Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, witnesses and guests.
I hereby call to order this 8th meeting of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
On today's agenda, pursuant to our order of reference of Monday, March 29, 2010, we are considering Bill , an .
Ladies and gentlemen, this is our second meeting with respect to this bill. I should say, members, we will be having three one-hour instalments this afternoon to take us until 6:30.
For the first hour we welcome Ms. McIvor, who has been quite involved in this issue for a long period of time and is the source of the claim and the issue we have before us. We welcome Ms. McIvor.
In the course of our questioning for each of the three hours we will go for the normal ten-minute presentation followed by questions from members. We'll stay with the usual seven-minutes in the first round and five minutes in the subsequent rounds of questions.
With that, we'll begin.
Ms. McIvor, it's great to have you here. You have the floor for ten minutes.
Thank you very much for inviting me. I would like to introduce my friend and colleague, Gwen Brodsky, who will be taking part in probably helping me answer some of the questions that I anticipate you will be asking me.
First, I want to briefly introduce myself. I am Nlaka’pamux, from the Lower Nicola Indian Band, in south-central British Columbia, about two and a half hours northeast of Vancouver. I live and work in my community. I drive by the place where I was born every day when I go to work, so I haven't moved very far. Gwen, aside from being a lifelong friend, has also been one of the lawyers on this particular case.
I've had many questions asked about what role does my band play and what does my band think. I have a letter here from my chief that I would like to read to you:
Re: appearance of Sharon McIvor, an LNIB member:
I wish to advise the Standing Committee that the Lower Nicola Indian Band is in full support of the work of our band member, Sharon Donna McIvor, in her efforts to achieve full equality for first nations women of Canada, their children and their grandchildren. I commend the committee for making time to listen to her views. Bill C-3 is a large part of her achievement, having spent 20 years to get a court hearing on the issue of the grandchildren of first nations women who married outside their nation.
Indian status is a citizenship issue and one fully deserving of its equation to Canadian citizenship. When Canadians need to obtain passports to go to the U.S., the minister responsible for passports ensures all Canadians can obtain passports on an expedited basis in the closest town or city possible. The Minister of Indian Affairs has been severely remiss in his duties to first nations, many of whom have waited and are still waiting for status under Bill C-31. The list is reportedly over 100,000. You must do all in your power to ensure these grandchildren of women who married outside their first nations can receive their citizenship in an expedited manner, along with the 100,000 still waiting under Bill C-31.
I remind you that Ms. McIvor was given, by court order of B.C. Supreme Court, full status for her children and grandchildren based on sex equality and this is substantially reduced by the B.C. Court of Appeal. I encourage you to remove the 1951 date, which reduces full equality for all those who have suffered under this sex discrimination.
I would be pleased to make an appearance before the committee.
Respectfully, Lower Nicola Indian Band Chief Don Moses
So, on record, my chief has supported and continues to support this effort. I also want to acknowledge that although this is my part of the fight, I'm not the leader of this fight. I didn't begin this fight, and I want to acknowledge Mary Two-Axe Earley, Nellie Carlson, Jenny Margetts, Jeannette Lavell, Sandra Lovelace, and other women who have taken this fight throughout the years.
For the members, I have a copy of a presentation that Mary Two-Axe Earley gave to the government in 1978. I'm not going to read the whole speech, but there are a couple things that I think are important for you to understand that it isn't only today that this issue has been a problem. She said:
Let us chronicle our pain, point by point:
1. When the Great Spirit calls us we cannot be buried alongside our ancestors in the tradition burial grounds where their bodies have gone to rest. This is the most cruel condition of our imposed exile. Yet people from the neighbouring City of Montreal can bury their dogs on selected plots of Reserve land.
2. We cannot inherit property given to us by our ancestors or bestow property [on] our children. It is as though we were non-entities, not to be accorded the normal recognition afforded by all free people.
We are prohibited from exercising the right to political participation, including the right to vote and to advocate the candidacy of those worthwhile persons who can be an asset to our people. We cannot be Indian in word or action. We are the victims of cultural genocide.
