Hon. Michèle Audette: Kwe, minister. We’ll start from the same principle of self-determination. Your government made a series of amendments — Bill C-3 in 2010 and Bill S-3 in 2007 — to announce its intention to address the issue of emancipated persons in order to eliminate gender-based discrimination in the entitlement to Indian registration. Where we part ways is that in my books, this is more about softening or reducing discrimination and maybe not eliminating it altogether. I would like your thoughts on that. What are you going to do for the thousands of people, men and women, who can be registered in Ottawa, but because of membership codes in section 10 of the Indian Act, will be excluded from their community? To me, that is not what it means to eliminate discrimination.
Hon. Patty Hajdu, P.C., M.P., Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario: It’s a very difficult question that the senator has posed to me. In fact, I find this space a challenging one because there is no question that people have been discriminated through the Indian Act. The entire act is discriminatory. The aspects regarding how the colonial state decided who is — or is not — Indigenous has been marked with gender discrimination and other forms of discrimination throughout its history.
As the honourable senator knows, we are working now on amendments that would allow individuals with family histories of enfranchisement to transmit entitlements to their descendents — to the same extent as individuals without family histories of enfranchisement. These came from the Bill S-3 three-year review and extensive partner outreach.
The honourable senator is correct that it is also a somewhat contentious space because, in fact, there is not consensus amongst First Nations leaders, in particular, about how to reincorporate people into the community. Having status is one thing. Being a member of the community is another. This work continues: to understand how we do this in a thoughtful way that doesn’t impose obligations on communities — which some communities don’t want — and, yet, also satisfy the rights holders, the individuals, in terms of their connection to their community.