Evidence of meeting #62 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was indian.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton  Grand Chief, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake
Ghislain Picard  Regional Chief, Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador
Lynn Gehl  As an Individual
Viviane Michel  President, Quebec Native Women Inc.
Cynthia Smith  Legal and Policy Analyst, Quebec Native Women Inc.
Sharon McIvor  As an Individual
Pamela D. Palmater  Chair in Indigenous Governance, Department of Politics & Public Administration, Ryerson University, As an Individual
Catherine Twinn  Q.C. Lawyer, As an Individual
Deborah Serafinchon  As an Individual
Nathalie Nepton  Executive Director, Indian Registration and Integrated Program Management, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

8:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Good morning.

I'd like to start by indicating that we are on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), and the motion adopted on Wednesday, October 26, 2016, the committee resumes its study on the subject matter of Bill S-3, an act to amend the Indian Act (elimination of sex-based inequities in registration).

We have many panellists who have travelled far to present to our committee, so I wish to get on with the matter of business.

We have 10 minutes for each presentation. Some groups have one presenter; others have two. It's up to you how to divide your time. We will be fairly strict on time. I'll try to give you a warning ahead of time—three minutes, two minutes, one minute, cut—so have a look at me and I'll try to signal how much time you have.

Our first panel includes representatives from the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador; Viviane Michel and Cynthia Smith from Quebec Native Women; and Lynn Gehl.

We have Chief Picard on the line, by teleconference.

In front of us is Mr. Norton.

Perhaps you could lead off and tell us how you would like to proceed.

8:45 a.m.

Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton Grand Chief, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake

Thank you very much.

Chief Picard and I agreed that we would divide up some of the time. He'll lead off by giving a statement on behalf of the AFNQL. From there, I will finish the presentation.

Mine will be a little more than 10 minutes, because we've agreed that he will be brief.

8:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

We're going to start with you, Chief. Please, go ahead.

8:45 a.m.

Chief Ghislain Picard Regional Chief, Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador

Thank you very much, Madam Chair and members of the committee.

I want to acknowledge the fact that the proceedings are being held on traditional unceded Algonquin territory.

I also want to greet the other panellists this morning, and Grand Chief Norton of Kahnawake Mohawk Nation.

You heard earlier this week from Chief Rick O'Bomsawin of the Abenaki Nation and community of Odanak who presented his views on behalf of his community, understanding the case at hand, the Descheneaux case, originates in his community. This morning you will hear another point of view from another community within our region, and we understand that it's a very delicate matter, a matter that certainly is of concern to a majority of our nations, and it's been a concern for quite some time.

The sad part in all of this, and this is certainly the case in terms of identification, membership, and whatever you want to call it in the communities, is that often the government is directed by the courts. It's very sad that it has come to this, and I guess it puts in perspective the fact that too many times we seem to be cornered in a situation where there's a failure in the political process, which often leads us to the courts as the last resort.

As I said earlier, this is a very sensitive issue. Speaking on behalf of our region, we tried to facilitate meetings to deal with this in light of the court decision, understanding that as a regional entity or body, we tried to provide all the time and space needed for communities to express their points of view, and then convey the position to the government whenever possible. This is what we did following a consultation that was held in Montreal in September 2016, and we followed up with a letter to the Prime Minister in October of last year. The letter states clearly where we stand as a region, always trying to reflect and respect the positions of the different communities.

The last thing I'll say before I pass it over to Grand Chief Norton is, in spite of the different points of view, we can all agree—and this is the position we support—ultimately our communities and our leadership are the only ones who can exercise the authority of determining their membership, and this position is supported by all.

We will present a written statement to the committee before the end of the day tomorrow that will add to the comments I provided this morning.

Again, my apologies for not being there in person. I feel it is important for Grand Chief Norton to present there in person on behalf of his community and nation.

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

8:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you very much.

8:50 a.m.

Grand Chief, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake

Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton

Thank you, Ghislain.

Madam Chair, you should have by now a copy of a letter that we forwarded to you. It should have come in yesterday. It outlines our situation, our position, and our very sincere dissatisfaction with the way things have progressed. In any event, we take the position...and the reason I'm here today is just to clarify and to make sure there's an understanding that regardless of what happens here or whatever happens in courts, no one will decide for us what we are going to do.

