June 23, 1920

UNION

Arthur Meighen (Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

That is what I thought. That is what I rose to say and what I said before. There is no use making it take effect within the two years and then to have the enfranchisement date back. That would retroactively make the Indian liable on obligations for which he was not liable before and which took place in the period between that date and the date of enfranchisement. That is why I make this suggested change which I was sure was the intention of the committee.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   INDIAN ACT AMENDMENT.
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L LIB

Archibald Blake McCoig

Laurier Liberal

Mr. McCOIG:

In what way does the enfranchisement of an Indian affect him as regards his Government grant?

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   INDIAN ACT AMENDMENT.
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UNION

Arthur Meighen (Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

On enfranchisement he gets commutation of all his rights, lie gets such lands or slich cash as his share amounts to, and then he makes his way in the world. He gets no more grants; he gets no more protection from his civil liabilities, and he gets the

vote. In a word, he becomes no longer an Indian, but a citizen in full status.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   INDIAN ACT AMENDMENT.
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L LIB

James Alexander Robb (Chief Government Whip)

Laurier Liberal

Mr. EOBB:

My understanding of the matter is this. Subclause (2) of section 107 reads:

On the report of the Superintendent General that any Indian, male or female, over the age of twenty-one years is fit for enfranchisement, the Governor in Council may by order enfranchise such Indian, and from the date of such order the provisions of the Indian Act and of any other Act or law making any distinction between the legal rights, privileges, disabilities and liabilities of Indians and those of His Majesty's other subjects, shall cease to apply to such Indian or to his or her minor unmarried children, or in the case of a married male Indian, to the wife of such Indian, and every such Indian and child and wife shall thereafter have, possess and enjoy all the legal powers, rights and privileges of His Majesty's other subjects, and shall no longer be deemed to be Indians within the meaning of any laws relating to Indians.

As I understand this, it gives the Government of the day power to compel an Indian to become enfranchised.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   INDIAN ACT AMENDMENT.
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UNION

Arthur Meighen (Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

The hon. gentleman read the clause as it was originally drafted and submitted to the subcommittee, but the subcommittee has materially amended that clause.

Mr. EOBB But the minister just a few moments ago answering the leader of the Opposition (Mr. Mackenzie King) said that no amendments were made in committee.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   INDIAN ACT AMENDMENT.
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UNION

Arthur Meighen (Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

The hon. member must have misunderstood me, because I did not say that. I said that there was no amendment to clause 1, and then I corrected myself as to that, because there is a slight amendment to clause 1. But there is a very substantial amendment to this clause providing safeguards in the matter of enfranchisement. I will send a copy -to the hon. member.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   INDIAN ACT AMENDMENT.
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Is it not a fact that all the rights of Indians as respects property, enfranchisement and other such matters are secured under treaty obligations, and if so, have the Government considered the possibility of these treaty rights being superior to any Act of Parliament and any Order in Council?

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   INDIAN ACT AMENDMENT.
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UNION

Arthur Meighen (Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

That has been fully considered. There are no treaty rights affecting the question of enfranchisement. The treaty rights affect property, but no clause of any treaty is interfered with in any degree by these clauses. Indeed, if it were, all the clauses would be similarly against the Treaty. This is mainly another

method of enfranchisement, and there is nothjng in any treaty that affects this at all. '

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   INDIAN ACT AMENDMENT.
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L LIB

James Alexander Robb (Chief Government Whip)

Laurier Liberal

Mr. EOBB:

According to this amended clause which the minister has kindly sent over, in the first place the department decide that they are going to have these Indians enfranchised, then they notify the council to make a nomination, and within thirty days after notice having been given to the council, in default otf the council having appointed a board, the Superintendent General himself may appoint this board. Therefore, the matter is all within the power of the department if they wish to go about it, if the Indians say: We are not going to bother with that.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   INDIAN ACT AMENDMENT.
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UNION

Arthur Meighen (Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

That refers to the appointment of the 'Indian member of the board. ,

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   INDIAN ACT AMENDMENT.
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L LIB

James Alexander Robb (Chief Government Whip)

Laurier Liberal

Mr. EOBB:

But, listening as I did at some of the sessions of the committee and knowing as I think I know the feeling of one band, that is the band in the county which I have the honour to represent, the St. Eegis band, the Indian is absolutely opposed to this measure with the exception of the educational features of it. He is opposed to enfranchisement. He remembers when he did have a right to vote in the past, and he says: If you give us this, it allows the white man to come in at times and debauch the tribe. The Indian has nothing to gain by this and he does not want it. He says: We have treaties with the white men and we expect the white man to live up to those treaties. I am afraid we are to-day introducing a measure that will enable a Government, perhaps not to-djay, but some day, to break faith with the Indian and to adopt measures that will not only take away from him his status as an Indian, but enable speculators to come in and take away his land. I imagine that is what the Indian is more afraid of than the question of enfranchisement.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   INDIAN ACT AMENDMENT.
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UNION

