Evidence of meeting #10 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was c-3.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Dianne Corbiere  Representative, Indigenous Bar Association
Ellen Gabriel  President, Quebec Native Women Inc.
Chief Lucien Wabanonik  Grand Chief, Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador
Daniel Nolett  Director General, Abenakis Band Council of Odanak, Grand Council of the Waban-Aki Nation
Michèle Taina Audette  Representative, Marche Amun, Grand Council of the Waban-Aki Nation
David Nahwegahbow  Representative, Indigenous Bar Association
Paul Dionne  Lawyer, Grand Council of the Waban-Aki Nation
Angus Toulouse  Ontario Regional Chief, Chiefs of Ontario
Guy Lonechild  Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations
Chief Stewart Phillip  President, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs
David Walkem  Chief, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs
William K. Montour  Chief, Six Nations of the Grand River
Richard Powless  Advisor, Six Nations of the Grand River
R. Donald Maracle  Chief of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians
Sharon Venne  Treaty Researcher, As an Individual
Pamela Palmater  Chair, Ryerson University's Centre for the Study of Indigenous Governance, As an Individual

4:50 p.m.

President, Quebec Native Women Inc.

Ellen Gabriel

Yes. I wanted to add that for membership, you have to be a status Indian. That doesn't necessarily mean that if you have status, you have membership. That's been the problem for a lot of indigenous women who regained their status in 1985 but who are not allowed to live in their communities, to be buried in their communities, or to own land that their parents give to them. That's one of the problems we have.

If this bill is going to be passed without amendments, then we need some guarantees that band councils will also respect it. Band councils receive their authority from the Minister of Indian Affairs. Some of our members have problems in receiving services, because while they have membership in Ottawa and status in Ottawa, their own bands refuse to grant them and their children any services. We talked about discrimination, but we also have to address the problem of discrimination at every single level.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Okay.

We are out of time. Thank you very much.

I thank all our witnesses again for their understanding this afternoon and for abiding by sometimes strict time guidelines.

Members, we're now going to suspend for about three minutes. We'll try to switch over as quickly as we can, and then we'll resume our second hour.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Ladies and gentlemen, I would ask that we invite our witnesses to take their seats for our second hour.

I apologize for pushing people along in our timelines here, but we have a very busy afternoon.

As some of you who were here in the last hour know, we're under some fairly stringent timelines today. But we will adhere....

Order. If I could ask those who have discussions going on to take those outside the room, that would be great.

We'll continue with our consideration of Bill C-3.

As I was saying, we will stay with the normal format of 10-minute presentations and we will have one round of seven-minute questions and responses.

We welcome to our second hour Chief Angus Toulouse, Ontario regional chief, Chiefs of Ontario, who is joined by Johanna Lazore, senior policy advisor.

We also welcome Chief William Montour, who is joined by Mr. Richard Powless, both from the Six Nations of the Grand River. Welcome.

We'd also like to welcome Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and Chief David Walkem of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.

Finally, just about to take their seats, we have Chief Guy Lonechild, who is joined by Paul Chartrand. Both are from the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.

As you heard, we're going to go quickly through the presentations. I will have to keep you to the 10-minute mark, and I'll try to signal that you're coming close to the end of the 10 minutes.

Let's begin with Chief Toulouse from the Chiefs of Ontario.

Chief Toulouse, please go ahead.

5 p.m.

Chief Angus Toulouse Ontario Regional Chief, Chiefs of Ontario

Thank you.

I'm from Sagamok Anishnawbek, on the north shores of Lake Huron. I'm here on behalf of the Chiefs of Ontario. Thanks for the invitation to appear before you on this important matter.

Canada's proposed amendments to address the British Columbia Court of Appeal's decision in McIvor fall short of eliminating discrimination within the Indian Act. The proposed legislation addresses only one area of discrimination within the Indian Act and does so in a very narrow manner.

First nations women, in particular, and their descendants have been subject to various forms of discrimination based on sex, race, and family-marital status since the newcomers to our lands began to impose their laws upon us. This practice is contrary to how first nations women were traditionally treated within our pre-contact societies.

