What’s all the fuss with the Omnibus?

The Ktunaxa Nation will host an omnibus bill information session on February 2 in Cranbrook

There were honks and handshakes all around for a gathering of Idle No More protesters on Friday

There were honks and handshakes all around for a gathering of Idle No More protesters on Friday

The Ktunaxa Nation is holding an information session for members to learn about the federal government’s omnibus Bill C-45 on February 2.

The session will be led by Ktunaxa Nation member Rob Louie, a former member of the B.C. Law Association and a consultant on legal issues for the nation. He will be joined by Anna Natanik, a fellow Ktunaxa Nation member and law professor.

Louie said it’s important for Ktunaxa Nation members to understand what the omnibus bill includes, because not all of it is negative.

“The omnibus bill covers a number of legal areas,” Louie said. “There’s different interests for different parties.”

The session will cover six specific pieces of the large bill that will affect Ktunaxa Nation members directly. They are the Criminal Code amendment to address elder abuse, the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, land surrenders and referendums, the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, First Nations Elections Act and safe drinking water.

“They’re all important,” Louie, explained, but he said the amendments to safe drinking water will have a huge impact on the Ktunaxa Nation.

The First Nations Financial Transparency Act will change the way chiefs and council operate.

“Part of this act includes the legal requirement for chief and council to disclose their salary,” Louie said.

Under the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, spouses will have greater property rights. Under the current system, homes on reserves are generally owned by a male First Nations member and ultimately the band itself. This becomes an issue in circumstances of relationship breakdown or the death of a partner. Perviously, women and children faced uncertainty when these situations rose as homes on reserves are exempt from some common-law rights under the Indian Act. The new act will change that to allow more rights for spouses, particularly non-native spouses.

“In my professional opinion there are some positive changes to the law, but there are some concerns,” Louie said.

He cites the changes to elder abuse law under the Criminal Code as a positive that many can agree on.

“How can you argue against something like that?” Louie said.

The Idle No More protests sprung up in the wake of the C-45 omnibus bill. Louie said the protests have grown to be against the entire bill, and the information session will help Ktunaxa Nation members understand the complicated details that will impact them directly.

“What I want to do is bring it back to the bread and butter of the omnibus legislation,” he said. “There are actually some positive measures.”

The meeting will take place at the Ktunaxa Nation Council gymnasium on February 2 starting at 9:30 a.m. Lunch will be provided and transportation is being arranged. Register by January 25 by emailing Louie at rob-louie@hotmail.com.

The session will begin as a lecture, then go to a round table discussion.

Afterwards, Louie said he and Natanik are interested in hearing from the public how they should proceed.

He expects the session to be the first of many meetings on the issue.