William Alves Boys

Unionist

Mr. BOYS:

This would affect only the enfranchised Indians, it would not affect any other Indians of the band. Does my hon. friend think, in the case he mentions, where these very Indians cross the St. Lawrence river and work in the shops of Montreal-

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   INDIAN ACT AMENDMENT.
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L LIB

James Alexander Robb (Chief Government Whip)

Laurier Liberal

Mr. EOBB:

The Indians to whom I refer are near Cornwall.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   INDIAN ACT AMENDMENT.
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UNION

William Alves Boys

Unionist

Mr. BOYS:

Well, I was thinking of the Indians of Caughnawaga. Is it proper for

an Indian to do what I have mentioned and make his seven or eight dollars a day and then go back to the tribe and da anything he likes and not be liable for his debts? I do not think for one moment this is a question of voting at all. A white man may be mentally weak, perhaps not half as strong mentally or physically as the In. dian of whom I have spoken, but the moment he becomes twenty-one years of age, he is liable for his debts. Yet under the law of to-day, that Indian goes about with all sorts of protection around him, and at the same time he ie competing with the white man and enjoying the benefits to which I have referred. It is not the intention of the department, it has not been in the past, and it will not be in the future, to enfranchise any Indian who is not fit; and if he is fit, if he can take care of himself, if he can do what I have mentioned, why should he not be enfranchised and become a full-fledged citizen? He need not vote unless he likes. Speaking as a member of that committee, I may say that the voting feature had not the slightest influence upon me. The policy of the department is not favourable to keeping an Indian a ward of the Crown; it is to try to develop his condition along educational and other lines in order that the day may come when he will become a full-fledged citizen of the country, taking with the white man the very part that he himself desires to take. If we do not move along these lines, how can that end be attained?

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   INDIAN ACT AMENDMENT.
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L LIB

James Alexander Robb (Chief Government Whip)

Laurier Liberal

Mr. ROBB:

The hon. member has mentioned the Caughnawaga Indians. Did their representative approve of fihis legislation?

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   INDIAN ACT AMENDMENT.
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UNION

William Alves Boys

Unionist

Mr. BOYS:

I have said frankly that I do not think more than one or two of all who addressed the committee or were examined by them were in favour of this legislation. The stand they took was that if they wanted enfranchisement they could apply for it. The difficulty is that some of those who should be enfranchised and perhaps be made liable to the laws of the land are the very ones who will not apply for enfranchisement. Why should they be protected:

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   INDIAN ACT AMENDMENT.
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UNION

John Hampden Burnham

Unionist

Mr. BURNHAM:

I should like to say a word on this matter as I have Indians in my constituency. An Indian who desires to become enfranchised should certainly have that privilege. This legislation does not in any way compel the enfranchisement of the band ot any of its' individuals who do not wish to become enfranchised, nor does it affect in any way the prosperity of

the reserve. Neither, of course, will it affect the money which they got under the treaty with the Government for the various properties which they have in times past sold to the Government, and for which they receive a stated annual amount. The Indians in the band in the county of West Peterborough are very intelligent, very progressive, and have a great deal of property. They want to have the vote. It is no good for my hon. friend (Mr. Robb) shaking his head, because they have told me they want the vote and their squaws want the vote. This tribe of Indians I speak of sent a very large number to the war, several of whom were killed and many decorated. Man for man they were more distinguished and more capable than the whites.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   INDIAN ACT AMENDMENT.
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L LIB
UNION

John Hampden Burnham

Unionist

Mr. BURNHAM:

And to say that these men shall not under any circumstances have the right to the franchise, which, as I undti-stand thus legislation, is not in any ,vay to be forced upon them, is to my mind a great ingratitude and an impropriety that requires a whole lot of explaining.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   INDIAN ACT AMENDMENT.
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Before the amendment carries I think it is only proper that the views of the Indians who object to this legislation should be placed before the committee and be placed on record in Hansard. I have had handed to me a statement by some gentlemen who are representing the Indians, setting out the objections they have to this legislation, and with the permission of the committee I should like to read it, as I think it is important that we should not proceed with the legislation without having before us the objections to it from the point of view of the Indians. They are the parties that are concerned, and certainly if there is any obligation upon Parliament it is that we should safeguard the rights of a class of people who are particularly under the protection of the Government of the country. The memorandum that I have Ihlad given to me reads as follows:

As the Special Committee considering Bill 14 has now reported to the House of Commons, we think it well that all members of Parliament should know our reasons for objecting to this Bill. For this purpose we set out the following parts of our statement placed before the Special Committee.

"To the Special Committee of the House of of Commons.

Considering Bill 14.

"We delegates of the Allied Tribes of British Columbia protest against the proposed com-

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   INDIAN ACT AMENDMENT.
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June 23, 1920