Further, INAC has provided no indication that it will provide additional funding to first nations to cover the costs of new members granted status by the legislation. The lack of funding to accompany new members will likely cause strife and divisions within first nations. The Indian Act amendments proposed by INAC to address the British Colombia Court of Appeal's ruling in McIvor address the gender inequality in the registration of status Indians, but provide another line of assault upon first nations by corroding their right to determine their membership and identity.

Although Bill C-3 is silent on whether or not bands determining their own membership must accept new members, with the application of the Canadian Human Rights Act on June 18, 2011, to first nation governments, bands may face challenges to their membership codes should they choose not to accept new members for any Canadian Human Rights Act-related reason. Thus, any silence within Bill C-3 on the subject of bands that determine their own membership codes, section 10 bands, should not be seen as effective compliance by Canada to the indigenous right to determine their own identity and membership.

Over half of the 133 first nations within Ontario do not control their first nations lists. This means that new status Indians will be added to those lists by INAC. This, in effect, is a phased approach to taking away the right of first nations to determine their own membership and identity.

In addition, INAC has proposed a process of information gathering to address the broader issues of first nations citizenship. Such a process will be completely futile without a commitment from Canada to recognize first nations jurisdiction over our identities and membership. Our individual and collective identities have been insidiously taken over by concepts that are rooted in a foreign ideology, one bent on weakening our nations. Issues of indigenous identity and membership in Canada cannot be looked at without first acknowledging the context of colonialism that continues to exist within Canada and continues to negatively affect first nations.

Continuing colonialism mostly arises out of the actions or inactions of those who refuse to acknowledge and address their attitudes of paternalism and subjugation towards first nations. It is unfortunate that this aspect of our history needs to be consistently re-mentioned within all of our work, as it has yet to be fully understood and accepted by Canada.

Not only has our cultural sense of belonging been undermined by imposed definitions, but our psychologies, spiritualities, and political structures have also been impacted. We have individually and collectively experienced the intrusion of the Indian Act upon our daily lives for the past few generations. The right to control our identities without interference should be recognized as an integral aspect of reconciliation and is really about our right to exist as peoples.

On April 1, 2010, INAC Minister Strahl presented to this committee and stated that there is no consensus among first nations on the broader issues of membership and identity. While this statement may in part have some merit, its true value is in demonstrating the government's lack of understanding of the context of colonialism.

Surely it was not INAC's expectation that after several centuries of both intentional and systemic subjugation, first nations would be able to reach a consensus on how best to fix the first nations citizenship issues within a matter of months. Even after a lengthy process of repairing the damage of the last few centuries through a process of decolonization, it is unlikely that the many culturally and linguistically diverse first nations in Canada will reach a consensus on anything beyond key principles.

Canada continues to effectively ignore a key international instrument, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, that describes the minimum standards required for the survival of indigenous peoples.

Although the most recent Speech from the Throne provided an indication of the current government's intention to endorse the declaration “in a manner fully consistent with Canada's Constitution and laws”, this commitment could arguably impose a lower standard upon the human rights found in the declaration. The proposed amendments and INAC's information-gathering session fall short of living up to the minimum standards described within the declaration.

A situation that has served to assist the breakdown of our collective identities has been our economic dependence upon the Government of Canada. The wilful ignorance of our treaty rights, deprivation from our lands and resources, and paternalistic legislation have all contributed to the situation we are in today. This unfortunate reality serves to demonstrate in part how we have come to rely upon definitions of “Indian” and “aboriginal” that are always attached to the rights and benefits we need to live.

Many first nations individuals in Ontario now find themselves in a state of poverty that is difficult to overcome. First nations governments face a similar struggle in trying to meet the basic needs of their community members.

With regard to the legislative amendments proposed within Bill C-3, INAC has indicated it does not know what the exact impact upon first nations will be. However, the projected number of new registrants is approximately 45,000.

Ontario has one of the largest populations of first nations inhabitants within Canada. With no mention in the federal throne speech nor in the recently released budget, first nations in Ontario potentially face massive pressures upon the limited funding they receive for critical areas such as education and housing.

