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Results: 1 - 7 of 7
View Yvon Lévesque Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-3, An Act to promote gender equity in Indian registration by responding to the Court of Appeal for British Columbia decision in McIvor v. Canada (Registrar of Indian and Northern Affairs).
The Bloc Québécois had indicated its support for studying Bill C-3 in committee. Since the bill would allow people who suffered discrimination because of Bill C-31 passed in 1985 to reconnect with their origins, we felt it deserved further study. As I just mentioned, Bill C-3 would repair the injustices created by Bill C-31 some 25 years ago. In other words, the federal government waited a quarter of a century to repair the injustices it had created itself. Even then, it had to be forced by the Court of Appeal for British Columbia ruling in the McIvor case. Thus we cannot talk about Bill C-3 without recalling how this aboriginal mother had to fight to have her rights and those of her children recognized. Sharon McIvor kept up her fight for many long years. Without her and her struggle, we would not be discussing this bill here today in the House.
To understand the implications of Bill C-3, we need to turn back the clock just a bit. Injustices against aboriginal women are nothing new. In 1876, the Indian Act stipulated that an aboriginal woman lost her rights and stopped being an Indian under the act if she married a non-aboriginal man. Obviously, an aboriginal man who married a non-aboriginal woman did not lose his Indian status. Aboriginal women have experienced a great deal of discrimination with regard to their race, gender and marital status. The Indian Act has contributed to marginalizing women and diminishing their social and political role in the communities. Since this legislation has a direct impact on lineage, the children of these women have also been discriminated against.
In 1951, the Indian Act was amended, but again, a woman who married a non-Indian could not be registered in the new federal register of status Indians and therefore could not enjoy the rights that such status entailed. In 1985, following changes to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Bill C-31 was introduced to close the loophole in the Indian Act, but women's children still did not have the same rights as men's children.
Those who are paying close attention will have noticed that more than 100 years after the Indian Act was created, the rights of aboriginal women's children were still not guaranteed. It would take another 25 years for the federal government to introduce a bill to recognize the Indian status of people who had been discriminated against in the past. Were it not for Ms. McIvor's legal journey, the government might never have introduced Bill C-3, which we are discussing today, as a response to this discrimination. Many will say that this bill does not go far enough.
One such person is Michèle Taina Audette, another mother and a representative of the AMUN March, whose battle continues. I will read an excerpt from her testimony at the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development:
In my opinion, Bill C-3...merely complies with the British Columbia Court of Appeal decision in McIvor v. Canada...[and] the department is using this bill to do as little as possible about the problem...there may be serious problems as a result in the short, medium and long terms...Let us put an end, once and for all, to the discrimination that has existed for too long a time already...Aboriginal women continue to be victims of discrimination based on gender....
Bill C-3 would recognize the Indian status of people who have so far not been recognized as Indian and could therefore not benefit from the rights enjoyed by status Indians, such as the right to live on a reserve and to vote in band council elections.
Bill C-3, which was introduced thanks to Sharon McIvor's efforts, corrects these injustices, but it does not go far enough, because it allows certain other injustices to persist. That is why the Bloc Québécois proposed several amendments, all of which were deemed inadmissible.
People will have no trouble understanding that the Bloc Québécois believes strongly in nation-to-nation negotiation. That is why we have always consulted with our aboriginal partners in Quebec when preparing to vote on bills that affect them.
This time is no exception. The Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and Quebec Native Women were among those who felt that Bill C-3 failed to correct certain injustices, so that is why we initially decided to vote against the bill.
Sleeping on issues like this helps, and so does thinking about it over the summer. This summer, members of various Quebec aboriginal groups and associations discussed this matter at length. They decided that it would be better to accept the federal government's offer, so they asked us to apply a “bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” philosophy. The Bloc Québécois will therefore vote in favour of Bill C-3. I think this is a good time to share the words of Ellen Gabriel. Here is what she told the committee:
...for membership, you have to be a status Indian. That doesn't necessarily mean that if you have status, you have membership. That's been the problem for a lot of indigenous women who regained their status in 1985 but who are not allowed to live in their communities, to be buried in their communities, or to own land that their parents give to them... If this bill is going to be passed...then we need some guarantees that band councils will also respect it.
