Replacement for Indian Act introduced

Natives face strict code in tougher Indian Act

Globe and Mail Update

Legislation introduced in the House of Commons that overhauls the 126-year-old Indian Act will give native bands the "modern tools necessary to build a society," Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault said Friday.

"The bill will give back the authority and the decision-making power that the Indian Act took away 126 years ago," Mr. Nault said in a news conference. Before this, there have been no changes to the legislation since it was made into law.

Please see also:
Natives face strict code in tougher Indian Act
First Nations in Canada
Aboriginal Peoples of Canada
Aboriginal Canada Portal
"We have an obligation to remove from their (aboriginal peoples') daily lives one of the most archaic pieces of legislation this country has."

The First Nations Governance Act will make band councils — the governing bodies on reserves — more accountable to their people and would allow them to manage their finances, hold elections, raise and spend money and make legally binding contracts.

It would also give First Nations people living on reserves full protection under the federal human-rights code and allow non-status Indians — those who cannot live on the reserve — the right to vote on decisions that affect their interests.

"This bill has been written by over 10,000 people who worked in partnership and good faith with the government," Mr. Nault said, in reference to more than 470 consultation sessions that took place.

The legislation, he said, gives Canada's aboriginal people rights and reponsibilities that other Canadians take for granted and would force native leaders to be more accountable to their members.

The bill is one of three pieces of legislation emerging this week and next, designed to fulfill Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's commitment to deal with native matters. A bill introduced on Thursday would establish a new commission to settle outstanding Indian claims.

Immediately after tabling the bill on Friday, Mr. Nault was joined by the National Chief Dwight Dorey of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, who said he was pleased the Indian Act would be overhauled.

"It [was] full of unremedied obsolescence," he said. "I, too, am very pleased to see the exemption from the human rights act will no longer be there."

But the proposed changes were not welcomed by all. Matthew Coon Come, Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, blasted what he called the "entrenched colonial attitude" of Mr. Nault's ministry and criticized the fact that native bands' finances would still be accountable to the government.

"This bill maintains the stranglehold the minister has on our people," Mr. Coon Come told CBC.

He said he would not be happy with any legislation governing native people, because it will always leave them at the mercy of the federal government.

The minister should put aside changes to the Indian Act and deal with treaty negotiations that would lead to aboriginal self-government, he said.

"Deal with the treaty first," Mr. Coon Come challenged. "Do away with this country's shame."

The AFN plans to launch a legal challenge in Saskatchewan on Monday, on the grounds that the changes are harmful and that the consultation is flawed.

Bev Desjarlais, New Democrat MP from Churchill, Man., said the consultation process leading up to the legislation was inadequate.

"There's been little or no First Nation individual involvement," said Ms. Desjarlais. "MPs could not even get a briefing on this bill. This was an opportune time to have real First Nation involvement...and that's been lost."

Mr. Nault defended his government from charges that not enough of the First Nations population was consulted before the legislation was tabled. He said that if 3 per cent — the percentage of the native population that was consulted — of the entire Canadian population were consulted on a piece of legislation, there would be no problems.

"I think that's a pretty good number of people giving their input to the government," Mr. Nault said.
The aboriginals are going insane over this. Over what reason, I don't know. These reserves or "indian land" are filled with alcohol and drug abuse.. Maybe they should get into the modern world and accept the government in this country runs everyone including them. No one should ever be excluded.
Free Thinker
I see where you're coming from Cyberm4n... Everybody should have to pay taxes and go by one low in one country.
Andem, try to be a bit nicer. They WERE here first!
I actually also agree they should follow one government, but I think there should be some exceptions made for them, afterall, we did technically steal their land without much compensation for it at all.
Free Thinker
Well, we didnt exactly "steal" the land, it was conquered. By the British... The French were also around too.
No country or its peoples has an inherant right to conquer and subjugate a captive people. If Native Canadians knew what their future would be in Canada when the British first landed, they would have fought to the death for sure.
Canadians should be ashamed of how we treat them. They were here first, it is there land, and as such should be given the opportunity to run their own affairs. They can not be blamed for the failures that take place on their reserves because they for the most part have not been given any autonomy for over one hundred years. The failures are directly responsible of the overseeing by the federal government.
The federal government and its indian acts just make for an atmosphere of corruption and waste.
Why not let them run their own affairs before we jump all over them?

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