This reconfirms the last time we were here, when my fellow chief Kahsennenhawe Sky and I made a presentation, that's what we spoke of.

It is the community's intention and decision to do what they have to do. There are people at home who, I can tell you right now, if they were here, would say, “We don't care what you do. Do whatever you want. We know what we have to do and we're doing it as we speak, and that's what's happening now.”

It's worthwhile recalling and remembering that we Kahnawake have always had a situation such that we've dealt with this matter very sincerely. There have been points in time in history when there has been some physical movement to send a message to anybody and everybody about our circumstances. I am not promoting that now. What I'm talking about is simply that we've embarked on a process, and our process is going one way and the federal government's process is going the other way. Whether those two will ever come together again, I don't know. There's not much we can say or see or do to pull you back into line. We'll have to continue on our route; there's no question about it.

We do this because we're concerned about the future of our children, the future of our nation, and the future of our languages and cultures. You have here in Ottawa a federal list that has about 5,000 names that do not meet the criteria we have established in our community. Many of those people on that list know nothing about us and probably don't care about us. The only thing they care about is the benefits they will reap once they are recognized, once they can come into Kahnawake and exercise their rights.

As it is right now, those people, just because they have a band card, can actually purchase land. They don't even have to ask us; they do it through INAC. They go to the Department of Indian Affairs. As long as they have a willing seller in Kahnawake, they can do that. I want to use this as an example of how, at this point in time, in certain sectors we do not have control. In other areas, we do.

Public pressure: that is what our intention is. We are facing court battles, we are facing constitutional or charter challenges because of the stance we've taken, but we are committed. Most of those challenges come from within, not without. There are people within our community who say, “You're not doing right. Your law is illegal. What you're doing is illegal.” On the other hand, we continue to do what we have to do.

Court cases may be won against us, but what will they gain—some dollars? Will they gain the recognition that they can come back into the community, reside amongst us, flaunt our law in our faces and tell us that we have no authority and that the authority is here in Ottawa with the federal government under the Indian Act and things of that nature?

That's what we resent. That's what we're against. That's what drives us even more than ever before: restructuring ourselves with programs, cultural activities, all the very things that are necessary for us to be able to survive culturally, and in a modern-day world at the same time.

That's about all I can say at this point, given the shortness of the opportunity. I believe you have a letter in front of you that outlines our position. That's fresh off the press.

Nia:wen ko:wa

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you very much. I think you've expressed your position very well.

Next we can move to Ms. Lynn Gehl.

8:55 a.m.

Lynn Gehl As an Individual

[Witness speaks in Anishinabe]

Thank you for inviting me here today. Welcome to Algonquin Anishinabe territory. This is my home territory, and so I'm happy to be here.

I've been working on the issue of sex discrimination in the Indian Act for more than 32 years. In 1945 my great-grandmother, Annie Menesse was informed by Indian agent H.P. Ruddy that she became a white woman when she married Joseph Gagné who was only Indian through his mother, Angeline Jocko. That was 72 years ago, yet the sex discrimination that denied my great-grandmother continues to deny my nieces and nephews today.

When the Indian Act was amended in 1985 to bring it in line with the Charter of Rights, the very provisions that protected children of unknown and unstated paternity were suspiciously removed from the Indian Act, and it became silent on the matter.

Subsequently, INAC then began their process of discriminating against these children at the departmental level through a proof of paternity policy that assumed all unknown and unstated paternity situations were non-Indian men.

In their process of harming indigenous mothers and children through this policy, INAC claimed they lacked the ability of reason and moral judgment. In INAC's defence, the Department of Justice also argued indigenous women would take advantage of Indian status registration rights if there was a gap in the policy.

It took me 22 years to move through Canada's court system. In this process I was against many barriers, such as a mother who didn't want me to look critically at issues of paternity, a lack of funds to move the process through the court system in a good way, INAC's deep pockets of money gained through its unilateral access to indigenous land and resources, and INAC's absolute failure to disclose evidence so it could be properly adjudicated as proving rule of law.

Regardless of the misery imposed, this past April the Ontario Court of Appeal judgment came through and it was determined I won. In short, the court determined that INAC's proof of paternity policy that assumed all unknown and unstated paternity situations were non-Indian was unreasonable.

The process of defending against my quest for Indian status cost Canada more than three-quarters of a million dollars, yet I was told I was the mischievous one.

