That it be an instruction to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, that it have the power during its consideration of Bill C-3, An Act to promote gender equity in Indian registration by responding to the Court of Appeal for British Columbia decision in McIvor v. Canada (Registrar of Indian and Northern Affairs), to expand the scope of the Bill so that a grandchild born before 1985 with a female grandparent would receive the same entitlement to status as a grandchild of a male grandparent born in the same period.
Mr. Speaker, I want to draw the attention of the House to two references in O'Brien and Bosc to support this motion. One is on page 752 of the English edition and it deals with a motion to instruct a committee. It states:
Once a bill has been referred to a committee, the House may instruct the committee by way of a motion authorizing what would otherwise be beyond its powers, such as, for example, examining a portion of a bill and reporting it separately, examining certain items in particular, dividing a bill into more than one bill, consolidating two or more bills...A committee that so wishes may also seek instruction from the House.
The House may give instructions to a Committee of the Whole or indeed to any of its committees. More than one motion of instruction may be proposed in relation to the same bill, but each such motion must be moved separately. Motions of instruction respecting bills are permissive rather than mandatory in that it is left to the committee to decide whether or not to exercise the powers given to it by the House.
It is clear from that reference that the House can instruct a committee on the scope of the bill. The second reference is from page 994 of the English edition of O'Brien and Bosc. It states:
Once a committee has begun a study, the House may also give it additional direction, known as “instructions”. They are sometimes mandatory, but are usually permissive. A mandatory instruction orders a committee to consider a specific matter or to conduct its study in a particular way. A permissive instruction gives the committee the power to do something that it could not otherwise do, but does not require it to exercise that power. Committees may, if they wish, request an instruction from the House by presenting a report to it.
The reason that I believe that this motion is necessary is because we have before the House Bill C-3, which is a result of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that responded very narrowly. We have heard from numerous witnesses and from briefs before the aboriginal affairs committee the fact that there still is residual discrimination left over as a result of this very narrow definition.
Procedurally, we know that a committee by itself cannot expand the scope of the bill; however, there are two ways to expand the scope of the bill. One is for the House to give instruction, and again, I want to reiterate this is permissive so it is up to the committee to determine whether it would take this instruction, and the second way is for the government itself to expand the scope of the bill. To date, the government has not chosen to expand the scope of the bill, so I am requesting support of the House to give permissive instructions to the committee to allow it to expand the scope of the bill.
I want to talk a little bit about why this is important. In 1988, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development tabled a report in the House that outlined residual discrimination that was left over from the 1985 Bill C-31, which was a bill that recognized the fact that women who married non-aboriginal men could regain status in some way. But Bill C-31 still left discriminatory practices in place. The fifth report from 1988 acknowledged a number of areas where there was still discrimination. On page 30, it said:
In 1985 over 50% of all children born to status Indian mothers were born out of wedlock.All these children are now automatically registered as 6.(2) if there is no signed acknowledgment of paternity.
This is the issue concerning non-stated paternity. We heard from witnesses at committee that non-stated paternity often will discriminate against women who for a variety of reasons are unwilling to state the paternity. There were remedies suggested in this report which have not been acted on, which included having women sign an affidavit.
Further on in the report, it said:
One of the most frequently cited examples of residual sex discrimination has been the discriminatory treatment of reinstated “12(1)(b)” women in terms of the rights of their children, grandchildren and non-Indian or non-status spouses under the amended Indian Act relative to the rights held by the descendants and non-Indian spouses of Indian men who “married out” before April 17, 1985. The rights concerned involved entitlement to Indian status, entitlement to band membership and reserve residency. The other frequently cited example is the sexually discriminatory treatment of illegitimate children born before April 17, 1985 of male status Indians and non-status women in regard to entitlement to status and band membership.
Further on in the report, there are a number of other examples of residual sex discrimination, which were brought to the attention of the committee. One of them required an unmarried Indian woman to name the father of her children, which I have already talked about. Later in the report, on page 36, it talked about the complexity of the act. It said:
The registration entitlement provisions have become increasingly complex since the first consolidated Indian Act in 1876. Unfortunately, the 1985 amendments continue this tradition. The entitlement provisions respecting registration and band membership now constitute a complex set of rules expressed in highly technical language. The entitlement of a particular individual is dependent upon the entitlement of his or her parents and/or grandparents under the present Act. In the case of individuals applying for reinstatement or first time registration because of discriminatory provisions of the Indian Act, an intimate knowledge of previous versions of the Act is also required. In short, these provisions cannot be easily understood by laypersons including the many people affected by the Indian Act.
Bill C-3 does nothing to alleviate those problems that were identified.
