Three national bills affecting First Nations are now before Parliament.
The Minister of Indian Affairs has introduced the first three of his so-called “suite” of bills in Parliament that will have tremendous impact on First Nations. C-6 (Specific Claims Resolution Act), C-7 (First Nations Governance Act- FNGA) and C-19 (First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act) are all now in various stages in Parliament.
The Federal Government used its majority to ram Bill C-6 (Specific Claims Resolution Act) through the House Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs (SCAA). It allowed testimony in only three sittings, lasting ten hours, of which the First Nations were given only six and a half hours shared between eleven First Nations and their representative organizations.
AFN National Chief Matthew Coon Come testified before the SCAA on November 28, 2002. But other First Nations leaders were given only five minutes to make their presentations. At least 28 First Nations were denied their requests to testify, sparking many complaints and comments about the illegitimacy of the process.
All First Nations that testified were in agreement that the bill was inadequate. Some preferred to try to amend the bill while most reflected the national position that it was so seriously flawed, it must be withdrawn so that negotiations can resume.
Bill C-7 (First Nations Governance Act-FNG A, formerly bill C-61), was reintroduced on Oct. 9,2002. It was sent to the SCAA after first reading and before second reading. It is an unusual procedure intended to allow the SCAA great latitude in amending the bill. The SCAA issued a press release requesting that all requests to appear be received by the Clerk no later than Jan. 24, and that written or taped submissions be received no later than Feb. 14. In spite of Assembly of First Nations requests, the SCAA also decided to travel across Canada to a very limited set of locations between Feb. 17, and March 28. The locations are in the Nation’s readership area are:
Quebec – Montreal, Val D’or, and Sept Isles
Ontario – Toronto, Sudbury, Thunder Bay
Manitoba – Winnipeg, Thompson
The Minister of Indian Affairs has made the FNGA the centerpiece of his “suite” of bills. AFN representatives began lobbying Parliamentarians in the fall of2002 to apprise them of their position on C-7. Finally, Bill C-19, (First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act) was introduced in Parliament Dec. 2,2002. It is scheduled to be sent to the SCAA for consideration.