One more passage:
We Indian women stand before you as the least members of your society. You may ask yourself why. First, we are excluded from the protection
—this is 1978—
of the Canadian Bill of Rights
—that's section 67—
or the intercession of any human rights commission because the Indian Act supercedes the laws governing the majority. Second, we are subject to a law wherein the only equality is the inequality of treatment of both status and non-status women. Third, we are subject to the punitive actions of dictatorial chiefs half-crazed with newly acquired powers bestowed by a government concerned with their self-determination. Fourth, we are stripped naked of any legal protection and raped by those who would take advantage of the inequities afforded by the Indian Act. Raped because we cannot be buried beside the mothers who bore us and the fathers who begot us...we are subject to eviction from domiciles of our families and expulsion from tribal roles. Because we must forfeit any inheritance of ownership or property. Because we are divested of the right to vote. Because we are ruled by chiefs steeped in chauvinistic patriarchy, who are supported by the Indian Act, drafted by the rulers of this country over 100 years ago. Because we are unable to pass our Indianness and the Indian culture that is engendered by a mother to her children, because we live in a country acclaimed to be one of the greatest cradles of democracy on earth offering asylum to Vietnamese refugees and other suppressed peoples while within its borders its native sisters are experiencing the same suppression that has caused these people to seek refuge in the great mother known as Canada.
Those are the words of Mary Two-Axe Earley in 1978, and I'm bringing those words today because they are current 32 years later. We have a piece of legislation being introduced that continues to perpetuate sex discrimination against Indian women and their descendants.
Jeannette Lavell was one of the first to bring the issue to court, followed by Sandra Lovelace, who took it to the UN. Jeannette was unsuccessful. Sandra was successful. And in 1985 Minister Crombie changed the act, Bill C-31. But when the act was changed in 1985, parliamentarians knew there was residual discrimination. Crombie's records show that they understood that some of us would still suffer from the residual discrimination.
My case started in 1985. I got into the court system in 1989. When I started, my oldest son was 14, and my grandchildren...I had not thought of them. I hoped I'd have them some day, but they weren't anywhere on the horizon.
As a result of some of the litigation, my son received his status in 2007, which is 16 years after we started. When we started he was a minor, and, as the case proceeded he was then added on under his own right, because he was old enough.
My grandsons, who were not thought of when I started, will be 17 and 19 this year.
We knew that it was discriminatory. You, as parliamentarians of the day, knew it was discriminatory, and yet they forced someone like me to take it through the courts and have the courts decide that it was discriminatory. As a result of that, my son lost 15 or 16 years of his entitlement, and my grandsons have not been recognized as having that entitlement yet.
I'm not the only one. There are thousands of women and thousands of grandchildren out there who are still looking to have this put right.
The government is now responding to the court decision. The court has told you that you have to change it. Section 6 of the Indian Act is potentially being struck down because it discriminates against Indian women.
I understand from reading Bill that you have crafted some kind of remedy. I am here today to ask you, to plead with you, to include all of those women and their descendants who are discriminated against, not just the narrow view that the B.C. Court of Appeal addressed. As parliamentarians you know that the court does not draft legislation. They just put it back into your lap so you can do what is right.
It's up to you to do what is right and get rid of that residual discrimination--
I have several examples. What is crafted by the B.C. Court of Appeal is that those women who married out will have the remedy of having their grandchildren added. We have many first nations women who had children with non-Indians but didn't marry and did not lose their status. Their children, for the most part, were not eligible for registration, so their grandchildren will not be eligible for registration. Their children would have been brought in under subsection 6(2), which gives them what we call half status because they can't pass it on, and their grandchildren are not eligible. Women who did not marry and still lost status for their children will not get a remedy from this.
There is a situation—actually this is a personal situation: I have a niece and a nephew, their father is a status Indian, and their mother is not an Indian. Erin, who was born in 1979, was given status at birth. Evelyn, who was born in 1980, 14 months later, was not allowed to have status because she was a female. It was the illegitimate male descendants of a male who could have status and the females could not. In 1985 Evelyn applied for and was given status, but she was given 6(2) status and her full brother has a 6(1) status, which means Erin can pass status on to his kids, Evelyn cannot. The only difference is one is male and one is female. This legislation will not make any difference for that.
The 1951 date is really problematic. Basically any grandchild who's over 59 years of age right now will not benefit from it. There's a situation where a grandmother married in 1916. She had children in 1917, 1918, 1922, and 1925. She has grandchildren born in 1933, 1943, 1945, 1948, 1950, 1953, 1955, and 1958. That's a factual situation. Under this legislation the children born in 1933, 1943, 1945, 1948, and 1950 are not entitled to registration. Their siblings and cousins born in 1953, 1955, and 1958 are included. So the 1951 date is quite problematic when you've got families that are split like that, some born in the middle to late forties, some born in the middle to late fifties. And that's a factual situation.
Those are the factual situations. Gwen will add to this for me.
On behalf of the NDP, Ms. McIvor, I want to thank you for your tireless work in fighting this. I thank your family as well, because you wouldn't be doing it without your family's support and your community's support. I want to thank you.
