing with wills and estates, sale of produce, trade with certain people and the sections on residential schools. It also calls on the government to make an annual report to Parliament on its progress in dismantling the Indian Act.

New Democrats do not support the bill because the member did not consult with first nations before presenting the bill.

Although the bill would delete some archaic provisions, like the sale of produce, other deleted sections, like the provisions for wills and estates, could put first nation citizens living on reserve in legal limbo because there is no guarantee that provincial legislation would cover their situations.

Tribal councils may have to provide advice regarding the proposed new provisions on wills and estates, which would be increasingly difficult due to the funding cuts to tribal councils and aboriginal representative organizations announced on September 4, 2012 by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

Also, the deletion of the provisions on residential schools was supposed to be government legislation, not hidden in a private member's bill. New Democrats would like to see those provisions dealt with by the minister, as promised to first nations at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's national ceremony.

I heard the member opposite actually not answer my question about consultation. However, there have been a number of court cases that talked about what consultation involves. I can say that consultation does not entail receiving emails from people. It does not entail posting some information on one's website. That does not constitute consultation, nor is consultation constituted by having witnesses appear before a committee.

If the Conservatives are serious about a new relationship with first nations, they would withdraw the bill, go back to the drawing board and talk to first nations from coast to coast to coast with meaningful consultation. They have a duty to consult.

This piece of legislation could have very serious--

Indian Act Amendment and Replacement ActPrivate Members' Business

October 18th, 2012 / 5:35 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that. When the member was giving his speech, we allowed him the time and space to deliver it without the heckling and the noise.

I want to point out how serious this is. We have a private member's bill that is attempting to dismantle the Indian Act. I think there is agreement that the Indian Act is an archaic piece of legislation that needs to go, but the question is how it should go. Should it be through a private member's bill? Absolutely not. That does not recognize the nation-to-nation relationship that exists in this country.

There have been two other major attempts that ended in dismal failure, I might point out, and they were government bills, not private members' bills. There have been two major attempts at removing the Indian Act in the past. The first was a white paper authorized by Jean Chrétien in 1969 that sought to assimilate first nations into mainstream Canadian society by scrapping the Indian Act and reserves. We can see from the kinds of legislation that have been tabled in the House in the past that it is no wonder that first nations from coast to coast to coast are nervous about any attempt that does not involve meaningful consultation. People do not know what the end result of this is going to be because they are not involved and not at the table.

Harold Cardinal, another first nations leader, in response to the 1969 white paper, published a red paper titled “Citizens Plus” that outlined in reply:

It is neither possible nor desirable to eliminate the Indian Act. It is essential to review it, but not before the question of treaties is settled. Some sections can be altered, amended, or deleted readily. Other sections need more careful study, because the Indian Act provided for Indian people, the legal framework that is provided in many federal and provincial statutes for other Canadians. Thus the Indian Act is very complicated and cannot simply be burned.

In 2003, the Liberals introduced Bill C-7, the first nations governance act, which was widely panned by first nations who questioned if it was consistent with the rights, needs and priorities of Canadian first nations. Sadly, there was a news release on October 18 that indicates that the government would be supporting Bill C-428. The question then, of course, comes back to the new relationship that was promised at the Crown-first nations gathering back in January and how unilaterally introducing a private member's bill on some serious matters constitutes a new relationship in this country.

If the government were serious about a new relationship, it would go back to reports like that of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. A couple of years ago, the Assembly of First Nations issued a report card and, essentially, it almost gave an F across the board for what had been implemented. The royal commission process was a comprehensive one that many people had some faith in, but most of the recommendations have been completely disregarded by various governments since 1996. If it were serious, the government would go back to that, and if it were serious about consultation, it would go back to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and that very important clause about free, prior and informed consent. This bill does nothing to address any of that.

I want to go back to a paper that was published back in 1987 entitled, “Aboriginal People: History of Discriminatory Laws”. This paper states:

It is generally accepted that the often conflicting goals of “civilization,” assimilation, and protection of Indian peoples that have been pursued throughout the history of federal Indian legislation have their origin in (primarily British) colonialism. Throughout the colonial and post-Confederation periods, governments vacillated between two policies. The isolationist policy held that assimilation could be best achieved by isolating Indians on reserves, with Indian agents gradually preparing them for integration with the dominant society. (Alternatively, isolation was viewed by some simply as a protective measure until the Indian people should become extinct). The policy of immediate assimilation, on the other hand, favoured immediate placement of Indians among non-native people and removal of special protective measures and legal status. The isolationist policy has predominated but, as some observers have noted, it has had the unintended result of preserving Indian cultures and providing a means for the Indian people to resist assimilative pressures. Accordingly, Indians have fought to retain their reserves, treaty rights and special legal status as a way of maintaining distinct cultural or national identities.

While Indian people view reserve and treaty rights as a quid pro quo for giving up a good part of their traditional lands, federal and provincial governments have frequently taken the view that the Indians’ refusal to abandon their distinctive cultures, government and identities is a refusal to take up the ways of a more “advanced civilization” and accordingly, a refusal to take up the “responsibilities” of full citizenship. In the result, the history of native policy, particularly Indian policy, in Canada is replete with examples of legal bars to the exercise of fundamental civil, political and cultural rights.

That continues to this day and this bill does nothing to address the problems that first nations across this country are facing, whether it is human rights or the ridiculous number of aboriginal women who are in prison.

One-third of women in federal prison are aboriginal. We had the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which talks about the dismal failure of aboriginal policy to keep children out of prisons. We have the current government still fighting at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on child welfare.

If the Conservatives are serious about a new relationship they will withdraw this bill, go back to the drawing board and work with first nations to fully implement a consultative approach to eliminating the Indian Act.

I want to add that there was a man named Leo Baskatawang, who—