Ellen Gabriel is the president of Quebec Native Women.
I must stress that the federal government promised to establish an exploratory process. It committed to working with aboriginal organizations to establish an “inclusive process for the purpose of information gathering and the identification of the broader issues for discussion surrounding Indian registration, band membership and First Nations citizenship.” The government's intention is not very clear, and neither are the objectives of this exercise. Will it be a proper consultation, for the purpose of amending the Indian Act to bring it into line with the expectations of aboriginals? Will the issue of registration, band membership and citizenship be resolved? This exploratory process will take place before the implementation of Bill C-21, which would repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, and which would apply to reserves as of June 2011. So it is important to use these consultations to identify the problems with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms with respect to the Indian register.
Another problem with the enforcement of Bill C-3 is that the federal government did not do its homework and has not estimated the cost of adding people to the Indian register. The Bloc Québécois does think that we should register new Indians, but not at the expense of those who are already registered. In other words, the federal government will have to increase funding for first nations to ensure that the needs of new registered Indians are met, while still meeting the needs of those who are already registered.
In conclusion, I want to remind all members in this House that they have a duty to ensure justice and fairness for aboriginal women and their children, and I urge members to support Bill C-3. I would also like to remind the federal government that, although it stated its intention in the latest throne speech, it has still not endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That is shameful.
View Yvon Lévesque Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. He is very knowledgeable about first nations issues because he lives in a region where there are very many first nations people.
Following the McIvor decision, the government realized the scope of the task ahead of it and the first nations' lack of funds to implement this decision. The fewer people the government needs to include, the more likely it will be to succeed. That is not really fair. As my colleague heard in committee, Ms. Palmater said:
One of the main issues here is that prior to 1985, bands did not have control over their membership. That was a determination made by Canada for all bands. So when we're talking about reinstating the descendants of Indian women who married out to status, that should also include band membership, because it was at a time when bands didn't have control over their membership.
...There should be no question whatsoever that the descendants of these Indian women who married out should be added to band membership because that was Canada's responsibility at the time. How can we add them to status only and not membership? And if you're asking for suggestions or if I will submit something further, for sure.
In following through with its commitment, the government needs to consult with the bands and come to an agreement with them. I hope that this will happen.
View Yvon Lévesque Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I completely agree with my colleague's comments. Obviously, the federal government has its work cut out for it. We have already identified 45,000 people and, as my colleague said earlier, there may be 200,000. It is time for Canada to integrate these first nations and stop treating them like cattle. That is how they are treated. We make decisions for them and do not allow them to participate in the development of this country and enjoy the benefits of that development. We must begin today to make that vision reality.
View Marc Lemay Profile
BQ (QC)
View Marc Lemay Profile
2009-06-02 13:00 [p.4054]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from New Brunswick because I will start exactly where he left off.
The fight against drugs, like all battles, must continue on several fronts. That is the problem with the Conservatives and unfortunately it is the trap into which the Liberals have fallen in supporting Bill C-15.
I will say from the outset that we will not support the NDP amendments. We too find that 200, 250 or 300 plants is a fair bit of trafficking. However, we at least were able to ensure that it does not apply to just one plant. They relented somewhat.
That is not the problem. The problem is that we are dealing with minimum prison sentences. The Conservatives have really understood absolutely nothing and will never understand until they are defeated. Perhaps then they will ask us questions in an attempt to understand. They will never understand that minimum sentences do not solve the problem of crime. I hope that I have said it clearly enough and without shouting. I know that they will not get it. I even spoke to the minister about it when he appeared before us. It does not solve the problem. He answered that there would be fewer criminals at large, but that is not true. Minimum prison sentences, and especially Bill C-15, will create many more problems.