It is now clear to me that Canada is hell-bent on eliminating status Indians and the associated treaty rights through the methods of sex discrimination and off the backs of indigenous women and their descendants.

While lawyers view the outcome of my court case as a victory, I struggle with this joy. I'm happy that the court struck down INAC's proof of paternity policy, and I'm happy with the clauses that my legal representatives Emilie Lahaie and Mary Eberts put forward and the evolution of the clauses established through consultation with Minister Bennett's office. One of the clauses directs INAC to accept circumstantial evidence and the other one directs INAC not to assume non-Indian paternity in situations of rape.

That said, I'm not happy that the judges said I was only entitled to 6(2) status. This is wrong. I was born pre-1985 and, therefore, I should be entitled to 6(1)(a) status. My great-grandmother's brothers' descendants are all entitled to be registered under 6(1)(a).

With this so-called court remedy of granting me 6(2) status, I am only entitled to being “less than” because of my matrilineal ancestry.

Indigenous women have worked hard to resolve sex discrimination. Mary Two-Axe Earley, Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, Yvonne Bédard, Sandra Lovelace, and Sharon McIvor; together we took what we thought was the right path.

The Liberal government came to power on a platform of reconciliation and respecting the nation-to-nation relationship. If this government moves forward with the “6(1)(a) all the way” remedy as I hope, a remedy that addresses all the sex discrimination in the Indian Act, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister Carolyn Bennett and the rest of Canada will truly have something to celebrate. Otherwise, Canada will remain stained.

Again, it took me 22 years to move through Canada's court system where in the end the so-called remedy offered is nothing but a new form of sex discrimination. This is not fair and it's out of line with the charter and Canada can do better than this.

The first thing I want to clarify is the discussion of the need to respect the nation-to-nation consultation. This will never occur if the matrilineal descendants are missing from first nations bands. So right there it's not happening.

While INAC claims they cannot move forward with the “6(1)(a) all the way” remedy and thus remove all the sex discrimination because of the claim, they need to consult on a nation-to-nation basis.

At the same time, INAC prevents first nations from welcoming their members, through imposed fiscal restraints that are not rooted in generally valuing what is nation to nation, such as sharing the land and resources in an equal way and in a way such that indigenous nations are able to embrace matrilineal descendants.

On the one hand, Canada is saying it cannot resolve all the sex discrimination, as it must respect the nation-to-nation relationship; yet on the other hand, it doesn't really want the indigenous nations to enter into what are genuine nation-to-nation discussions.

The second thing that I'd really like to add clarity to is that, yes, it is true that first nations such as my grandmother's band conflate Indian status and band membership. This practice is being argued by INAC as their excuse not to resolve all the sex discrimination, as there is a need for first nations to be consulted. We need to keep in mind that first nations band memberships are within the jurisdiction of the first nations, not INAC. That said, regardless, the goal here that we're discussing today is the need to resolve sex discrimination in law, not first nations band membership codes.

Third, Canada's failure to resolve the matrilineal descent sex discrimination actually establishes a colonial and patriarchal foundation in land claim and self-governance processes in that the descendants of indigenous women are marginalized, and thus, vulnerable in the process. Genuinely respecting the nation-to-nation relationship would abolish the sex discrimination inherent in sections 6(1)a and 6(1)c hierarchy.

Fourth, in fact, contrary to the claim that there is a need to respect the nation-to-nation relationship, Canada is not doing that at all. In the Algonquin land claim and self-government process, we're being offered only 1.3% of our land and a $300-million buyout. That's not nation to nation. There is so much wrong with that.

The fifth thing I want to speak to is the argument that it would be irresponsible for Canada to implement the section “6(1)(a) all the way” remedy without further analysis. It's my position that the claim of potential irresponsibility is actually an excuse that has been carefully constructed through decades of intentional and strategic deception and manoeuvring rooted in the need for Canada to eliminate Indians. The Canadian government has been completely aware of indigenous efforts to remove all the sex discrimination. This is not new, not at all. Canada has had decades of time, as well as the deep pockets of money required to accommodate the research needed to draft legislation that would remove all the sex discrimination and bring about charter compliance.

