Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today at report stage of Bill C-3, the gender equity in Indian registration act.
As my fellow members are well aware, Bill C-3 proposes to amend the Indian Act and to eliminate a significant and long-standing case of gender discrimination. To appreciate the logic behind the proposed legislation, however, we must understand the problem that Bill C-3 aims to fix.
Last year, the court of appeal for British Columbia issued a decision in McIvor v. Canada, which is now known commonly as the McIvor decision. The ruling required the Government of Canada to amend certain registration provisions of the Indian Act that the court identified as unconstitutional as they were inconsistent with the equality provision of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The court initially suspended the effect of the declaration until April 6, later granting a short extension until July 5 of this year. In other words, if no solution is in place in just a little over a month, paragraphs 6(1)(a) and 6(1)(c) of the Indian Act dealing with an individual's entitlement to registration for Indian status, for all intents and purposes, will cease to exist in the province of British Columbia. This would create uncertainty and, most important, this legislative gap would prevent the registration of individuals associated with bands in that province.
Even though we have been granted a brief extension on the implementation of the court's decision in McIvor v. Canada, we must continue to work toward resolving the issue now. This extension should not be perceived as an opportunity to delay the process of Bill C-3 as this bill would rectify a long-standing case of gender discrimination. I want to emphasize that Bill C-3 offers a solution to the specific issues identified by the court by amending the Indian Act to eliminate the language that gives rise to the gender discrimination identified in section 6.
The impact of this bill would be important. We expect 45,000 people to be newly entitled to register as status Indians as a result of Bill C-3. In anticipation of the influx of requests, the Indian registration program has developed an implementation strategy to effectively deal with the new applications for registration under the Indian Act in accordance with the proposed amendments.
The Government of Canada is also carefully examining the program and financial impacts associated with the implementation of the bill. An internal financial impact working group has been established to examine all the costs associated with the implementation of the proposed legislation.
The legislation now before us proposes to change the provision used to confer Indian status on the children of women such as Ms. McIvor. Instead of subsection 6(2), these children would acquire status through subsection 6(1). This would eliminate the gender-based discrimination identified by the court.
As I mentioned earlier, it is important to recognize that Bill C-3 offers a solution to the specific issues identified by the court of appeal for British Columbia and does so in a tightly-focused fashion in order to respect the looming deadline. We can all appreciate the need to act quickly to respond to the court's ruling and provide new entitlement to registration in a timely manner.
I am convinced that this is a wise approach. As parliamentarians, we know the importance being placed on us by the British Columbia Court of Appeal to provide a legislative solution to a recognized case of gender discrimination. As a compact piece of legislation, it is my hope that Bill C-3 can make swift progress through Parliament.
The proposed legislation has much to recommend. It proposes a timely and direct response to the ruling of British Columbia Court of Appeal. In addition, it would eliminate a cause of gender discrimination. In essence, Bill C-3 represents a progressive step by a country committed to the ideals of justice and equality.
I urge all members to join me in support of Bill C-3.