Government Commitments

Government Commitments to Truth and Reconciliation

Work to replace Indian Act is ongoing, feds say

July 17, 2023

Process being done in consultation with Indigenous people

By Richard Hutton Niagara This Week – Welland

Call For Change
Welland resident Steven Soos said the federal government is moving too slow when it comes to replacement legislation for the Indian Act. – Metroland file photo

NationTalk: Calls for the Indian Act to be repealed and replaced are not new, but the big issue is how to go about it, a spokesperson for Indigenous Services Canada says.

“There is no clear consensus on a way forward on a large-scale, comprehensive change to the Indian Act but there have been several attempts over the years to reform or repeal the Act,” said Carolane Gratton.

Gratton was responding on behalf of the department to calls by Welland resident Steven Soos, a Métis man who has called the Act “legislated slavery” and needs to be scrapped and new legislation be drafted with the participation of Indigenous people.

According to Gratton, work is ongoing to do just that.

“Indigenous Services Canada reports annually on the work undertaken in collaboration with First Nations and other interested parties to develop new legislation to replace the Indian Act,” Gratton said, adding that the government acknowledges the Act is “an extension of our colonial history and that First Nations continue to be impacted by systemic and historical inequities.”

Work is ongoing under the Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act, which releases annual reports. Also, the government introduced Bill C-38 in December of last year. The legislation address the inequity of enfranchisement, enable deregistration by application, eliminate sex-based inequities in the membership provisions and remove some outdated and offensive language in the Indian Act. That’s on top of similar provisions in Senate Bill, S-3 passed in 2017. The legislation provided for the removal of known sex-based inequities in registration provisions for Indian status.

Reports are issued annually on progress made in discussions with stakeholders.

“The Government of Canada recognizes that more work with partners needs to be done,” Gratton said. “Proposed amendments to the Act are a crucial step forward on the path to reconciliation and in support of a renewed relationship between Canada and First Nations.”

The federal government has also made commitments to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights on Indigenous Peoples Act’s Action Plan and, through the Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act, reports are issued annually on progress.

For his part, Soos says while there is progress that has been made, it’s not enough. The Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act was passed in 2014 and Bill S-3 was passed in part in 2017 before the full bill was passed in 2019.

“It’s 2023,” he said, adding that until the Indian Act is repealed and replaced, nothing will change. “It doesn’t change a thing,” he said. “The Indian Act is still there, and it still governs us.”

The government needs to act if they are serious about reconciliation. “I want to see an actual act of reconciliation by actually scrapping the Indian Act and replace it with the National Indigenous Peoples Act.”

In the meantime, he has reached out to provincial premiers and territorial leaders as well as federal MPs via email on the issue and he has received brief responses from the offices of Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Alberta’s Danielle Smith.

The Indian Act was first passed in 1876, followed by a newer version in 1951. Since then, it has been amended on several occasions, most recently in 2019.
Richard Hutton

Richard Hutton is a Reporter-Photographer for Niagara this Week, covering everything from politics to community stories and everything in between in Niagara’s southern tier.