PARLIAMENTARY WRAP-UP FOR THE WEEK OF December 2 - 6, 2013
Updates on Key Legislation pertaining to First Nations
Please note: LEGISinfo, a website maintained by the Library of Parliament, provides comprehensive information on all legislation: http://www.parl.gc.ca/LegisInfo/Home.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&ParliamentSession=41-2
Bill C-9: First Nations Elections Act
· Introduced in the House of Commons on October 29, 2013 (previously Bill S-6 in the last session and had completed second reading in the House of Commons before prorogation).
· Completed study at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples and Northern Development. Transcripts from these meetings are attached, along with AFN’s submission to the committee.
· Bill C-9 is opt-in legislation for First Nations who conduct their elections under the Indian Act
· Extends the election term from two to four years; has provisions for a re-call mechanism; elections can be contested in a court and sets-out offences and penalties in relation to the election of a chief or councillor.
· Concerns have been expressed about provisions in the Bill that empower the Minister of AANDC to order a First Nation under the Act, including one that conducts custom elections, in the event of a dispute or an election overturned by the Governor-in-Council.
· Includes opt-out provisions for First Nations to transition to custom codes.
· Legislation results from initiatives of the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
Bill C-10: Tackling Contraband Tobacco Act
· Introduced in the House of Commons on November 5, 2013 (previously S-16 in the last sessions and had completed second reading in the House of Commons before prorogation).
· Is currently at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for study.
· Creates a new offence of selling contraband tobacco, specifically: “a tobacco product, or raw leaf tobacco that is not packaged, unless it is stamped.”
· Bill establishes mandatory minimum sentences for repeat (i.e. more than one) offence.
· This bill raises serious concerns regarding infringement on First Nations’ jurisdiction over trade and sale of tobacco – AFN’s preliminary submission is attached.
Bill C-15: Northwest Territories Devolution Act
· Introduced in the House of Commons on December 3, 2013. Passed 2nd reading on December 5, 2013 and is under study at the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples and Northern Development.
· The Bill contains 4 parts:
o Part 1 would enact the Northwest Territories Act and implement certain provisions of the Northwest Territories Lands and Resources Devolution Agreement.
o Part 2 amends the Territorial Lands Act to modify the offence and penalty regime and create an administrative monetary penalty scheme. It also adds inspection powers.
o Part 3 amends the Northwest Territories Waters Act to make changes to the jurisdiction and structure of the Inuvialuit Water Board, to add a regulation making authority for cost recovery, to establish time limits with respect to the making of certain decisions, to modify the offence and penalty regime, to create an administrative monetary penalty scheme and to make other changes.
o Part 4 amends the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act to consolidate the structure of the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board, to establish time limits for environmental assessments and reviews and to expand ministerial policy direction to land use planning boards and the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board. This Part also amends the administration and enforcement provisions of Part 3 of that Act and establishes an administration and enforcement scheme in Part 5 of that Act, including the introduction of enforceable development certificates. Moreover, it adds an administrative monetary penalty scheme to the Act. Lastly, this Part provides for the establishment of regional studies and regulation-making authorities for, among other things, consultation with aboriginal peoples and for cost recovery and incorporates into that Act the water licensing scheme from the Northwest Territories Waters Act as part of the implementation of the Northwest Territories Lands and Resources Devolution Agreement.
· The Bill makes sweeping and deep changes in terms of land management and resource development in the NWT. Consequently, NWT First Nations have requested that the committee hold hearings in the NWT on this bill.
C-16: Sioux Valley Dakota Nation Governance Act
· Introduced in the House of Commons and passed through all stages on December 5, 2013. Introduced in the Senate on December 5, 2013.
· Bill gives effect to the Governance Agreement with Sioux Valley Dakota Nation.
Private Member Bills Bill C-428: Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act
· Passed Report Stage with amendments from committee and Third Reading on November 20, 2013. The bill started debates at 2nd reading in the Senate on December 5, 2013.
