NWAC, AFN and AFN Women's Council - Unite to Oppose Bill C-8 on Matrimonial Real Property



    OTTAWA, May 14 /CNW Telbec/ - Today the Native Women's Association of
Canada (NWAC), the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the AFN Women's Council
united to express their opposition to the federal Bill C-8, An act respecting
family homes situated on First Nation reserves and matrimonial interests or
rights in or to structures and lands situated on those reserves.
    NWAC and the AFN (including the AFN Women's Council), all agree that Bill
C-8 will do nothing to solve the problems associated with Matrimonial Real
Property (MRP) on-reserve; that the federal government failed in its duty to
consult and accommodate the views of First Nations; and, as a result, the Bill
is fatally flawed and cannot be fixed. It should not proceed to committee.
    NWAC President Beverley Jacobs says NWAC held meetings with Aboriginal
women prior to the introduction of Bill C-47 and produced a "Peoples Report"
that included a number of solutions to address MRP. Bill C-47, the predecessor
to Bill C-8, and this Bill, C-8, ignore all of those recommendations.
    "Aboriginal women, who we met with and who were directly affected by the
lack of legal recourse of MRP, stated over and over again that their voices
needed to be included in the creation of any legislation," said NWAC President
Jacobs. "They also highlighted non-legislative solutions for the short, medium
and long term. We need to ensure that the voices of the women that we talked
to are heard and that their solutions are implemented. The resources are
needed to implement the non-legislative solutions as soon as possible."
    AFN Women's Council Chair Kathleen McHugh agrees that there was no
effective consultation process. She added that Bill C-8 also ignores the
recommendations of the Minister of Indian Affairs' own Ministerial
Representative on MRP, Wendy Grant John, who tabled a report stating that
unilateral imposed federal legislation is not the answer.
    The organizations are in agreement that Bill C-8 is a one dimensional
approach to a complex problem that does not address the real issues in
communities.
    "All Bill C-8 does is force families into provincial courts. This is not
a solution. For many families it's unaffordable and it will also force
families in remote communities to endure long waiting periods before their
case can be heard," said the Chair of the AFN Women Council. President Jacobs
agrees, and states that, "I am also deeply concerned that Bill C-8 will put
women who are experiencing family violence at further risk by forcing them to
wait long periods for justice without adequate social supports, services or
shelters."
    National Chief Phil Fontaine added that it is unlikely that the strict
parameters imposed on First Nations will allow communities to create solutions
that reflect their traditional laws, cultures and realities, including
geographic remoteness, lack of access to the court system, inability to afford
lawyers, overcrowding and multiple family homes and a lack of emergency
shelters.
    "A number of First Nations have already taken a proactive approach to
this issue and have worked with their communities to develop rules and
policies related to MRP. Under Bill C-8, the flawed federal approach will be
imposed on First Nations and these existing community-based solutions could be
struck down and replaced. This is not democratic, it is inconsistent with the
values of First Nations and Canadians, and only serves to do more harm to
First Nations families," said AFN National Chief Phil Fontaine.
    The AFN and NWAC believe that the legislation attempts to pit the
individual rights of women against the collective rights of First Nations
people. Both organizations expressed disappointment with this tactic and do
not support this approach. President Jacobs, the National Chief and Chair
McHugh stressed the importance of acknowledging and respecting the role of
women and mothers in First Nations families, communities and Nations and
ensuring that their voices are sought and accommodated within the context of
this role.
    The Native Women's Association of Canada and the Assembly of First
Nations, including their Women's Council agree that Bill C-8 should be
scrapped in favour of a new approach. This may include non-legislative
measures such as local dispute resolution processes and community-based
solutions. The urgent need for housing, counseling services and emergency
shelters on-reserve must also be addressed.
    NWAC President Jacobs added "Aboriginal women, girls and children
continue to be subjected to violence and are often forced to leave their homes
and communities to be safe. Aboriginal women have consistently stated that
they want safe communities where they, their children and future generations
can live. Above all else, any resolution needs to ensure that this happens."
    The resolution of MRP matters requires collaborative efforts between the
federal government and First Nations. Solutions must address the root causes
of the poor socio-economic conditions faced by First Nations couples that
contribute to MRP issues.

    The Native Women's Association of Canada is an aggregate of 13 native
women's organizations and is the national voice of Aboriginal women in Canada.

    The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing
First Nations citizens in Canada.

    The AFN Women's Council ensures the perspectives of First Nations' women
are included in all AFN policy directives and activities, as well as ensuring
that the AFN is an effective advocate on behalf of First Nations women.




For further information:

For further information: Joshua Kirkey, Communications Advisor, Native
Women's Association of Canada, (613) 722-3033 ext. 231, mobile: (613)
290-5680, jkirkey@nwac-hq.org; Karyn Pugliese, Health Communications, Assembly
of First Nations, (613) 241-6789 ext. 210, mobile: (613) 292-1877,
kpugliese@afn.ca


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