After 11 years of bringing you local reporting, the team behind the Vancouver Observer has moved on to Canada's National Observer. You can follow Vancouver culture reporting over there from now on. Thank you for all your support over the years!

Harper government bills that sparked Idle No More

Photo by Isabeau Doucet

One of the first questions that people ask about the Idle No More movement is what the movement is all about. While the historical injustices experienced by First Nations are too many to list, some activists say the current government is pushing through a range of new bills that violate treaty rights. Despite the fact that some bills received input from Aboriginal representatives, opponents argue that the changes are too broad and lack support. 

"Never in history has there been so many bills regarding and impacting First Nations been pushed through the House of Commons at one time," an Idle No More document released by activists reads. Below is an excerpt adapted from the document, outlining the eight bills and amendments which have sparked protests across the country. 

Bill C-45: Jobs and Growth Act (Omnibus Bill)

I. Land Surrenders

• This process prevents any debate or Grand Chiefs to present views of amendments
• Changes to Indian Act without sufficient consultation of communities
• Lowers threshold for the surrender of reserve lands

II. Navigable Waters Act

• The federal government vacates jurisdiction over waters, parks, fisheries, etc. and the responsibility and duty to consult, honour treaty rights
• Allows provinces to have more powerful expropriation powers
• The current federal government has expressed wishes to “unlock” First Nations' lands for the maximized benefit of Canadians

Bill C-428: Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act

• Rob Clark’s Bill to Repeal the Indian Act altogether
• Doesn’t acknowledge a band’s abilities to pass band by-laws
• Takes away the power of bands to pass by-laws to prohibit alcohol on reserves – by taking power away to create by-laws and govern

Bill S-2: Family Homes of Reserve Matrimonial Interests of Rights Act

• Does not recognize any First Nation by-laws that already set out matrimonial property laws
• Legal rights can be given to non-Indians over holds on lands on-reserve
• Land, protected under treaties, exclusively for First Nations, can be given and transferred to non-First Nation people through this bill

First Nation Education Act

• Incorporates and imposes provincial laws into First Nation education on reserves
• The bill violates treaty right to education
• The federal government wishes to nationalize, control and legislate the treaty right to education

• Federal authorities with hand jurisdiction to the Province – not just stepping away from treaty obligations, but also funding obligations

Bill S-212: An Act to Amend the Interpretation Act

• Non-Derogation of Aboriginal and Treaty rights

Bill S-212: First Nations Self-Government Recognition Bill and FNPOA

• The 1887 Dawes Act (United States) in Canadian form (privatization of reserve land: will take community-held reserve lands and divide up into individual parcels)

• This land can be sold to non-Indians and corporations, like any provincial lands, under provincial laws and registries, with no Aboriginal or Treaty rights associated anymore
• After the Dawes Act, more amendments were set to go and over half of the privatized lands were given to government, military, and corporations for resource extraction
• To put a pipeline (e.g. proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline) through a community, the community’s consent is no longer needed on the same level as in the past: just the individual people whose property the pipeline would go beneath 

Bill S-8: Safe Drinking Water for First Nations

• Will give the federal government the power to set up rules and regulations around water and sanitation and will be able to force Chief and Councils to do whatever federal authorities see as necessary on water
• They can demand that Chief and Councils fix water systems, but if there is no money to do so, it is taken from band operating funding formulas (that pays for housing, social assistance, etc.)
• If the federal government’s contractors mismanage a project, the federal government is not liable
• Transfers jurisdiction and pushes provincial laws on reserve lands

Bill C-27: First Nations Financial Transparency Act
• This bill will force First Nations to open up all the books, source revenue, and business revenue (for the public)
• Failure to make business information public can result in being taken to court and having funds to the community cut off 
• Currently, if leaders speak up, they risk having budgets slashed
• The average salary for a First Nation leader is $36,845, while the salary of the average Canadian is $46,345


Bill S-207 An Act to amend the Interpretation Act: Non-
Derogation of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights are not only violations to treaties, but are also in direct violation of Article 18, 19 &20 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

For more, see


Read More:

More in Politics

Gitxsan leaders join BC First Nations to vote for Anyone But Clark (ABC)

Two Gitxsan house groups, Gwininitxw and Luutkudziiwus urge voting that will empower First Nations, support communities, environment, and economic well-being.

B.C. Premier defends Bill 20 amendments

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said Tuesday that a controversial provision in Bill 20 is meant to create “a level playing field” for all the political parties. Her comments come on the heels...

Jacobs and Florida and Gehl oh my! Who really influences our local politicians?

Still undecided about who to vote for? Second guessing yourself? Who really influences and inspires those candidates who are running for a seat in Vancouver's City Hall?
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.