· Introduced on June 4, 2012, by Rob Clarke, Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River. Completed study by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and was reported back to the House of Commons with amendments. These amendments include removal of the Bill’s repeal of sections related to wills and estates in the Indian Act as well as removal of the repeal of First Nations’ authority for by-laws restricting intoxicants.
· Amends provisions of the Indian Act including repealing provision which limit bylaw authority and require submission to the Minister before they can come into force; repeals provisions related to residential schools.
· Sets out in preamble a commitment to develop new legislation to replace the Indian Act and continuing work in “exploring creative options for the development of this new legislation in collaboration with the First Nations that have demonstrated an interest in this work”
· Establishes a requirement for the Minister to report annually on efforts to replace sections of the Indian Act with modern amendments or legislation.
Bill C-469: Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.
· Introduced on January 28, 2013 by Romeo Saganash, Abitibi – Baie-James – Nunavik – Eeyou.
· Requires the Government of Canada to take all measures necessary to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and that the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs must prepare an annual report to Parliament for the next four years reviewing progress in implementing this law.
House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples and Northern Development (AANO)
The Committee has begun study on Bill C-15: Northwest Territories Devolution Act.
Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls (IWFA)
The Committee meets weekly on Thursdays from 6 – 8pm. National Chief Atleo presented to the Committee on December 5, 2013 – his remarks are attached. Next week the committee is holding a special meeting with families of missing and murdered women.
House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA)
The committee is beginning a study of opportunities for Aboriginal persons in the workforce. First Nations interested in presenting should contact the clerk at Caroline Bosc at 613-996-1542 or email@example.com
House of Commons Highlights
December 5, 2013
Mr. Speaker, there is a growing number of people calling for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. Everyone agrees, including families, aboriginal organizations, the provinces and the territories. The only ones standing in the way of this inquiry are the Conservatives. Victims and their families deserve answers.
Why are the Conservatives continuing to block a national inquiry?
Mr. Speaker, as I have mentioned in the House before, we are focused and committed against any violence to women and girls.
Our investment in local-based community projects has been unprecedented. In fact, we have invested over $62 million since 2007 in local community projects. This is what individuals are asking for. This is what aboriginal Canadians have spoken to us about. In the last number of years, we have invested in seven very specific and targeted projects with aboriginal communities across the country.
I look forward to the NDP stepping up and helping us support these communities.
Mr. Speaker, aboriginal Canadians are asking for a national inquiry and they are asking for federal leadership to end violence against women.
Over half of Canadian women have experienced sexual or physical violence, but the
Conservatives are refusing to call for a national action plan to end violence against women. When will the minister and her government work with the NDP so we can find solutions so Canadian women do not have to live their lives facing violence?
Mr. Speaker, as I have already mentioned, we have invested significantly in ensuring communities across the country have had support.
Most important, during the 16 days of action against violence against women and girls, I encourage the NDP members opposite to wear a ribbon, get involved in a community project and ensure they attend a vigil tomorrow evening. These are things that Canadians care about. These are things that Canadians are participating in. It is what this caucus has been participating in every day over the last 16 days, and every day of the year.
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Mr. Speaker, Doug Eyford's report is simple. He echoes the NDP's recommendations.
Natural resource development must be done sustainably, in an environmentally responsible way and in consultation with first nations. The Conservatives do not seem to understand those three concepts.
By failing in their attempt to build good relationships with first nations, the Conservatives are putting major economic development projects at risk.
Will the Prime Minister act on his special envoy's recommendations?
Mr. Speaker, we thank Mr. Eyford for his work on this very important file. It was, after all, our government that commissioned this report to ensure the responsible development of our natural resources and pursue meaningful consultation with aboriginal peoples.
We will be engaging with aboriginal peoples on this report, as well as provinces and industry, to identify the most promising avenues for meaningful follow-up.
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's special envoy released a report on consulting first nations on energy development. The report highlights what the NDP has been saying all along.
The government needs to build a relationship of trust with first nations. The government must actually consult, listen and act when it comes to resource development concerns on first nations territories.
Will the minister be acting on these recommendations?
Mr. Speaker, our government will thoroughly review the recommendations before making any decisions on next steps.
