Senate committee tells minister to halt sex-based amendments to Indian Act after ‘inadequate consultation’

Senate tells Indigenous Affairs minister to ask for extension on bill to amend the Indian Act.

APTN National News
The Senate’s Aboriginal Affairs committee has written to Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett telling her proposed amendments to the Indian act are “deficient” and come only after “inadequate” consultation with Indigenous peoples.

The goal of Bill S-3 was to eliminate gender inequality in the Indian Act. It was in response to a Superior Court of Quebec ruling that found provisions of the Indian act related to registration violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

But the Liberal government admitted that it did a poor job in consulting with First Nations people across the country, including Stéphane Descheneaux, the man at the centre of the court ruling. Bennett ended up telling the Senate committee that she was embarrassed with how poorly her department handed the consultations.

“Despite the title of the bill, the committee has heard evidence to suggest that gender-based discrimination would persist even if this bill were passed,” senators wrote in the letter.

Descheneaux argued that the Indian Act method for registering Status Indians is unconstitutional because it discriminates on the basis of sex. Descheneaux, a member of the Abenakis of Odanak First Nation, had been denied status because his grandmother had married a non-Indigenous man.

According to a release sent by Senate committee, it is asking Bennett to ask the court for more time to hold proper consultations and address the bill’s deficiencies.

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