The current government has demonstrated little concern for the numerous first nations citizens and families who are already living at or below the poverty line. The combined effect of the HST, the harmonized sales tax, increased membership under Bill C-3, the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, and the matrimonial real property legislation proposed in Bill S-4 will potentially deliver a devastating blow to first nations' struggling economies. Ironically, both Ontario and Canada have publicly pledged their commitment to helping eradicate first nations poverty. Without increased funding to accompany legislative changes, only harmful effects will be felt by the first nations people.

In conclusion, I make the following recommendations to the Government of Canada:

Recognize and respect first nations right to determine and have jurisdiction over our own identities and citizenship.

Acknowledge Canada's colonial history and commit to a process of decolonization. This should serve as the foundation for all other efforts to help first nations peoples.

Comply with human rights standards described in international law relating to indigenous peoples, in particular the indigenous right to determine identity and membership as well as the right to free, prior, and informed consent.

Canada, working together with first nations, should focus on addressing fiscal relations in order to move away from the existing unsatisfactory contribution arrangements. Address the reality that cost implications are a key interest underlying the government's insistence on controlling status.

Last, commit to providing financial assistance to first nations before the implementation of this legislation.

Meegwetch.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Thank you, Chief Toulouse. I appreciate that.

Now we'll go to Chief Guy Lonechild. It's great to have you back, Chief. It's on a different subject matter but it's great to see you here. Please go ahead for up to 10 minutes.

April 20th, 2010 / 5:10 p.m.

Chief Guy Lonechild Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

On behalf of Saskatchewan's first nations, I begin by acknowledging the elders of the people of the Algonquin territory.

I want to thank the members of Parliament, this talking place, for giving me the opportunity to speak to you about Bill C-3. I wish to raise two key points this afternoon.

My first is that Bill C-3 could add more than 45 new registered Indians to the Indian registry. One of the questions I would pose in this discussion is, what are the financial implications of Bill C-3? Where, as here, the government has introduced new legislation, and when it does, then as first nations leaders and citizens alike, we want to know what the proposed amendments, if any, will cost. What is the plan of the government regarding the added costs of bringing on new registrants? I have in mind particularly those costs of providing public services to those new registrants.

My second question relates to the exploratory process. We are concerned with what, as we understand it, the government is proposing. We are concerned about a unilaterally imposed process where government agents would listen to people and collect information, but not show interest in having a healthy, friendly discussion on how to create good respectful relations with treaty first nations.

We hear a lot about reconciliation these days, and reconciliation is a two-way street. We are in favour of a process of consultation to establish good relations, including on the nation-to-nation approach where each first nation decides who belongs, in a future where the Indian Act has been abandoned and in its place we have respectful government-to-government relations based on a treaty relationship. It is now a buzzword in Saskatchewan that we are all treaty people. Treaty first nations are voicing a strong willingness to move beyond the Indian Act to a nation-building approach where each nation exercises its right to decide who belongs. On this, there is broad consensus.

FSIN, through its founding document, the Convention Act of 1982, is one such vehicle proven to provide leadership and direction in building consensus among 74 first nations in the province of Saskatchewan. This has resulted in a number of province-wide initiatives that were developed in cooperation with federal and provincial governments.

Let me return to Bill C-3. Bill C-3 is a response to a court case. The government had to do it. While we agree that an amendment was necessary to maintain the legislative foundation for the current Indian Act registration system, we urge the government to adopt a new approach to the way it develops laws and policies dealing with first nations. As in the case of Bill C-3, the government has historically acted by managing issues or responding to crises, by acting only when forced to do so. We are in favour of a principled approach, a nation-building approach, where each nation decides who belongs in a process of negotiations on the institutions of self-government, respect for the treaties, and doing away with the Indian Act. We would like to see a principled approach, one that focuses on nation building and also on the respect for human rights, including the right of self-determination. Each nation would decide who belongs. Negotiations with first nations are necessary because each nation must be free to decide who belongs to it.

The idea that first nations have a right and are in the best position to decide who belongs has a long history in this Parliament. In 1983, the Penner parliamentary committee report recommended that first nations have the right to decide who belongs, for the purpose of deciding the procedures and institutions of self-government. This approach was reflected in the final report in 1996 of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. I have here Mr. Paul Chartrand, a commissioner from the royal commission. It recommended the nation-to-nation approach based on the human right of self-determination.