This number may not be correct, but when the officials came before the committee, I believe they indicated to us that there are 14 cases on status before the courts. I'm not a lawyer, but given the track record of the government on losing these cases, I would argue that it would seem reasonable to consolidate the information and to look at more far-reaching changes to status in consultation with first nations.
I want to touch on a couple of things you talked about.
Regarding the 1951 date, our research people did a very good job on doing a summary. They indicated that the earliest statutory definition of an Indian in 1850 was inconclusive and did not differentiate between male and female. A statute in 1869 introduced the first provision under which the marriage of an Indian woman to a non-Indian man meant loss of status. It goes on to say that the act in 1876 explicitly emphasized male lineage, including a definition of any woman, Indian or not, who married a male. It was entrenched in 1951.
We're actually going back to 1869 in terms of this discriminatory practice. I don't know how we can begin to undo that kind of damage. I know that when you brought your case forward, it was much broader and you suggested that we remove any reference to 1951. Would the section 6(1) status apply to everybody prior to 1985, no matter what?
It's very nice to actually meet the person we've heard so much about in terms of the McIvor decision and who has spent so much time in trying to get to where we are today.
This part of the Indian Act, the registration part, is very complicated. Nobody is saying otherwise. I'm reflecting on the fact that many of the self-government agreements and treaties that have been negotiated over the last dozen or more years have essentially dropped the Indian Act, with one exception. There always seems to be the exception of the registration portion of the Indian Act being imported into these agreements, because it is such a complex area.
When you were giving an example earlier on, you were talking about a family who had children predating 1951 and postdating 1951. Under Bill C-3, it's very clear that the children born after 1951, as you described, are achieving registration; but it's also very clear that any sibling of those individuals born before 1951 is also eligible for registration. I wanted to clarify that one important matter.
I also want to talk about the process of registration. Like Jean Crowder, I've had experience working with people who are seeking registration. I know it's very onerous on the applicant, but it is also very onerous on the verification process. Sometimes these records are very difficult.
We do expect to hear from the Canadian Human Rights Commission on this whole issue, because there is a possible tsunami of cases coming forward as a consequence of Bill , because it means that the Canadian Human Rights Act, as of June next year, will apply to all first nations people. I just wonder if you have a comment on the amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act, which I think is positive for you.
The other thing is that we have launched this engagement process to follow Bill C-3, as part of our initiative on Bill C-3 to promote gender equality. We want to have a complete, ongoing process to see where we can get consensus across the country on further changes to improve registration status and citizenship. I wonder if you want to comment on that.
, Honourable Chair.
[Witness speaks in Ojibway]
My Anishinabe name is North Star, and I'm from the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve on Manitoulin Island. I would also like to acknowledge the territory of the Algonquin people.
Having said that, I would just like to take a minute and recognize your invitation for us to be one of the first presenters here. We recognize and appreciate that. Generally, we're usually at the end, but we do get the last word in at times.
While Sharon is here, I'd also like to say that we are thankful to her for all of her efforts. It is through her energy and determination and many times her own funding that we were able to see come into being. It was through her sheer will this has come about. We recognize this and support her. She will be one of our achievers when we look back at our aboriginal history, along with all of the other ones she talked about who've gone on.
I think this is a really important time in our history. Having said that, I want to share with you that thanks to her, I have five grandchildren, two of whom have full status. My oldest grandson, Nigani, has full status, as does my oldest granddaughter, Autumn Sky. However, my three little ones, Kyana, Eva, Ulbriana, do not have recognition as members of my community right now. But hopefully we will be able to see this happen and I will be able to tell them that they are full members of my community, their grandmother's community, that they will be recognized and will be able to learn our language, learn our history, learn our ceremonies, and learn our culture, because that is who we are and it is very important.
This is the underlying issue in what we're talking about here. If any of you feel that connection to your homes, your homeland, if it's Canada or elsewhere, you know how important it is, and that's what we feel about our communities. Marriage should not have anything to do with it. I would just like to state that from the very beginning.
Just as a little side point, paragraph 12(1)(b) of the Indian Act did not come from us as aboriginal people. That was imposed on us from you know where. We would really like the opportunity to return to our traditions, to who we are as a people, our practices and customs, including having that respect and recognition for our women, remembering that it is our women who will ensure our future generations. That is our responsibility, to ensure that our nations will be here tomorrow and for many generations to come.
Right now, there have been studies done that show that in three years' time, one reserve in Ontario, the Scugog First Nation, will have its last status Indian born in 2013. Now what's going to happen to that first nation? If we continue the way we are going, that is what's going to happen to many others. I don't think any of us in Canada, whether aboriginal or not, will allow that to happen. We recognize that Canada is a great country.
