United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act

An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Sponsor

Romeo Saganash  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of May 31, 2018

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-262.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment requires the Government of Canada to take all measures necessary to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

May 30, 2018 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-262, An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Feb. 7, 2018 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-262, An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2018 / 5:30 p.m.
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NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, thank you.

[Member spoke in Cree]

I remember very clearly when, in September 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It was such an important moment in the history of the United Nations, and also in the history of 400 million indigenous people throughout more than 70 countries. Today, I would suggest, is an equally important moment for this Parliament, for indigenous peoples, and indeed for all Canadians in this country.

I say all Canadians, because Canadians stand for justice when it comes to the rights of indigenous peoples in this country. I say indeed for all Canadians, because Canadians believe in the human rights of the first peoples of this land. Canadians believe in and want reconciliation with indigenous peoples in this country. I am certain that no one in this place is against justice. No MP is opposed to reconciliation, and all want the human rights of indigenous peoples to be upheld at all times. That is part of our duty as parliamentarians in this place. There cannot be reconciliation in the absence of justice. Let us be clear about that as well.

I am honoured once again to rise in the House to speak about these issues and questions that I hold dear to my heart. I would like to start by briefly talking about the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the human rights that this international human rights document enshrines.

Although it has been more than a decade since the UN General Assembly adopted the declaration, this human rights instrument is still not well known. It is the most comprehensive international human rights document that deals specifically with the rights of indigenous peoples: their political rights, their economic rights, their cultural rights, their environmental rights, and I would even add their spiritual rights. Bill C-262 proposes all of that.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the most comprehensive, as I said, but I think it is also worthwhile reminding this place that it has been reaffirmed by consensus at the UN General Assembly eight times since its adoption. In December 2010, the United States, which was one of the last remaining countries that had initially opposed the declaration, confirmed its endorsement for the declaration. Therefore, since December 2010, no state in the world formally objects to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

I would remind members that the UN declaration is the longest-discussed and longest-negotiated human rights instrument in the history of the United Nations. Two decades is a long time for countries to have discussed, negotiated, expressed their concerns, and proposed drafting for the contents of this declaration.

I also want to remind members that Canada finally endorsed the UN declaration in November 2010. I will read what Stephen Harper said when he confirmed the government's endorsement. Mr. Harper said:

We are now confident that Canada can interpret the principles expressed in the Declaration in a manner that is consistent with our Constitution and legal framework.

I know my speaking time is running out, and I want to give other members a chance to speak on this matter. However, I want to remind the House that Bill C-262 actually fulfills two major calls to action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in its report, namely calls to action 43 and 44.

Call to action 43 calls upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation. If we truly believe in reconciliation, we must use that declaration as the framework.

I also want to remind the House that the rights enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples are inherent, meaning they supersede all other documents. They exist because we exist today as indigenous peoples.

Bill C-262 is probably the most important bill Parliament has considered in a long time. We will get to vote on this bill as of tomorrow. “If you believe in reconciliation, what are you doing about it?” That is the question I asked all summer when I was speaking to Canadians across the country, from east to west and all the way up north.

“What are you doing about it?” That is the question I asked Canadians throughout the country, both indigenous and non-indigenous. They all want justice for indigenous peoples. Every Canadian wants reconciliation. Every Canadian believes in the human rights of the first peoples of this country.

When I was travelling across Canada, many Canadians asked me questions about this declaration. Once they understood it, Canadians wanted the framework for reconciliation to be based on this document, which took two decades to negotiate and to be drafted. That is why I am saying that Canadians want reconciliation. They believe in the importance of justice for Canada's indigenous peoples. It is 2018 and they believe that it is finally time to recognize that indigenous rights are also human rights. A country such as Canada must support the rights enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Bill C-262 is a bill of reconciliation. All parties in the House have expressed their support for the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its 94 calls to action. This bill proposes to implement two of the most important calls to action of the report. That is what Bill C-262 attempts to do, and that is what all parties also wanted to accomplish with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2018 / 5:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to once again speak to Bill C-262.

