I said “le yâble” not “le diable”. That would be too easy to translate. So this was a very exceptional situation and the problem was still not fixed. Not only was the problem not fixed, but others were created. Basically, bands were given control over the status of their members. Bill C-31 gave bands some powers, but you had to belong to one.
So why would you want to register as an Indian? This is an extremely important concept. Indian registration is indeed the first step in gaining not only Indian status, but also peer recognition in the community. Membership is a very important concept, as it entitles individuals to live on reserve, participate in political processes such as the election of band chiefs, own property on reserve and share band resources. It permits recognition of one's origins and the practice of one's culture. And that is the problem.
Bill C-31 was passed in 1985 and that is when the problems began. Ms. McIvor is one of its victims. It is the reason we are discussing this in Parliament. She went to the courts. She found, she still finds and I hope that she will always find the double standard to be discriminatory. I do not want to go into technical details, but the double standard is found in subsections 6(1), 6(2) and 6(3) of the Indian Act. To sum up, nothing changed. If an Indian woman marries a white, she loses all her rights. Bill C-31 did not fix this problem. It upheld it. However, a limit was set. If the woman was born before 1951, she had the right to Indian status. If she was born after 1951, she did not have that right.
So what happened? Ms. McIvor took it to the British Columbia Court of Appeal. As we speak, a dozen or so of these complaints are before the courts in various jurisdictions across Canada, including one or two similar cases currently before Quebec courts. The fundamental argument is that we must put an end to the discrimination that exists when an Indian woman marries a non-Indian man. The operative word is “marriage”. Indeed, in the Indian Act, there is no mention of couples. So under that piece of legislation, if a couple lives together without being married, any children born to the couple are illegitimate. Bill C-3, which we are debating here today, does not address that issue. It always talks about marriage.
As soon as an Indian woman marries a non-Indian man, she loses all her rights. She will not get them back under Bill C-3.
So Ms. McIvor took her case to the British Columbia Supreme Court, which ruled in her favour. The federal government appealed the decision before the Federal Court, and the case was then heard by the Federal Court of Appeal.
On April 6, 2009, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that section 6 of the Indian Act is discriminatory and that the government had to take steps to correct the situation. That is why we are currently examining the Sharon McIvor bill, that is, Bill C-3, to amend the Indian Act.
The problem is that it does not correct the situation. In 1985, regarding the changes proposed by Bill C-31, the government was asked how many new aboriginal people would be registered. It estimated that approximately 56,800 people would become new members of aboriginal communities.
Unfortunately for the government, on December 31, 2000, 114,000 people obtained Indian status, which helped stop assimilation. In the event this bill is passed, how many new aboriginal people will be registered? The government is unable to answer that question.
The worst answer came from departmental officials. For now, INAC estimates there will be roughly 40,000 or 45,000 new people, but the majority probably live off reserve. It is the “but” that is important here. Even if Indian status is given to new people who live off reserve, they will probably be assimilated, like many aboriginals living off reserve and in big cities.
Today, the question is whether there is enough money to include these new people. We do not know and that is worrisome. The federal government has frozen the annual budget increase for aboriginal people at 2%. There will be a serious problem when Bill C-3 comes into force.
We will see the reaction of aboriginals appearing before committee. The Bloc Québécois will ask that it be mostly women because they are the ones being discriminated against. With all due respect, the men have not lost anything. Initially, large band councils were headed by women. The Indian Act put an end to the passing on of tradition by women.
I will stop here, but if the House gave me permission to continue for another 10 minutes, I would be very happy.