Thank you. Greetings, Chair and all members of the House of Commons standing committee.
Quebec Native Women appreciates this opportunity to address you all, to present our perspective on the historical discrimination faced by aboriginal women and their descendants under the Indian Act, an injustice that was not corrected with the passing of Bill C-31 in 1985. Quebec Native Women rejects the restrictive vision proposed by the federal government as it will not put an end to gender discrimination entirely.
I would like to note to you the shortcomings of this process, which failed to adequately provide aboriginal peoples with any effective and meaningful consultation on the serious matter affecting their rights. The five minutes accorded will not provide a sufficient amount of time to address all our issues concerning Bill C-3, so I will highlight a few.
One is the lack of real and effective consultation with indigenous peoples consistent with the constitutional obligations of the federal government.
Two, the exclusion of the historical and the institutionalized nature of the discrimination against aboriginal women that was permitted under the Indian Act since its imposition in 1876 and whose definition of an Indian was first that an Indian is a male.
Three, the lack of a financial plan to remedy the existing housing shortage on reserves. Insufficient land base and resources on reserves, especially since the amendment, will result in an increase of 6% in the status population.
Four, the non-inclusion of a provision to provide immediate band membership to a new registrant, and that it ignores their inherent rights and their treaty rights.
In more detail we choose to present two of our main concerns.
Bill C-3 is dependent upon the B.C. Court of Appeal, whose decision is limited and flawed, being premised on the continuance of discrimination. Indeed, the proposed cut-off, based on a post-September 4, 1951, birthdate for a new registrant, assumes that this is strictly an issue of sexual discrimination and should be addressed within the registration regime. It is retroactive only to 1951, in which the introduction of the double mother rule was recognized and implemented. So Bill C-3 is not only erroneous, but it will continue to promote inequalities based on date of birth.
Sexual discrimination faced by aboriginal women effectively goes back to 1876 of the Indian Act and not 1951, whereby an Indian woman's status was dependent upon the status of her husband. Grandchildren who trace their aboriginal ancestry through the maternal line will continue to be denied status if they were born prior to September 4, 1951, unless they have at least one sibling born after that date. But this is not the case for descendants of aboriginal men. Moreover, other governmental administrative policies such as unstated paternity and on-reserve matrimonial real property continue to discriminate against aboriginal women as progenitors.
Thus, amongst the many recommendations we have, and given the constraints and duress we are under, we make the following recommendations:
First, that the element of categorization of Indian status, such as subsection 6(1) and subsection 6(2), and the cut-off date based upon a post-September 4, 1951, birthdate be removed from Bill C-3.
Second, that the administrative policy regarding unstated paternity of a child born to an unmarried woman be immediately changed to a requirement that the mother of the child sign an affidavit or statutory declaration as to the status of the father of the child.
Bill C-3 does not recognize the rights of aboriginal peoples to self-determination. It does not take into account the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples as nations and as supported in international human rights law to define who can be a citizen of their nation, to define their own nationality and identity, and what obligations and rights are entailed within their definition. Self-determining rights for indigenous peoples are supported in international law as well as in the Canadian Constitution. International instruments include the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Indigenous peoples have the right to govern themselves, to reinforce their own forms of government and citizenship, not as a grant from the Government of Canada but as an inherent right as peoples. We also recommend that the Government of Canada recognize the inherent rights of aboriginal peoples to define who can be a citizen of their nation and what obligations and rights are entailed within their definition. However, this must be done in accordance with international human rights law, consequently allowing indigenous peoples to move positively towards self-determination with sufficient resources to make self-determination a success.
In conclusion, on Bill C-3 and the idea of a separate joint process to tackle broader issues, while Quebec Native Women recognizes the need to amend the archaic nature of the Indian Act, Quebec Native Women, as stated earlier, deplores the restrictive vision of the federal government based solely on a patchwork remedy to the specific problem of discrimination brought to light in the McIvor case, as analyzed by the Court of Appeal for B.C. on limited grounds. This is a missed opportunity for the Government of Canada to put an end to the patriarchal regime of indigenous guardianship that the Indian Act constitutes, by implementing a decolonization process whereby indigenous people's values, self-determination, culture, language institutions, and nationhood will be respected and reinforced.
In spite of the federal government's acknowledgement that there are a number of broader issues relating to registration and membership that go beyond the specifics of the McIvor decision, the proposed changes to the Indian Act will not extend to these broader issues. Instead, the Canadian government is relying on a separate, parallel process whereby the Minister of INAC will work in partnership with national aboriginal organizations to establish an exploratory process with the participation of first nations and other aboriginal groups and organizations. Such an exclusive process, restricted to national aboriginal organizations, is cause for concern, as it evacuates the notion of democracy within these discussions and ignores Canada's constitutional obligation to conduct proper consultations on matters affecting the rights of aboriginal peoples.
The intended parallel discussions also exclude aboriginal people's right to self-determination from the ongoing legislative process by dictating once again who has the right to determine Indian status, an important link to aboriginal identity, membership, and citizenship. Therefore, it begs the question: does this mean that only court orders will motivate the Government of Canada to address the thorny question of legitimacy of the Indian Act and that the federal response is bound to be circumscribed? With Bill C-3 the deplorable answer seems to be yes. Thus, it is reasonable to expect that new cases will be brought before the courts to denounce the continuing gender and racial discrimination within the Indian Act.
I guess I will end there today.
Thank you very much.