June 21, 1950 (21st Parliament, 2nd Session)


John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. G. Diefenbaker (Lake Centre):

Mr. Speaker, with the concluding words of the hon. member for Cariboo (Mr. Murray) I am in entire agreement, and it is just for that reason that I am going to speak in opposition to the bill. I was one of those who believed that out of the Indian committee would indeed come a charter that would be beneficial to the Indians of Canada. On May 5 I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) -and I am not going to read it now because it has been read before-whether an opportunity would be given to the Indian population to consider the bill to be introduced. I 55946-25 li
did that in no partisan way. This is one subject that we can and will deal with in a non-partisan manner for the reason that the bill in its present form affects the political future of none of us.
The Prime Minister said that he appreciated the tone of the representations I had made and that the matter would receive the consideration of the Indians across this country. I listened this afternoon to the remarks of the hon. member for Essex West (Mr. Brown), who was chairman of the committee on Indian affairs. He earned for himself as chairman of the committee a reputation for a willingness and desire to contribute something to the welfare of the Indians. His statement, his observations and his conclusion regarding the bill were a miracle in terminology. I cannot repeat word for word what he said but it was to the effect that as far as it went, whether or not he agreed with it, he believed that the minister had done as much as he could. Whatever he meant, one thing stands out, that he as chairman of that committee was disappointed with the bill.
It is a mirage, Mr. Speaker. It is no charter. It is merely an alteration of some of the provisions of the Indian Act intensified in so far as administrative officials are concerned to make them more powerful than they have ever been before under the Indian Act as it has existed since 1880. The hon. member for Cariboo says: Let us have equality under the law; let us maintain freedom; and the minister brings to the house a bill that is a negation of freedom, a denial of equality under the law. Indeed it provides that Indians can have no recourse to the courts unless they have the permission of the minister to proceed. When I compare the report that the special committee on Indian affairs made on June 22, 1948, with the bill now before the house, it is obvious that the master hands of the administrative officials of the Indian affairs branch have wrought changes that parliament never thought of. After speaking of the purposes of the amendments to the act the report of the special committee reads as follows:
In order to achieve these objectives, your committee recommends, in addition to other recommendations hereinafter set out (a) that the revised act contain provisions to protect from injustice and exploitation such Indians as are not sufficiently advanced to manage their own affairs.
When the minister replies let him say what new section of the bill implements protection of the Indians from exploitation. Other recommendations were:
That greater responsibility and more progressive measures of self-government of reserve and band affairs be granted to band councils to assume and carry out such responsibilities;

Indian Act .
That the offence and penalty sections of the Indian Act be made equitable and brought into conformity with similar sections in the Criminal Code . . .
That the Indians be accorded the same rights and be liable to the same penalties as others with regard to the consumption of intoxicating beverages on licensed premises, but there shall be no manufacture, sale or consumption, in or on a reserve, of "intoxicants" within the meaning of the Indian Act;
That it be the duty and responsibility of all officials dealing with Indians to assist them to attain the full rights and to assume the responsibilities of Canadian citizenship.
Then these recommendations are m.ade:
Your committee recommends that rules of the House of Commons be amended to provide for the appointment of a select standing committee on Indian affairs.
Your committee recommends that a commission in the nature of a claims commission be set up, with the least possible delay, to inquire into the terms of all Indian treaties in order to discover and determine, definitely and finally, such rights and obligations as are therein involved and, further, to assess and settle finally and in a just and equitable manner all claims for grievances which have arisen thereunder.
The bill in its present form simply places the Indian in a position where he will have no equality under the law, where he will be at the beck and control of officials on the various reserves. Rights? He cannot take a case to court when there is wrongdoing unless he has the permission of the minister. Appeals provided for? There is an appeal from the official in charge of the reserve to the minister, from the hired man to the hired man's boss.

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