August 21st, 2013
In a press conference this week, the Prime Minister advised he intends to prorogue Parliament in the fall and that the House and Senate will reconvene in October for a new session with a new throne speech. With that announcement, the Prime Minister is signaling that a federal election is not far off.
When Parliament rose in the spring, a number of bills affecting Atlantic First Nations were left on the order paper. These bills will die on the order paper when Parliament is prorogued.
Bill C-27 First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Received Royal Assent on 27 March 2013 and in effect as of 1 April 2013.
Citation: First Nations Financial Transparency Act, S.C. 2013, c.7
Mandates the full disclosure of all audited statements of Bands covered by the Indian Act. Does not apply to First Nations with self-government agreements or with a settled Aboriginal title claim. Also requires disclosure of a Statement of Remuneration and Expenses for all Chiefs and Councillors in relation to all income and expenses received by Chiefs and Councillors from their bands or band-controlled entities.
Bill C-428 Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act
Private member’s bill introduced by Tory backbencher Rob Clarke. Will die on the order paper.
Bill would have made changes to on-reserve land management by Bands. It also removed references to residential schools from the Indian Act, made changes to the process for Band by-law approval, and would have required the government to report yearly on “the work undertaken by [AANDC] in collaboration with First Nations organizations and other interested parties to develop new legislation to replace the Indian Act.” Although this private member’s bill was supported by the government, it is unlikely to be re-introduced without substantial amendment and re-working.
Bill S-2 Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act
Received Royal Assent on 16 June 2013. The Act will come into force on a day or days fixed by the Governor in Council (the federal Cabinet). Not yet in force.
Citation: Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, S.C. 2013, c.20
The Act permits Bands to deal with family real property on-reserve by enabling First Nations to enact laws relating to “the use, occupation and possession of family homes on its reserves and the division of the value of any interests or rights held by spouses or common-law partners in or to structures and lands on its reserves.” Federal provisional rules in the bill will apply until a First Nation has such laws in force. The rules will apply to First Nations under the First Nations Land Management Act in specific circumstances. First Nations who have a self-government agreement may choose to have the federal rules apply to them.
Bill S-6 First Nations Elections Act
Government Bill introduced in the Senate. Will die on the order paper.
Supported by the APC, the Act would have established an “opt in” elections process separate from the Indian Act. It would have permitted the terms of office for chiefs and councils to be extended beyond the 2 years set out in the Indian Act. It also made provision for “common election days” among several First Nations. It would not have overriden the custom election codes adopted by some Bands. Given the support from the Manitoba Chiefs and the AFN, it is likely this bill will be re-introduced after the federal election, regardless of the outcome of the election.
Bill S-8 Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act
Received Royal Assent on 16 June 2013. Will come into force on a day or days fixed by order of the Governor in Council (Cabinet). Not yet in force.
Citation: Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, S.C. 2013, c.21
The Act enables the development of federal regulations governing the provision of drinking water, water quality standards and the disposal of waste water on-reserve. It also permits any federal regulations developed to incorporate by reference provincial regulations governing drinking water and waste water on-reserve.
Jurisdiction over water on-reserve is shared by 3 federal departments: AANDC, Health Canada, and Environment Canada. Bands are responsible for 20% of the costs in relation to the design, construction, operation and maintenance of their water systems. Bands are also responsible for ensuring water systems are operated by trained operators, for monitoring drinking water quality and for issuing drinking and boil water advisories.
Bill S-207 An Act to amend the Interpretation Act (non-derogation of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights)
Introduced by Senator Charlie Watt. Dropped from the Senate Order Paper on 4 June 2013.
Bill would have provided that the Interpretation Act be amended to provide that no enactment (any federal legislation or regulation) is not to be interpreted or construed in a way that abrogates or derogates from the aboriginal and treaty rights recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
Bill S-212 First Nations Self-Government Recognition Act
Dropped from the Senate Order Paper on 3 March 2013.
A somewhat complicated piece of legislation introduced by the outgoing Chairperson of the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples just before his retirement from the Senate. It is unlikely to be re-introduced as it no longer has a champion in the Senate.