My friend elaborated on the reasons we need Bill C-262 passed here today. It is probably the most important human rights document we will debate in this Parliament.

We almost have a consensus among Canadians that this is an important issue and something we need to embrace, but one party has not fully embraced it, and it would appear that it is not going to support this legislation.

I would like to ask my friend what he feels this moment presents to all of us in this Parliament as part of the process of reconciliation. What would he ask the Conservative Party to do in this important moment as we try to reset our history in a positive way and in the right direction?

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2018 / 5:40 p.m.
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NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is important to mention again, as I did during my presentation, that the previous Conservative government finally endorsed the declaration in November 2010. I read the quote into the record. It is important to remind ourselves that this is where we are.

The second point I want to make is that I wrote to the leader of the Conservative Party last week pleading with him personally for his party to support Bill C-262.

It is important to do it, because documents like the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples forge proper relationships and partnerships among governments and indigenous peoples. We can look at the history of northern Quebec, for instance, since we signed the first modern treaty in this country in 1975. Some 80 additional agreements have been signed since then. This is what happens when we recognize the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples. That leads to reconciliation, and that leads to proper partnerships with indigenous peoples.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2018 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, it was over a year ago that the current Liberal government proclaimed at the UN that it would implement the UN declaration. I have a two-part question for my colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou.

The fact that Bill C-262 has not passed has not constrained the government from acting. Would my colleague say that Bill C-69, the decision on excluding first nations from being part of the Columbia River Treaty negotiations, and the decision today on Kinder Morgan are consistent with what the Liberals committed to on the UN declaration a year and a half ago, or are these actions inconsistent with what they stated they would be doing?

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2018 / 5:45 p.m.
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NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, on my colleague's first point, Bill C-262 would confirm that the UN declaration is a human rights instrument that has application in Canadian law. It would confirm that the declaration already applies in Canadian law. It is important to remind members of that fact. Bill C-262 only confirms its application in Canadian law already.

That being said, a lot of what we do in this place in terms of legislation must be consistent with a lot of things. It must be consistent with the Constitution, and section 35 in particular. It must be consistent with the rulings of the Supreme Court that have been handed down since 1982. Every piece of legislation needs to be consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

One of the pieces of legislation, I believe it was Bill C-69 my colleague mentioned, references the UN declaration, but only in the preamble. It belongs in the text of the legislation as well. It is important to do that.

If we claim that we have adopted and implemented the UN declaration, we need to be consistent in that claim, absolutely.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2018 / 5:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise once again to speak to Bill C-262 on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I want to acknowledge that we are gathered here on traditional Algonquin land.

I would like to begin by thanking my good friend, and the sponsor of the bill, the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, for his lifelong commitment to ensuring that indigenous rights are upheld as human rights.

For the last several months, the indigenous affairs committee has been studying the bill. We have heard from a number of different organizations. In fact, we had 11 meetings to discuss the bill, and we heard from over 70 witnesses. All of them outlined the different aspects of UNDRIP, the 46 different articles, that make up the declaration. In those hearings, we were able to hear from experts, who called on us, as Parliament, to enact this legislation. UNDRIP has become a very important call to action for many governments where there are indigenous peoples.

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Over the last 70 years, while we professed as countries to enact human rights legislation, it is fairly clear that we failed with respect to indigenous peoples. In 1982 we had the advent of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that allowed for a number of court cases to advance the rights of indigenous peoples. In the last 20 years, as my good friend opposite has outlined, we were able to engage in a multilateral forum and come together with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Regrettably, our government at that time did not sign on to the UN declaration. Notwithstanding that, much work was done in Canada by many members of civil society, many parliamentarians, and many academics to ensure that UNDRIP would be part of Canadian law.

My friend talked about going across the country and consulting. Last fall, our committee, the Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs, travelled across the country. Witnesses all spoke of the need for UNDRIP to be part of Canadian law. I am glad that late last year, we agreed to support Bill C-262. I am very proud to say that we are able to speak to this today to ensure that it becomes law.

