Hundreds of thousands of First Nations people live in Canada and they deserve better than to be shackled by the failed colonial and paternalistic policies of the Indian Act, which has helped deny them their rights, fair share in resources, and fostered mistrust and created systemic barriers to self-determination and success. First Nations have been adamant that we need to move beyond it, yet the government has so far refused to get the ball rolling.
The Indian Act is more than 136 years old and touches every aspect of life of First Nations. First Nations need the approval of the minister to pass bylaws. It puts so much red tape around economic development that it often doesn’t happen. The act is so intrusive on reserve residents’ lives that they cannot even write a will without the minister’s approval.
Yet, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper has rightly said, the act has deep roots and cannot simply be abolished. For decades governments of all stripes have allowed this problem to fester.
Now all parties have a chance to take real leadership on the problem. I have a motion before the House of Commons compelling the federal government to work with First Nations on a nation- to-nation basis on a plan to replace the Indian Act with modern agreements based on rights, responsibilities of the Crown, and the original Treaty relationship. With a deadline and a process, we can finally begin to resolve the many long-standing economic and social inequities that plague First Nations communities in Canada.
Yet the Conservatives, including Wetaskiwin MP Blaine Calkins, said they would vote against this progress by opposing the motion. They say they want to change the status quo, but once again, this is just words.
We cannot continue to put this off. Please tell Mr. Calkins to vote for change.
Bob Rae, leader,
Liberal Party of Canada