MP Clarke’s bill enters the Senate

by Derek Cornet

Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River MP Rob Clarke’s private member’s bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons last week and is now set to be introduced to the Canadian Senate.

Bill C-428 – also entitled “An Act to Amend the Indian Act and to Provide for Its Replacement” – is the name of the bill Clarke has been attempting to have passed since last year. The bill was introduced and first read in the House in May 2012, then it proceeded to pass its second reading in December before finally being pushed through during its third reading Nov. 20.

Struck from the bill was a section regarding wills and estates. Clarke said more study needs to be done on the change to determine if it’s compatible with current laws. He added he wasn’t surprised by the move since there has been much discussion on the topic.

On Nov. 21, the bill was introduced and first read to the Senate and will now follow a similar process like it did in the House of Commons. Under the supervision of Conservative Senator Thanh Hai Ngo of Ontario, who’s sponsoring the bill, Bill C-428 will need to pass a second reading scheduled for Dec. 3 before it enters the committee stage. Once there, a committee will study the bill and make recommendations for amends before it moves on to the third reading and, lastly, its royal assent.

“I’m hoping to have it go through committee this spring and have the third reading completed this upcoming summer,” Clarke said.

Considering Clarke’s bill has undergone five different drafts since first being introduced, he added he’s open to hear concerns or about potential changes to it. If anyone would like to see changes made, the public is encouraged to contact him.

“I’m asking for input because this is a living, breathing document,” he said. “Many changes have been made throughout the past two years.”

While the bill seems to be gaining momentum, Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation chief Richard Ben said his band is largely opposed to the bill because of a lack of consultation.

“When we first heard of this, people were saying it would die out because we were never consulted,” Ben said. “Clarke addressed the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations last year in Nipawin and told us what he was doing, but never gave us a chance to ask questions or provide input. Many of the chiefs were offended by his actions. How would he like it if we passed legislation affecting MPs without his input?”

Ben noted any legislation with regard to First Nations people should not be passed without consultations with First Nations people. He said when the government wishes to pass laws effecting any group of people in particular – whether they be farmers, teachers or other Canadian residents  – consultation should always be the first step.

He also added the bill is mostly toothless and many of the changes will not have an affect on his members’ day-to-day lives. For example, Clarke aims to remove references of residential schools from the document,  do away with requiring First Nations people to get a permit to sell produce and allow bands or individuals to conduct business or trade with whoever they choose.

“First Nations haven’t had to apply to sell produce or gain permission to conduct business in many decades,” Ben said. “It’s more of an update to it than anything.”

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