Bill C-3 – Not a Catastrophe if it Does not Pass

In my previous blog on Bill C-3, I argued that we should not agree to pass the bill as it currently reads. I made this argument despite the fact that I, personally, stand to gain from Bill C-3. In my opinion, the more important issue is whether our children, siblings, cousins and future community members will benefit and not whether a select few have their immediate needs met. As First Nations peoples, we have always made decisions based on what is best for our future generations and not what we need in the present or what has worked in the past. We can not simply preach the values we represent as First Nations – we have to put those values into action. This will mean that we have to make sacrifices in the present, to ensure that our children are protected in the future. This is asking no more and no less than what our ancestors did for us by protecting our lands through war, treaties and self-sacrifice. Also in my last blog on Bill C-3, I highlighted some of the misconceptions about the bill being promoted by the conservative government through INAC. Their inaccurate claims about the consequences of not passing Bill C-3 amount to fear-mongering. They appear to be relying on the notion that Aboriginal people will be so scared that if this bill doesn’t pass that they will never get status; assuming that they are willing to sacrifice the rights of their children for their own immediate needs. In my opinion, INAC has grossly miscalculated the degree to which Aboriginal people have become more experienced, educated, and strategic about what they are willing to sacrifice and what they won’t. The Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs (AAON) heard from numerous witnesses all over the country: from national, regional and local organisations, as well as individual experts and non-Aboriginal professional societies. With near unanimity, the witnesses said that the bill, as it is currently written, does not address gender discrimination, nor does it even address the limited situation in McIvor. To make my point about the misinformation that INAC is using to get this bill passed, I informed readers that INAC was arguing in the House that by not passing the bill, there would be a legislative void where thousands of people in BC would not be registered. I highlighted the fact that even if there were a legislative void for people in BC for a short time, say several months while we amended or reintroduced a new act, the temporary situation would not be as bad as it is portrayed by INAC. As part of my blog, I challenged readers to contact INAC and ask for the actual numbers of registrants in BC each year. I wanted them to compare, for themselves, those who would not be registered if Bill C-3 did not pass, versus the claims of INAC of thousands of people. Subsequently, LEAF, the Women’s Education Action Fund, issued an informative e-mail to members of Parliament on this very topic. The following are some highlights from LEAF’s communication: (1) If the Indian Act is not amended by July deadline, the government can simply ask for an extension from the court. (2) Even if section 6(1)(a) and (c) do lapse in July, it will ONLY affect those who would be entitled under sections 6(1)(a) and (c) who live in British Columbia. (3) If the effect of McIvor was national (which it isn’t), the temporary delay in registration would only affect less than 1.7% of registrations under section 6(1)(a) and only 0.4% of registrations under section 6(1)(c). This means that those who might be affected in BC are all less than 1%. (4) The vast majority of registrations nationally are 42% under section 6(2) and 56% under section 6(1)(f). Therefore, the actual number of people that might possibility have to wait several additional months for registration amount to less than a few hundred in BC, and no one else in the rest of Canada would be affected. This makes the case for a small temporary sacrifice for the benefit of greater permanent benefits for larger numbers of people, all the more compelling. Furthermore, I think this statistical information should have been provided to First Nations, witnesses, MPs and Standing Committee members at the start of this process. Not only has Canada failed to consult with Aboriginal peoples on this issue, but even their engagement process was inherently flawed by covering up this kind of vital information. Please write your MP or all MPs and ask them NOT to pass Bill C-3 as it is currently written. They must make substantive changes or reintroduce a proper bill that addresses gender discrimination once and for all. We can sacrifice our immediate needs for a few more months for the benefit of our children – our ancestors did no less for us! To contact Liberal MPs – To contact Bloc MPs – To contact Conservative MPs – To contact NDP MPs – Please protect our present and future generations from gender discrimination and exclusion – do not support Bill C-3!