This is not a one-off. It is part of a broader conversation and a broader set of commitments our government has undertaken. There is a committee of ministers reviewing legislation with respect to its effect on indigenous peoples. We also have a broader framework on the recognition of rights, which was announced earlier. That will become legislation, as indicated by our Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations today, and part of Canadian law. This broader framework includes, as a central piece, the work of our friend opposite and Bill C-262 becoming Canadian law.

I want to outline a couple of very important issues with respect to this particular legislation. It has 46 articles, and it essentially defines the minimum standards for the survival, dignity, and well-being of indigenous peoples in the world.

It is part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action numbers 43 and 44. I am glad to say that we are here today and that a historic vote will take place tomorrow to once and for all enshrine this in law.

Before I finish, I want to call the attention of the House to one matter, and that is having a national consensus. I believe that this is the moment in our history, the moment in our world today, when we can actually come together on something fundamentally important to Canadians and to indigenous peoples, which is reconciliation. Bill C-262 is an essential component of that. I would implore our friends in the Conservative Party, who have done the right thing on a number of fronts in the past several months, most notably with their vote on the opposition day motion brought by the NDP with respect to an apology from the church, to repeat that this time around to make sure that we continue on this path toward reconciliation so that indigenous people know that we are together on this. This is not a Liberal issue or an NDP issue. It is a Canadian issue. For us to do that, it is very important that the Conservative Party support this. I implore the members opposite to reflect on that and support the vote tomorrow.

Once again, I would like to thank my good friend from James Bay.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2018 / 5:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to rise today to speak to Bill C-262 at third reading. Again, I want to acknowledge the tremendous effort of the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou in bringing forward the bill and the important discussion it has generated around the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

During second reading debate, we presented a number of very specific and practical concerns. Unfortunately, in spite of further analysis at committee and detailed testimony, I continue to have reservations about the implications of enacting Bill C-262. It needs to be said first and foremost that our not supporting the bill does not mean we do not recognize the UN declaration as an incredibly important document for Canada. We recognize that it is going to require an effort from whoever is in government to live up to the standards it has set for all of us. However, we do also need to ensure that our support or non-support for any individual piece of legislation is based on a reasonable examination of the potential implications of the bill

Lawyers from Cassels Brock noted:

UNDRIP is a blunt instrument, developed in an international setting, that is not reflective of Canada’s world-leading legal protections for Indigenous rights; Canada is the only nation with an established system for limiting unilateral state action against Indigenous peoples. By simply adopting UNDRIP in its entirety into the Canadian context, Bill C-262 misconstrues Canada’s existing and sophisticated Indigenous rights regime and, by adding new uncertainties, risks hindering the pursuit of reconciliation.

They went on to say:

While UNDRIP reflects critical elements of Indigenous rights through a lens of human rights, it was designed as a global benchmark and guide, rather than a specific legal instrument to be directly implemented as law. The fact that UNDRIP is a declaration and not a convention makes this clear. Conventions are binding agreements intended to be a reflection of international law and to be incorporated into national laws. Declarations, in contrast, are statements of generally agreed-upon standards which are not themselves legally binding.

Their concerns are not inconsistent with the comments by the justice minister in 2016, when she said:

Simplistic approaches such as adopting the United Nations declaration as being Canadian law are unworkable and, respectfully, a political distraction to undertaking the hard work actually required to implement it back home in communities.

Clearly, she has changed her mind, but has given no explanation how something that was previously unworkable and a distraction is suddenly workable. To be frank, when the Justice officials came before us at committee, they really did not offer any further clarity as to how those comments align with the current government position.

The following areas are some of the concerns that are unresolved and, unfortunately, time is only going to allow me to highlight a few.

