- Bill C-3 is currently being studied by the Aboriginal Affairs Parliamentary committee. The Bill would restore status to some children of C-31 (2)'s by removing some of gender discrimination in the Act. However, Bill C-3, as it is currenlty written, does not resolve all the discrimination that exists in the Act.
Currently C-3 has cut off dates for restoring status, and fails to address gender discrimination in cases of unstated paternity. Sharon McIvor brought these issues to the attention of the Parliamentary committee. In later testimony, the Native Women`s Association and the Assembly of First Nations supported McIvor's plea for amendments to c-3 that will address these issues. The Committee claims they are limited on what they can do, but seem to be willing to try and broaden the application of Bill C-3. Full transcript of McIvor`s testimony to the committee is pasted below. If you read through to the bottom you`ll note that Conservative John Duncan was quite the A-hole in questioning her. If his stance is any indication the conservatives will fight against any broadening of the Bill.
Other Posts on this topic include:
- Wednesday November 3, 2010 Another McIvor Update
- Sunday May 23,2010 URGENT: Nonstatus Indians: Women's Groups poised to Kill C-3 aka McIvor Bill
- Wednesday, April 7, 2010 More on McIvor- Canada Given 3-Month Extension to Implement McIvor decision
- Thursday, March 11, 2010 McIvor update!!!! How Do the New Legislative Changes to the Indian Act Affect Me?
- Saturday, March 6, 2010 Update on McIvor/Indian Status.
The Chair (Mr. Bruce Stanton (Simcoe North, CPC): On today's agenda, pursuant to our order of reference of Monday, March 29, 2010, we are considering 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). 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.
Ms. Sharon McIvor (As an Individual): 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.
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 C-3 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--
The Chair: Ms. McIvor, we're over time right now. You've introduced that idea, so at this point we will go to questions from members to explore these ideas a little further. We are under some tight timelines, so please don't take any offence. It's a normal thing and we can draw all these ideas out in play as we proceed. Let's go to our first question from Mr. Russell.
Mr. Todd Russell (Labrador, Lib.): Thank you Mr. Chair. Good afternoon, Ms. McIvor and Ms. Brodsky. It's good to have you with us this afternoon. I want to acknowledge your journey and the monumental task you've undertaken. It's hard to fathom 20 years of doing battle, but I guess when the cause is so integral and meaningful, not only to you personally and your families but to so many others, particularly aboriginal women, you just keep on trudging. So with all humility I commend you and those who came before you for your efforts in undertaking some very arduous tasks. When I spoke in the House of Commons, I gave tacit support to Bill C-3 on behalf of our party. But we also commented that we were concerned about the impact this bill might have. You mentioned Bill C-31 and the residual impacts that had in terms of other forms of discrimination that had arisen. You made the statement that even with Bill C-3--you're telling this committee and all of us as parliamentarians--there will still be gender discrimination. The government calls the bill an act to enhance gender equity in Indian registration. So can you illustrate for us in a concrete fashion how there would continue to be gender inequality, even if Bill C-3 went through as is?
Sharon McIvor: 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.
Ms. Gwen Brodsky (As an Individual): The further problem, Mr. Russell, that will result in people, deserving people, excluded on the basis of their descent along matrilineal aboriginal lines, rather than patrilineal aboriginal lines, is with regard to the assignment of second-class status, section 6(2) status, to the grandchildren. That's the best they, the grandchildren, can get, even if they were born prior to April 17, 1982, under the proposed legislation, whereas the grandchildren of their male counterparts born prior to April 17, 1985, will have section 6(1) status, which can be transmitted to another generation. The bottom line--
Mr. Todd Russell: The bottom line is that there's still going to be gender inequality after Bill C-3, according to your testimony.
Ms. Gwen Brodsky: That's correct.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Russell. We will move now to Mr. Lemay.
Mr. Marc Lemay (Abitibi—Témiscamingue, BQ): Ms. McIvor, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I would like to begin by commending you for leading this battle which, unfortunately—and I am quite sincere when I say this—will not end today. It is absolutely clear that the Indian Act discriminates against aboriginal women. The problem is that it will continue to do that once Bill C-3 has passed. Neither the previous nor the current government has taken any action to resolve this issue. As the British Columbia Court of Appeal stated, we are stuck with a decision that goes back to 1951. I do not want to give you false hope. At least Bill C-3 will represent progress. As a media host back home would say, here is the killer: under the rules of Parliament, we cannot go any further than what this bill proposes. Otherwise, it will be ruled out of order. So, how can we improve this bill, despite the fact that we cannot go any further back than 1951 and that it will continue to discriminate? It is a serious problem. I don't know whether you can answer that question or whether other groups that will appear subsequently have the answer.
