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An important aspect of local government is the passing of by-laws. When a by-law is passed by Chief and Council, it is forwarded within four days to the Minister. Providing it is accepted, it then becomes law after forty days. Again the Minister may veto such by-laws.
Under Section 81 of the Act, it states: "The Council of a Band may make by-laws not in consistent with this Act or with any regulations made by the Governor-in-Council or the Minister for any or all of the following purposes namely; health, traffic, law and order, disorder, animal control, local works, community zoning, housing, systems and controls, weed control, bees and poultry, water control, amusements, licensing trades, fish and game, trespassing, other related powers and penalties".
What this means is that the Band is very restricted under this section. Any by-law passed by a Band cannot be in conflict with this Act or regulations and anything passed by the Minister.
And Section 73 states; "The Governor-in-Council may make regulations for; fish and game, weed control, traffic regulations, animal control, amusements, health and medicare, disease control, building regulations, housing and health, public health, reserve projects and boundaries, housing and loan programs".
Following is a list of regulations the date they came into effect:
Therefore Band Councils are very limited in their powers. Their Minister of Indian Affairs continues to pass new regulations and guidelines without consultation with Indian people. These regulations continue to affect the everyday lives of our people.
To top everything off, under Section 73 (3); "The Governor-in-Council may make orders and regulations to carry out the purposes and provisions of this Act". Which means this section further reduces the power of the Band Council.
Every effort has to be made to increase the powers of the Band. Many of our people cannot "go ahead" and are continually affected by new guidelines presented by Government. The New Indian Act must include Band Council to be able to pass their own by-laws without outside interference. Band leaders are requested to consult their people in this matter and they will in turn be asked about their feelings and any recommendations in the coming months.
The following information was obtained through interviews and from research material. It is hoped this additional information will assist Chiefs and Councils and generally all Indians on the reserve level in further understanding what changes should take place regarding the Indian Act.
It is imperative we use our Treaties as guidelines and the new Indian Act as a tool to implement our rights.
With the usual summer interruptions it was not possible to visit all Chiefs and Councils. However, in the coming months, it is hoped meetings will be arranged and meaningful discussions regarding the revision will take place. The following topics will be of importance and interest:
Land has become a major rallying point for all Indians in Canada. Due to increasing concern and extensive research, the Government has not put land claims a top priority. The land document research, made by the Indians has received total national support and will no doubt assist in early and just settlements. Methods have improved and as a result better evidence obtained.
Sections 35 and 28 of the present Indian Act have completely disregarded our rights as spelled out in our Treaties.
Section 35 states that reserve land can be taken away for public use with the authority of the Minister.
Section 28 simply says that the Department has complete one-sided control of reserve land. For example, land being passed on to another person in the event of death, the Minister must approve this transfer.
Again we have encountered confusing interpretations regarding this Act. Why wasn't our Treaty right to exemption not clearly defined? Issues as incorporation, legal entity, etc. have to be discussed and clarified.
This sets up the Government Department that is to administer the Act. The Minister who is appointed, is also designated as the "superintendent general". In the second part of that sub-section we find the delegation of authority. The powers of the Minister can be passed on to the Deputy Minister or Chief Officer connected with the Department. The importance of this section cannot be overlooked. It actually seems wide in scope, since it allows the person "to perform and exercise any of the duties, powers and functions that may be or are required to be performed or exercised by the Mister under the Act or any other Act of Parliament of Canada relating to Indian Affairs".
It is interesting to note here the role played by senior civil servants. Politicians come and go but these "people" stay on. Therefore, it is obvious how much influence they have on decision-making by the Minister.
Every emphasis must be made by the Indian people towards stronger local government. We have long talked about the power of the Minister - the door is now open to us to make changes. Again a new system must be implemented for the administration of the New Indian Act.
The previous four topics have only covered a very small portion of the vast change that is to take place. We are all concerned about the continuing ignorance and complete disregard by the Government on the importance of our rights as defined in our Treaties. It may be interesting to know all Indians across Canada have shown interest and support in the revision of the present Indian Act.
Therefore, to prepare ourselves to participate actively and knowledgeably in the future consultations, this can be a meaningful exercise. A complete and indepth comprehension of the Indian Act is a start of at least one piece of legislation that affects our lives on our Indian communities.
The red book, "The Indian Act" and what it means has been sent out to all Chiefs and Councils. It is hoped further information will be passed on in the near future which will assist the Bands in deciding what changes they want.