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Question for Senator Harder during debate on third reading of Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Indian Act (elimination of sex-based inequities in registration), as amended.

1st Session, 42nd Parliament, Volume 150, Issue 125

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Would the honourable senator take another question?

Senator Harder: Certainly.

Senator Dyck: Thank you for that speech. You focused a lot on phase two and the government's perceived reasons for pursuing additional consultations. One of the things that you said was that we would be in a situation where we would be potentially admitting band members who had little or no connection to their community.

I find that statement quite shocking because it's like blaming the victim. The reason they don't have connection to their community is because the government took their status away and threw them out of the community. It's like a no-win situation. It's quite appalling to say we can't admit them because they have no connection. Well, they have no connection because the government took their connection away. How do you respond to that?

Senator Harder: I thank the honourable senator for her question. I mean no disrespect in the reference that I made here, except to say that should that amendment become policy, it is the government's view that it should be a policy concluded after appropriate consultations, which have yet to take place.

Senator Dyck: Well, on the need for consultation, the other thing you suggested was that the government needs to hear from expert witnesses. We have already heard from expert witnesses. We heard from Sharon McIvor, who has been advocating since Bill C-3 was passed before that. She has been advocating for decades. We heard from Dr. Pamela Palmater, one of the very few individuals in North America who actually has a PhD in law and has studied this. They said very clearly, "You cannot consult on this because it is a violation of those Aboriginal women's constitutional rights under section 35(4) of the Constitution." Aboriginal women are supposed to have the same rights as Aboriginal men, and it is clear they do not because of the sex discrimination in the Indian Act. You cannot consult on constitutional rights. I don't understand how we can go against that, if you could explain. Why do we have to consult on constitutional rights? To me, that makes no sense. It's not legally correct.

Senator Harder: It is the view of the minister and the Government of Canada that there must be full and respectful co-development of an approach to this issue, respecting, obviously, the constitutional rights. But these are matters that do require broader understanding and consultation in the view of the government before action is taken to expand the act to include "6(1)(a) all the way."

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