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Canadian Human Rights Act to Allow On-reserve First Nations to File Anti-discrimination Claims

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First Nations citizens living on reserve will soon be able to file discrimination complaints through the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA), and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) has started to disseminate information about what that means and what its impact will be on daily lives.

The change is because Section 67 of the CHRA has been repealed. It’s the section of the 1977 law that excluded on-reserve First Nations people from filing human rights complaints.

“First Nations living and working on reserve have been prevented from filing complaints or discrimination in any cases that involved a decision made under the Indian Act,” FSIN vice chief Morley Watson said in a Jan. 27 statement. “As of mid-June that will change and all First Nations citizens will have access to human rights protection under the Canadian Human Rights Act.”

Under the CHRA, anyone working for the federal government or a federally regulated employer or service provider can seek protection, the FSIN said. It was repealed in 2007, with a three-year transition window to give Band councils a chance to prepare for the changes.

Now the time has come to explain those changes to First Nations citizens, and the FSIN, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, held a forum on Jan. 31 to explain the ins and outs.

During the one-day session, representatives from the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Assembly of First Nations and the FSIN provided information on the changes.

“There are so many questions that need to be answered about this new human rights legislation,” said Watson in the FSIN statement. “Questions like, how will our treaty rights be affected? How will our First Nations governments be affected?”