Seventh Report of Indigenous Peoples Committee and Request for Government Response

By: The Hon. Brian Francis

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Hon. Brian Francis moved:

That the seventh report of the Standing Senate Committee on Indigenous Peoples, tabled with the Clerk of the Senate on Monday, June 27, 2022, be adopted and that, pursuant to rule 12-24(1), the Senate request a complete and detailed response from the government, with the Minister of Indigenous Services Canada being identified as minister responsible for responding to the report, in consultation with the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.

He said: Honourable senators, this report of the Committee on Indigenous Peoples found that piecemeal amendments to the Indian Act brought forward by the Government of Canada in 1985, 2010 and, more recently, in 2017 in response to court challenges did not address all inequities in the registration provisions impacting First Nations women and their descendants but, rather, helped to worsen them.

The committee is grateful to all the witnesses who shared their stories and recommendations, and remains committed to continuing to advocate for restoring long overdue equality to First Nations women and their descendants in the registration provisions of the Indian Act.

The committee is disappointed that the Government of Canada is once again involved in litigation related to enfranchisement. Given that it intends to amend the Indian Act for the fourth time to address this matter, the committee strongly urges the Government of Canada to take a proactive and comprehensive approach that will, once and for all, end the discrimination against First Nations women and their descendants.

The committee makes nine recommendations to the Government of Canada. The witnesses, for example, testified that the registration process was overly complex and slow. As a result, we recommend providing access to historical and genealogical records, developing and distributing plain-language materials, and publishing an annual service standard report and other changes.

The committee also urges the repeal of all outstanding inequities, including enfranchisement, the 1985 cut-off and age and marital distinctions, as well as an apology and compensation for the harms experienced by First Nations women and their descendants, and funding to reconnect individuals who lost status with their communities.

In sum, colleagues, the Government of Canada must take immediate steps to ensure that First Nations women and their descendants are treated equally under the Indian Act. We cannot let these inequalities continue to harm more generations. Wela’lin, thank you.

(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)

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