Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to rise in support of Bill C-3, the gender equity in Indian registration act, and the amendments before us today.
As stated previously by my fellow members, the legislation we are now considering is a timely and direct response to the ruling of the British Columbia Court of Appeal in McIvor v. Canada. We are aware that there are a number of other issues that have been raised in the context of Bill C-3. However, given the short time frame and the interests of avoiding a legislative void in British Columbia, we are seeking to implement changes that directly respond to the court's decision.
Bill C-3 offers a solution to the specific issues of gender discrimination identified by the British Columbia Court of Appeal in the Indian Act. As I mentioned, we are aware of broader considerations of registration and membership. Our government has been working in collaboration with the people directly affected by these issues.
Last year, following a thorough review and analysis of the court's decision, officials from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada had technical briefings with representatives of five national aboriginal organizations to discuss the decision and Canada's proposed response. Following those briefings, 15 engagement sessions were held throughout the country to present Canada's proposed response to the McIvor decision and to solicit feedback. Hundreds of participants came to the engagement sessions and many written submissions were received.
Several common themes emerged. Many people expressed concerns about the associated issues of registration, membership and citizenship. We appreciate the fact that these broader issues need to be considered and discussed. These are complex questions and there is a diversity of views among first nations. Therefore, we will be undertaking a collaborative process with national aboriginal organizations to plan, organize and implement forums and activities that will focus on the gathering of information and identifying significant issues for discussion.
This separate exploratory process will allow for an examination of the broader concerns. The Government of Canada believes that this process should be collaborative and thorough. The wide array of views on status, membership and citizenship must be shared and carefully considered. These issues cannot be addressed in isolation without the input of our aboriginal people and they certainly cannot be addressed in a rushed manner.
The findings of the exploratory process will be considered as we work on next steps regarding further initiatives on these issues. However, as important as this work might be, it cannot take precedence over Bill C-3. We must not lose sight of the fact that the legislation now before us responds to a specific court ruling and prescribed deadline. The ruling and the deadline have been the driving force behind Bill C-3. The proposed legislation has been devised to answer a very specific requirement. Therefore, it is precise, compact and focused.
Another beneficial aspect of Bill C-3 is that it complements actions and initiatives taken by the Government of Canada in recent years. In essence, a new spirit of effective collaboration now permeates the relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.
Collaboration has been a defining characteristic of a long list of recent initiatives to improve the quality of drinking water in first nation communities, to eliminate the backlog of unresolved specific claims and to modernize on-reserve child and family services and education, to name but a few. In each case, the Government of Canada worked in partnership with aboriginal groups to design and implement an effective strategy.
This growing partnership is tremendously valuable. It inspires the mutual trust needed to make progress across a whole spectrum of issues. The engagement process used to develop Bill C-3 furthered this collaborative spirit.
As discussions about the exploratory process continue, it is vital that Canada respond effectively to the ruling of the British Columbia Court of Appeal. Bill C-3 offers an appropriate response. The rationale and intention that has inspired the proposed legislation are sound and they are worthy of our support.
Bill C-3 would have a positive effect on all Canadians, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal. It would complement the collaborative approach adopted by the Government of Canada on many issues that affect the lives of aboriginal peoples. The proposed legislation, along with the exploratory process, will strengthen the relationship between Canada and first nations.
Bill C-3 represents a timely and appropriate response to the ruling of the British Columbia Court of Appeal. It proposes to eliminate a cause of unjust discrimination and ensure that Canada's legal system continues to evolve alongside the needs of aboriginal peoples.
I urge all members of the House to join me in supporting the timely passage of Bill C-3.