Canadian Human Rights Commission

Canadian Human Rights Commission

June 18, 2008 17:54 ET

Canadian Human Rights Commission Applauds Extension of Rights Laws to First Nations

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 18, 2008) - The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) celebrates the Royal Assent of Bill C-21 which extends human rights protection to First Nations peoples living under the Indian Act.

"After more than 30 years, First Nations peoples in Canada finally have access to the same level of fundamental human rights protection that most Canadians take for granted. The passage of this bill is a milestone in the development of human rights law in Canada," said CHRC Chief Commissioner Jennifer Lynch, Q.C.

Ms. Lynch was responding to Bill C-21's receiving Royal Assent, repealing section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act which denied full access to human rights law under the Act to First Nations peoples.

Effective immediately, the Commission can accept complaints against the federal government dealing with the Indian Act that were previously exempted because of section 67. The bill provides for a three-year transition period before complaints can be received against First Nations governing authorities.

The Commission has entered into discussions with key national Aboriginal organizations to plan for implementation. "The Commission looks forward to working closely with Aboriginal organizations to build a human rights system that reflects and respects Aboriginal peoples' cultures and traditional laws," Ms. Lynch said.

The Commission emphasized the importance of the requirement that a joint study be undertaken by the Government of Canada with representatives of First Nations in order to identify what is needed to ensure effective implementation, including fiscal and human resources. The amended bill also includes a non-derogation clause and an interpretive clause.

Royal Assent of Bill C-21 marks the first substantive amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act since it was changed to recognize the duty to accommodate in 1998.

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