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

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

We have two minutes.

Ms. Neville, are you okay with that?

I'll now give the floor to Mr. Lemay or Mr. Lévesque.

5:40 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

First of all, I am honoured to meet you. We have with us the grand chiefs of the First Nations of Ontario, Saskatchewan and part of the Six Nations from British Columbia. The majority of aboriginal peoples in Canada are probably represented here.

I have a general question and, if I have time, I will ask a more specific one. You are all chiefs involved in your communities. I know that, because I meet you on occasion during first nations' assemblies. What was your reaction to the government's tabling of Bill C-3? I am aware that there were very few consultations in the legal sense, regarding the decisions of the Supreme Court. Can one of you quickly tell me how you reacted to the tabling of this bill?

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Mr. Lonechild and then Mr. Montour.

5:40 p.m.

Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations

Chief Guy Lonechild

Just very quickly, thank you for the question, Mr. Lemay.

One of the things that's commonly said is, here we go again. Back in 1985, Bill C-31 looked at addressing some of these very common concerns this bill now tries to address. Rest assured, it won't close the gap of further discrimination totally. Of course, this again is something that we feel is trying to legitimize the Indian Act through minor amendments, which the Canadian Human Rights Act and various other things, in the form of the charter, are going to take down anyway. I think it's just going to repeat history.

I think that's why there's a sense of urgency that we voice our concerns about making a vehicle that's not in the best interests of our first nations as treaty people and legitimizing it through these recommendations. I think it's just reliving the bad nightmare of many of our chiefs back in 1985. I wasn't around then, of course, but we have to endure this again.

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Chief Walkem, you have the floor. We will then go to Chief Montour. No, to Chief Powless, I apologize.

April 20th, 2010 / 5:40 p.m.

Richard Powless Advisor, Six Nations of the Grand River

I think the first reaction was disappointment. We wonder why this government has to be dragged kicking and screaming to do these things. The last time they looked at this was 25 years ago. They did a bad job then.

Courts don't make policy, and they have a chance to do this right. They had a year to consult. They didn't do it. Having engagement processes with everybody is not the way to approach this. We've been telling them this, time after time, on every piece of legislation they keep running up.

In spite of the federal apology for residential schools, the approach is still the same. It's the Indian agent mentality that, “We know what's best for you.” We're wondering when they're going to learn and start from the beginning and do it right, and start by consulting us.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Chief Walkem.

5:45 p.m.

Chief, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs

Chief David Walkem

Merci, Monsieur Lemay.

The first reaction was that this bill is the absolute bare minimum to get by another court decision. That's why in our recommendations we've tried to broaden it to address a number of other court actions ongoing, as past presentations have indicated. We believe that our amendments will address the majority of those issues, but there is still the issue of this exploratory process. We've asked for full consultation. The exploratory process with national organizations doesn't do it. It has to be dealt with at our community and nation levels.

Yes, the first reaction was, “The courts have said, 'Here, go do something', and we'll do the bare minimum to get by the court decision.”

5:45 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

If I have understood your remarks correctly, the bill in its current form will not solve any problems, and we run the risk of ending up, once again, before the courts. That is what I understood.

I listened to the amendments proposed by the representatives from British Columbia. I thank you for them. Oddly enough, those amendments resemble the ones presented by the Canadian Bar Association.

Do you believe that with these draft amendments, we will at least be able to attempt to eliminate the discrimination that currently exists and that you highlighted in your remarks and your briefs?

5:45 p.m.

Chief, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs

Chief David Walkem

Our specific amendments will only address part of the discrimination that's out there. We did not have time to deal with all of it.

We are also trying to understand the limitations of the parliamentary process: here's a bill, and what can you do with it? We were looking at ways to maximize the benefit with the least amount of tinkering. It's not perfect.

5:45 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Okay. However, if—

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

You have 30 seconds left.

5:45 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Since I have only 30 seconds left, I will be brief.

