Confusion, Trepidation, and Politics – Bill C-45

Hello, people on the internet!

I have a disclaimer that I must share with you before getting into this topic.

I have very little background knowledge on these issues or relevant changing laws. If I have misunderstood something, please tell me! If I have inadvertently trusted a media source when they had it wrong, please tell me! If I have accidentally said something in a culturally insensitive way, please tell me because ignorance is no excuse.

For those of you that, like me yesterday, have no idea what Bill C-45 is, Bill C-45 is the second budget bill to be presented this year. Bill C-38, the first budget bill, similarly had huge changes for Canada and completely slipped under the radar. Between the two of them, the Conservative party has presented more than 900 pages this year in connection with the budget (when the average is usually in the double digits, prior to 2005).

The scary part is that a great deal of these changes are about so much more than saving a dollar here or there. I have had a very hard time trying to find any information on what exactly is contained in Bill C-45, so it looks like one of these days I’m going have to try to read the brick – yikes. And not only is it 400+ pages, but it is very difficult to understand proposed legal, legislative changes because they so often refer to lines of documents that aren’t included in the text itself, so a great deal of reading has to occur outside of the bill to understand the full effect.

That being said, I am going to attempt to summarize what I have read about Bill C-45 in the last 24 hours, what I see and what others have said about the potential or certain ramifications, and ask some of the questions that are driving me crazy.

Changes to the Indian Act

Now, idlenomore.ca is saying that Bill C-45 violates a number of U.N. conventions geared at protecting the rights of indigenous people, but again, I cannot seem to find which parts these are. If anyone knows, please tell me!

What I have managed to find (in the second CBC article listed below) is this:

Currently, if a reserve wishes to lease a portion of its land for commerical purposes (keep in mind that, to my knowledge [please correct me if this is not always the case], reserve land is communally ‘owned’ by the people of that reserve) a majority of residents on that reserve must vote in favour of this lease. The articles seem to paint a picture of inefficiency and unnecessarily wasted time when they discuss this part, which sets the stage for the proposed changes: when Bill C-45 passes, the majority of residents do not have to approve the leasing of land to outside companies/individuals/etc. A meeting or referendum must be held, and the majority of people that attend the meeting or respond to the referendum is sufficient to allow the land to be leased. Oh, except the Aboriginal Affairs Minister has veto power, and can reject a proposal for land leasing brought to him by a given band council.

This may be my paranoia coming into effect, but this sounds like it leaves a great deal of room for corruption. There are a few burning questions this has raised for me, and while some of them may sound rhetorical, I would appreciate input, information, or answers to any of these questions!

Does this mean that a band council could call a meeting, fail to give proper notice, and then lease out land based on those who managed to attend?

Does this mean that a meeting could occur in a location where those without cars could not attend?

Rather than expediting the leasing of land to non-reserve businesses and individuals, doesn’t this leave a great deal of room for abuse?

Why would the Aboriginal Affairs Minister be able to veto a motion accepted by the band council of a specific reserve? Doesn’t this infringe on independence and self-determination?

I would like to include another disclaimer: by mentioning corruption in connection with band leadership, I am not saying that reserves or their leadership are corrupt. I have been lucky enough to meet some fantastic people while living on a reserve for two summers, and I am sadly aware that sometimes, the needs and desires of the few in power may not reflect the needs and desires of the general populace. This is not unique to reserves (hello, Joe Fontana? Rob Ford?), and it seems like this change is part of a process that moves the administration of reserves closer to the way that municipalities are run, without consultation with the people it effects.

What do you think?

Changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA)

Did you know there is an act called the Navigable Waters Protection Act? I didn’t, either! It currently places a ‘protected’ designation on approximately 40,000 lakes and 2.5 million rivers. Bill C-45 presents a new list of protected lakes and rivers that includes less than 100 of each. In addition (it is unclear if this is part of the NWPA or somewhere else), fish that have no commercial value are no longer protected.

Environmental groups are saying that this is a shocking, tragic, horrendous change. Lakes and rivers that provide drinking water and fishing grounds will be even more vulnerable to pollution and corporate neglect. Large projects that affect waterways such as dams, booms, bridges, and oil pipelines currently have to run reports assessing the potential environmental impact of their project on these protected lakes and rivers – they will have to do this no longer.

My only question here is… what the f?!

Windsor-Detroit Bridge

Another ‘what the f’ moment: Bill C-45 creates a new law surrounding the creation of a bridge between Windsor and Detroit that changes “some legislation and exempting this bridge from other Acts which would have otherwise applied, including the Environmental Assessment Act, Fisheries Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act (which is being amended too, see above), and the Species at Risk Act.” (Second CBC article below)

Please forgive my sloppy citations.

Please let me know what you think of this. What am I missing? (I know there is plenty, but I have yet to find it.) What does this mean for Canada?

Do you think this can be remedied in 2015 – or is this indicative of the direction in which Canada is moving?

This is where I got my information from (ignoring news sources that shared the same article – for example, the first CBC link is also on huffingtonpost.ca and some lesser-known news sites):

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/12/04/pol-liveblog-budget-vote.html

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/10/19/pol-list-2nd-omnibus-bill.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/10/21/omnibus-budget-bill-c-45_n_1997300.html

http://idlenomore.ca/

http://canadians.org/blog/?p=17379

Thank you to Naomi Sayers (follow her at @naomisayers00). She is the only person across Facebook, Twitter, and the casual first-page checks I do of news sites that brought this to my attention. Evidently I need to expand where I get my news from… suggestions are welcome!

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