So far from my having any responsibility for the present section of the Indian Act under which these expulsions from the reserves are taking place, as the Minister of Finance well knows-he was the minister of citizenship and immigration at the time-both in the committee and in the house I fought vigorously to prevent the insertion of the definition which is in the Indian Act defining Indians and the provision with regard to deletions from band lists. I would think that ministers of the crown could at least be a little bit more honest in their presentations than to try to ascribe the opposite to the members on this side of the house.
The hon. member for Edmonton-Strathcona this morning went on to ask what would be done for these Indians if they left the reserve. He asked, "If they leave, what is being done to ensure that they will have homes to live in and incomes with which to sustain them in the future?" What is the answer of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to that question? He said it was a hypothetical question and that there was no call on him to answer hypothetical questions. In other words he apparently completely refuses to take any responsibility for the plight of these people, or to do anything to ensure that a great injustice is not done to them.
The Address-Mr. Harkness
This whole matter has become a question of wide public concern in Alberta. Numerous newspaper articles and editorials have been written, all of them condemning the action being taken, and the government for taking it, in extremely strong terms. The general public in Alberta does not like the sort of thing that is going on there with regard to this expulsion matter and it does not like the attitude the government has taken, the evasion, the refusal to take any action and so on.
Briefly the situation is this. There are 118 Indians on the Hobbema reserve, which is about 40 miles south of Edmonton, who have been ordered to leave that reserve on which they or their ancestors have lived for upwards of 60 years and in some cases longer. This action is being taken under the Indian Act of 1951, the act upon which the present Minister of Citizenship and Immigration places all the onus, if in his opinion there is any onus. The Indian Act of 1951 provides for an Indian register and that the names of all Indians entitled to receive treaty payments and so forth and to be looked upon as Indians must be on this register. It also provides for additions to and deletions from the register. There is a further provision that any 10 Indians may protest the inclusion of any person's name on their band list.
That is a bad provision, to begin with. Everyone knows how easy it is to get a petition signed. In the present case at the Hobbema reserve, where these 118 Indians are being excluded, one of the 10 Indians upon whose protest the government initiated that action was protesting against his own mother and therefore protesting against himself being a member of the band. The thing was just as ridiculous as that. He did not know what he was signing.
We had the same sort of thing in connection with another band, namely the Blackfoot band east of Calgary, where a petition of this sort was signed. Ten Indians signed it, and then they found that they were signing against themselves. Later 8 of the 10 insisted that their signatures be withdrawn, and they had a great deal of difficulty in getting the department to accept the fact that they had signed not knowing what they were signing, and so forth. But as I say, in this particular case you have a man apparently protesting against his own inclusion on the list. Of course he did not know what he was doing.
The propriety of instituting proceedings to expel Indians from a reserve under circumstances of that sort is questionable. I think it is quite apparent that such proceedings are not fair and are not just, considering the fact that the people are still largely
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The Address-Mr. Harkness illiterate, and frequently do not know what they are doing when they put their names to a piece of paper.
In addition to that, of course, this whole provision for having a certain number of Indians protest other Indians on the band list, thus starting the government to make moves to put those people off the band list, just invites difficulties and bad feeling of all kinds. It is a ready-made way of paying off grudges. If one Indian has a grudge against another he goes around with a petition and says, "Sign this, John" and "Sign this, Joe". He gets his petition signed, and then you have proceedings started to get rid of the particular Indian. It is a perfect way of causing trouble on a reserve, of dividing Indians one against another, and paying off grudges.
It is also a great way to encourage greed. In this particular case, on the Hobbema reserve oil was discovered. I think the estimated value of the oil in terms of the money which will come to the Indians is in the neighbourhood of $20 million; that is, the share of the 118 Indians would be upwards of $2 million. If the 118 are expelled there is $2 million more for the people remaining on the reserve, eventually to be divided up amongst them. At the present time they are receiving $25 a month each from oil revenue.
The act as it stands is an invitation for greedy people to try to force other people off the reserve and have more money for themselves. In other words it offends against what you might call real Christian ethics. The minister said, in answering these questions this morning, that this probably would be the last case. As a matter of fact it will be just the first of many cases. I am quite sure there is no provision in the act to make it the last case, and as a matter of fact the act lays down that any child born on the reserve can be protested for any period up to a year after its birth. There is also nothing to prevent any group of Indians protesting another group.
As far as this particular reserve is concerned, if this expulsion takes place the relatives of the people expelled will immediately protest against the persons who signed the petition and who got rid of their relatives on the reserve. Then you would have a sort of war of extermination on that reserve, and of course on other reserves, if a similar situation were to arise in which considerable assets were involved.
These provisions for deleting names from the band membership, taken in conjunction with the definition of an Indian found in sections 11 and 12 of the Indian Act, create
a situation of complete unfairness, inequity and inhumanity, and the government has to initiate action to put an end to that situation immediately. The act refuses to recognize as an Indian four general classes of people; first, any one who, or whose ancestors, took scrip; second, certain cases of alleged illegitimacy; third, certain cases of alleged white blood; and fourth, for other technical reasons concerning band membership.
As long as those provisions remain in the Indian Act you will not have the Indian population of this country satisfied. They will be in a situation where they may never know when they will be forced off the reserve, and you will not have the white population believing a square deal is being given the aboriginal population.
The Indians on the Hobbema reserve are being expelled because it is alleged that three common ancestors of the 118 took scrip. Scrip was issued to the half-breeds or metis at the end of the first Riel rebellion and following the second rebellion; it was a payment of $120 or 120 acres of land, whichever was wished, and the scrip could be exchanged for land. Very frequently if a white man wanted certain lands he would go to an Indian and say "If you would like a bottle of whiskey or $10, put your name here". Then he would go to the authorities with this man, knowing he was an Indian, half-breed or metis, and the scrip was issued. The white man immediately took it over and went and got the land. That is what happened in a large number of cases.
When Sir John A. Macdonald issued scrip following the first Riel rebellion and found what had happened to most of it, he authorized its issuance a second time to the people who had been given it in the first place because they had lost their scrip, land, or whatever it was. In this particular case there is no clear proof that these three men actually did take scrip to begin with. The records on the matter are extremely confused and mixed. Whilst the government says the action taken against these 118 persons is as a result of Indian protest, the great majority of the people in that band of around 1,100 or 1,200 and the chief, all except a very small number of people, do not want these 118 people expelled; they want to keep them there.
In addition to that it was the government that produced the alleged case that scrip was issued, and they produced it first of all in the form of a document with a certain name on it. But when the matter first came up in 1954 they were not able to establish that the name here was the name of one of the ancestors; they dropped it, and then the
government, not the Indians, revived it. They said they had found more proof, and brought this in the form of photostatic copies of documents showing the alleged issuance of scrip or certificates.
No matter how flimsy the evidence, once these actions are started the government- because it has a policy of decreasing the Indian population on the reserves by a policy of integration-proceeds to throw out as many Indians as it can from the reserves. As long as that policy is followed, and as long as the act exists in its present form, we are going to have these difficulties.
I have a good deal more to say on this subject. May I call it six o'clock?
At six o'clock the house took recess.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY