When I was chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, we did a number of studies, in particular on gender equality. Gender equality is built on many pillars, but essentially, its aim is to ensure that men and women are treated equally in all aspects.
Correcting an irregularity like the one raised in this bill is a simple and obvious way to move towards real gender equality. I am proud to support Bill S-3 and I appreciate having the opportunity to speak in favour of this legislation here today. An individual's status should not be based on their sex. It is a question of history and culture, and righting this wrong is a logical step.
I am very happy to talk about Bill S-3. For those who are not familiar with this bill, it amends the Indian Act. It seeks to remedy gender inequality for those born after 1951.
The changes to the act, specifically, are to replace the long title; to delete from the bill a clause that has been quite controversial, and there has certainly been some discussion about the “6(1)(a) all the way” clause today; and to add the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to the list of documents the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs has to consider during promised forthcoming consultation on those issues. Those are really the changes to the bill.
I am definitely in support of gender equality. I talked about my experience on the status of women committee. I would also mention that I have two non-status Métis daughters. Gender equality, when it comes to status, is very important. I am glad to see that this bill would take steps in that direction.
If we think about the record of the party I represent, we did a lot of things when it came to gender equality for first nations women. You may recall the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, which was brought forward to address differences in the way women were treated with respect to matrimonial property over men.
It is notable that the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs actually voted against that measure. I see that there is a change of tune now on the other side when it comes to gender equality.
In addition to that, we re-introduced legislation to guarantee people living on reserve the same protection other Canadians enjoy under the Human Rights Act. That was another thing the Conservative Party was proud to bring in. We also addressed, under Bill C-3, the Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act, in 2010, the McIvor v. Canada case to allow eligible grandchildren of women who lost their status as a result of marrying a non-Indian man to be entitled to registration.
Members can see that the party has a history of taking steps to try to restore gender equality in our first nations and Inuit societies.
With that, I am certainly glad to see this bill moving along. That said, I would be remiss if I did not talk about how botched this legislation already is. It is bad enough that the Supreme Court had to order the government to do something, but to then have to get two court extensions shows a lack of planning and a lack of an ability to execute.
I noted that there were lots of struggles on the way to getting this bill here. It does not seem that it is just this bill. It seems that the government has great difficulty executing any number of things when it comes to first nations people.
We know that there was a big push to spend $8.4 billion to eliminate the problem of not having clean water in first nations communities across the country. We see now 120 more boil water advisories than we had at the beginning, and we are two years into it. It really shows a lack of ability to execute.
The other example would be the murdered and missing aboriginal women effort. I have quite a number of things to say about that one. First of all, in almost two years, 20 people have resigned or been fired from that initiative.
The government talks about its nation-to-nation relationship and that it is going to consult broadly and everything else. Here is an example of a consultation where it has talked to very few victims. The Liberals have spent a huge amount of money, and it is two years up the road.
There has been a lot of press on this issue saying that people are dissatisfied: there is no plan, there is no schedule, there are inadequate computers and Internet access, there are limited aftercare plans for the family members who are trying to participate, there was an eight-month delay in opening offices, and there was a four-month delay in hiring staff. There is a whole shopping list of things that are wrong with the murdered and missing aboriginal women inquiry. It does not inspire confidence that the government will be able to execute properly in the go forward.
The Liberals need to not be all talk and no action. They need to learn how to execute and actually say the things they mean and then follow up and do the things they need to do.
If we want to talk about examples of places where the Liberals say they want a nation-to-nation relationship but then do not actually follow through, we can look at a number of examples. We see, for example, that the courts said that indigenous children were being discriminated against with respect to welfare, yet the government was ordered to pay $150 million and dragged its feet on that. How can they have a nation-to-nation relationship when they will not even do what the courts are ordering them to do to give restitution to children? It is ridiculous.
We can talk about the oral health of indigenous people. We see that the government would rather spend $110,000 fighting in court than pay $6,000 for dental work for an indigenous child. That again does not say to indigenous people that the government wants a nation-to-nation relationship. It is pretty much hypocrisy.
I am concerned about Bill S-3. I see that it is well intentioned, but in the execution of it, it could become problematic. There were amendments in the Senate, and I am glad to see that some of them were taken along, because that does not always happen. A lot of times, when the Senate has brought amendments, they are refused here. That is a total waste of the taxpayers' money in terms of the Senate, because if the Senate is doing all this work to bring amendments, and they are rejected here, it seems a little pointless.
The fact that there are so many Senate bills coming forward is also a bit problematic. We have a limited amount of time in the House, and the government is running on promises that it is having trouble keeping, but there are a lot of promises, and it is getting late in the mandate to start delivering on some of those things. Every one of the Senate bills disrupts the agenda of the day.
Although I am in favour of Bill S-3, and certainly of gender equality and the restoration of that to first nations people, I wanted to point out a few of those things I see.
In closing, I would like to reiterate my support for this bill. While the Liberal government seems to be incapable of keeping a single election promise, I am pleased that at least it appears to support this effort to achieve gender equality with respect to the transmission of Indian status.
I would again like to thank my colleagues across party lines for their efforts today, as well as the Senate for the hard work it has accomplished since the beginning of the study. The Liberal government has already managed to extend the deadline twice, but the court appears to have no intention of extending it a third time.
It is time to pass this legislation in order to solve a problem that the government seems to be avoiding.