I also want to say that the Native Women's Association of Canada consists of provincial and territorial organizations right across the country and we represent first nations, Métis, and Inuit women. We were created and we support the issue we are talking about here today.
As I said to Sharon, we do support all the work she has done, and we will continue to support her work in bringing about equity to eliminate any of that ongoing discrimination that is present within the current bill. I hope it will not be present in the next piece of legislation that comes about. I think all of you here, with our support--and our little push, perhaps--will make sure that for my grandchildren, the three I was telling you about, their recognition back into my community will have meaning. It will mean something to them. They can say that they have full recognition equal to their cousins, cousins who are descended from a male ancestor.
Right now that is not there, but hopefully we will be able to see that. It will be up to you to ensure that those three little girls will have just as many rights, that they are not lesser than, or that they will not be excluded.
I understand that's what Sharon is talking about. There should not be any more discrimination within legislation.
I was going to take you back through our history, but I'll make it brief. I know that time is going, and Sharon has already covered many of the definitions and all the descriptions.
I will just tell you that from 1876 to 1970, no one challenged the Indian Act. It was just a given. I guess that right, for us, to make changes in the legislation that was affecting us just was not there. We did try in 1970--I tried--and, as Sharon pointed out, lost by one vote. The time was just not right. We had most of the aboriginal organizations, especially the National Indian Brotherhood at the time, who opposed us. We lost by one vote.
Had the time been different, or had it happened now, I don't think the story would be the same. We are changing, and the time is right for us all to work together to bring about true equity, true justice, for all of us as Canadians and as aboriginal people within our community.
I was also going to say to you that because we didn't have a voice in the early seventies, we created our aboriginal women's organizations. Mind you, this is just recognizing the role we had. We actually brought it forward, and thank goodness, because we will not stop our struggle to achieve this equity until we follow the teachings of our grandfathers and our grandmothers--that is, to recognize that our children are gifts from the Creator. As mothers, as grandmothers, as great-grandmothers, we have the responsibility to care for them, to nurture them, to ensure that they have the rights and the benefits so they can grow into strong, wise, and protecting people. They will be our future. I think we can do it if we do look at this legislation.
Now, if we look at definitions within Bill , it is contentious. I know there is a lot of work to be done. But I would just like to share with you my recent association and work with the Anishinabek Nation in Ontario. I was the commissioner on citizenship there, and we drafted our own citizenship law. It was unanimous in all the communities. We recognized that as long as you had one parent who was Anishinabek--within our description of Anishinabek Nation--you would be entitled to recognition and membership as citizens within the Anishinabek Nation. That would be within our own citizenship law.
It is workable because of the attitude right now—what is happening within government, in the throne speech, with the Prime Minister mentioning that Canada is looking at endorsing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This would be a great opportunity to also work with us as aboriginal peoples, as aboriginal nations, so that we can determine who our citizens are. That is our right as a nation and it would be much easier on the rest of the government if we had that right.
I want to thank Ms. Lavell and Ms. Green for appearing before the committee. You are welcome witnesses once again.
I have a couple of comments. One is that in fact there is another solution. The government could withdraw this current bill and reintroduce a bill that much more broadly addresses the issues around discrimination. Opposition party members don't have the ability to introduce a government bill, but the government could certainly reintroduce a bill that would address it.
I wanted to touch on a couple of these discriminatory practices. When you talked about the fact that in the 1970s the fight was taken up to deal with discriminatory practices, the reality is that before that it was very difficult for first nations to do that, because in fact the first nations were disenfranchised. They lost their ability to be status first nations. In addition, in many cases they weren't permitted to hire lawyers to take on their cases. So it was very difficult before the 1970s for first nations to actually bring up the issues around discrimination.
In the late 1800s first nations actually determined citizenship and status, and it was only when the government, in 1876, started tightening up that first nations lost control over their members, lost control over who was considered either status or citizenship. In many cases, people blur the lines between status and citizenship when it's convenient, because status and citizenship hold very different legal roles and definitions. It's sometimes convenient for people to muddy those waters.
What we're talking about here is status. In this McIvor decision, we're talking about status: who gets to be considered a status first nation.
Ms. McIvor and you yourselves have both alluded to situations where this legislation won't deal with discrimination. We know unstated paternity is one, where a woman, many times for reasons of safety, will not state who the father is. That's a discriminatory practice, because it's automatically assumed that the father is non-status and therefore the children will be section 6(2). There is also an issue around—and Ms. McIvor referenced this—illegitimate daughters: illegitimate sons gained status; illegitimate daughters did not.