Several United Nations treaty bodies responsible for overseeing Canada's performance of its obligations under human rights treaties have, since 1998, urged Canada to adopt the RCAP approach as a domestic application of the right of self-determination. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples declares the human right of self-determination of indigenous peoples, and that includes the right to decide who belongs to a people.

You are not going to get consensus on a definition of “Indian” within the Indian Act. The nation-to-nation approach is realistic. It proposes that each nation would be free to decide in a process of negotiations with the federal government. This is what we need, instead of another exploratory process.

Thank you very much.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Thank you, Chief Lonechild.

We'll now go to Grand Chief Phillip and Chief Walkem. They're both from the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.

Grand Chief Phillip, would you like to proceed?

5:15 p.m.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip President, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs

Good afternoon.

Wai xast skelhalt ipsi nuxsil. Encha es quist Ascasiwt.

I would first like to begin by acknowledging and paying my respects to the Algonquin grandmothers, mothers, and granddaughters of this territory. I also extend that recognition to the traditional and spiritual leaders, as well as to the elected officials of the Algonquin people.

I would also like to thank the committee for the opportunity to be here to make our presentation. Chief David Walkem is going to undertake the more comprehensive aspect of our presentation.

I would like to read the most recent resolution from the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, which is a political organization that has existed in the province of British Columbia since 1969. It's interesting to note that it was the indigenous women who raised the funds and created the resources to bring the organization forward as a political voice for their issues.

It's the resolution of the Union B.C. Indian Chiefs, Chiefs Council, March 17 to 18, 2010, Vancouver, B.C. “Resolution no. 2010-08 RE: Bill C-3”:

WHEREAS the appropriate approach to determining citizenship is one that is based within the laws and traditions of Indigenous Peoples; and,

WHEREAS Bill C-3 does not acknowledge Indigenous laws, nor has Canada made space for these discussions to occur in drafting these amendments to the Indian Act; and,

WHEREAS Bill C-3 amendments will not address the many aspects of discrimination against Indigenous women and their descendants that continue to exist in the Indian Act. Importantly, the second generation cut-off provisions will continue to mean that the numbers of status Indians decline in the long run, and that people who are recognized under the laws of their own communities and nations as being citizens will continue to be denied status;

WHEREAS Canada has not articulated an adequate plan to assist and properly resource Indigenous communities in addressing the increase in status Indians and Band members that will result from Bill C-3 and has instead created a situation that will further fracture Indigenous Nations, communities and families.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the UBCIC Chiefs Council adopt the Position Paper on Bill C-3 presented by the Bill C-31 Working Group, as amended from the floor of the UBCIC Chiefs Council;

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the UBCIC Chiefs Council direct the UBCIC Executive, Staff and Bill C-31 Working Group, to:

Approach other Indigenous organizations to work collaboratively to address the amendments to the Indian Act that are being proposed by Canada to respond to the Indian Act under Bill C-31;

Seek standing for the UBCIC Executive to appear before the House Standing Committee considering these amendments;

Undertake an active lobby effort aimed at educating federal Members of Parliament and Members of the Senate (including the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs and federal parties' aboriginal affairs critics) about this issue and seek to lobby for more inclusive amendments to Bill C-3;

Support actions required by UBCIC communities to respond to the impact that Bill C-3 may have, including highlighting education within the communities of the potential impacts;

Explore opportunities to work with UBCIC member nations and communities to articulate Indigenous laws about citizenship as an alternate to the status based process that Canada currently follows, including that the UBCIC Chiefs Council mandate the Bill C-31 Working Group to plan, organize and implement an Indigenous Citizenship Action Plan based on Indigenous laws;

Produce public education materials, arrange for speaking engagements to build public support. Include use of popular media and social networking resources to ensure that strong and clear messaging is available to all First Nations in British Columbia regardless of location;

Explore bringing a legal challenge to the process that Canada followed in bringing Bill C-3 forward without the consultation and consent of Indigenous nations;

Therefore, be it finally resolved that the UBCIC Chiefs Council appoint the following representatives to join and be active participants of the Bill C-31 Working Group: Chief Nelson Leon, Adams Lake Indian Band; Chief David Walkem, Cook's Ferry Indian Band; Chief Donna Gallinger, Nicomen Indian Band.

