Harper government unveils "path" to repeal Indian Act

The Conservative government unveiled its plan Thursday to unravel and eventually replace the Indian Act as it put its full weight behind a private members bill to repeal sections of the 136 year-old legislation.

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The Conservative government unveiled its plan Thursday to unravel and eventually replace the Indian Act as it put its full weight behind a private members bill to repeal sections of the 136 year-old legislation.

The proposed Bill C-428, the Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act, was initially tabled by Conservative Saskatchewan MP Rob Clarke, a former RCMP officer and Muskeg Lake First Nation member. The proposed bill would strike down several sections of the Indian Act including those dealing with residential schools, wills and estates and band bylaws.

“This bill provides no cause for alarm among First Nations individuals,” Clarke said during a debate in the House of Commons. “Nor is there any cause for false alarms to be raised by First Nations leaders.”

The bill would also require the Aboriginal Affairs minister to annually report on the government’s progress “toward the repeal and replacement of the Indian Act.”

The Conservative’s “path” to eventually replace the Indian Act was revealed in Clarke’s speech delivered during first debate on the bill. The path was dubbed by the acronym “ARRC,” which stands for amend, repeal, replace and consult, said Clarke, MP for Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River.

“I hope in my lifetime to see the complete repeal of the Indian Act and see it replaced by a more modern set of laws that reflects today’s values, but also respects our past,” said Clarke Thursday evening. “These amendments to the Indian Act can be an important stepping stone on the path to achieving self-sufficiency and prosperity in First Nations communities.”

The Harper government took ownership of Clarke’s proposed bill earlier in the day.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said during question period that Clarke’s bill was “consistent with the government’s own approach to Indian Act reform.” Duncan said the government supported the bill “in principle” and would work on getting it passed into law.

“We look forward to studying the bill, exploring opportunities to improve it and passing it into law,” said Duncan.

Clarke’s proposed bill would require the Aboriginal Affairs minister to report every year on the government’s work to get rid of the Indian Act. The report would be submitted to the House of Commons committee on Aboriginal Affairs by Jan. 31 of each year.

“This section of my bill requires a collaborative consultation process between First Nations and the minister of Aboriginal affairs,” said Clarke. “This will ensure that First Nations can hold the government accountable for moving forward toward the complete removal of the Indian Act in a meaningful and respectful way.”

The proposed bill would allow First Nation band councils to pass bylaws without needing a sign-off from the minister. The bill would also repeal a section banning the sale of alcohol on reserves.

“It will provide these First Nations with the same rights and responsibilities that rural and urban municipalities have today,” said Clarke.

Under Clarke’s bill, the Aboriginal Affairs minister would also no longer have final say over wills and estates and repeal largely ignored sections restricting trade between non-First Nations and First Nations people.

The bill will also remove the term “residential school” from the Indian Act.

“I am proud as a First Nations man whose grandparents attended residential schools in Duck Lake, Sask., to be privileged, as a member of the House of Commons, to repeal this particularly shameful section and wording in the Indian Act,” said Clarke. “I fear that having this remain in the Indian Act will enable a future government to create residential schools on First Nations reserves.”

Clarke said fear of reprisal keeps many chiefs from openly supporting his private members bill.

Both the NDP and Liberals said their parties would oppose it.

NDP Aboriginal affairs critics Jean Crowder said the proposed bill would put wills and estates for First Nations people on reserves into a legal limbo.

Crowder said any proposed bill dealing with the Indian Act should result from consultation with First Nations, not the other way around.

“Consultation does not entail receiving emails from people and posting information on your website,” said Crowder. “Consultation does not constitute having witnesses appear in committee…go back to the drawing board and talk to First Nations from coast to coast to coast.”

Liberal Aboriginal affairs critic Carolyn Bennett said any attempt to deal with the Indian Act should involve a proper process.

“A back-bencher’s private members bill is not an appropriate consultation,” said Bennett. “This kind of thing must be undertaken between the prime minister in a government-to-government way.”

Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae has authored a motion outlining a process for dealing with the Indian Act. He is expected to speak about the motion on Monday.

Bennett said Clarke’s bill went against the promise made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper during the Crown-First Nations gathering not to unilaterally alter the Indian Act.

In January, at the Crown First Nations gathering the prime minister said:

“Our government has no grand scheme to repeal or unilaterally re-write the Indian Act. After 136 years, that tree has deep roots. Blowing up the stump would just leave a big hole. However, there are ways, creative ways, collaborative ways, ways that involve consultation between our government, the provinces and First Nations leadership and communities. Ways that provide options within the Act, or outside of it, for practical, incremental and real change.”

Clarke’s Conservative colleagues blasted the opposition for not supporting the bill. Alberta MP Chris Warkentin, who chairs the Commons Aboriginal affairs committee, said the bill is authored by a First Nations person for First Nations people.

“He has overcome the travesty that is this Act and overcome past injustices to reach this House,” said Warkentin. “He has every right to bring forward a private members bill in this House.”

Warkentin said none of the opposition members had lived under the Act, unlike Clarke.

The bill now goes to the Aboriginal Affairs committee for study and to hear from witnesses.

The Conservatives hold a majority on that committee.