There are also the cases of group enfranchisement. In 1958 the whole Michel Band from Alberta lost its status. In 1931 they were reinstated as individuals, but the band has never been re-recognized. The question becomes, in 1958, did women actually participate in that vote? Likely not.
So I wonder if you are aware of other occasions when women have been discriminated against under status in the Indian Act.
Bonjour, Ms. Lavell. Greetings to you as well.
I want to thank you for appearing before the committee today, Ms. Lavell. I think it's entirely fitting that you are at or near the top of the list of people we talk to about this, given your longstanding and admirable history of working on issues of gender equity and status. In my view, your court case in the 1970s brought the issue to light. It was an important precursor to later legislative changes, including the ones we're talking about today, and the action this government is taking.
I have a couple of questions that are going to focus on the exploratory process. I'd like to devote a couple of minutes to each one and give you both the opportunity, at your discretion, to chime in.
Ms. Lavell, there was a recent press release from your organization urging the government to commit to a full and transparent process to explore the complex and broader issues related to citizenship. We have committed to undertaking a comprehensive exploratory process to such an end. I was wondering if you might take the opportunity to present some recommendations and/or suggestions on the best way to fully engage your organization and other organizations in discussing these issues in a more broad and meaningful fashion.
I share your comment earlier that you should have a say in this, and I want you to have an opportunity to make some of those suggestions.
I understand and recognize the importance of what you're saying. This is what we have been trying to do within our communities, in northern Ontario with the Anishinabe Nation.
I would invite you to visit our communities, our grand chiefs, who brought this about. We have done that community consultation on determining who our citizens are and the rights and responsibilities that go with that. At this point our leadership, the chiefs, are also looking at the implications of financing and how lands and acquisition of other programs would be dealt with within that context. That is ongoing right now.
The bottom line is that our people unanimously said we should have that right to determine who our people are, because these are our people within our communities. We have to live together. These are people who will ensure our future. They welcome them and they want to recognize them.
Of course there are certain responsibilities that go along with that, and we can work that out. Those responsibilities, the right to start learning our language, to learn our history, the right, if they so wish, to go to our ceremonies is who we are. It has been taken away by many factors, residential schools being one of them. But now is maybe the time when we can start restoring our traditions, restoring that dignity to our people. I think you could do it.
Good evening. It's an honour to appear before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
I want to thank the Algonquin people on whose traditional ancestral homelands we are assembled.
We brought copies of our presentation for everybody. Unfortunately, it's not in French, but they are available, if you want them. We also brought one copy of the book on McIvor that we did over the past couple of months, talking about the affecting of Indian registration and band membership.
I am the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples' national chief, Betty Ann Lavallée. For almost forty years the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples as a national aboriginal representative organization has represented the interests of off-reserve non-status and status Indians and Métis aboriginal people living in urban, rural, remote, and isolated areas throughout Canada. We are also the national voice for the constituency and their affiliate organizations making up the Congress family of advocates for the off-reserve aboriginal peoples of Canada.
Traditionally, the aboriginal peoples in Canada identified with their own specific aboriginal nations of peoples, whether Mi'kmaq, Maliseet, Mohawk, Ojibway, Seneca, Chipewyan, Carrier, Dakota, Nootka, and onward, as one of the 73 nations of aboriginal peoples of Canada. The aboriginal nations of peoples have been systematically divided by the federal government through Indian policy, the disinheritance of aboriginal peoples' birthright identity and the dispossessing of their access to resources. Today, we have countless classification for “Indian”: we have status Indian, non-status Indian, off-reserve Indian, on-reserve Indian, registered Indian, treaty Indian, band member, non-band member, beneficiary, non-beneficiary, and so on.
In 1985 Bill C-31, an Indian Act amendment, was introduced, and the provisions within stated that discrimination based on sex should be removed from the Indian Act; that status and band membership should be restored to those who lost it through the Indian Act; that no one should gain or lose status as a result of marriage; that persons who have acquired rights should not lose those rights; that bands who want to should be able to determine their own membership.
The 1985 amendments introduced what is referred to as the second generation cut-off rule. This means that anyone registered under section 6(1) has what is considered full status; for example, they can transmit their Indian status to their children regardless of the identity of the second parent. Indians registered under section 6(2) of the Indian Act have only half status; for example, they must parent with another Indian in order to transmit their status as an Indian to their children. Bill C-31 amendments did not address all the gender discrimination but continued to perpetuate it by reinstating only Indian women who had lost their status under paragraph 6(1)(c) of the Indian Act of 1985 and registering their children pursuant to section 6(2).
