AFN Says Human Rights Bill Being Rushed

Tuesday, July 24, 2007 at 14:56



The Assembly of First Nations is accusing the Tory government of trying to rush human rights legislation concerning reserves.


Conservative MPs on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Aborginal Affairs have called the committee back for a meeting this Thursday to study Bill C-44 clause by clause.


AFN national chief Phil Fontaine says the government has yet to adequately consult First Nations about the bill — despite the fact the committee agreed to a 10-month consultation period last month.


Fontaine is worried bands won’t have the time or the financial resources to prepare for the impacts of the legislation.


If passed, Bill C-44 will give band members the right to launch human rights grievances against their band governments and Ottawa.


Fontaine thinks the Tories are rushing passage of the bill to deflect attention away from their opposition to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


The Conservative government announced this afternoon it intends to use Thursday’s meeting to move two amendments to Bill C-44.


One of the amendments will propose to extend the transition period for First Nations authorities from six months to eighteen months, to provide them with additional time to prepare for the legislation.


The Tories say the second amendment will replace the term “Aboriginal authorities” with “First Nations authorities” to clarify that the band councils impacted by the bill would be the same ones that qualify for the transition period.


Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice says Bill C-44 has been with the vommittee since February, and there should be no further delay in the passage of the bill out of committee.


Prentice says “the injustice of denying First Nations basic human rights protections cannot continue”.