Instead, Canada has placed its time, dollars, and efforts into crafting legislative amendments that ignore, confound, and disguise, and for that matter, craft silent forms of sex discrimination such as what we've learned from Gehl v. Canada. In this process, INAC has in fact crafted new forms of sex discrimination versus ensuring that the Indian Act is charter compliant. It is my position that Canada's claim position that it would be irresponsible to move forward without further analysis is more about disrespecting what is genuinely a nation-to-nation relationship and it is the complete manipulation of indigenous women's agency, indigenous women who are already burdened.

I ask members of the committee to support the amended version of Bill S-3. It is crucial to upholding the human rights of indigenous women and their descendants and to finally putting Indian women and their descendants born prior to 1985 on the same footing as Indian men and their descendants born prior to 1985. Please stand with indigenous women's call for charter compliance and equality.

Meegwetch.

9:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you very much.

The third group in our panel is from the Quebec Native Women. Welcome.

9:05 a.m.

Viviane Michel President, Quebec Native Women Inc.

[Witness speaks in Innu]

Madam Chair, vice-chairs, members of the committee, kuei.

I would like to begin by thanking the Anishinabe Nation for welcoming us on its vast unceded territory.

Quebec Native Women Inc., a member organization of the Native Women's Association of Canada, was founded in 1974 in response to the sex-based discrimination in the Indian Act. For over 40 years, the native women of Quebec have been joining forces to denounce this paternalistic, assimilatory and colonialist piece of legislation.

Our position has always been clear, and we remain firm in our demands. We want the Government of Canada to remove from the act any sex-based discrimination and any resulting types of discrimination. We are asking for our right to grow among our people, practice our culture and traditions, speak our languages and pass it all down to our children and future generations.

In 1982, Canada passed a so-called constitutional piece of legislation, including a Canadian charter of rights and freedoms. There is no higher law in the country than the Constitution, which provides all Canadian or aboriginal citizens with basic rights that must be respected and protected. Among them is the right not to be discriminated against based on sex and race.

When we know that such discriminatory principles in terms of sex and race are the foundation of the Indian Act, it is normal to wonder about the place of such legislation in Canada. The country is allegedly celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, but what is there really to celebrate?

Quebec Native Women Inc. attended the 16th meeting of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. We deplore Canada's speech at that event, according to which the country defends the rights of aboriginals, especially the rights of women, but how many aboriginal women have been uprooted, torn away from their families, their community and their identity because Canada implemented and is fighting to maintain one of the most violent laws in terms of discrimination based on sex and race.

We deplore the fact that we once again need to discuss it, in 2017, and fight against that same piece of legislation that belittles us and discriminate against us as women and as aboriginals. We are being discriminated against on two fronts. While our aboriginal communities traditionally see us as a gift of life, Canada has introduced into the imaginations of societies the idea that the life of an aboriginal woman is not as valuable as the life of a man. Our women are disappearing; they are killed, abused and sexually assaulted by state forces and the population, with complete impunity.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights both concluded that the sex-based discrimination in the Indian Act was one of the root causes of the violence against aboriginal women and girls today.

Therefore, Quebec Native Women Inc. demands that the House of Commons ensure the respect for the Constitution for every aboriginal citizen, especially every aboriginal woman and her descendants who have been disowned, repudiated, forgotten and buried by governments wishing to assimilate them and to be done once and for all with the Indian issue in Canada, until no Indians are left.

To do this, Quebec Native Women Inc. demands, first of all, that the government accept the amendment known as “6(1)(a) all the way”.

Quebec Native Women Inc. also demands en end to discrimination stemming from unstated or unknown paternity. Women have the right not to put the father's name on the birth certificate without penalizing their child. No so-called Canadian women have their child discriminated against when the father's name does not appear in the registries. The child is just as Canadian as the mother. Why would it be any different for first nations?

Quebec Native Women Inc. also demands that the government do away with the status categories defined in subsections 6(1) and 6(2) of the act. Since 1985, the categories have been giving rise to many discriminatory scenarios, including within the same family. Think about it. Would you want some of your children to be considered as Canadians and others as non-Canadians because they were born after April 17, 1985? That's completely ridiculous.

As many other representatives have said before us, it would be impossible to completely eliminate sex-based discrimination without those changes. Without the amendments suggested by the Senate and without eliminating the categories defined in subsection 6(1) and 6(2), Bill S-3 continues discrimination under the Indian Act against our women.