For Indian men who married non-Indian women, they and their children retained their status as Indians under section 6(1)(a) of the Indian Act. This effectively means that the descendants of Indian women who married out are treated differently—they have lesser or no status—as compared with Indian men who married out, who retain status. This is often referred to as residual discrimination.
The British Columbia Supreme Court found that there was gender discrimination in the registration provisions of the Indian Act and ordered a broad remedy. Canada appealed the decision to the Court of Appeal for British Columbia. The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples was an intervenor, along with six other aboriginal groups. All of the intervenors presented arguments in support of Sharon McIvor's case.
One major issue that required additional attention during the appeal was that of the “double mother rule” of the previous Indian Act. The double mother rule stated that children whose mother and paternal grandmother were non-Indians—that is, were only Indians by virtue of marriage to male Indians—could only be registered until they were 21 years of age. A section 6(1) Indian man can pass section 6(1) status on to his children if he marries a non-Indian woman. Those children can pass section 6(2) on to their children. However, the grandchildren's children would not be registered. In the same scenario, a section 6(1) Indian woman can pass section 6(2) status on to her children if she marries a non-aboriginal man, but those children cannot pass status to their children.
On September 12, 2009, representatives of the Canadian government attended CAP's annual general assembly and confirmed that this is not a consultative process. CAP can be an integral partner in moving this discussion forward. Our constituents have lived the effects of the Indian Act. We have the ability to consult with them, to bring their concerns to the table, and to work out mutually beneficial solutions. CAP's affiliate memberships have different connections with families divided or denied identity or registration by provisions of the Indian Act.
Canada cannot talk to one group about these proposed changes without impacting the other. CAP strongly believes the views of the aboriginal peoples of Canada should be considered and accommodated toward reconciliation. CAP's constituency of the off-reserve aboriginal peoples throughout Canada makes us an invaluable resource and partner in moving forward an interim solution to the necessary changes to the Indian Act. CAP's recommendations to the government are:
That as an interim measure, Canada amend section 6(1)(a) of the Indian Act, 1985, to include the following words: “or was born prior to April 17th, 1985 and was a direct descendant of such a person”;
That Canada ensures that the band membership provisions of the Indian Act, 1985, include those persons added by amended section 6(1)(a);
That Canada provide adequate funding to CAP to establish a national commission to extensively consult, study, and report on what CAP's constituents consider to be the most desirable amendments to the Indian Act regarding registration and band membership; and
That Canada provide adequate funding to CAP to conduct research in the area of registration and band membership to address the gender equality issues raised in McIvor.
Canada is obliged by the BCCA decision to amend the Indian Act to address the residual discrimination prior to April 6, 2010. CAP's constituents are the ones who are directly impacted by the Indian Act.
The complex legal, political, and cultural issues that surround aboriginal identity, including the ongoing fight for recognition of the non-status Indians in Canada, require immediate action. Canada's legal obligation to consult and accommodate aboriginal peoples' rights and interests for reconciliation requires a meeting of the parties. CAP is an inevitable partner, with forty years of experience and knowledge. By working the CAP recommendations, CAP and Canada can begin to build a true partnership for reconciliation and recognition of birthright identity for the largest sector of the aboriginal peoples in Canada--the off-reserve, non-status aboriginal peoples.
Generally, without being exhaustive, Bill C-3 does not address gender inequality between Indian women who married out and their descendants, and Indian men who married out and their descendants. There are at least three very specific problems with the proposed amendments.
Section 6(1)(c.1)(iii) specifically provides as follows: “was born on or after the day on which the marriage referred to in subparagraph (i) occurred and, unless the person's parents married each other prior to April 17, 1985, was born prior to that date, and”.
This section is awkwardly worded, and as such creates a great deal of uncertainty about its potential application. What was Canada's intention with this section? Where did this wording come from? I do not see this section reflected in Canada's discussion paper, “Changes to the Indian Act affecting Indian Restoration and Band Membership: McIvor v. Canada”.
Section 6(1)(c.1)(iv) provides as follows: “had an adopted child on or after...”. This section has the effect of creating a new way to determine entitlement to registration, and as a result creates a newer form of discrimination between the siblings of the Indian women who married out. What this additional criterion does is determine entitlement to registration based on the status or lack thereof of the applicant's child or children. Status has always been determined based on the entitlement of one's parents. For example, parents transmit their status to their children, not vice versa.
Section 9 provides is the non-derivation clause of being able to claim or receive any compensations or damages.
