As chiefs from across the country get set to meet in Gatineau, Que. for the annual special chiefs assembly, opposition to changes to C-58, the federal access to information act is gaining momentum.
“In my view, Bill C-58 is certainly a gift from the ghost of Christmas past,” said Bob Chamberlin, Vice-president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.
The main concern about amendments to the access to information laws is that requestors will need an exact date – rather than a time period to get information from the government.
“So this government’s pursuit now of having very specific asks be in the requirement leaves it for a greater opportunity for the rejection of the access to information,” Chamberlain. “And by rejecting that access rejects the opportunity for reconciliation and justice to be realized for First Nations people in Canada.”
Several leaders joined NDP MP Murray Rankin at the news conference and condemned the proposed legislation.
“Despite the profound effect that this bill will have on First Nations ability to get information about claims, disputes and grievances, they were not consulted,” said Rankin.
Neskonlith First Nation Chief Judy Wilson said no changes at all would be better.
“So if I’m trying to settle a claim they’re going to put up more barriers, bureaucratic barriers that my claim will not be settled,” she said. “I will not get access to that information.
“They have put more of a tiered process into limiting that access to information. So that’s why it’s actually worse than the status quo.”
Chamberlain said the bill must not go ahead.
“Bill C-58 is a regressive piece of legislation that needs to be abandoned,” he said.
The bill is going into third reading in the House of Commons before going to the Senate.
“We’re going to be putting all our efforts into the Senate level to actually call for withdrawing or killing this bill,” said Wilson.
Wilson said she’d introduce a resolution opposing C-58 at the special chiefs assembly.