This begins with a minimum six months jail sentence. I agree with this, and I will revisit this when we get to the in-depth debate. It is, however, important to stress that minimum prison terms do not solve problems, and never will. The proof of this is that the Conservatives have never been able to table a single study. I can table at least a dozen that demonstrate the opposite, and not from just anywhere either: from the United States, for example. The Conservatives take their cues from the U.S., so let them go and see what is happening there. There are also studies from Australia and New Zealand. They can speak and read English, so they should understand. In the U.S and in Australia, in northern Australia in particular, studies have been carried out since 1992 on legislation that imposes minimum prison terms. That is not just last week. The studies are clear, and I will read slowly to be sure they get it.
Evidence shows that long prison terms increase the probability of recidivism...
I think I will repeat it. These are not my words, they all come from studies.
Evidence shows that long prison terms increase the probability of recidivism... In the end, public safety is more compromised than protected if the courts lock people up and throw away the key.
That is exactly what they are doing. Getting rid of them, locking them up for as long as possible, thanking heavens that they are not getting back out too frequently. Unfortunately, that is not the way things work. I have a little news bulletin for them. They have not been inside a penitentiary for a long time. I do not want to hear that this one was a police officer for 15 years, others Crown prosecutors. They need to have been inside a prison. I can organize a guided tour if they like. We will show them how things work. Not the way they would like them to.
Unfortunately for them, inmates eventually come out. That is where the problem lies. Mandatory minimum sentencing solves nothing. The problem is not when they go to jail—I repeat, not when they are going in—but when they come out.
In other words, they get out too fast. The men—since 90% of the time it is men who serve prison sentences, and the majority of my clients were men—get out too fast. When a judge carefully studies a case, pronounces a sentence and tells the individual before him that he deserves three years in prison, and then eight months later meets that man on the street, we have a problem.
The problem that the Conservatives have yet to understand is that, even if they impose a minimum prison sentence, these men and women will be entitled to parole. Even if an individual is given a three-year sentence, it is not certain that he will serve a minimum of three years. No. The suggestion is for a three-year sentence. What will happen in prison if this is the individual’s first conviction? Suppose he is a good sort who causes no problems? Right: he will be released after serving one third of his sentence.
Those in this chamber who know how to count know that 36 months divided by three gives 12 months. There is no program. Those who know and are following this, apart from the Conservatives who know nothing, should realize that less than 12 months in a penitentiary is not enough time to work with the individual. Why? Because the individual is sentenced to 36 months, but he does not go straight to prison. He goes to a federal reception centre, where he spends three to four months having his case analyzed to see what can be done with him.
The Conservatives do not understand that the problem is not with the highly criminalized individuals. That is not just my opinion. Studies say that the problem is that this does not target the most notorious and most dangerous offenders, who are already subject to very strict sentences, precisely because of the nature of their crimes.
This means that someone who goes around with a gun selling drugs has to serve, from the outset, a sentence of three years. He is sentenced to three years. On top of that is the sentence for trafficking narcotics. Those who tell me they want to get traffickers off the street are correct on this point, perfectly correct. Everyone wants to get traffickers away from schools. However, we can look at the definition in the bill with respect to an individual trafficking near schools. I can guarantee—and I say this honestly—that bad laws make good lawyers rich. Some will become rich thanks to the laws that the Conservative Party wants passed, particularly this Bill C-15. I will give another example. This bill will have a disproportionate impact on minority groups in Canada that are already suffering poverty and privation.
The aboriginal peoples are a good example. Look at the west. There must be a few Conservatives who come from the west. They should go see what is happening in the western prisons, how many aboriginal people are there compared with the rest of the population. They might realize that there may be a problem somewhere. This is what they do not understand.