I will turn to modern-day times. The report was from 1988 and there have been no amendments to the Indian Act that have dealt with that residual discrimination until this date. A couple of decades have gone by where women and their offspring continue to be treated differently than men.
On April 22 the Canadian Human Rights Commission appeared before the committee. Its terminology was slightly different. It talked about alleged residual discrimination, but it outlined a couple of important points. It talked about family status because that is still alleged residual discrimination under the current Bill C-3. The CHRC official stated:
Family status is a very broad ground so I will provide a definition. Family status refers to the inter-relationship that arises from bonds of marriage, kinship or legal adoption, including the ancestral relationship, whether legitimate, illegitimate, or by adoption. It also includes the relationships between spouses, siblings, in-laws, uncles or aunts, and nephews or nieces, and cousins.
We have examples of that residual discrimination that is still going on between siblings. I am going to come back to that case in a moment. Dr. Palmater, when she appeared before the committee, outlined that family discrimination still exists within her own family.
Later in the testimony, the Human Rights Commission talked about a couple of key points, which other members of the committee are going to be speaking to today. The HRC official said:
My key message to you today is that this is by no means definite. The Commission’s ability to redress allegations of discrimination under the Indian Act remains uncertain...The Attorney General of Canada has given notice that it will be challenging the Commission’s jurisdiction, claiming that determination of status by the registrar is not a service under section 5 of the CHRA...Therefore, if a court were to find that the determination of status is not a service, the Commission would no longer have the authority to accept complaints related to Indian status. By extension, this could raise similar questions as to whether or not the determination of band membership is a service.
That aspect is important. What the committee certainly heard was not an acknowledgement of residual discrimination but a tacit admission. The government and the department have indicated that one remedy for people would be to go before the Canadian Human Rights Commission, but the CHRC clearly indicated that this may not be a remedy. It may well be that we could wait a few more decades before this residual discrimination is addressed.
In its closing remarks, the Canadian Human Rights Commission stated:
The Committee has already heard that the Indian Act has had discriminatory effects, including residual gender-based discrimination. A case-by-case, section-by-section approach to resolving discriminatory provisions of the Indian Act will be costly, confrontational and time-consuming. Moreover, the Act places the burden on complainants who do not necessarily have access to legal resources.
Again, testimony before the committee indicated that there are currently 14 court cases in the works regarding various complaints concerning status provisions in the Indian Act.
We know that in the case of Ms. McIvor it was 20 years before she was able to have her case finally resolved. The resolution was not the one Ms. McIvor had hoped for.
Again, this is all part of the argument that it is critical to take this opportunity now that we are opening up the Indian Act to look at the status provisions and deal with all aspects of the sexual discrimination still present in the act.
In its testimony at committee, the Canadian Bar Association highlighted a number of areas. One was as follows:
There are many people registered under section 6(2) who were registered post-1985 because they were not registered earlier for reasons other than gender discrimination. One of those reasons had to do with adoption. In the 1960s and 70s, numerous First Nation children were adopted out but were not registered as Indians. After 1985, they were registered as Indians but under section 6(2). In many of those cases, their mothers still had status at the time of the children’s birth and so after 1985 were reinstated because they were entitled to be registered at their birth but were not. However, they were given the same lesser status--namely section 6(2). Bill C-3 would not provide any benefit to those people who were given section 6(2) status for reasons different from the McIvor case. Unless a person meets all of the criteria, they are left out.
This is another case of that residual discrimination.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission talked about family status being one of the areas where there is potential for discrimination. The Canadian Bar Association identified that and said:
This raises a potential concern for “family status” discrimination, in that some people will only be “bumped up” from section 6(2) to 6(1) status if they parent a child. This may affect people whose band membership code denies membership to Indians registered under section 6(2) and also in communities where there is a certain stigma associated with having section 6(2) status rather than section 6(1).
These various categories continue to promote a lack of harmony and conflicting relationships. This is an opportunity for the House to deal with that.
The Canadian Bar Association also dealt with section 9 and said that section 9 is a concern as it would remove the right of people to sue the federal government for not providing them the status as a result of the gender discrimination addressed by the bill. The association cautioned that this would make the bill vulnerable to further court challenges.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission identified the fact that it may also limit its ability to provide a remedy if section 9 of the bill stands. Later on in its brief, the commission talked about continuing discrimination:
Unfortunately, Bill C-3 would not completely eliminate discrimination from the registration provisions of the Indian Act. The proposals do not address discriminatory aspects of the “second generation cut-off rule” enacted in 1985, which the parties and the court studiously avoided in the McIvor case.
