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
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.