AFN National Chief Responds to Federal Legislation to Address Gender Inequity
in the Indian Act: Calls for First Nations Control of First Nations

OTTAWA, March 12 /CNW Telbec/ - Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo commented today on Bill C-3, Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act, tabled in the House of Commons on Thursday, March 11.

"It is fair and just that Indian status will be restored to those who lost it because of inequality in the Indian Act," National Chief Atleo said. "But the real problem is the Indian Act itself. The Government of Canada should not be able to decide who is and who is not a First Nation citizen. It is the right of any nation to identify its citizens and First Nations are no exception. We are calling on the federal government to work with us a on a broader approach that goes beyond these narrow amendments and deals with the real issues of First Nations citizenship."

Bill C-3 is the federal response to the B.C. Court of Appeal McIvor decision. That decision ruled that sections of the Indian Act discriminate against women. The Court gave the government until April 6, 2010 to address the problem. The National Chief noted that this is a concern for First Nations because the deadline is fast-approaching and it is estimated that at least 45,000 people will be added to the Indian Registry under Bill C-3.

"First Nations are concerned that there is very little information about the government's proposed approach, how it will be implemented and how First Nations governments will be expected to deal with it," the National Chief stated. "The federal government needs to start communicating immediately with First Nations governments about the impacts and implementation of this legislation. We should be working together now in the interests of all parties to ensure a smooth transition to the new system."

The National Chief welcomed the Minister's comments indicating there will be a joint process to examine the broader issues related to First Nations citizenship.

"Until First Nations have control over First Nations citizenship we will continue to face problems," the National Chief said. "This government has stated it will honour the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Recognizing the right of First Nations to determine identity and membership of their citizens is consistent with the Declaration. That should be our goal and we look forward to working with the government on a new and better approach."

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

SOURCE Assembly of First Nations

For further information: For further information: Karyn Pugliese, A/Communications Director, Assembly of First Nations, Cell: (613) 292-1877

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