Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 34

Wednesday, October 4, 2006
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Matrimonial Real Property on Reserve

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise to speak on the issue of matrimonial real property on reserve and the rights of Aboriginal women.

Last week, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development announced consultations within the Aboriginal community on the issue of property rights for women on reserves. Over this past weekend, Senator Shirley Maheu and Senator Thelma Chalifoux have been very much in my thoughts.

I remember taking part in a steering committee meeting with Senators Maheu and Chalifoux, speaking to then Minister of Indian Affairs Robert Nault. Both women spoke so passionately of the challenges that Aboriginal women face, being forced to leave the matrimonial home with their children after the breakup of a marriage.

Both senators worked hard to produce an interim report entitled: A Hard Bed to Lie In: Matrimonial Real Property on Reserve. As the report stated:

The Committee strongly believes that each and every government, be it the Canadian government or First Nations governing bodies, has a duty to respect and protect the rights of Aboriginal women…

Since the release of that report, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights has continued its work on this issue, preparing another outstanding report under the leadership of our colleague Senator Andreychuk, whose work on this issue has been equally tireless and passionate. The committee continues to work on these issues up to this day with the help of Senator Carstairs, who I know took a direct and active interest in this issue as the Leader of the Government in the Senate as well.

At the time when the Senate is under a microscope and our very existence is called into question, we should acknowledge the work of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights as the best kind of contribution this place is able to make to our democracy. It is a tribute to our departed colleague Senator Maheu, as a lifelong defender of the rights of women and to our former colleague Senator Chalifoux, who has worked for years as a champion for the rights of Aboriginal women. It is an example for all of us of the kind of positive footprint this chamber can make on our laws and the support we can give to ensure all Canadians have the full benefits of their rights in our society.

As the promised consultations move forward, the challenge for all of us will be to ensure that this work — which reflects the needs of Canada’s Aboriginal women so well — is reflected in the legislation that will eventually result.

I rise today to salute the work of Senator Maheu and Senator Chalifoux on this issue.