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Mr. Speaker, reference was made earlier today to a report tabled from the special envoy for west coast energy projects. In the very beginning, he cites:
Aboriginal communities hold constitutionally protected rights. The law requires potential impacts on those rights to be taken into account in project development.
In the context of the increasing tensions in New Brunswick in the fracking protests there, does the Prime Minister recognize that he is legally bound by our Constitution to ensure that the Mi'kmaq of Elsipogtog are fully consulted in advance of any fracking on their unceded territory?
Mr. Speaker, of course we recognize our constitutional obligations. That is why aboriginal consultations are obviously part of our responsible resource development initiatives.
Specifically, the report tabled today was a report that I commissioned to ensure not just that we do fully and properly consult with aboriginal peoples but also ensure that aboriginal peoples have the opportunity to fully participate in and benefit from any resource development that is near their communities or in their communities.
This is an unprecedented opportunity for all Canadians, including aboriginal peoples.
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December 6, 2013
Status of Women
Mr. Speaker, on this sad anniversary of the tragedy at École Polytechnique, we remember the 14 young women and their families.
As we come together today, we invite the government to lead the way in putting an end to violence against women and girls in Canada.
Can we all come together and—with the help of our partners, the provinces and territories, the first nations, women's groups, victims' groups and law enforcement—develop a national strategy and put an end to this tragic violence?
Mr. Speaker, we are taking action across the country to combat violence against women through measures such as greater resources to support victims of crime and protecting aboriginal women, launching a national action plan to combat human trafficking, increasing penalties for violent crimes and supporting child advocacy centres to better serve young victims and witnesses of crime.
In our economic action plan of 2013, our government also committed $24 million over two years for the family violence prevention program. This government sticks up for women and girls.
Mr. Speaker, on this sad anniversary, we remember 14 young women and their families. As we draw together, we invite the government to take the lead to end violence against women and girls in Canada.
Working with our partners across the country, the provinces and territories, first nations, women's groups, victims' groups and law enforcement, can we all come together to develop a national action plan to end the tragedy of violence in our country?
Mr. Speaker, since 2007, we have invested over $62 million in funding for over 300 projects to end violence against women and girls through Status of Women. This is the highest level of funding ever.
We have also ended house arrest for sexual assault involving serious personal injury and aggravated sexual assault, strengthened sentences for child sexual abuse and toughened penalties for those who import, produce and traffic date rape drugs.
If the member opposite was so concerned about helping women and girls, perhaps she should have voted for Bill S-2.
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Mr. Speaker, empty words will not shelter women fleeing violence.
A year ago yesterday, the body of a young girl from Gitanmaax First Nation was found in Kamloops. Her name was C J Fowler. She was 16, and her murder is still unsolved. She is one of hundreds of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada.
The families and communities of these women deserve answers. They deserve justice. When will the government launch an open public inquiry into the cases of missing and murdered indigenous women?
Mr. Speaker, our government is focused on taking action to actually deal with the tragic issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women.
For example, we recently passed legislation that gives women living on first nations reserves the same matrimonial rights as all Canadians, including access to emergency protection orders in violent situations. Unfortunately, the opposition parties voted against that legislation and against advancing the rights of first nations women. Shame on them.
The special parliamentary committee is continuing its study, and we look forward to participating in that study.
Mr. Speaker, we all need to stand up and take action to end violence against women, and start with an inquiry. Political will is essential. We mourn. We pray, but we must also act. We need to follow the leadership of women in our communities, who are working day in and day out in our neighbourhoods to make them safer. We all need to recognize that men and boys have an essential role to play in ending violence against women. This is something we have to address.
Will the members opposite stand with us today and pledge action to end violence against women in our time?
Mr. Speaker, we are reminded on a daily basis that violence and the threat violence remain daily realities for so many women and girls, and that is why our government is firmly committed to preventing all forms of violence against women and girls.
Let me give some examples of some of the actions we have taken. We passed the Safe Streets and Communities Act to improve the safety of all Canadians, particularly the most vulnerable members of society. We increased support for victims of crime. We launched the national action plan to combat human trafficking and provided $24 million over two years for the family violence prevention program to help improve safety on reserves.
