Thursday, January 31

Special report - Still a Matter of Rights - Immediate repeal of Section 67 is vital

Despite controversy surrounding its passage, the Canadian Human Rights Commission has renewed its call for passage of legislation repealing Section 67 of the Canada Human Rights Act, which would grant human rights recourse for First Nations under the Indian Act.

Despite this support, the report continues to lobby for an 18 to 30 month transition period for the law to come into complete effect.

In its special report Still a Matter of Rights released recently, the Canadian Human Rights Commission reiterates its call to Parliament to repeal the Aboriginal exemption. According to a press release from the Commission, the legislation is before Parliament and the Commission said it is "encouraged by this." "Immediate repeal is vital. It will bring First Nations and their citizens closer to the full measure of equality to which they are entitled," said Jennifer Lynch, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. "Yet repeal is only the first step.

Upon repeal we will engage First Nations and other stakeholders, as we lead the development of a human rights system that is aligned with First Nations cultures and specific needs."
The exact definition of "specific needs," however, remains undefined. Many critics of a transition period for the new law charge that allowing for "specific needs" would allow for a watering-down of the individual rights protection the law would allow by favouring Aboriginal governments over individual band members. This allegation also accompanies criticism of support for an "interpretive clause" proposed by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which would aim to balance "individual rights with collective rights." Rod Bruinooge, a Conservative MP in Manitoba and an Aboriginal, argued that such a clause is unnecessary given the presence of Section 35 in the Constitution, which grants Aboriginal rights. Bruinooge said that such an interpretive clause would, in fact, conflict with the Section 35 provisions.
Section 67 denies First Nations people from filing a complaint with the Commission

Section 67 denies First Nations people living on or off reserve from filing a complaint with the Commission relating to any action arising from or pursuant to the Indian Act. It was included in the Canadian Human Rights Act when it was first drafted in 1977. The reason given then was to allow the government time to address issues regarding sexual discrimination against women who married non-Indian men. It was to be a temporary measure. However, the exemption remains after 30 years.
Still a Matter of Rights is a follow-up to the Commission's initial report A Matter of Rights issued in 2005. According to the press release, this new report takes into account many of the views expressed by stakeholders to ensure that human rights protection is introduced in a way that respects the rights and interests of First Nations.
The report also repeats its call for a transition period of eighteen to thirty months and appropriate resources for both the Commission and First Nations communities, to "assure success."


1 comment:

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