I have only a minute left, so I will speak quickly. Being tough on crime has never solved anything. Yes, sentences are necessary and criminals have to be taken off the street. However, I repeat: the problem is not when they go into prison, it is when they get out. Let them serve their sentences. The Minister of Public Safety should explain why he is not proposing a bill to amend the Conditional Release Act. That is where the problem is. The judges who pass sentences have taken the trouble to analyze their cases. I tell you that criminal activity is not going to be resolved with this bill. In fact this bill is going to increase it.
View Mario Laframboise Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois about Bill C-21, which seeks to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
First, I would like to thank my colleagues who sit on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue and the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, who have worked very hard and provided some background on all the various stages Bill C-21 has gone through before reaching this House today.
After first reading in this House, Bill C-21 was referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development on November 13, 2007. It is identical to Bill C-44, which died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued on September 14, 2007.
Bill C-44 was referred to the committee after second reading in February 2007. From March to June 2007, the committee met 16 times to review Bill C-44 and hear witnesses. My colleagues from Abitibi—Témiscamingue and Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou worked very hard on this.
The witnesses the committee heard almost unanimously supported the repeal of section 67, but nearly all the witnesses except those from the government, including national, regional and local first nations organizations and communities, the provincial bar associations and other legal experts, also expressed various reservations about one or more aspects of the implementation process and the substance of the bill.
The main sources of concern were the shortcomings in the consultation process preceding the drafting of the bill, the lack of an interpretative clause, the short transition period preceding implementation of the bill and uncertainty over the resources that would be assigned to implementing the bill.
On June 19, 2007, the committee adopted a Bloc Québécois motion proposed by the members I mentioned earlier, recommending that the debate on repealing section 67 be suspended for up to 10 months to allow the government to hold extensive consultations on the matter and that the debate then resume, but that first nations representatives be allowed to testify on the results of the consultations.
On July 26, a majority of the members attending the special midsummer meeting for a clause by clause study of the bill voted to have the committee suspend the study until the government held the consultations called for in the June 19 motion.
The motion was overridden by the committee's November 20 decision to begin a clause by clause study of the new Bill C-21 on December 4, 2007.
Despite the concerns expressed by the witnesses during the study of Bill C-44, the government reintroduced the very same bill, which is now known as Bill C-21. In December 2007 and January 2008, the committee completed its clause by clause study of Bill C-21 and the opposition made five significant amendments to it in response to first nations' demands.
Once again, aboriginals can be proud of the work of Bloc Québécois and other opposition members because the government had reintroduced the bill despite the generalized protest, criticism and scathing comments of witnesses appearing before the committee.
The government insisted on reintroducing the same bill with no amendments. Opposition members worked hard. My colleagues from Abitibi—Témiscamingue and Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou worked very hard, along with other opposition members, to propose five significant amendments.
The Bloc Québécois supports each of the amendments agreed to in committee because they are in line with specific demands of the first nations and of most of the witnesses who appeared before the committee.
In principle, repealing section 67 would give aboriginal people access to all of the rights guaranteed under the Canadian Human Rights Act. However, merely repealing the section could result in the loss of first nations' traditional rights and could be onerous for the Canadian Human Rights Commission because of the anticipated high volume of complaints against band councils and the federal government, which have not previously been allowed.
That would be a good thing when it comes to access to clean drinking water, for example. That is very hard to understand. I hope that all members of this House realize that, as we speak, some aboriginals still do not have access to potable water. That is astonishing.
We hope that once all these amendments have been adopted, these citizens protected by the charter of rights will have access to safe drinking water and will be able to ensure their quality of life.
To guarantee this, the committee suggested other amendments to Bill C-21. That was the Bloc's objective. With the help of the other opposition parties, we managed to introduce amendments that, once the bill is passed, will ensure that aboriginal men and women and people who live on aboriginal territories have direct access to safe drinking water.
It is important to note that the government proposed two amendments, which are now before the House. Many representatives from first nations and other groups who appeared before the House committee said that, despite the two amendments, Bill C-21 needed to be changed to take into account the real situation of first nations.