Let us all work together so that women and girls can live free of violence.
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Highlights in the Senate
December 4, 2013
Ms. Nahanni Fontaine
Hon. JoAnne L. Buth: Honourable senators, I rise today to recognize a recipient of the Governor General's Award in commemoration of the Persons Case, Nahanni Fontaine. Ms. Fontaine is from my home province of Manitoba, where she serves as the Special Advisor on Aboriginal Women's Issues for the Aboriginal Issues Committee of Cabinet in Manitoba. Her work focuses on missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls: a very serious and ongoing issue, especially in Manitoba.
The Native Women's Association of Canada estimates there have been more than 600 such cases in the last 20 years.
Ms. Fontaine is Ojibway from Sagkeeng First Nation. She is known and respected across the country for advocating for action on missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls. As head of Manitoba's Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls Strategy she has led several campaigns, including four annual Wiping Away the Tears gatherings for families of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.
She has worked hard to ensure that the issue is brought to the forefront and has served as a strong voice to the victims and families of the missing and murdered Aboriginal women.
Her innovative approach has helped build greater awareness about violence against Aboriginal women. In 2013, Ms. Fontaine organized the third National Aboriginal Women's Summit, which included the first ever national healing and honour ceremony for the families of victims.
She campaigns tirelessly to bring to light the stories of abuse and crimes against Aboriginal women and girls. For two decades she has attended every rally, vigil and funeral. She has built relationships between the families, government and policing agencies. Ms. Fontaine is a standout citizen and has been a tremendous leader at the grassroots level in support for Aboriginal issues in various areas.
Honourable senators, please join me in congratulating Ms. Fontaine for her tireless commitment to missing and murdered Aboriginal women and their families.
It is time that we, as Canadians, take action and follow the path paved by individuals like Ms. Fontaine in order to eradicate violence and crimes against Aboriginal women in Canada.
December 5, 2013
Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned
Hon. Thanh Hai Ngo moved second reading of Bill C-428, An Act to amend the Indian Act (publication of by-laws) and to provide for its replacement.
He said: Honourable senators, it is with pride and great pleasure that I open the debate on Bill C-428, An Act to amend the Indian Act and provide for its replacement. The problems created by this archaic piece of legislation are far-reaching, extending into every aspect of the lives of every First Nations individuals, including the Attawapiskat community.
Everyone would agree that the Indian Act must go. First Nations have been held back by this paternalistic and colonial act, and it is about time to repeal it.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper clearly stated during the Crown-First Nations meeting in January 2012 that significant changes must be made to the Indian Act by a step-by-step process. This private members bill starts that process in the hope of replacing the act with a respectful and modern law that will reflect the Crown, the provinces and First Nations in a positive light.
It is also my hope that one day the amendments suggested in this bill will lead us to build a modern and respectful relationship between our federal government and the First Nations. In this respect, the amendments to the Indian Act proposed in this private members bill can be an important stepping stone on the path to equity and prosperity for First Nations.
Thus changes must be made to the Indian Act in order to start a process of consultation; in order to start a constructive dialogue; in order to repeal the Indian Act; and in order to replace it with a modern set of laws that reflect today's values but also respects our past.
Bill C-428 would enable the First Nations band councils to publish their own bylaws, without having to seek permission of the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs or the signature of the minister. Under this amendment, the government bodies of a council or of a band will be required to publish its bylaws through different forms of media, such as the band website, the First Nations Gazette or in local newspapers or newsletters that have general circulation in First Nations communities.
By demanding public disclosures of the created bylaws of each First Nation, we encourage greater transparency for its residents and equip those who seek to enforce the bylaws.
The governing bodies of First Nation bands would have to publish their own bylaws just like any other municipality or government entity, without seeking ministerial approval.
All bylaws would remain accessible for the duration of which the bylaw is enforced, allowing for greater transparency and accountability from elected officials. This would allow band chiefs and councils to be more accountable to their electorate and responsible for their actions.