Quebec Native Women Inc. has heard the government repeatedly insist on a second phase, which would be broader and would allow for further discussion on those demands. We think it is absurd that the government has delayed amendments to the Indian Act by five months under the pretext of failing in its duty to hold consultations and that it is once again justifying its inaction by using the same pretext. Let us be clear: we are in favour of defending the government's duty to consult aboriginal peoples, but not under the circumstances established by the government surrounding Bill S-3.

Quebec Native Women Inc. feels strongly about reminding the government that it cannot use that obligation to justify keeping provisions that are discriminatory or unconstitutional. Quebec Native Women Inc. feels that the government does not need to consult communities to find out whether it must put an end to its discrimination against women.

Let's be honest: the government knows that the Indian Act is discriminatory. It knows exactly what the solutions to end that discrimination are. This is not ignorance on the government's part, but rather inertia and a lack of political will.

What did Jeannette Vivian Corbiere Lavell, Sandra Lovelace Nicholas, Mary Two-Axe Early, Sharon McIvor, Lynn Gehl and others do but tell you about the realities and discriminations women and their descendants face?

This April, a report on the information sessions provided by Quebec Native Women Inc. during the extension of sitting period related to Bill S-3 was submitted to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. The report outlines the impressions of women on Bill S-3, and we are bringing their voices before you today. They have had enough and don't want to wait for a second phase for things to happen.

The government is planning to spend about two years on the second phase. Can you tell us what you will find out in two years that has not already been revealed to you over the past 30 years. Aboriginal women are patient and resilient, as they have told you many times, and continue to be so today, but it is your duty to listen to us and to act accordingly.

Quebec Native Women Inc. reminds you that the foundations of the act are paternalistic, patriarchal, colonialist and assimilatory. We want to share our concerns with you. We are seeing our people incorporate those legislatives principles and use them against their own. We cannot deny the effects of the Indian Act, residential schools and the 1960s scoop. They are still here today, sometimes even among our own people.

The history of colonization and assimilation has left its marks, and many wounds are still open and must heal within our own people and among our people. That healing of our people will be enabled by recognizing those of us whom governments have cast aside, so that we could together imagine a future for our people and our communities.

The native women of Quebec and Canada are bringing their voices together to demand that you put an end, once and for all, to sex-based discriminations, so that our young people and the next seven generations could heal from the assimilatory and enfranchising policies, from residential schools and from this cultural genocide.

We demand that you accept amendment “6(1)(a) all the way” beginning in the 1800s and that you eliminate the categories defined in subsection 6(2). You are constantly talking about reconciliation with our people. That reconciliation starts here, by giving back to the women and their descendants the place the government has taken away from them.

Quebec Native Women Inc. demands that you think about future generations and ensure that they don't have to fight for their identity and against discrimination. Let us rather fight for a world where our young people can reconnect with what it means to be Anishinabe, Eeyou, Innu, Abenaki, Atikamekw, Mohawk, Naskapi, Wendat, Malecite, Micmac or Inuit, rather than leaving them a world where they are losing the essence of their identity by losing a bit more of themselves in the fight against a system and a colonialist and assimilatory pieces of legislation like the Indian Act.

You are not responsible for what other governments did before you, or perhaps even what your ancestors did to our peoples, but you are responsible today should you decide to be complicit in the forced assimilation of our peoples by failing to accommodate the demands that have been put to you.

You have the power to decide for us. You took that power. We never gave it to you. Will you listen to us once and for all?

Thank you for making a decision you would make for your own women, your own children and your own future generations.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

9:15 a.m.

President, Quebec Native Women Inc.

Viviane Michel

Be among those who will be remembered as the people who helped achieve true reconciliation between our people, and not those who worked on the disappearance of cultures, languages and the first humans from this territory.

On behalf of Quebec Native Women Inc., our ancestors and our next seven generations, tshinashkumitin, meegwetch.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

We are moving to questioning with a round of seven minutes. An MP will start off and will have seven minutes to ask a series of questions.

Please direct your questions either to the panellists in front of us or to Chief Picard, the individual on the phone.

MP Anandasangaree, please.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you very much, everyone, for appearing today. Thank you for your very considered submissions.

Based on the testimony of the three panellists, there appears to be a contradiction, that on one side it is not the role of the federal government or anyone else outside each community to define what membership is and who ought to be a band member; and on the other side, we're almost forced to deal with a piece of legislation and amendments to it because the Indian Act is discriminatory on many levels, as Madame Michel has outlined eloquently, but particularly with respect to sex-based discrimination.

