University of Alberta
“Parliament’s Piecemeal Approach to the Indian Act Reform and its Implications”
Political Science 224
10 of 10
The Constitution Act of Canada gives exclusive legislative authority to the Parliament of Canada in dealing with Indians[footnoteRef:1] and Land Reserved for Indians.[footnoteRef:2] Within the scope of its authority, Parliament has implemented the Indian Act which is a punitive, restrictive and regulatory regime that purports to govern healthy interaction between the Canadian state and First Nation bands. The history of the government is prominent for its unethical attempts to silence these self-determined peoples, and its past failed attempts to adopt a comprehensive and inclusionary amendment pursuant of the Charter, is indicative of its abdication of legislative power by relying on judicial interpretation of individual cases. Contemporarily, Indigenous women are living in a misogynistic Canada, where the government perpetuates such beliefs through legislation that usurps their rights to identity and membership. The government’s piecemeal approach to remedial legislation perpetuates the sex-based inequities of the Indian Act that deny access to political power for Indigenous women and these inequities create broad implications for their identity, membership and belonging in their communities. This essay will argue how the government’s failure of past amendments to the Indian Act without the consultation of those affected, are precedents to the necessity of an inclusionary response on Bill S-3[footnoteRef:3] with the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. [1: In this paper, “Indian” means a person registered or entitled to be registered as a status Indian under the Indian Act.] [2: The Constitution Act of Canada s91(24)] [3: An Act to Amend the Indian Act (Elimination of Sex-based Inequities)]
Canada has a bicameral legislature with two chambers, the Senate and the House of Commons. Legislation must be approved by both chambers in order for it to become a law. Certain legislation requires extensive study and review that is difficult to conduct in a House of 338 members. Thus, the creation of parliamentary committees — empowered by the House to comprehensively study matters it requests — are necessary in this case to review the historical effects of the Indian Act pursuant to the Charter[footnoteRef:4]. In order to amend established legislation, the cabinet must propose a bill that attempts changes to it and given that the Senate is comprised of various political members, bills are subject to roadblocks. This allows the Senate to perform its ‘sober second thought’ function in an independent form and with the help of the APPA[footnoteRef:5] it holds the government accountable. [4: Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms ss.15 and 28.] [5: APPA: Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples.]
The Charter of Rights of Freedoms guarantees women equality...