Debates of the Senate  
1st Session, 41st Parliament,Volume 148, Issue 38
  Wednesday, December 7, 2011
 
Statement: Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Bill
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators I was dismayed that Bill S-2 passed third reading in the chamber last week without much debate. I was expecting to be able to participate in its debate this week. While Bill S-2 does contain excellent provisions to aid Aboriginal women undergoing a relationship breakdown, Bill S-2 also contains a poison pill.

During the study of Bill S-4, the predecessor of Bill S-2, many witnesses stated that this bill unnecessarily infringes on the rights of First Nations.

The poisonous pill is contained in clause 20 of the bill. The provisions of clause 20 violate the rights of First Nation people to their reserve land. Reserve lands are set aside by the Indian Act specifically for the collective use of registered Indians, but in clause 20 of Bill S-2, a person who is neither a registered Indian nor a member of the band can be granted exclusive occupation of the matrimonial home and the land on which it is situated.

During the study of the bill by the Human Rights Committee, it was clear from Minister Duncan's comments to my questions that he was unaware that clause 20 could permit persons who were not registered Indians exclusive occupation of the matrimonial home and its land.

His departmental officials, Mr. Karl Jacques from Justice and Ms. Line Paré, Director General, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, did not know that the bill will allow non-Indians to gain exclusive occupation of the home and its land. Clearly they were wrong about the bill's provisions. Clearly they did not know the wording of clause 20. How then can we believe Minister Duncan's statement that under Bill S-2, the assertion that a non-Aboriginal person could acquire ownership of reserve land is completely false, when he does not even know what is in the bill?

Honourable senators, while the government argues that this bill is necessary to protect Aboriginal women living on reserve from domestic abuse, the National Aboriginal Circle Against Family Violence does not think this bill should be enacted. Moreover, as I stated previously in my speech at second reading, the minister's representative made it crystal clear that we do not have to infringe upon the rights of First Nations in order to protect abused Aboriginal women and their children living on reserve.

It is possible to protect the rights of the First Nation band members to their land, and at the same time we can allow non-members and non-Indians exclusive occupation of homes on reserves by including provisions that make it absolutely clear that they cannot gain title to the land. The Lac La Ronge Indian Band for example, has non-band members and non-Indians sign a declaration of non-interest before a lease to reserve land will be granted. This is just one example.

Honourable senators, it could be concluded that under the guise of protecting abused Aboriginal women and children, the Harper regime is fast tracking Bill S-2, a bill that contains a poison pill that will allow non-Indians to break up reserve lands without the consent of the rightful owners, the First Nation people themselves.