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National Aboriginal Day

1st Session, 42nd Parliament, Volume 150, Issue 136

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, today is National Aboriginal Day. It is a day to recognize and celebrate the contributions of the original inhabitants of this land, the Aboriginal people, to the making of Canada.

However, it is hard to celebrate under the circumstances. Not only is there still a long way to go before Aboriginal people gain a significant measure of equality and equity compared to other Canadians, but the very first government bill that affects indigenous bill that this government has initiated falls short of restoring the rights of indigenous women. It is unconstitutional.

On National Aboriginal Day, it is hugely ironic, disappointing and unacceptable that the first government bill, Bill S-3, which is likely to return to the Senate tonight, has been gutted by the government. The Senate equality amendment, dubbed "6(1)(a) all the way" has been removed by the government. This equality amendment would have restored status to most indigenous women whose status was stripped away. This equality amendment would have restored their Charter, constitutional and international rights.

The gutting of Bill S-3 is unexpected and unacceptable from a government that has pledged to not only establish a new relationship with indigenous people but also to review legislation affecting indigenous peoples, to ensure that their rights are protected.

Colleagues, we should note that Bill S-3, as amended by the House of Commons, fails to meet the standards set by Prime Minister Trudeau in his mandate letters to both Ministers Bennett and Wilson-Raybould.

In his mandate letter to Minister Bennett, Prime Minister Trudeau wrote:

As Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, your overarching goal will be to renew the relationship between Canada and Indigenous Peoples. This renewal must be a nation-to-nation relationship, based on recognition, rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.

In his mandate letter to the Minister of Justice, he wrote:

. . . your overarching goal will be to ensure our legislation meets the highest standards of equity, fairness and respect for the rule of law. I expect you to ensure that our initiatives respect the Constitution of Canada, court decisions, and are in keeping with our proudest legal traditions.

Honourable senators, Bill S-3 definitely is not in keeping with our proudest legal traditions.

Today, the Prime Minister announced renaming a building as the Canadian Indigenous Centre. Well, colleagues, that's not good enough. Indigenous women need more than a building. We need our fundamental rights enshrined in Bill S-3, as the Senate amended it, so that we have equal, full status as citizens of our respective indigenous nations. The Prime Minister should have announced that today. Shame on him.

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