Canada introduces Bill C-38 to further address inequities in the registration and band membership provisions of the Indian Act
December 14, 2022 — Ottawa, Unceded Traditional Algonquin Territory, Ontario — Indigenous Services Canada
Today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services, announced the introduction of Bill C-38, which seeks to address some of the remaining inequities in the registration and band membership provisions of the Indian Act.
The introduction of these legislative amendments to the Indian Act seeks to address four areas, including enfranchisement, individual deregistration, natal band reaffiliation and membership, as well as outdated and offensive language related to dependent persons. The legislation responds to longstanding concerns raised by First Nations and other individuals affected by the Indian Act’s residual discriminatory impacts. For example, Bill C-38 would seek to ensure First Nation individuals with family histories of enfranchisement are entitled to registration under the Indian Act and can pass on this entitlement to descendants to the same degree as those without family histories of enfranchisement.
Building on prior consultation on these issues in 2018-19, Indigenous Services Canada held over 50 virtual engagement sessions with First Nations, Indigenous organizations and other interested or impacted individuals between August to December 2022. These sessions provided a forum to discuss the issues and gather feedback on proposed amendments and were integral to informing the drafting of the Bill. It is expected that approximately 3,500 individuals could be newly eligible for registration as a result of the proposed legislation.
The Government of Canada has also committed to co-develop and launch a collaborative consultation process on broader issues related to registration and band membership under the Indian Act, including the second-generation cut-off. These consultations are expected to start in early 2023.
“Eliminating gender-based discrimination is ongoing and requires sustained effort. Bill C-38 proposes amendments to the Indian Act that responds to rights holders and legal action taken against the federal government related to enfranchisement, individual deregistration, natal band membership, as well as outdated and offensive language related to dependent persons. As we work in partnership with First Nations to right the wrongs of the past, this step is an important one. We know there is so much more to do, and we will soon launch a co-developed consultation in early 2023 to address other areas like the second generation cut-off. I look forward to doing this important work with partners and parliamentarians as we continue to address colonial laws and structures.”
The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Indigenous Services
In 2018 and 2019, a collaborative process studied options for reform with First Nations and Métis partners. The conclusion was that Canada should work with First Nations to proactively address issues related to registration and band membership provisions of the Indian Act. Input was received from over 650 participants, representing 395 First Nation communities and/or a tribal councils.
In 2019, An Act to amend the Indian Act in response to the Superior Court of Quebec decision in Descheneaux c. Canada (Procureur général), Bill S-3, came into full force, eliminating various sex-based inequities in the registration provisions of the Indian Act.
In 2020 the Final Report to Parliament on the Review of S-3 acknowledged that residual inequities still remained in the Indian Act. These included the impacts of a family history of enfranchisement on entitlement to registration, an inequity that exists to this day.
In June 2021, on behalf of 16 individual plaintiffs, Juristes Power Law launched a Charter challenge seeking to end the inequities and exclusion faced by families descended from forebears who were enfranchised under earlier versions of the Indian Act. This is referred to as the Nicholas v. AGC civil claim.
In March 2022, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services, and Juristes Power Law, who represent the plaintiffs in Nicholas v. AGC Charter challenge, jointly announced that the litigation was placed in abeyance, in order to allow the parties to pursue an out of court legislative solution to end the ongoing impacts of enfranchisement.
As part of the agreement to place the litigation in abeyance, the Minister of Indigenous Services would to seek the necessary authorities to introduce legislative changes in a timely manner.
Building on the consultations through the collaborative processes, the department held over 50 virtual engagement sessions, which included over 300 participants, from August to December 2022.
Further consultation with First Nations, Indigenous organizations who represent non-status First Nations, and other interested or impacted individuals will be required to co-develop options to address the broader suite of remaining issues in the registration and band membership provisions of the Indian Act.
For more information, media may contact:
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Indigenous Services
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