Ultimately, this will put the responsibility for bylaws squarely where it belongs: in the band council and on band members. It will provide these First Nations with the same rights that rural and urban municipalities have today.
This bill will also remove impediments to trade, in the form of the repeal of section 92, which restricts some members of society from engaging in trade with First Nations members.
This bill with the support of the government would remove discriminatory economic barriers by providing First Nations people with access to the same domestic and external market opportunities that the rest of Canada has. This would allow local markets of reserves to integrate with the rest of Canada's produce markets.
Third, this bill would at last remove the archaic educational elements of the Indian Act that led to the establishment of residential schools by removing the term "residential school" from the act. This is an important step toward achieving reconciliation of what was once a shameful and hurtful part of the act. The removal of the reference to residential schools will make this government's intentions clear. After all, it was Prime Minister Stephen Harper who apologized for the travesty of the residential schools and for the pain and destruction brought to all First Nations and the shame that it brought to Canada.
The last and most important part of this bill is the mandate to annually report to the House of Commons on the progress toward rebuilding and replacing the Indian Act. This section of the private member's bill requires a collaborative consultation process between First Nations and the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. A report would have to be presented in the House of Commons Committee on Aboriginal Affairs within 10 sitting days of each calendar year. This yearly report would ensure that First Nations could hold the government accountable for moving toward a respectful and modern relationship that reflects today's value in the 21st century.
As you can see, Bill C-428 would ensure greater accountability and transparency within communities, promote economic growth and job creation, eliminate the section of the act referring to residential schools, and ensure a path toward creating an environment of trust and respect between First Nations and the rest of Canada. By amending and repealing unused and outdated sections of the Indian Act, we would promote greater autonomy and independence from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and its minister.
The current bill has been through a set of changes since it was first tabled in the House of Commons in 2011. Since then, Bill C-428 has been through five drafts to arrive at its current version. Its fifth and final version before the Senate emerged from the House of Commons Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in May 2012 and has received overwhelming support from both sides of the house.
The exhaustive content of this bill is a true reflection of the great work that has been invested by all its stakeholders, especially its member. Throughout the drafting and the legislative process of Bill C-428, Member of Parliament Rob Clarke, Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, has accomplished impressive and comprehensive consultation work with other First Nations members within his constituency as well as around the country. He represents the second largest First Nations population in Canada and is himself from the Muskeg Lake Cree First Nation in northern Saskatchewan.
Mr. Clarke invested time and resources to accomplish tremendous fieldwork. He met over 633 First Nations communities across the country and listened to representatives from various Aboriginal bands and councils from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec. Last year, he met with representatives from the Idle No More movement and with hundreds of grassroots individuals and groups from bands across Canada.
Honourable senators, I believe it is clear that there is no suggestion that the Indian Act be repealed in its entirety with nothing left in its stead. This bill seeks only to remove outdated concepts and language from the existing Act. I hope that individuals will then reflect upon and review the Indian Act in the next stage and start a process to look at outdated language in this Act.
Just as the Member of Parliament hoped this bill would open discussion and meaningful dialogue and debate, I, too, hope that the passage of this bill will enable us to look forward to a better relationship and a true partnership between all Canadians.
I encourage all members of the Senate to support this bill modernizing the outdated, colonial and paternalistic legislation called the Indian Act.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Questions?
Hon. Don Meredith: Honourable senators, not to prolong the Thursday afternoon debate, but, out of interest, Senator Ngo, as a member of the Aboriginal Committee, you mentioned that this bill will further encourage economic development. Can you elaborate for us how you envision this taking place by amending the Indian Act in this regard?
Senator Ngo: Thank you for the question, Senator Meredith. First, the goal of the amendment to the Indian Act is to find a path to a more modern and respectful relationship between Canada and First Nations.
Second, it will ensure the removal of the minister from the equation and prevent having to receive the Minister's approval for by-law enactment.
Third, the bill treats First Nations communities like all other governments who draft and publish bylaws.
I think the system we have is a blemish on Canada and we need to have a fresh start.
Senator Meredith: Thank you, Senator Ngo. I wanted a more comprehensive answer on that with respect to the actual economic development.