What I'll do at this point is I'm going to just move on. I think everybody understands that this section is an insult to aboriginal women and their descendants.
To move on the road for reconciliation, we are in the midst of real political action to resolve many problems created by Indian policy and Indian acts from colonial times to the present. From June 2008 to the present, the current Government of Canada, in historic terms, has launched a suite of public statements, acts, policies, strategies, actions, and plans focused on the aboriginal peoples of Canada that mark a significant turning point in Canada-aboriginal peoples relationships not witnessed in Canada since 1982.
CAP would safely say the “spark” that gave life to this political action, which CAP calls the “time for honest reconciliation” in Canada, started when this government formally made a televised public apology for the pain and losses clearly etched on the survivors of the residential school experiment and the aboriginal peoples of Canada as a whole. From that day forward, we can follow the government's suite of actions, which form vital elements of the larger picture of the “time for honest reconciliation” in Canada. I believe that CAP's recommendation three is very significant. CAP is an important national aboriginal organization on this topic.
Let us look at the suite of changes moving relationships forward. We have political and financial support with an extensive compensation package issued for a majority of the survivors of residential schools. We have the continuing support and a celebrating event with the Governor General on the occasion of the establishment and launch of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission this past fall, 2010.
This past summer there was announced and rolled out the forward-looking federal framework for aboriginal economic development, with its four key pillars. This framework is accompanied with a new aboriginal skills and employment training strategy, ASETS. ASETS is also laying out a carpet for partnerships with industry and business in Canada.
We have the matrimonial real property act, a bill that CAP strongly supports. This government clearly recognizes the humanity of aboriginal men and women. The MRP has more significance than meets the eye. The bill is addressing the real human issue of an aboriginal person, something taken for granted by all other Canadians and provincial governments. A spouse within an aboriginal relationship should not be denied, or put out on the street alone and without any recourse, because of a family breakdown. The MRP is a very significant piece of legislation.
Last year there was the repeal of the shield of section 67, against Human Rights Act recourse for actions made under or through the Indian Act. This repeal of section 67 from the Canadian Human Rights Act with Bill , and the accompanying work and time for preparing to meet the challenges, is cause for celebration.
I am first going to begin my presentation by offering my executive director Peter Dinsdale's regrets for not being able to be here. Unfortunately, he was called out of town.
I want to also acknowledge and recognize the territory of the Algonquin Nation that we're on, and respectfully say it's an honour to be here to present before the committee.
I am a proud Maliseet First Nation person from New Brunswick, from the Tobique Reserve. It's also the home of my first cousin Sandra Lovelace.
I want to start the presentation by saying that the National Association of Friendship Centres is a non-profit aboriginal organization that represents the views and concerns of 120 friendship centres and seven provincial and territorial associations across Canada. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for aboriginal peoples in an urban environment by supporting self-determined activities that encourage equal access to and participation in Canadian society, and which respect and strengthen the increasing emphasis on aboriginal cultural distinctiveness.
The National Association of Friendship Centres partners with the Department of Canadian Heritage in delivering priority federal programs to Canada's urban population. Through the 120 friendship centres across the country we administer over $100 million in programs and services, in partnership with federal, territorial, provincial, and municipal governments. In 2008 friendship centres provided over 1.3 million services to aboriginal Canadians across the country, with a total cost of approximately $93 million.
In October of last year we were able to bring together representatives from our provincial and territorial associations. We met here in Ottawa to discuss and examine what was going on with the McIvor case at the time. Through the discussions and dialogue of that day, our representatives were able to discuss the broader citizenship issues, and these need to be examined. The friendship centre movement sees the need to support first nations in developing criteria for citizenship and membership.
Recommendations flowed from that meeting and we presented these to the federal government. The first one is that the federal government and first nations should engage in a thorough process that will ameliorate gender discrimination in the Indian Act and seek solutions to redress historic exclusion and alienation of eligible aboriginal people from obtaining their first nations status, citizenship, and membership. The second recommendation was that any changes to definitions, criteria, and eligibility standards for first nations status, citizenship, and membership be compliant with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Third was that any changes to federal legislation and other instruments pertaining to first nations status, citizenship, and membership account for international covenants and declarations pertaining to indigenous peoples and to human rights. And the fourth was that friendship centres be compensated for work they will be required to provide pertaining to the new amendments so that these organizations are not adversely affected by the required legislative changes.
Regarding the implementation issues of the McIvor case, with Bill C-31 we saw an onslaught of new registrants and challenges. While it's projected that there are 45,000 potential new registrants, we know there will be many more times that number who will approach friendship centres for information on how to apply. Friendship centres will be heavily engaged by clients at all local levels. INAC staff need to work with these agencies and train local people for the questions to come.
