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Canada Bill Goes To Final Reading

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      FEBRUARY/MARCH 1982      v12 n02 p03  
LONDON (CP) - Amid claims that Ottawa is using the British Parliament to assist in the "cultural genocide" of Indians, Canada's new constitution moved a step closer to reality Wednesday.

After a non-stop seven-hour debate, the House of Commons completed clause-by-clause study of the Canada BIll, clearing the way for third and final reading Monday.

The bill is expected to go to the House of Lords soon, perhaps late next week.

To the bitter end, a handful of opponents termed it a sham and a storehouse of problems for the future but they failed to alter any of its contents, particularly its native rights provisions.

Criticism against the bill's handling of Indians was bipartisan.

Labor MP Bruce George termed it "cultural genocide" against native people while Conservative MP Sir Bernard Braine joined Liberal MP Jo Grimond who criticized the bill for providing "inadequate safeguards for consultations of Indians."

In the only formal vote Wednesday, MPs rejected by 140 to 28 an amendment that would have assured native people a veto over constitutional changes affecting their rights.

Champions of the native cause argued that despite appearances, the bill does not entrench native rights.

Braine spoke of "the revulsion felt by many of us" at passing the bill without added safeguards for native rights and said the federal government's policy towards Indians remains one of assimilation.

Conservative MP Sir John Biggs-Davison urged a "moderate stay" in passage of the bill until Quebec's claim to veto over constitutional change is settled in court.

That case is scheduled to be heard in the Quebec Court of Appeal starting March 15.

Earlier, Labor MP David English assured Quebec that "not all the people agree with the (repatriation) proceedings being done in this way."

Quebec was given short shrift in the debate, in contrast to the attention lavished on the issue of native rights.

Donald Stewart of the Scottish National party said in an interview that this was because of the belief that Quebec is in a better position to defend itself than the Indians.