Sharon McIvor: I don't see why you can't go back further than 1951. Just get rid of that date. We need to have all people born before April 17, 1985, to be in the section 6(1) category, and no one in the section 6(2) category before 1985.
Mr. Marc Lemay: I don't want to seem rude by interrupting you, but I would like to know if you're talking about people born before or after 1985.
Ms. Sharon McIvor: It's before.
Mr. Marc Lemay: So, individuals born before 1985 should be covered under subsection 6(1) of the Indian Act. Is that what you are saying?
Ms. Sharon McIvor: They should be under section 6(1).
Mr. Marc Lemay: Yes, that's what I said. You would like everyone born before 1985 to be covered under subsection 6(1). Is that correct?
Ms. Sharon McIvor: Yes.
Mr. Marc Lemay: I understand, but starting from 1985, how far back do you want to go? To 1951? To 1876?
Ms. Sharon McIvor: I want to go back as far as the Indian Act goes back. I want that 1951 date gone, and I want everyone who has status prior to April 17, 1985, to have it under section 6(1), as do their male counterparts. All of the descendants of the men up until 1985 had status under section 6(1) . None of them were accorded the lesser status under section 6(2).
Mr. Marc Lemay: Please feel free to comment.
Ms. Gwen Brodsky: The descendants from the male line are accorded status without regard to the 1951 cut-off. Direct descendants of status Indians are able to claim their status and go to the registrar with their claims of entitlement to status, going back as far as they need to.
Mr. Marc Lemay: Really? I have no further questions. I will reflect on what the witness has just said.
The Chair: Merci, Monsieur Lemay. Let's now go to Ms. Crowder.
Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP): 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?
Ms. Sharon McIvor: Yes.
Ms. Jean Crowder: Okay. The 1951 act implemented the entitlement to registration. There were other things that happened at the same time, including the “double mother rule”. If we were to go back to 1869, we would have to trace family lines, because there are people who would have regained status through families over many generations.
Ms. Sharon McIvor: It's fortunately not the government's problem. If you want to be registered, you have to get all of your own information and comply with whatever the government wants as proof. Many people out there can't do that. If they can do it and they meet the criteria, they should be able to do so, no matter how far back it goes. That's what we're saying. For the male line, it was unrestricted until 1985. As long as your father was a male Indian, you had status all the way down the line. That's all we are asking for. We are asking that the residual discrimination, which happened because of this whole scheme, be rectified. To say that we have to go all the way back to 1869 I think is a red herring. The government and the registrar don't have to do the research. The people who want to get status have to do the research.
Ms. Jean Crowder: Don't mistake me; I support going back to 1869. But as you well know, there's another problem for people applying for status, which is the hoops they have to jump through. I have a constituent who has been in the process for ten years. Every time he submits the information, the department comes back and tells him they need one more thing.
Ms. Sharon McIvor: Or they don't look at it. We have responses where you get a letter saying “We can't look at it for six years, because we're back-logged that far.” So there are a whole lot of issues and a lot of people die waiting to have that done.
Ms. Jean Crowder: In the interim, we have our hands bound to a certain extent, as we cannot substantially alter the scope of a bill. It will be ruled out of order. There are some amendments that will be ruled in order and some amendments that would be ruled out of order. We would have to test the legal counsel to see what would be in order and what would be out of order. So at a minimum, what would you like to see us do? Just presuming that we could make an amendment to give everybody status prior to 1985, given section 6(1) status, at a minimum, what would you like to see us do?
Ms. Sharon McIvor: I want you to respect the honour of the crown and have legislation that treats us and our descendants in a respectful and equal manner, and not go back to the other people, the other bands, and ask if we should be treated equally. That is offensive, to say the least, to say my rights are subject to somebody else's agreement. I would like it all. I fought for it all; I would like it all. And for me there's no minimum. I think the honour of the crown and the honour of these parliamentarians is that, once and for all, this ongoing residual discrimination in the Indian Act should be eradicated. Do you want to add something?