As noted by one witness, there seem to be three main interpretations of what free, prior, and informed consent means. To be frank, this was consistent with other testimony at committee, because when we asked people what it means, we were given a number of different definitions. One of the ways they described it was that it is not enough to seek free, prior, and informed consent, but enough that you try without actually obtaining it. I might suggest that the Kinder Morgan is a good example of where the government tried to get free, prior, and informed consent, but did not obtain it and moved ahead anyway.

A second interpretation states that it is “really about the type of process required and that it's possible to move away from talking about consent as long as one has the right type of consensus-oriented process.” I guess that is the free, prior, and informed, but no consent, model.

Finally there are many, especially among the first nation communities, who feel it is grounding rights in something analogous to vetoes, or the right to say yes and the right to say no. That has been heard time and time again by many communities. Certainly, Pam Palmater expressed very clearly in what alternate universe does consent not mean the right to say yes, the right to say no, or potentially veto.

I would suggest that prior to moving forward with a piece of legislation like this, the government needs to make sure that it has an agreed upon interpretation of FPIC with indigenous people so that we do not have the confusion that is out there right now. Again, I can use the Kinder Morgan example, where there are many communities saying that they have not given free, prior, and informed consent, and that the government is going forward anyway and not being consistent with the declaration. Not having that understanding will lead to certain problems down the road.

It was indicated by the proponent of the bill that FPIC, and again we are looking at a multi-jurisdictional project going over much traditional territory, means free, prior, and informed consent from every community that would be impacted. That is absolutely going to be a challenge down the road.

Article 19 of UNDRIP speaks of the need for FPIC for all laws of general application. In a country such as Canada, how would it be feasible to consult and try to obtain consent from Métis, Inuit, and all first nations for essentially every bill tabled in Parliament? Clearly, almost every bill tabled in Parliament has an impact under article 19. I am concerned that this would lead to paralysis and an inability by government to move forward on its agenda and commitment.

Marie-Claude Landry, chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, identified the very important question of who would have access to these rights if this legislation is passed. With the recent Daniels and Descheneaux decisions and the ongoing Bill S-3 consultations, the issue of indigenous identity is increasingly complex and must be resolved.

In addition, Dwight Newman, professor of law and Canada research chair in indigenous rights, identified a number of drafting concerns and internal inconsistencies that would create significant challenges if Bill C-262 were adopted. This leads me back to second reading debate and one of my original suggestions based on the point made by witnesses that this is a quasi-constitutional piece of legislation. Certainly, I think everyone in this House should agree that a quasi-constitutional piece of legislation deserves the scrutiny a government bill would generate, a government bill that we would get to question the minister about its nuances, and that we would have a much more robust opportunity to have debate and back-and-forth on, as opposed to a very constrained debate.

Accordingly, we not only have important unanswered questions, but also legitimate drafting concerns that were expressed during committee hearings. That said, I want to acknowledge that this bill is incredibly important. It is also symbolic, as we have heard tonight, and some have identified it as an absolutely essential component of reconciliation.

For others who have expressed concerns, they have attempted to engage in a nuanced and serious discussion, but have certainly been met with condemnation. The following are just a few examples. One witness suggested that any objections to voting for this bill were simply based on a colonialist attitude of the people who would not vote for it. A Liberal member said privately that if someone did not support this bill, they were just racist. I found that incredibly insulting.

A number of witnesses were unwilling to testify, feeling that any concerns expressed would simply be construed as being unsupportive of reconciliation. When debate is constrained, so is democracy. The debate among citizens and with political leaders is crucial to building consensus. I do not think we want this place to always be an echo chamber if we really have significant concerns about what a bill would do.

I want to note that in May 2016, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations stated at the UN that the government fully intended to adopt and work to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. However, as my question indicated earlier, I would suggest there are many examples of where the government has not actually stood up to that standard.

In conclusion, international declarations are important to guide legislation and policy, but must be interpreted in the context of a country's existing legal framework, as opposed to adapting laws to the blunt instrument of a generic declaration. The real work of reconciliation is going to happen, of course, in our communities where we live, work, and play. We do, I believe, have the will and the momentum.

