APTN National News
OTTAWA–Saskatchewan Conservative MP Rob Clarke introduced a private member’s bill Monday that, if passed, would increase the power of bands to pass bylaws, repeal sections of the Indian Act dealing with residential schools, the governing of wills and that barred First Nations in the prairies from freely selling agricultural products.
Bill C-428, also known as Act to Amend the Indian Act and To Provide for its Replacement, would also require the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs to report yearly on efforts to replace sections of the Indian Act with modern amendments or legislation.
“What …I am trying to do is make a difference for First Nations and repeal the Indian Act (and) start the debate and the process,” said Clarke.
Clarke’s legislation would repeal portions of the Indian Act allowing–as in the era of residential schools–churches to operate schools for on-reserve First Nations children and authorizes the RCMP, special constables or other officials to act as “truant” officers to hunt down children who failed to attend school.
The proposed bill would also erase the words “residential school” from the section defining how the word “school” applies in the Indian Act.
Bill C-428 would repeal a section of the Indian Ac preventing First Nations in Manitoba, Saskatchewan or Alberta from selling crops and cattle grown and cultivated on reserve without the permission of a federal official.
It also would repeal a large swath of the Indian Act that gives the minister authority over the handling of wills and estates on reserves.
The proposed bill would also give bands new authority over passing bylaws governing their reserves by repealing sections limiting what bylaws bands can pass and requiring a bylaw be first submitted to the minister before it can come into force.
Under the changes, a bylaw would come into force the moment the by-law is published on the band’s website, or in a “First Nations Gazette,” or a newspaper which has a circulation including the reserve.
Clarke said many chiefs in his riding have expressed a desire to get rid of the Indian Act.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said during the Crown-First Nations Gathering in January that the government had no plans to get rid of the legislation first enacted in 1876.