Ms. Gwen Brodsky: I do wish to add to that. I cannot believe that in this day and age we would be talking about anything other than zero tolerance for sex discrimination against any women in this country. I know that you are deeply concerned, all of you, to get this right. That's complete and total eradication of the sex discrimination from the status registration regime. Nothing less could possibly be acceptable. To do otherwise will be to engage in sex and race discrimination. We would not do this to any other group of women in the country. There is no consultation required or permissible about rectifying the status registration system. It would be discriminatory to go and ask those who disagree with us whether equality is to be the norm in this land. It is the norm. That's been decided. That's off the table. Zero tolerance, that's what this committee must proceed on.
The Chair: Okay, thank you, Ms. Crowder, Ms. Brodsky, and Ms. McIvor. Now let's go to Mr. Duncan for seven minutes.
Mr. John Duncan (Vancouver Island North, CPC): Thank you very much. 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 C-3, 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.
Ms. Sharon McIvor: I do have a comment on the issue of status and the issue of membership. In this particular case, we separated those out and are only looking at status and our individual relationship with the government. Whatever happens with membership is not part of this case, so there's absolutely no reason to consult with anyone on whether or not the Indian Act should continue to discriminate against women in different ways, or women and their descendants in different ways. If you want to consult on membership of particular bands and what they need and what they want, that's perfectly fine; but on the issue of status, which only concerns the relationship between the government and each individual Indian, there's nothing to consult.
As I said earlier, I find it very offensive to have groups consulted on whether I and my descendants, or my counterparts and their descendants, should be afforded their equality rights. These shouldn't be on the table at all. If you want to consult on membership, that's fine, because membership of a band is a whole different issue. I see that in Bill C-3 the government has chosen to add newly registered Indians onto band lists without any input from the band. That's not part of the case. That was not part of my case and not part of the decision.
Gwen. Ms. Gwen Brodsky: I support Ms. McIvor on that, and I would add that a staged approach is preferable. I believe there is a July deadline for the government to respond to the litigation, which is only concerned with registration status. It's like citizenship: it is purely individual. It confers a status card and a number, official recognition of a person's aboriginal heritage, and it carries with it some entitlements to social programs, such as enhanced health care and financial assistance in attending a post-secondary institution.
That territory can and must be dealt with immediately. It is a very simple matter of doing it, as Ms. McIvor has explained. Band membership carries with it a completely different set of entitlements, to such things as rights to vote in band elections and participate in band community affairs, and access to housing on reserves. Those are different issues, and they are worthy of consultation. It may not be possible to deal with them prior to the July deadline. That can't stand. It won't stand as an acceptable excuse for not remedying the sex discrimination in the registration scheme immediately and completely.
The Chair: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Duncan. Now we'll go to the second round, and we'll begin with Ms. Neville for five minutes.
Hon. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.): Thank you very much. And a particular thank you to both of you for travelling across the country to meet with us. What I'm hearing you say is that under this legislation some women are more equal than others, and that in no other forum or arena would that be allowed to happen. I don't know if you want to say anything further about that, but I'd be interested if you do. What I'm also hearing, Ms. Brodsky--and I'm just checking--is what you just indicated, which is go ahead and make the fulsome amendment so that all women are included under this legislation, and maintain the engagement and consultation process, whatever it is, for the other issues this brings to light, such as band membership, citizenship, and whatever. Could you both expand on that a bit?
Ms. Gwen Brodsky: Your encapsulation, Ms. Neville, is correct. Regarding the view that we have advanced, it is simply wrong to make some women--any aboriginal women--subject to continued sex discrimination. That is what this bill, if it is allowed to pass as it stands, would do. It would be failed remedial legislation. That's what the 1985 act was--failed remedial legislation. Bill C-3 is a set-up for yet another instance of failed remedial legislation, for disappointment to aboriginal women and their descendants, who have been waiting for a long, long time for Parliament to do the right thing. That must be dealt with immediately. The other issues concerning band membership, for example, which form no part of our case, can be dealt with separately in what may require a somewhat lengthier process. What's needed to address the discrimination in the status registration provisions is well understood and straightforward and it involves no competing rights whatsoever.
Hon. Anita Neville: This is really a question to the minister and the department. When the minister was here I asked whether they had done an analysis of the unintended consequences of this legislation, and quite frankly I can't remember the full answer. There was an acknowledgement that it's difficult. What I'm hearing from you is that in all likelihood, should the legislation pass as is, aboriginal women will need another Sharon McIvor of the next generation to take this battle forward so that all women are equal. Is that a fair comment?
