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Liberals Work to Fix Aboriginal Rights Bill

by NationTalk on June 22, 2007747 Views

June 20, 2007
ISSUE

· On June 19, 2007, the Liberal Opposition, along with the other opposition parties, voted in committee to suspend debate on Bill C-44 for a maximum of 10 months to allow for consultations between the federal government and First Nations.KEY MESSAGE

· Working with the other opposition parties, we have suspended debate on Bill C-44 for 10 months to allow time for proper consultation with First Nations to take place.

· Everybody but the government wants more consultation on this bill. Three opposition parties agree. Canada’s Aboriginal leadership agrees. Why can’t the Conservatives understand this?

· There are sections of the bill that demand study in the interest, first and foremost, of Aboriginal Peoples.

· The minority Conservative government has already attempted to shut down debate on this bill and push through its agenda without proper study. What is their hurry?

· This is the same government that claims to be a champion of Human Rights for First Nations, Métis and Inuit, yet voted against the International Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations and is now actively campaigning against the ratification of the declaration.

· And, just yesterday, the Minister of Indian Affairs said the Conservative government will likely appeal a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a 1985 change to the Indian Act on the grounds that it discriminates against First Nations people who trace their roots through their female forebears.

· If they want to get this bill right, why won’t they listen to the people who will be most affected by it?

BACKGROUND

· The Conservatives introduced Bill C-44 on December 13, 2006. It seeks to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which, since 1977, has prevented First Nations people from lodging complaints of discrimination against the federal and First Nations governments in relation to acts and decisions authorized by the Indian Act.

· Since starting its study of the bill on March 22, 2007, the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development has heard from the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Canadian Bar Association, the Assembly of First Nations the Native Women’s Association of Canada, and others. Virtually all have suggested changes to the proposed legislation.

· The bill as drafted, allows for very limited amendments, in order to respond to committee representations.

Stakeholder Reaction

· The Assembly of First Nations and Native Women’s Association were disappointed that the legislation was introduced without consultation. Both have called on Minister Prentice to accept the Canadian Human Rights Commission report’s recommendation of an 18 to 30 month period of transition and implementation – rather than the six months allowed in the bill’s current form. The Assembly of First Nations has recommended 36 months.

· “We agree that the repeal of section 67 is long overdue. However, we feel there has to be meaningful consultation as a strong first step of an evolving and collaborative process. We do not view human rights protection as compartmental. It is a process in which each step is necessary to achieve success in the overall goal. Consultation is not an excuse for inaction; it is an essential element in an active process.” (Beverley Jacobs, President, Native Women’s Association of Canada, House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, April 17, 2007)

· “…Bill C-44 was not developed jointly with first nations, at least not so with the members of the AFNQL. Despite its virtuous intent, it is another example of imposition on first nations without our consent, despite the fine promises of the Crown to the contrary. The AFNQL is not aware of any facts that would support the minister’s claims and those of his officials that this provision has been debated on many occasions over the years.” (Ghislain Picard, Regional Chief, Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, May 1, 2007)

· “Repealing section 67 and replacing it with appropriate legislation to protect our individual rights and collective rights will be a giant step forward. Getting it right will be the challenge. There are a number of changes that need to be made to the bill to get it right.” (Chief Lynda Price, Ulkatcho First Nation, Assembly of First Nations, Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, March 29, 2007)

· “As for the principle of Bill C – 44, the repeal of section 67 I don’t have a problem with, but let’s talk about the process and what has to occur prior to that, instead of ramming something down my throat again. I say this as a first nations person who has had to live under the Indian Act all my life.” (Rose Laboucan from the Driftpile First Nation, Thursday, May 31, 2007)

· “I want to further state MKIO takes the position that the committee review process is not part of the Crown consultation process. The consultation must be done by government as distinct from Parliament, although Parliament may with to monitor the Crown consultations.” (Grand Chief Garrioch, Manitoba Keewatinook Ininew Okimowin, Thursday, May 3, 2007)

Liberal Party of Canada Aboriginal Peoples’ Commission

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