AFN press release ...
OTTAWA, Oct. 12 /CNW Telbec/ - Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine said today that First Nations support human rights protection for First Nations and also support the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA).
"The Assembly of First Nations supports the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. This position was tabled with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs during its hearings into Bill C-44, which would repeal section 67 of the Act," National Chief Fontaine said. "Unfortunately, Bill C-44 is flawed and unworkable. Our position is supported by many other experts, including the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Canadian Bar Association, the Native Women's Association of Canada and many others. Anyone who calls for the re-introduction of this flawed legislation is out of step with the legal community and First Nations people."
"The federal government should work with First Nation governments to provide even greater human rights protection for all First Nations citizens. If the government reintroduces fundamentally flawed legislation that cannot be implemented or enforced then it can only do further harm to our people. We have the solutions. Let's work together and get the Bill done right."
"It is unclear why anyone would say that flawed legislation is the way to go," National Chief Fontaine said. "We are prepared to work with the federal government, our own people, and human rights experts to create an approach that is truly effective and workable. First Nations know better than anyone in Canada about the need to protect and uphold our rights, and we are ready and willing to work with all partners on a new approach."
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.
In summary, Bill C-44 was introduced in 2006 as a way to repeal section 67 of the CHRA, which states that the CHRA does not apply to First Nations reserves. The concept is supported but the Bill had a number of fatal flaws. These include:
The following are excerpts from submissions on Bill C-44 by the Canadian Human Rights Commission to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development as presented by Jennifer Lynch, Q.C., Chief Commissioner, Canadian Human Rights Commission before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development on Bill C-44: An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act April 19, 2007.
Concern: Bill C-44 Lacks an Interpretive Clause
The need for an interpretative provision is one important area where differences of view have been voiced. Bill C-44 is silent on this matter. With respect, we submit that it should not be. First Nations communities and people have a unique history and special status in the Canadian constitutional and legal system. Their existing Aboriginal and treaty rights are affirmed in the Constitution, have been progressively confirmed by the Courts and are recognized by governments at all levels.
An interpretative provision is, in our submission, imperative to give application to the inherent right to self-government and is fundamental to developing an appropriate system for First Nations human rights redress. An interpretative provision would help to ensure that individual claims are considered in light of legitimate collective rights and interests.
Concern: Length of Transition Period is Too Short
The Commission submits that six months is not sufficient time to allow First Nations and the Commission to properly prepare for repeal (of section 67). ...
The need for local level systems to resolve conflict and provide redress of complaints is critical to the success of repeal. ...To allow this to happen, the Commission and First Nations must embark on an appreciative process of listening and learning; designing and building; and finally implementing and realizing a new First Nation integrated human rights and conflict management system, based on core principles that can be adapted to the needs of different communities, cultures and traditions. ...All of this will take time to realize; indeed it will be an ongoing process. This is why the Commission believes that a longer transition period is critical if we are to get this process off to a good start. This, in addition to the need for time to develop an interpretative provision, will, we submit, require at a minimum 18 months and would benefit from a period as long as 30 months.
Concern: Inadequate Resources
I would like to articulate clearly the imperative need of ensuring that both First Nations and the Commission have the resources needed to ensure that implementation is successful. No matter how well an interpretative provision is drafted or how long the transitional period is, implementation will not be successful without adequate resources to build needed capacity.
The following are excerpts from the submission by the Canadian Bar Association Submission on Bill C-44 to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, April 2007:
Concern: Lack of Consultation and Capacity Building
(W)ithout proper consultation and capacity building with First Nations individuals in relation to the application of the CHRA, the Bill is unlikely to amount to effective access in many First Nations across the country, particularly in geographically remote regions.
As with First Nations individuals, consultation and capacity building with First Nations governments are prerequisites to the successful application of the CHRA by those governments.
Concern: Bill C-44 Requires Amendments
Bill C-44 must be amended to ensure the necessary preliminary steps are taken. These include full consultation with First Nations, the introduction of an interpretive clause and adequate time and resources for bands to prepare for the scope and number of changes and challenges that may follow.
Much in the Indian Act requires human rights scrutiny. Review or repeal of the Indian Act may well be overdue. In our view, if the underlying intention or even the likely result of Bill C-44 would be to gradually erode the Indian Act through piecemeal amendments, the better approach would be to meet that challenge directly and comprehensively, with appropriate attention and a full public policy debate of the myriad of important and complex issues involved.
For further information: Joan McEwen, AFN Communications Director, (613) 241-6789 ext. 242, cell (613) 324-3329, email@example.com;. Nancy Pine, Communications Advisor of the National Chief, (613) 241-6789 ext. 243, cell (613) 298-6382, firstname.lastname@example.org;. Josee Bellemare, Bilingual Communications Officer, (613) 241-6789 ext. 336, cell (613) 327-6331, email@example.com.