Repealing the Indian Act

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, in the course of Bill S-3, the conversations I had with the hon. minister in this place in June and the attempts to remove all vestiges of historic gender-based discrimination have now come to a good place.

The new and expanded role of a Senate with independent senators and indeed the role of indigenous senators in the other place, Senator Dyck, Senator Dan Christmas, Senator Murray Sinclair, have helped enormously in bringing about that sober second thought which we used to think the other chamber was capable of providing, particularly from an indigenous perspective.

While I certainly applaud and appreciate that we are taking the bill forward, as amended, to passage, it is time to repeal the Indian Act, and this is the first time I have said that in the House. There is a lot of discussion about how we need to consult with first nations and indigenous people before we repeal it. They did not pass it. It is a vestige of a colonial history and it is inherently discriminatory and racist.

I know the minister has now had the department split in two, but this question is squarely in front of her, and it is a tough one. However, when can we start the conversation about when, not if, we repeal the Indian Act?

Carolyn Bennett – Minister for Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the Indian Act is hugely disturbing to the government. It really enshrined all the bad policies of the superiority of the settlers into the act, which then discriminated against the first peoples of our country. The kind of consultation required now to understand what replaces the Indian Act is what communities are worried about. How do we reconstitute nations as nations instead of these villages that were created under the Indian Act, in what Lee Maracle called “villagizing” tiny communities and then Canada was able to take the land from in between.

Reconstituting nations and having nations then having self-determination, having self-government, is the direction in which our government is going. We want to see that happen. There has to be an alternative. The fiduciary rights of the Government of Canada to first nations must be codified and we need to have some other thing in place. My job, as my mandate letter says, is to accelerate the progress of communities getting out from under the Indian Act as quickly as they possibly can.