Section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act currently states that:
“Nothing in this Act affects any provision of the Indian Act or any provision made under or pursuant to that Act.”
This exemption has the effect of shielding the provisions of the Indian Act and any decisions made or actions taken by band councils and the federal government, made under or pursuant to the Indian Act, from the application of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
As a result, First Nations persons living or working on a reserve are unable to file complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission alleging discrimination on a prohibited ground arising from actions taken or decisions made under or pursuant to the Indian Act. For example, it is against the law for any employer or service provider that falls within federal jurisdiction to discriminate on the basis of race, colour, national or ethnic origin, sex (includes pregnancy), marital status, family status, age, religion, sexual orientation, pardoned conviction, and disability (physical or mental, including drug or alcohol dependence).
Bill C-44 was originally introduced in the House of Commons in December 2006, to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. It was referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development on February 21, 2007, underwent weeks of committee study prior to the prorogation of Parliament. With reinstatement, it is anticipated the Standing Committee will pick up where it left off and that the Committee will proceed to clause-by-clause consideration of the bill.
Reinstating represents yet another step by this Government to empower First Nations individuals and if passed by Parliament will mark a significant step to improving their lives.