It was moved by Ko'waintco Michel, Nooaitch Indian Band; seconded by Chief Jonathan Kruger, Penticton Indian Band; and carried.

With that, we'll go to Chief David Walkem.

5:20 p.m.

Chief David Walkem Chief, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs

Kuk'chem. Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for hearing us today.

As Grand Chief Phillip has said, I'm from the Cook's Ferry Indian Band, the Nlaka'pamux Nation. Sharon McIvor is from one of the member bands of our nation. So this issue has been near and dear to our hearts.

We have three specific amendments, and we'll provide the clause-by-clause amendments we have put forward. Unfortunately, they were caught in translation today, so we'll get them to you as soon as we can.

First and foremost, as the Grand Chief has said, the bigger issue is the citizenship issue. We have limited our comments to the bill that has been put forward. Because Bill C-3 is only a partial fix, and discrimination continues against the descendants of indigenous women, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs is advocating that Bill C-3 be amended to eliminate continuing areas of discrimination.

Currently, people who are denied status because their grandmother married a non-status person and who were born before September 4, 1951, will not be entitled to regain status. We recommend that the 1951 cut-off date be eliminated. It is not just or equitable to continue the discrimination simply because a person was born before the 1951 cut-off date. The proposed amendment would reduce the discrimination based on date of birth, ending discrimination against those born before September 4, 1951.

Our second amendment deals with those cases in which paternity wasn't stated. Bill C-3 only addresses the situation of those who were denied status because their grandmother lost status due to marriage. Others were born outside of marriage and were denied status because a registrar deemed them to be non-status and to have a non-status father.

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs recommends that status be returned to the descendants of Indian women who lost status due to marriage--as in Bill C-3 as it currently is--and to those who were born outside of marriage and were denied status because the registrar assumed their father was non-status. This proposed amendment would eliminate the discrimination in Bill C-3 based on the fact that some people were born out of wedlock.

The last amendment we're recommending is to strike clause 9 to allow Indian women and their descendants who lost status due to the discriminatory operation of the Indian Act to pursue, through the courts or other negotiation, restitution or compensation for the losses their families suffered as a result of the historical discrimination imposed on them by this legislation, similar to the process followed for people who went to residential schools.

With that, I thank you for the opportunity. We will take questions on this. Nkwusm.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Thank you both.

Now we'll go to Chief William Montour. He represents the Six Nations of the Grand River, as does Mr. Powless.

Chief Montour, welcome. Please go ahead.

5:25 p.m.

Chief William K. Montour Chief, Six Nations of the Grand River

Sge:no swa:gwego.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I first want to acknowledge the Algonquin people, whose territory we're in, and I also want to thank Mr. Lemay for convincing the committee that we need five more minutes.

Thank you, Mr. Lemay.

Six Nations of the Grand River has the largest population of any first nations community in Canada: 23,183 citizens, with approximately 12,000 residing on reserve, along with 5,000 other people, including non-status, non-member, and non-natives.

While it is the elected council of Six Nations presenting today, it is important to note that our traditional government, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy council of chiefs, still functions at Six Nations. We have preserved our traditions, customs, and practices, as well as our Iroquoian languages.

As the largest population of status Indians in Canada, we also have the greatest potential to have this bill impact us more profoundly. It is possible that, once registered, many of our people will want to return to our community, or already may be in the community, to establish themselves as part of their community, to know their culture and traditions, and maybe even learn their language. This will lead to an increased demand for our services, such as housing, education, and health. We already operate at maximum capacity in these areas due to INAC's 2% funding cap. We do not know the full potential impact of this bill because we do not have the resources to undertake such a study.

The title of Bill C-3, “an Act to promote gender equity in Indian registration”, makes it hard to believe that in this day and age, with all the legislation in place to protect all women from gender discrimination, we are still petitioning the Government of Canada about the unfair treatment of the women from our nations. I applaud Ms. Sharon McIvor for her persistence and dedication in ensuring that this inequality is not carried on to her grandchildren and future generations of our people.