I know that you are very busy. The amendment proposes eliminating the proposed addition, which would be subclause 6(1)(c.1)(iv). If we were to remove that, we would eliminate a large part of the discrimination because we would be eliminating the following words: “had or adopted a child, on or after September 4, 1951, [which is what you wanted] with a person who was not entitled to be registered on the day on which the child was born or adopted;” By removing that, we would be eliminating a good part of the discrimination.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Okay.

Just a yes or no response only. Confirm or not.

5:45 p.m.

Chief, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs

5:45 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

A good politician.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Now let's go to Ms. Crowder.

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I too want to thank the witnesses for coming before us.

Both in your testimony and a little earlier we heard about the previous report to the House of the Commons, the 1988 fifth report of the standing committee. I just wanted to put on the record—and we'll have to confirm this with the department—that a number of people have raised the issue around unstated paternity. In that report it actually said that:

We recommend that as there is no legal requirement in the Act for unmarried Indian women to name the father of their children in order to establish their entitlement to registration and band membership, the practice be discontinued immediately.

According to the 1988 report there is no legal requirement to do this. If that's the case, it would seem reasonable that it could be dropped. The other thing they did point out was identifying the discrimination between brothers and sisters, which was already pointed out earlier.

I want to refer to something else in this report, because a number of you have raised the issue around resources. We've had difficulty in getting any kind of estimate from the department about financial implication. In part, what they argue is that they don't know how many people will want to return to their communities or how many people will apply because it will be driven by the applicant; it will be driven by the person deciding whether they want to apply to be reinstated.

Again, in this 1988 report there's extensive analysis on the financial impacts. It would seem reasonable to me that, given the experience in 1985, there would be a reasonable history around estimating the financial implications for bands and putting aside some financial resources to do that. I wonder if you could comment on that. They list everything: elementary and post-secondary, housing, health and welfare, social services. They have lists of tables, charts, and costs.

5:50 p.m.

Chief, Six Nations of the Grand River

Chief William K. Montour

I was actually on the committee. In fact, I chaired the chiefs committee on citizenship with AFN from 1985 to 1991, and we worked on that.

In 1985, when Bill C-31 was enacted, the federal government estimated that 56,000 people nationally would want to become Indians again. Of that 56,000, probably 10%, or 5,600, would actually move back to the communities. As an impact buffer, the government made a bill for $295 million at that time.

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Only for five years, though, right?

5:50 p.m.

Chief, Six Nations of the Grand River

Chief William K. Montour

Yes. But as I stated in my presentation, there are close to 200,000 new Indians in Canada, and the huge impact in our communities alone is overwhelming.

Let's take the estimate of 45,000 people who may become status people under Bill C-3. Could they not use some kind of similar assumptions? At least there is something there for first nations communities to look at the impact and find ways to allay the impact, and also, more importantly, to help the people who want to come home to re-establish themselves back in our home communities. In our case, a lot of the people did return home, and they brought a lot of extra expertise that wasn't in the community before. There are a lot of people who say it was bad, but in my estimation, a lot of good things happened there. People come back with new ideas, new expertise, different ways of looking at the world, and I think there is an opportunity here that we may miss.

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Do I still have time?

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

You have a few minutes.

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

We have heard both from the minister and from the department that with the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, and one of you mentioned it, there will be a potential remedy for people to file a human rights complaint against their band. My question actually is, to date, have you seen any resources in terms of helping chiefs and councils grapple with the implications for their bands and for the potential financial implications? Part of the commitment when that bill was passed was that you would get resources to help you understand. So I wonder if any of you have had that, because we have now heard that this is coming down, through this piece of legislation, to you. Has anybody had any resources?

No. None?

5:50 p.m.

Ontario Regional Chief, Chiefs of Ontario

Chief Angus Toulouse

As far as I know there are no resources. What I do recall, having being the former chief of one of those communities that had a membership code, is that there were a lot of problems with the code that could easily be challenged by the Canadian Human Rights Act. What the community didn't have was the kinds of fiscal resources to deal with the needed amendments. Again, there was something that was prescribed back in 1985 by government policy that really limited the first nation councils' ability to develop a citizenship code that is more reflective of today's society and needs.