On the issues that we've identified as being related to this, they include nationhood, citizenship, membership, and acknowledgment of urban identity, which imply increased demand for services and the need to facilitate first nation access.
That's my presentation.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. You're doing a good job, as always.
Thank you all for coming.
Good to see you again, Ms. Lavallée.
Conrad, good to see you. As the former president of a friendship centre, you know I carry your case here in Ottawa a lot. It's amazing that you continue to do what you do, considering your budgets have been frozen for, I don't know, 17 years or something. It will be great to get you some more money.
I'm assuming that we have a continued agreement this afternoon, basically, with the premise that Bill would enfranchise maybe 45,000 more people. But there are really a couple of hundred thousand who are gender-discriminated because of the gender of one of their parents or grandparents--a relative. If possible, you would like us to amend to include everyone so there's no gender discrimination. It's a fairly simple right.
In fact, Ms. Lavallée, you gave some of the steps that need to be added to do that. My question for you is if there were a couple of hundred more status Indians in Canada created because of this amended bill, what effect would that have on your organization, if any?
I have two sets of questions, but I want to start with Mr. Saulis.
Mr. Saulis, I want to echo my colleague's appreciation of the friendship centres. In fact, as you're well aware, many parliamentarians take it so seriously that we've formed a non-partisan friendship centre caucus, of which myself and Conservative Chris Warkentin are the co-chairs. I really want to acknowledge the good work that you do and how seriously underfunded you are in delivering that work. I know one of the friendship centres in my own riding has to hold fashion shows and sell coffee in order to raise enough money to deliver programs and services.
I want to touch on the numbers for a moment. The number is around 45,000, but it could be higher in terms of people who may be eligible. As you correctly pointed out, I think there could be substantially more people who will express an interest. Because the friendship centres are so visible in many of our communities, they're the points of contact.
I want to go back to 1985, when Bill C-31 was passed. The Globe and Mail ran an article that said government officers worked two shifts a day and added more than 500 people per week to the country's official Indian population. The system became swamped, with more than 38,000 applications seeking status for more than 76,000.
How do you think the friendship centres will deal with the influx of potential applicants without any additional resources?
Ms. Lavallée, I just want to point out something for everybody. In the recent court of appeal extension consideration, the court actually pointed out that:
Under the circumstances, we might well have acceded to a request for a longer suspension of our declaration had it been sought. The Attorney General's factum, however, sought only a 12-month suspension of any declaration of invalidity.
So in fact we could have had the time to do the appropriate work to address broader discriminatory measures, if the government, or in this case the Attorney General, had only asked for an extension. I just wanted to set that out, because people are saying we had to act within the 12 months when in fact the courts might have considered a much longer time, because they recognized that it was desirable for government to consult with first nations people before proceeding with amendments to the legislation. So it was possible that we could have actually done a much better job of this, by the court's own statement. I just wanted to put that on the record.
I want to turn to your discussion paper and thank you, because I understand that members did receive this. You pointed out a couple of important things in here and I want to refer to the Powley decision. In here you state that the Supreme Court “has already stated in Powley that Métis identity cannot be determined by blood quantum. It seems no more appropriate for Indians as a means of identification than it is for Métis.” That's on page 14, just before the conclusion under the heading “True Partnership for Change”.
I think that's a valid point, because one of the things we've heard fairly consistently from witnesses is that it really isn't up to the government to be determining this with some arbitrary criteria. I thought this was an interesting section of the paper, because not only did you identify some discriminatory practices that are still in place, but you also identified the very issues around blood quantum and who gets to determine citizenship. I just want to acknowledge that it was a really important point you raised around who is determining citizenship and why is there this arbitrary blood quantum. As you well know, many of the nations say, “Butt out. It's up to us to determine who has citizenship”. So I'd like you to comment on that.
Then I also want you to comment on your recommendation. I just want to be clear. You're suggesting that we actually abandon what's in Bill . There is the person in the first part and the second part and third part. Instead, you are suggesting that we take the original 1985 bill and take paragraph 6(1)(a) of the Indian Act and insert the words, “or was born prior to April 17th, 1985, and was a direct descendant of such a person”. So you're suggesting that we abandon subparagraphs 6(1)(c)(i), (ii), (iii), (iv) and everything else, and just use your proposed amendment. That's what you're saying. So do away with all these other qualifiers that they've put in here.
I think you've already acknowledged that it won't deal with the broader discrimination. It won't deal with every case of discrimination, but in your view—