Hon. W. E. Harris (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration):
Mr. Speaker, when I took over the administration of Indian affairs early in this year I found there were three important matters to be dealt with. The first was whether the Indians might be entitled to vote in federal elections; the second was whether there might be further assistance, particularly to aged Indians; and the third was the implementation of promises which had been made that the Indian Act would be revised.
I am happy to state that the government has announced the solution of the first two problems, namely that in certain circumstances the Indian is now entitled to vote at federal elections, and that aged Indians will receive allowances of $25 instead of $8.
I had hoped that we might carry out the promise made with respect to the revision of the Indian Act. When the bill was introduced two weeks ago I had already set up elaborate machinery whereby the bill would be placed in the hands of the Indians at the earliest possible moment, and I think that in a great many of the reserves in Canada it was in their hands ten days ago.
In the meantime I have received representation by telegram and letter from quite a few bands and individual Indian organizations showing that they have made a serious study of the bill. They have criticized it in some respects and praised it in others. However, it has been represented that in other areas the bill had not reached the Indians in time for consideration. In view of all that it has been suggested that we might not proceed with the bill at this session.
A great many Indians have come to Ottawa in person to discuss the bill with me, and some favour action at this session. I would hope that those among them who would like to have the bill passed at this session might agree with me that perhaps it would be better to delay it in order to give the greatest opportunity to all concerned to make representations to me. I would not like any Indian, or, for that matter, any other Canadian citizen, to think that I am not as conscious of the needs of the Indian and his wishes as any others who in the past have held the high office of superintendent-general
of Indian affairs. For that reason, as I said,
I would hope that those who would have liked the bill to go through at this session, because it contains provisions which give many advantages to Indian bands and individual Indians, would join with me in allowing it to stand for further consideration.
Subtopic: CONSOLIDATION AND CLARIFICATION