By: Elysa Hogg
PDF Version: Bill S-3: A rushed response to Descheneaux
Matters Commented On: Bill S-3 “An Act to amend the Indian Act (elimination of sex-based inequities in registration); Descheneaux c Canada (Procureur General), 2015 QCCS 3555 (CanLII)
*Note on terminology: “Indian” is used to describe a person defined as such under the Indian Act, and is not intended to carry any derogatory connotations.
In the early days after the 2015 election, Prime Minister Trudeau was honoured by the Tsuut’ina First Nation with a traditional headdress and an indigenous name which translates to “the one that keeps trying.” Trudeau and the Liberals will have to keep trying, as they made an extraordinary commitment to address First Nations issues during the campaign, and set multiple deadlines for action within the next few years. One of the first deadlines to come due is an amendment of the Indian Act, RSC, 1985 c. I-5 necessitated by a recent Quebec Superior Court ruling.
In Descheneaux c Canada (Procureur General), 2015 QCCS 3555 (CanLII) (Descheneaux) the court held that several provisions of the Indian Act surrounding who is considered a ‘Status Indian’ violated the principles of equality protected by Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
After withdrawing an appeal of the decision in February 2016, the federal government has commenced a two-stage response to this ruling. Stage one is Bill S-3 “An Act to amend the Indian Act (elimination of sex-based inequities in registration)”, while stage two is a collaborative process between the government and First Nations leadership to identify and implement further reforms.
This post will briefly summarize the issues and findings in Descheneaux, and assess how these are impacted by Bill S-3. It will also examine some of the testimony given at the Senate’s Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples meetings held last week on these issues. Finally, it will briefly look at how Deschaneaux fits into the Liberal government’s progress on implementing the many campaign promises it made to First Nations’ people. Continue reading