The Bloc Québécois, along with the other opposition parties, helped improve Bill C-21. The amendments proposed by the government today will also receive the support of the Bloc Québécois. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that we must pass a comprehensive bill, including the amendments adopted in committee, proposed by the Bloc Québécois and the other opposition parties, to ensure that aboriginal men and women will be entitled to the same protection as provided by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
We specifically suggested adding an interpretive clause that would balance individual and collective rights and interests in cases where a complaint was filed against a government or first nations authority under the Canadian Human Rights Act. A number of witnesses also wanted to add a non-derogation clause to Bill C-21, so that the repeal of section 67 would not end up abrogating and violating the ancestral and treaty rights of aboriginal peoples protected under the Constitution.
Consequently, the Bloc Québécois voted in favour of the following amendments. The first is:
1.1 The repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act shall not be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from any aboriginal, treaty or other rights or freedoms that pertain to the First Nations peoples of Canada, including
(a) any rights or freedoms that have been recognized by the Royal Proclamation of October 7, 1763;
(b) any rights or freedoms that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired; and
(c) any rights or freedoms recognized under the customary laws or traditions of the First Nations peoples of Canada.
The second amendment we are supporting is:
1.1 In relation to a complaint made under the Canadian Human Rights Act against a First Nation government, including a band council, tribal council or governing authority operating or administering programs and services under the Indian Act, this act shall be interpreted and applied in a manner that gives due regard to First Nations legal traditions and customary laws, particularly the balancing of individual rights and interests against collective rights and interests.
As everyone knows, Bill C-21, introduced by the government, is identical to Bill C-44, parts of which were criticized by the aboriginal peoples themselves. That bill, whose text was very limited, was eventually improved, specifically by the two paragraphs I just quoted.
The work done by the Bloc Québécois, with the help of the other opposition parties, definitely added some scope to this bill. The bill seeks to protect aboriginal rights, while guaranteeing all aboriginal men and women individual protection under the Canadian Human Rights Act, in order to improve their lives.
View Gilles-A. Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague across the way. One thing he said really shocked me. What struck me is when he said that 3% of the population is aboriginal and 20% of them are designated as dangerous offenders.
Would it be right to conclude that the crime rate among aboriginal nations is higher than among other groups? If so, what are the causes of this high crime rate and what can we do about it?
View Thierry St-Cyr Profile
BQ (QC)
View Thierry St-Cyr Profile
2007-11-16 13:38 [p.1003]
Mr. Speaker, before discussing the content of the bill, I want to say how pleased I was when my Conservative Party colleague thanked us for doing our work in committee.
Members of the Bloc Québécois always take our work very seriously and do a thorough job. However, I would point out somewhat ironically that his colleagues from Quebec have not been saying the same thing when they express themselves in French. Our colleague just said that the Bloc was very helpful in amending the bill and ridding it of all substance. Yet his colleagues, when speaking in French, say that the Bloc Québécois is useless. The members of the Conservative Party should come to some agreement on that.
The truth is that the Bloc is constantly working to defend Quebec's interests. When the Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats are right, we support them. However, when something is not in Quebec's best interest, we have no problem going it alone if we have to. Therefore I take that as a real compliment concerning the Bloc Québécois' usefulness.
The genesis of this bill is precisely an intrusion, once again, into the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces. For the Bloc Québécois, the original grants program ensured the right to opt out with full financial compensation, for Quebec and any provinces that wanted to do so. We were prepared to examine the terms of this bill in committee, provided, of course, that we maintained this right to opt out will full compensation.
Now, the Liberals' schemes in committee and the amendments made to parliamentary procedure meant that, in the end, we were overburdened by the legislative provisions that would allow this opting out with full financial compensation for Quebec. Clearly, we could no longer support this bill as soon as it became a program imposed by the federal government, when the provinces could no longer withdraw that money and use it according to their own needs.
In Quebec, we have a grants and bursaries program that is quite different from programs found elsewhere. It is unique in Canada. Among other things, it is based on need and on a range of criteria. The program is very generous and produces good results. We therefore do not need another similar grants program, but rather more financial resources to improve the existing system.