Ms. Sharon McIvor: Yes, it is a fair comment. In 1985 the charter forced the government to take all the discrimination out of the legislation, and they didn't do it for us. They forced us to take it to court. And 25 years later we finally have a court decision that makes the government do it because the court said so. I find it interesting, to say the least, that as parliamentarians, you understand that the discrimination is there--I think you all said you understand it's there. You also understand that this legislation won't clean it up. I don't understand what is stopping you from cleaning it up. It's totally beyond my comprehension that all of you, seeing the discrimination, won't go ahead and clean it up properly instead of this stopgap you're using. I know from experience with the myriad of Ministers of Indian Affairs I begged to help out that they have said it's too much of a problem and they wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole. They understand the problem, but they're not going to fix it.
Hon. Anita Neville: Why?
Ms. Sharon McIvor: They just said that it was too much of a problem to fix. Now you have to fix it, because the courts said you have to. I find it quite disappointing that you want to do a remedial again without totally fixing it.
The Chair: We are out of time, unfortunately. Thanks, Ms. Neville and Ms. McIvor. Now let's go to Mr. Duncan. This will be our last question. Go ahead, Mr. Duncan.
Mr. John Duncan: Thank you very much. I'll go back to the exploratory process. I believe I heard you say you agreed this would probably require a staged process. We are responding to your litigation, to your court case, and there's an understanding that more was needed and that is why we have got ourselves into a strong commitment to an exploratory process. I think it would be unfair to say categorically that there is not a divergence of opinion on status and registration across the country based on some previous history in some parts of Canada.
I'm trying to get to a buy-in on the exploratory process, because we've got a lot of people excited about the fact that we're going to set terms of reference through consensus. This is not going to be a process driven by the Department of Indian Affairs; this is going to be one that is driven collaboratively, and I think it has much potential to lead us to the long-term solution you are looking for. And I don't see how we could get there with a committee with limited resources and ability to get where we need to get to to address the most pressing concern, which is responding to your litigation.
Ms. Sharon McIvor: I will repeat that we as Indian women and our descendants deserve to be treated equally. I don't think any amount of consultation will change that, and it shouldn't. You shouldn't have to consult with others to see if I can enjoy my full right to equality. I understand that the issue of membership and resources in communities and all of that is there, and I understand the need to consult on that, but on status I don't see the need to consult.
I know that for our indigenous communities, it seems to be a barrier for us to move ahead. When the country, the various provinces, decided to put the matrimonial property issue into legislation, where the provinces deemed the family assets of a married couple are fifty-fifty, regardless of whose name they were in, I don't recall them asking the men whose name they were in if it was okay with them. It was the right thing to do. I see this is exactly the same situation. The band should not have a say on whether I should enjoy my full right to equality. They have a say in governance of their own communities, and they should be consulted on that, but not whether I and my sisters should enjoy our full right to equality.
Mr. John Duncan: But the exploratory process will allow for a lot more than bands to have a say. This is for the Native Women's Association and all kinds of individuals--women from across the board, and so on--to describe what they view as discriminatory registration practices. This is about registration and status, as well as membership and those other things, because it is a complex issue.
Ms. Sharon McIvor: It's not a complex issue.
Mr. John Duncan: Well, it's very complex. You described a situation of discrimination that I explained won't exist after Bill C-3. Siblings of people born after 1951 who were born before 1951 will clearly qualify for registration. That's just one example of the complexity. So this bill will actually go further than you describe in addressing discrimination.
Ms. Sharon McIvor: I will need to have another look at it, but that's not my reading of it. That 1951 date is a barrier; otherwise it wouldn't be there. If it wasn't a meaningful date you wouldn't have to put it in.
Mr. John Duncan: Well, it's a very meaningful date.
Ms. Sharon McIvor: Yes, it's a very meaningful date, and people born before then will be affected, as will people born after. The last thing I want to say is that as an individual I shouldn't have to decide whether or not I have the right to exercise full equality, and someone else shouldn't be able to say whether I can exercise my full right to equality. So consultation, or whatever that commitment is, shouldn't affect the status part of this.
The Chair: We're at the end of our first hour, Ms. McIvor and Ms. Brodsky.
Ms. Gwen Brodsky: May I make one brief comment?
The Chair: You have 30 seconds.
Ms. Gwen Brodsky: This committee, this government, and Parliament have a wonderful opportunity before them to remove this terrible stain of longstanding on Canada's reputation, domestically and internationally, as a promoter of women's human rights. That recognition and the opportunity to do that will not be fulfilled if this job is not done fully--and you can do it.
Chair: Thank you, Ms. Brodsky.