Assembly of First Nations National Chief Restates and Reaffirms First Nations Full Support for Human Rights



    OTTAWA, Oct. 12 /CNW Telbec/ - Assembly of First Nations National Chief
Phil Fontaine said today that First Nations support human rights protection
for First Nations and also support the repeal of section 67 of the Canadian
Human Rights Act (CHRA).
    "The Assembly of First Nations supports the repeal of section 67 of the
Canadian Human Rights Act. This position was tabled with the Parliamentary
Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs during its hearings into Bill C-44,
which would repeal section 67 of the Act," National Chief Fontaine said.
"Unfortunately, Bill C-44 is flawed and unworkable. Our position is supported
by many other experts, including the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the
Canadian Bar Association, the Native Women's Association of Canada and many
others. Anyone who calls for the re-introduction of this flawed legislation is
out of step with the legal community and First Nations people."
    "The federal government should work with First Nation governments to
provide even greater human rights protection for all First Nations citizens.
If the government reintroduces fundamentally flawed legislation that cannot be
implemented or enforced then it can only do further harm to our people. We
have the solutions. Let's work together and get the Bill done right."
    "It is unclear why anyone would say that flawed legislation is the way to
go," National Chief Fontaine said. "We are prepared to work with the federal
government, our own people, and human rights experts to create an approach
that is truly effective and workable. First Nations know better than anyone in
Canada about the need to protect and uphold our rights, and we are ready and
willing to work with all partners on a new approach."
    The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing
First Nations citizens in Canada.

    
    Attachment: Backgrounder with Excerpts from Submissions on Bill C-44 by
                the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Bar
                Association to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs
                and Northern Development
    


    Backgrounder
    ------------

    In summary, Bill C-44 was introduced in 2006 as a way to repeal
section 67 of the CHRA, which states that the CHRA does not apply to First
Nations reserves. The concept is supported but the Bill had a number of fatal
flaws. These include:

    
        - The lack of any capacity by First Nations to deal with human rights
          complaints, which is not addressed in the Bill (the Chief
          Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission stated:
          "implementation will not be successful without adequate resources
          to build needed capacity.")

        - A completely inadequate timeframe of 6 months to implement the Bill
          (The Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission
          recommended that implementation would require: "...at a minimum
          18 months and would benefit from a period as long as 30 months.")

        - a complete lack of consultation with First Nations as to how best
          to bring about this change in a workable manner (the Canadian Bar
          Association stated: "without proper consultation and capacity
          building with First Nations individuals in relation to the
          application of the CHRA, the Bill is unlikely to amount to
          effective access in many First Nations across the country")

        - the lack of any mechanism to balance individual rights with First
          Nations collective rights, protected in the Constitution (the Chief
          Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission stated: "An
          interpretative provision is, in our submission, imperative to give
          application to the inherent right to self-government and is
          fundamental to developing an appropriate system for First Nations
          human rights redress.")
    

    The following are excerpts from submissions on Bill C-44 by the Canadian
Human Rights Commission to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and
Northern Development as presented by Jennifer Lynch, Q.C., Chief Commissioner,
Canadian Human Rights Commission before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal
Affairs and Northern Development on Bill C-44: An Act to Amend the Canadian
Human Rights Act April 19, 2007.

    Concern: Bill C-44 Lacks an Interpretive Clause

    The need for an interpretative provision is one important area where
differences of view have been voiced. Bill C-44 is silent on this matter. With
respect, we submit that it should not be. First Nations communities and people
have a unique history and special status in the Canadian constitutional and
legal system. Their existing Aboriginal and treaty rights are affirmed in the
Constitution, have been progressively confirmed by the Courts and are
recognized by governments at all levels.
    An interpretative provision is, in our submission, imperative to give
application to the inherent right to self-government and is fundamental to
developing an appropriate system for First Nations human rights redress. An
interpretative provision would help to ensure that individual claims are
considered in light of legitimate collective rights and interests.

    Concern: Length of Transition Period is Too Short

    The Commission submits that six months is not sufficient time to allow
First Nations and the Commission to properly prepare for repeal (of section
67). ...
    The need for local level systems to resolve conflict and provide redress
of complaints is critical to the success of repeal. ...To allow this to
happen, the Commission and First Nations must embark on an appreciative
process of listening and learning; designing and building; and finally
implementing and realizing a new First Nation integrated human rights and
conflict management system, based on core principles that can be adapted to
the needs of different communities, cultures and traditions. ...All of this
will take time to realize; indeed it will be an ongoing process. This is why
the Commission believes that a longer transition period is critical if we are
to get this process off to a good start. This, in addition to the need for
time to develop an interpretative provision, will, we submit, require at a
minimum 18 months and would benefit from a period as long as 30 months.

    Concern: Inadequate Resources

    I would like to articulate clearly the imperative need of ensuring that
both First Nations and the Commission have the resources needed to ensure that
implementation is successful. No matter how well an interpretative provision
is drafted or how long the transitional period is, implementation will not be
successful without adequate resources to build needed capacity.
    The following are excerpts from the submission by the Canadian Bar
Association Submission on Bill C-44 to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal
Affairs and Northern Development, April 2007:

    Concern: Lack of Consultation and Capacity Building

    (W)ithout proper consultation and capacity building with First Nations
individuals in relation to the application of the CHRA, the Bill is unlikely
to amount to effective access in many First Nations across the country,
particularly in geographically remote regions.
    As with First Nations individuals, consultation and capacity building
with First Nations governments are prerequisites to the successful application
of the CHRA by those governments.

    Concern: Bill C-44 Requires Amendments

    Bill C-44 must be amended to ensure the necessary preliminary steps are
taken. These include full consultation with First Nations, the introduction of
an interpretive clause and adequate time and resources for bands to prepare
for the scope and number of changes and challenges that may follow.

    Much in the Indian Act requires human rights scrutiny. Review or repeal
of the Indian Act may well be overdue. In our view, if the underlying
intention or even the likely result of Bill C-44 would be to gradually erode
the Indian Act through piecemeal amendments, the better approach would be to
meet that challenge directly and comprehensively, with appropriate attention
and a full public policy debate of the myriad of important and complex issues
involved.




For further information:

For further information: Joan McEwen, AFN Communications Director, (613)
241-6789 ext. 242, cell (613) 324-3329, jmcewen@afn.ca; Nancy Pine,
Communications Advisor of the National Chief, (613) 241-6789 ext. 243, cell
(613) 298-6382, npine@afn.ca; Josee Bellemare, Bilingual Communications
Officer, (613) 241-6789 ext. 336, cell (613) 327-6331, jbellemare@afn.ca


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