Since the inception of the Indian Act registration sections, first nations women have been targeted as being less of a person than first nations males and have been punished and banished because of choices they made in marriage. The federal government has also waged a mental war on our people by legislating our identity to the point where many have labelled themselves as a status Indian, non-status Indian, Bill C-31 Indian, and I am sure some will refer to themselves as Bill C-3 Indians.

In fact, we of the Six Nations are, and always have been, citizens of our nations. This is our birthright. It is not your right to legislate our identity, yet somehow we continue to allow this. The time has come where we must take control of our own identities and move beyond seeking fairness and approvals from an outside government that has continually waged this mental war. As the elected chief of the largest first nation in Canada, I am putting the Government of Canada on notice that we intend to make this a reality in our community.

I would like to bring forward our concerns regarding the intent and potential impact of Bill C-3 in four specific areas: first, duty to consult; second, gender equality; third, financial impact; and fourth, first nations jurisdiction.

First, in terms of duty to consult, any new federal legislation that has the potential to affect our aboriginal and treaty rights triggers a duty to consult and accommodate, as reaffirmed in various decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada—for instance, Haida, Taku, and Mikisew Cree decisions. The federal government's duty to consult and accommodate has clearly not been met with Bill C-3. You have heard from sponsors of the bill that consultation is not necessary because it does not affect our rights. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is nothing more fundamental to our rights as indigenous nations than to determine who our citizens are and to protect their rights. The federal government should be prepared to move on this issue in a broader perspective than Indian registration.

Second, eliminate all gender inequality. I am in agreement with Ms. Sharon McIvor's recommendation that if the Indian Act is the standard that Canada uses to determine status and it is introducing this bill as a way to remove gender inequality, then Bill C-3 needs to go further than the court of appeal decision and remove gender inequality from the time it was introduced in history. It is not necessary for the federal government to adhere strictly to the court of appeal decision, as they had an opportunity to eliminate all gender discrimination with this bill but chose not to. We agree with Sharon McIvor that all people born before April 17, 1985, should be placed in the 6(1)(a) category. Bill C-3 will not accomplish full gender equality. It is just another quick-fix solution to keep the governments out of litigation in the interim.

Third, there is the financial impact of the increased population. In the 1985 amendment to the Indian Act, the federal government misjudged the number of our people wanting to return to their communities. It has never provided the promised adequate resources. To compound the problem, federal funding to first nations communities has been capped at 2% since 1996.

In the case of Six Nations, the impact on funding for returnees on Six Nations was dramatic. In 1985 we had approximately 11,000 people registered both on and off reserve. In 1987 we had 3,880 additional people added to our registration list, which represented a 36% increase to our population.

We have no confidence that the federal government has fully assessed the potential impacts or has done sufficient analysis on the financial implications for first nations from this proposed amendment. As this bill will increase the status population of all first nations in Canada, we recommend that increased funding must be a key component of the proposed legislation.

Then there is the first nations jurisdiction. First nations citizens and members of first nations communities will continue to be denied the full recognition of their status even after this bill passes based solely on whether they descend from a matrilineal line versus a patrilineal family line.

Article 33.1 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples--UNDRIP--states that indigenous peoples have the right to determine their own identity or membership in accordance with their customs and traditions. This does not impair the right of indigenous individuals to obtain citizenship of the states in which they live. We consider the exploratory process proposed by Minister Strahl as a first step in ensuring article 33.1 becomes a reality in this country. However, we will not support a process where cabinet wants to examine ways of seeking gender equality in Indian registration. We do not wish to work in a process that supports Indian registration; we want the process to look at the larger picture of first nations citizenship determined by the nations. This is providing that there is a will from cabinet to do the work required and the accompanying resources appropriated to work on this issue. This must be accompanied by a legally binding commitment from the federal government to recognize and register as citizens any person a first nation deems to be their citizen.

What we are talking about is first nations citizenship, not the registration provisions that still deny birthrights to first nations citizens under an antiquated colonial piece of legislation. We need to stop the legislated identity for our people and recognize first nations governments' jurisdiction to identify their citizens based on an individual's birthright and lineage.