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2 thoughts on “Harper government unveils "path" to repeal Indian Act

  1. Canada: an Apartheid State
    “Indian Act is Racist”The great aim of our legislation has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the other inhabitants of the Dominion as speedily as they are fit to change.” – John A Macdonald, 1887Our object is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic, and there is no Indian question, and no Indian department.” – Duncan Campbell Scott, Deputy Superintendent General of Indian Affairs, 1920The Indian Act (“An Act respecting Indians”), R.S., 1951, c. I-5, is an apartheid Canadian statute that concerns registered ”Indians”, their bands, and the system of Indian reserves. The Indian Act was enacted in 1876 by the Parliament of Canada under the provisions of Section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867, which provides Canada’s federal government exclusive authority to legislate in relation to Crown Land – or “Indians and Lands Reserved for Indians”. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, which is responsible for the act, is administered by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.Most reserves (the exceptions are communities that have negotiated self-government) still operate under the rule of the Indian Act, first authored in 1876 and “updated” several times since then.This document is explicitly racist. It reduces aboriginal people to the status of powerless, landless tenants. It deprives them of property rights and inheritance rights, as any other Canadian would understand those terms. It gives Ottawa the power to seize Indian property virtually at will. It allows for reserve lands to be forcibly expropriated. It places limitations on who Indians on reserves can do business with. It contains clauses that lay out, in excruciating detail, how the government may seize the property of Indians deemed “mentally incompetent.” It is a horror show.The rotten core of the Indian Act, it seems to me, is this single line: Clause 20, Section 1) “No Indian is lawfully in possession of land in a reserve unless, with the approval of the Minister, possession of the land has been allotted to him by the council of the band.” – Owen Sound Sun Times Editorial (May, 2007)The 1895 amendment of the Indian Act (Section 114) criminalized many Aboriginal ceremonies, which resulted in the arrest and conviction of numerous Aboriginal people for practising their basic traditions. These arrests were based on Aboriginal participation in festivals, dances and ceremonies that involved the wounding of animals or humans, or the giving away of money or goods. The Dakota people (Sioux) who settled in Oak River, Manitoba, in 1875 were known to conduct “give-away dances”, also known as the “grass dance”. The dance ceremony involved the giving away and exchange of blankets and horses; thus it breached Section 114 of the Indian Act. As a result, Wanduta, an elder of the Dakota community, was sentenced to four months of hard labour and imprisonment on January 26, 1903.
    According to Canadian historian Constance Backhouse, the Aboriginal “give-away dances” were ceremonies more commonly known as potlatches that connected entire communities politically, economically and socially. These dances affirmed kinship ties, provided elders with opportunities to pass on insight, legends and history to the next generation, and were a core part of Aboriginal resistance to assimilation. It is estimated that between 1900 and 1904, 50 Aboriginal people were arrested and 20 were convicted for their involvement in such dances.Letter sent from Ottawa to all Indian Agents by Superintendent General of Indian Affairs Duncan Elliott on December 15, 1921:Sir:It is observed with alarm that the holding of dances by the Indians on their reserves is in the increase, and that these practices tend to disorganize the efforts which the Department is putting forth to make them self-supporting.I have, therefore, to direct you to use your utmost endeavours to dissuade the Indians from excessive indulgence in the practice of dancing. You should suppress any dances which cause waste of time, interfere with the occupations of the Indians, unsettle them for serious work, injure their health or encourage them in sloth and idleness.You should also dissuade, and, if possible, prevent them from leaving their reserves for the purpose of attending fairs, exhibitions, etc., when their absence would result in their own farming and other interests being neglected. It is realized that reasonable amusement and recreation should be enjoyed by Indians, but they should not be allowed to dissipate their energies and abandon themselves to demoralizing amusements. By the use of tact and firmness, you can control and keep it, and this obstacle to continued progress will then disappear.The rooms, halls or other places in which Indians congregate should be under constant inspection. They should be scrubbed, fumigated, cleansed or disinfected to prevent the dissemination of disease. The Indians should be instructed in regard to the matter of proper ventilation and the avoidance of overcrowded rooms where public assemblies are being held, and proper arrangement should be made for the shelter of their horses and ponies. The Agent will avail himself of the services of the medical attendant of his agency in this connection.Prevention of Trade120. Every person who buys or otherwise acquires from any Indian, or band or irregular band of Indians, in the province of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, or Alberta, or the Territories, any cattle or other animals or any grain, root crops or other produce or sells to any such Indian any goods or supplies, cattle or other animals contrary to the provisions of this Act, shall on summary conviction, be liable to a penalty not exceeding one hundred dollars, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or to both.” (Section 120 remained, in one form or another, part of the Act until 1951.Prevention of Legal RepresentationWhen Indians complained of administrative abuses and, in the non-Treaty areas, to press their claims of Aboriginal title, the Act was amended to make it an offence to retain a lawyer for the purpose of advancing a claim.When Aboriginal political organizing became more extensive in the 1920s and groups began to pursue land claims, the federal government added Section 141 to the Indian Act. Section 141 outlawed the hiring of lawyers and legal counsel by Indians, effectively barring Aboriginal peoples from fighting for their rights through the legal system. Eventually, these laws expanded to such a point that virtually any gathering was strictly prohibited and would result in a jail term. These amendments presented a significant barrier to Aboriginal political organizing and many organizations had to disband. However, it did not entirely stop political organizing—Aboriginal organizations such as the Nisga’a Land Committee and the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia managed to continue to organize the fight for their rights underground. – From: http://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca

  2. yay another backdoor way to get rid of first nations disguised as a positive they put this plan in first but as soon as it passes they throw the real deal in and say they made quik amendments or add stuff to eradicate the whole native american problem and ease the way for enbridge to fuck us over with the pipline thru traditional territories and land claims.

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