In light of this, we could not support this bill and we, along with the Conservatives, tried to throw out the entire bill. The motion in amendment before us today is meant precisely to bring it all back to the House. It was not acceptable to the Bloc Québécois in committee and it is still unacceptable to us here in the House.
It is surprising to see yet again the Liberal obsession with interfering in the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces. Honestly, I have asked myself why, again today, are we debating this issue in the House of Commons, a federal chamber that does not have any constitutional jurisdiction over education? Why do the Liberals still think that “Ottawa knows best” and why do they want to establish a wall to wall Canada-wide program in education? This is unacceptable.
If the hon. member who tabled this bill thought there were improvements to be made to the student loan program in his province, I respectfully submit that he should have run in a provincial election, gotten elected and worked on passing such legislation in his province. Nonetheless, it is certainly not the role of the federal government to do so.
Moreover, even though our discussions in this House revolve more and more frequently around interference in provincial jurisdictions, yet the federal government is not even capable of handling all of its own constitutional duties and responsibilities. If everything were going well in the federal government's jurisdictions and it had nothing better to do, then perhaps it could take care of provincial matters, but that is not the case.
I would like to raise a few points that still have not been resolved and are the responsibility of this House. Earlier today I was talking about the issue of regulating train noise. CN is a federally-chartered company that historically has been a responsibility of the federal government. Furthermore, legislation on transportation is a federal jurisdiction.
Amendments were made in this House and in committee to give the Canada Transportation Act more teeth and to protect our communities from the excessive noise caused by transportation companies, including CN. I am talking about CN because it relates to my riding. This issue was sent to the Senate, which studied it and only called as witnesses people from railway companies who told us we did not need these changes. In the end, the Liberal and Conservative members pathetically caved in to the senators and passed the Senate amendments that consisted essentially in going back to the original version, destroying in a single stroke all our amendments and all the work we had done.
We now find ourselves in an odd situation. The Conservatives argued that they did not have the time to return the bill to the Senate, even though the latter was saying that, if we persisted, they would give in. It said in its own discussions that it did not have the time to look after that. Why do we always have the time, in this chamber, at least in the case of the federalist parties, to interfere in areas of provincial jurisdiction? But when the time comes to look at a real issue that truly has to do with federal jurisdiction, it is not important enough and there are other things going on? There is something wrong here and it is a real problem with Canadian federalism.
This could also apply to the situation of aboriginals in Canada. We frequently see in the news and media reports, or if we have the opportunity to visit Indian reserves, the difficult conditions in which these individuals live. We see that the federal government is moving at a snail's pace, that no progress is made, that it hesitates, doubles back and looks after a lot of other things whereas that is clearly a responsibility within its jurisdiction. If it would at least look after that issue first.
This is also the case for international trade. Companies are waiting for the federal government to intervene, to defend them, to stand up for them and to ensure that international agreements and the decisions of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal are upheld. It does not have the time for that, it is not glamorous enough for federalist members. However, they always find the time to meddle in education when that is not at all their job.
I would like to conclude by giving another example of the fiscal imbalance, which still has not been corrected. Why has it not been corrected? What is the best proof that it still exists? The government is still able to spend money in provincial jurisdictions. Is the fact that the federal government has to spend money in the provinces' jurisdictions not the best illustration that it has too much money for its own jurisdictions and responsibilities?
If the government really wanted to correct the fiscal imbalance, it would transfer a portion of the tax base, such as the GST, from Ottawa to Quebec and the provinces. This would give Ottawa and the provinces the resources they need to look after their jurisdictions. We would have all the time we need to address the issues that come under our jurisdiction. Perhaps we would have a federation that worked better and there would be people in the provinces to look after health and education. We could look after aboriginal peoples, noise caused by trains, international trade and foreign affairs, as provided for in the Constitution.
It is slightly ironic that only the Bloc Québécois is calling for compliance with the Constitution.
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