This also means that all persons recognized by first nations as citizens must be eligible for federal funding based on these new numbers. It also means that first nations governments will need to be proactive and take the step of developing and defining who their citizens are in a written code or law. Once such a law is in place, it should replace the Indian Act provisions on Indian registration and membership, and it would become the law for the first nation government and community.

We are recommending that this committee urge the federal government to move beyond the Indian Act registration process and begin a process that would start the recognition and acceptance of first nations models of citizenship laws. We further recommend that this committee urge the cabinet to follow through on Minister Strahl's commitment to begin this exploratory process.

In conclusion, we recognize the limitations this committee may have on this legislation, but we also recognize that this committee has the capability and authority to recommend that the federal government move beyond the current Indian Act registration process. We urge you to do so.

Nia:weh.

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Meegwetch, Chief Montour. It's great to have you all here.

I should say, by the way, that I appreciate that you were accommodating. We are running a little bit late today, and I know we didn't get started precisely on time with our session this afternoon, so we appreciate that.

Now we're going to go to questions from members. We'll begin with Ms. Neville for seven minutes.

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Thank you very much. Thank you to all of you for being here today.

While you all haven't presented quite the same position, you've certainly made a number of important arguments.

My first question is to Grand Chief Stewart Phillip. The C-31 committee that works within the Union of B.C. Chiefs.... Is the recommendation you made here today the outcome of their discussions? Are there discussions currently ongoing, and can you tell us where they're going?

5:35 p.m.

Chief, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs

Chief David Walkem

I'm on the committee. Yes, it is the summary discussions of our committee that we put before you today. We did present a position paper addressing the bigger issues of citizenship last November, when asked by the government to comment on those. It was passed through our chiefs' council meetings.

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Has the committee received that paper?

5:35 p.m.

Chief, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs

Chief David Walkem

No, we're getting it translated. We didn't have it ready for today, but we will get it to you.

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Thank you.

I guess my question to all of the presenters here is that if we as a committee have the opportunity to recommend to government that it ensure that all women are treated equally, that if we can amend the bill—and we are looking at potential amendments—to ensure that some aboriginal women are not more equal than others, would you like us to proceed with that, given the many other issues you raised, whether citizenship, consultation, inherent rights, funding, and so forth?

5:35 p.m.

Chief, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs

Chief David Walkem

The question as I understand it was would we want you to support amendments that would get rid of the inequalities or discrimination against aboriginal women?

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

And do you want us to move forward on that without addressing some of the other issues raised?

5:35 p.m.

Chief, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs

Chief David Walkem

In our discussions--and why we were very specific about parts of the proposed legislation put before us--we wanted this discrimination to be addressed now. A lot of these people—especially in regard to the 1951 cut-off date—are elderly. This bill deals with those between 29 and 59 years old, but prior to that there are elderly people. There aren't a lot of them, and we want to stop the discrimination right now.

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Are there any other comments?

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Do any other witnesses wish to comment on Ms. Neville's question?

Chief Toulouse.

5:35 p.m.

Ontario Regional Chief, Chiefs of Ontario

Chief Angus Toulouse

I just have a couple of quick comments.

Concerning government recommendations generally, first nations collectively and individually are developing, rebuilding, or revitalizing their nations. What they're saying is that this requires Canada to desist from any activity or legislation, and it should honour the treaties and aboriginal and human rights so we can continue to build our economies. What we really need to do is to build our own governance structures and revitalize our cultures and our traditions. We want to lessen the impact or power the Indian Act has over our first nations and communities.

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Chief Montour, I thought I saw your hand up. Did you want to go ahead?

5:35 p.m.

Chief, Six Nations of the Grand River

Chief William K. Montour

Yes, he upstaged me.

I believe we need both. In the interim, we need to have the recognition for those people who are aggrieved. But more importantly, I think we have to go back to the start of this whole history, back to 1876. To quote Dan George in one of his movies, “Women are the centre of our nations, the centre of our worlds.”

We envision these laws, our citizenship laws, putting women back to where they were prior to the tinkering by the colonial governments and taking that power away from women. In our community, in our society, it's matrilineal. Women make chiefs and also tear them down. We have to get back to that way, as far as I'm concerned.

Thank you.