Perhaps more important, Bill C-3 would not sufficiently address the source of discrimination identified by the B.C. Court of Appeal; sections 6(1)(a) and 6(1)(c) violate the Charter to the extent that they grant individuals to whom the “Double Mother Rule” applied greater rights than they would have had under the former legislation. The...Double Mother re-instates would still have “better status” than those in the comparator group, even following the proposed amendments in Bill C-3.
That is a serious concern, that even in a McIvor-like situation we are going to continue to perpetuate that kind of discrimination.
I mentioned that I wanted to talk briefly about Dr. Palmater's presentation to the committee on April 20. This is an example of that ongoing family discrimination which Bill C-3 does not address. She talked about her own family and said:
I have one sister who was adopted, three who were born pre-1951, and three who are illegitimate. This will mean very different things for us under Bill C-3 or for any limited gender discrimination remedy.
What she is talking about is that because of the birthdates of her siblings and legitimacy versus illegitimacy, people will have either no status or different status even with the changes under Bill C-3.
In this day and age when we acknowledge there are discriminatory practices still inherent, why would we not take this opportunity to address those? Why would we leave people hanging out there for possibly a couple more decades? I need to remind the House that some of these people who would be impacted are getting older and they simply may run out of time to have their particular cases addressed.
I want to reference briefly the Lovelace case. Dr. Palmater argued in her presentation that the government could have expanded the scope of the bill. It did not need to narrowly address the B.C. Supreme Court decision. She said:
When Canada responded to the Lovelace case with Bill C-31 in 1985, it did not limit the amendment to the reinstatement of section 12(1)(b) women, it also amended the Act to allow bands to control their own membership; changed the legal presumption for unstated paternity from a default of Indian paternity (unless protested) to a presumption of non-Indian paternity and reinstated other categories of previously enfranchised Indians. Canada is no more limited in its ability to amend the Act now, than it was in 1985.
Not only does Bill C-3 not address all of the gender discrimination in the registration provisions of the Indian Act, but it does not even entirely address the limited form of discrimination found in the Court of Appeal in McIvor between double mother clause and section 12(1)(b) reinstates and their descendants.
The Court of Appeal in McIvor specifically stated that it would not draft the legislation. Canada is therefore left with the responsibility to do so in a manner which respects gender equality. There was nothing in the Court of Appeal case to prevent Canada from addressing the larger issue of gender discrimination as between sections 6(1)(a) and 6(1)(c).
Later in Dr. Palmater's presentation she outlined a number of suggestions for amendments to the act that would address residual sex discrimination. I will not go through all of the proposed amendments. It is clear from the number of people who appeared before committee that there are serious problems.
A matter of concern for the committee is that as part of the rules of this House, if this bill should be defeated, the government would be under no obligation to respond to the court of appeal decision, nor could it reintroduce a bill substantially similar to the bill that is before the House. That presents a challenge for the House in terms of our ability to deal with that residual discrimination.
The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs appeared before the committee. This issue is of particular concern in British Columbia because it was the B.C. Supreme Court that struck down sections 6(1)(a) and 6(1)(c) as of April 6. The B.C. people who could gain status will be directly impacted by this piece of legislation.
The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs requested a couple of things, that the act be amended to also include those who were born before September 4, 1951 and those who lost status not due to the fact that their mother and grandmother lost status through marriage but those children born outside of a marriage who lost status because a registrar universally deemed them to have a non-status father. As I mentioned earlier, that touches on unstated paternity. The union called for the deletion of clause 9 which limits government liability.
The Waban-Aki Nation has a current court case which specifically relates to the difference between how siblings are treated. The Waban-Aki Nation, in its presentation, talked about the siblings rule.
Susan Yantha was born in 1954. At the time of her birth the Indian registration rules did not allow for the registration of illegitimate daughters of an Indian father and a non-Indian mother. There is an analysis comparing her with a hypothetical brother. The brother, whom we will call Arthur, would have had the right to be registered at the time of his birth since the Indian registration rules, which did not allow for the registration of illegitimate daughters of an Indian father and a non-Indian mother, did allow for the registration of their illegitimate sons. Although there were some changes, it did not fully address the way that different siblings could pass on status to their children.
When the Court of Appeal heard the government application for extension, it was cognizant of the fact that it was desirable for government to consult with first nations before proceeding with amendments to the legislation. It indicated that under the circumstances, it might well have acceded to a request for a longer suspension of its declaration had it been sought.
It is clear that had the government sought it, the courts would have agreed to give a longer period of time so that legislation could be drafted which appropriately addressed the residual discrimination that was outstanding.
I would urge this House to support this motion, pass on permissive instructions to the committee to allow it to expand the scope of the bill, and take an opportunity to address meaningfully the residual discrimination.