The Honourable Senator Peter Harder, Government Representative in the Senate

May 30, 2017

Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Indian Act (elimination of sex-based inequities in registration)

Senator Patterson: May I, first of all, thank Senator Harder for his gracious comments about the work of the committee, to which I belong, on this complex and long-standing issue, and may I say governments of all stripes have not remedied this long-standing problem. It’s not just a challenge for the current government.

I would also like to thank Senator Harder for a full explanation of the government’s concern about the so-called “6(1)(a) all the way” amendment, which is helpful. But I have one question: You said, senator, in your thoughtful remarks that the government’s goal was to deal with known sex-based inequities. I think I’m quoting you correctly.

A problem that the committee had all along with this bill is that its title is: “An act to amend the Indian Act (elimination of sex-based inequities in registration).” Not “known sex-based inequities” but “elimination of sex-based inequities.”

I think the committee has taken that title and that noble goal very seriously and, in supporting Senator McPhedran’s amendment, said that the bill dealt with known sex-based inequities and maybe a few more that had arisen, but it didn’t eliminate sex-based inequities; “6(1)(a) all the way” seems to do that. I think that is one reason why there was quite strong support for the McPhedran amendment.

I wonder if the honourable senator would agree that there might have been at least some confusion about the government’s intention from the beginning with the title of the bill.

Senator Harder: I thank the honourable senator for his comments. Before I answer specifically the question that he posed, I want to remind him that the goal of the bill is to remedy known sex-based inequities related to the registration of the Indian Act, which falls short of Charter compliance; but, as I said in the next paragraph, this is not restricted to situations where a court has already ruled but extends to situations where the courts have yet to rule, but where the government believes a sex-based Charter breach would be found.

If the title of the act was more ambitious than the intentions of the bill, as presented, that surely has been part of informing the debate. What I am seeking to do, respectfully, is to convey to the chamber the government’s concerns with respect to expanding to include “6(1)(a) all the way,” without the appropriate consultations, which the minister and the government are deeply committed to. Now the act, as amended, will bind them.

Senator Patterson: I understand that position of the government, Senator Harder. I also fully understand the urgency, and I think we’re certainly committed to dealing with the bill completely by tomorrow. I understand that a thoughtful technical amendment may be introduced at third reading, but do I understand it is the government’s position that the bill will be sent with the amendment — which the government may not accept — from the Senate to the other place, substantially as reported by the committee?

Senator Harder: Senator, my wish would be, if it is the will of the Senate, to do exactly that; that is, to pass the bill as it has come out of committee, with the possible exception of a technical amendment, which may be forthcoming, and that the bill would then be sent to the other place.

As I indicated, the government may, at that time, proceed with an amendment that would conform to the policy view of the government, which I have described and, yesterday, Senator Lankin referenced as well. Should the government do that, the bill would then return here for the Senate’s concurrence or other approach that the Senate may take.

Question in Senate – Bill S-3