Rights on reserves

National Post – opinion/editorial
Published: Saturday, March 08, 2008

We have long advocated an end to the treatment of Canadian aboriginals as members of tribal collectives rather than as individual citizens. In that vein, we welcome the introduction on Tuesday of legislation that would help on-reserve families gain clearer title to their homes, and give aboriginal women matrimonial property rights when marriages break down.

The Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, introduced by Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl, would help clear up confusion on reserves over what rights individual residents have over the houses they occupy (versus the control the band retains over who may live where). It would also resolve questions surrounding how occupancy may be transferred from one family to another. And by giving women on reserve a stake in any matrimonial property, including “individually held” houses, the new act should make it easier for women in abusive relationships to leave without fear of losing everything in their escape.

Under the Act, aboriginals would move a little closer to enjoying the rights enjoyed by the rest of Canadians. Mr. Strahl’s bill deserves to become law.

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