Thank you very much.
[Witness speaks in Cree]
I want to say good afternoon to members of the esteemed standing committee. Thank you for inviting the Indian Resource Council to testify on Bill C-262. I have made this trip on behalf of the Indian Resource Council, and not on behalf of Thunderchild.
My name is Delbert Wapass. I'm the Chief of Thunderchild First Nation from Saskatchewan. We are located in the heart of oil and gas country, Lloydminster, on the Alberta-Saskatchewan border.
The Indian Resource Council is a national advocacy organization of chiefs. Our mandate is to represent resource-based first nations by ensuring that their oil and gas resources are managed in their best interests. We work with Canada through Indian Oil and Gas Canada, IOGC, and with industry to ensure that our people participate fully in the energy sector and that we derive maximum benefit from these resources.
On behalf of IRC, we are pleased to share our perspectives as you study Bill C-262.
First, we note and recognize that we are making our submission on unceded Anishinaabe lands.
We acknowledge the Honourable Romeo Saganash, member of Parliament, who is championing Bill C-262, which requires the laws of Canada to be in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The IRC is pleased to support Mr. Saganash's private member's bill and his recommendation for the adoption and implementation of UNDRIP into Canadian law.
We also acknowledge the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the recommendations of which, among those of many others, have placed UNDRIP in the spotlight of our discussion today.
We also appreciate the best efforts of the Government of Canada, especially those of the Prime Minister, to make UNDRIP a priority in the context of Canada's reconciliation with the indigenous peoples. The Prime Minister, on many occasions, has reiterated this commitment, and especially with his concise statement that “the Government of Canada is committed to a renewed relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.” We take these words to heart and believe that Bill C-262 embodies and gives life to these words.
When the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, the Hon. Carolyn Bennett, delivered a speech at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on April 25, 2017, she too made that statement.
In direct response to the declaration, the Prime Minister has mandated the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to chair a working group to review all federal laws and policies related to indigenous peoples to reverse the colonial paternalistic approaches. This is about breathing life into section 35 of Canada's Constitution, which formally entrenches the rights of indigenous peoples in Canadian law, and yet which, for far too long, has not been lived up to.
IRC is here today to support these proposals and sentiments and to formally express our support for Bill C-262 and the Prime Minister's responses to UNDRIP, including an internal legal review, and the adoption and implementation of Bill C-262 with its main goal of developing and implementing a national action plan.
Bill C-262 is a new approach to first nations issues. When enacted into law it will advance the process of Canada's framework for reconciliation. IRC recognizes that this federal legislation is needed to reject the colonial structures that continue to oppress the indigenous peoples of this land and to replace these structures with new frameworks that are based on reconciliation.
Further, IRC wants to state clearly that any new legislation must be consistent with Canada's duties and roles, which include fiduciary duties and the historical trust obligations of the crown with respect to first nations lands and resources.
The metaphor of braiding international, domestic, and indigenous laws is relevant to many indigenous traditions in Canada, as stated by some indigenous academics and professionals. The braiding of sweetgrass indicates strength and the drawing together of power and healing. A braid is a single object consisting of many fibres and separate strands. It does not gain its strength from any single fibre that runs its entire length, but from the many fibres woven together. Imagining a process of braiding together strands of constitutional, international, and indigenous law allows one to see the possibilities of reconciliation from different angles and perspectives, and thereby to begin to reimagine what a nation-to-nation relationship, justly encompassing these different legal traditions, might mean.
This is a fitting metaphor for what is contemplated by Bill C-262. It has been 10 years since UNDRIP was adopted by the United Nations on September 13, 2007. It is the right time for Canada to end the debate. Pass and enact Bill C-262.
As highlighted in the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues document, the UNDRIP confirms the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination and recognizes subsistence rights to lands, territories, and resources. The IRC submits that first nation oil and gas producers and other first nations with the potential to produce oil and gas want to achieve self-determination by asserting their jurisdiction, and want their subsistence rights to lands, territories, and resources recognized in Canadian law.
Bill C-262 purports to provide such assurance. Our organization has been an active participant in developing oil and gas legislation that impacts first nations across Canada. It is our intention to develop our own institutional structures that will shift control of oil and gas from Canada and IOGC. This would be a true exercise of sovereignty and self-determination, as contemplated by UNDRIP and Bill C-262.
In 2005, IRC appeared as a witness before the Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Northern Development for its study of Bill C-54, FNOGMMA. In 2009, we appeared again at the standing committee for its study of Bill C-5, An Act to Amend the Indian Oil and Gas Act. In 2009, IRC appeared as a witness before the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples for its study on that same bill, Bill C-5. Presently, in 2018, IRC continues to do joint work with INAC and IOGC.
If this committee decides to proceed with Bill C-262, IRC is willing to share our experience and offer to work jointly with INAC to develop a national action plan to achieve the objectives of UNDRIP, and ensure that the fiduciary and historical trust obligations for first nation lands and resources are protected. Self-determination and indigenous sovereignty can be implemented in practice by UNDRIP through the implementation of free, prior, and informed consent. Critics of free, prior, and informed consent are concerned about the definition of this concept. Some have equated it to a veto. We at IRC have no such apprehensions. We know that we have rights and title to our land. Canadians courts, including the Supreme Court, did not create these rights; they merely confirmed the existence of these rights. UNDRIP did the same thing by confirming our rights, which existed long before we were colonized.
Free, prior, and informed consent is a tool that can be used to ensure respectful and meaningful consultation with indigenous people whenever and wherever their rights are being impacted. It is another tool for reconciliation.
[Witness speaks in Cree]