The federal government has passed the controversial Bill S-4 to keep Aboriginal women from losing on-reserve homes as a result of abuse or divorce despite the pleas of Native women’s groups to stop the bill. The women’s groups have been arguing that the bill will only leave the women worse off.
Though the Conservative government introduced and passed the bill in the Senate, it is still subject to debate and subsequent approval in the House of Commons.
In that provincial divorce laws frequently do not apply on many reserves, in some situations these women lose their homes when a relationship ends, leaving them to plea their case to the local Band Council.
The new bill will set up a federal framework for reserve residents to access the courts to sort out the residency and ownership issues in cases of abuse or when a relationship ends, though this system has been hailed by critics as too expensive for many who find themselves in that situation.
According to the Globe and Mail, Liberal Senator Sandra Lovelace Nicholas, who is from the Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick, spoke out against the bill as she herself was a victim of this exact circumstance, having to choose between being homeless with a small child or staying in an abusive relationship.
Lovelace Nicholas told the Senate she opposes the bill because she believes there has been a lack of consultation with Natives when writing the bill and because she believes the bill is excessively flawed.
The Assembly of First Nations also opposes Bill S-4 as did many chiefs across Canada when itwas being studied.