How do we resolve that contradiction, and how do we make sure that this legislation responds to the court decision in Descheneaux, but at the same time, ensures that there is a path towards individual communities making the decision with respect to band membership?

I'll start with Chief Picard and Chief Norton, and then to Dr. Gehl.

9:20 a.m.

Grand Chief, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake

Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton

For myself, it's pretty straightforward. What you call contradictions in position are not necessarily that. The way I view it, the Mohawk Nation is not the same as the Algonquin Nation, or the other nations. They have their own historical relationship with Canada and historical reasons for doing what they have to do, and so do we.

Our approach in recent months has been to increase our activity as much as possible. We do not want to be in conflict with anybody, any one of our fellow chiefs or representatives in any way. That's not our purpose for being here.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Chief, just to clarify, I didn't mean that there was conflict. I mean there's a contradiction in the sense that we have to do two things at the same time, and how do we do that?

9:20 a.m.

Grand Chief, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake

Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton

I understand. For me, then, to be very brief about it, you can't use a cookie-cutter approach. You have to find solutions for individual communities or nations according to what they believe in, or organizations such as the Femmes Autochtones du Québec or the national organization.

For us, the Mohawk people, it's different. It's not the same.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Madame Michel.

June 8th, 2017 / 9:20 a.m.

President, Quebec Native Women Inc.

Viviane Michel

Of course, we can see the contradiction. It is obvious. It's really the outcome of your laws. The expression “divide and conquer” applies, but we can't even agree amongst ourselves.

I can understand the challenges of aboriginal communities: their economic survival, the lack of access to housing, the lack of funding, underfunding, and so on. I can understand their whole situation. I am working with my colleagues at the Assembly of First Nations, and I understand those realities. I myself lived in an aboriginal community. So I know what I am talking about when it comes to things like language and culture.

However, today we are talking about issues that directly affect women. The existence of women is important. Why were women targeted in this piece of legislation? It's because we, as women, are responsible for transmitting language and culture.

In a different context, prior to 1985, a Quebec woman who married an aboriginal was considered a pure aboriginal. Don't you see how ridiculous that is?

The ultimate goal of the Indian Act truly was assimilation. Who was penalized? It was us, the women, as carriers of future generations and guardians of culture and language.

I know that there may be some contradictions today; that's clear. However, we will speak for women, as this act is truly founded on sex-based discrimination, and we, as women, are targeted. Nevertheless, I know that there are other issues related to life in aboriginal communities.

As part of Bill C-3, I walked from Quebec City to Ottawa and I understood why my colleagues were reluctant to support us. In fact, even though 40,000 aboriginals were registered, budgets in communities remained unchanged. That's the economic side.

Existence is truly an important issue. Why are you the ones who recognize who we are, through your laws? We are not given an opportunity to recognize ourselves. That would mitigate many issues. I believe that it would establish a better balance among our nations.

9:20 a.m.

Cynthia Smith Legal and Policy Analyst, Quebec Native Women Inc.

I would like to add something to what Ms. Michel just said.

She is right; we do not have the right to decide who we are. The government took that right away from us in the 1800s. Today, the government cannot absolve itself of the responsibility for what was done.

We are hearing—and we are happy to hear it—that this is our right, which is internationally defended under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. However, you are responsible for undoing the harm done, especially the harm done to our women. That is where your responsibility lies.

As Ms. Michel said in her presentation, once you have assumed your responsibility, we could sit down to discuss what can be part of our communities.

Meegwetch.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Questioning now goes to MP Yurdiga.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

David Yurdiga Conservative Fort McMurray—Cold Lake, AB

Thank you, Madam Chair, and good morning to our guests.

Once Bill S-3 receives royal assent, with or without the amendments, how do you envision phase two rolling out, and what are your expectations?

I'd like to hear from each of our presenters this morning.

9:25 a.m.

As an Individual

Lynn Gehl

I don't want to comment on that. Thank you.

9:25 a.m.

Grand Chief, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

David Yurdiga Conservative Fort McMurray—Cold Lake, AB

Once Bill S-3 receives royal assent and it goes into phase two, how do you envision phase two rolling out, and what are your expectations from phase two?