Thus, in spite of the fact that we will not support Bill C-262, we do support and are committed to moving forward with reconciliation.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2018 / 6:05 p.m.
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NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am incredibly honoured to rise in support of Bill C-262 and the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou.

Much has already been said about this bill, but as we embark on the third and final reading, I would like to pay tribute to the sponsor of this bill. At the age of seven, he was among 27 Cree children taken from their homes and their families to attend residential school in La Tuque. He remained there for 10 years. After leaving residential school and returning to his home community, he attended a meeting on the negotiations between the Cree and government officials on constitutional and resource rights, which sparked his interest in pursuing a law degree. He attended law school at L'Université du Québec à Montréal, and in 1989 became the first Cree to receive a law degree in Quebec. This was the beginning of a life's work representing and advancing the human rights and well-being of the Cree people.

Most notably, given the bill and debate today, 30 years ago the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou was invited to the United Nations to negotiate the declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. It is humbling to sit alongside such a distinguished member of this House and an honour to call him a colleague.

The rights of indigenous peoples is what this bill is about. It provides a legislative framework to ensure that no government going forward can deny basic human rights to the first peoples of Canada. Article 1 of the UN Declaration states:

Indigenous peoples have the right to the full enjoyment, as a collective or as individuals, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognized in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights law.

Indigenous peoples in Canada live in a world where their basic human rights have to be affirmed distinctly in international treaties and declarations. These basic rights and freedoms are taken for granted and afforded and enjoyed by non-indigenous Canadians, with few exceptions.

Just last week, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the right to vote being conferred on women—some women anyway, namely, white, middle-class, propertied women. The right to vote was not granted to indigenous people by the Canadian government until 1960. The laws of Canada are not in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and despite section 35 of our Constitution that recognizes and affirms indigenous rights, the government has not recognized those rights. Instead, government after government have forced indigenous peoples into lengthy, expensive court battles to have their constitutional rights respected and acted upon. The legacy of colonization and the denial of rights to indigenous peoples is alive and well.

Canada was an active participant in drafting the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples over a period of two decades, and as I mentioned earlier, the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou played an important role in the drafting. Despite that work, Canada opted to oppose the adoption of the declaration in 2007.

On May 10, 2016, at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs stated:

Today we are addressing Canada’s position on the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I am here to announce on behalf of Canada that we are now a full supporter of the declaration, without qualification.

In November of last year, the Minister of Justice announced that the government would support Bill C-262, and noted that the bill acknowledges the application of the UN declaration in Canada and calls for the alignment of the laws of Canada with the UN declaration. This, indeed, was welcome news because we cannot move forward and take our place among honourable nations if we do not acknowledge our past and work to make the future a complete repudiation of our past treatment of indigenous peoples.

The Truth and Reconciliation Committee has called upon the federal government, among others, to “fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.” The TRC has included the UN declaration in its 16 calls to action. Indigenous peoples have been waiting for a long time for the collective rights of aboriginal peoples living in Canada, including inherent rights to traditional lands and territories, self-determination, and recognition of culture and language. They are still waiting for equal treatment under the law. They continue to wait for clean water; equitable funding for education, social services, and health care; decent housing; and communities free of mercury, PCBs, and pesticides, and of tuberculosis and dysentery.

The indigenous peoples of Canada must not be an afterthought, treated as second-class citizens in law and policy or in practice.

I would like to close with a quote from Douglas White, councillor and chief negotiator for the Snuneymuxw First Nation:

UNDRIP is important because it is a comprehensive framework of recognition and reconciliation—a paradigm we have no domestic tradition of in Canada. Our future must be built on putting in place new foundations—including in legislation and policy. Bill C-262 starts that process and builds that new path, and we all should support it.

Meegwetch.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2018 / 6:10 p.m.
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Independent

Hunter Tootoo Independent Nunavut, NU

[Member spoke in Inuktitut]

[English]

Mr. Speaker, to preface, I do not plan to take up too much time. I want to speak briefly to the great importance of this bill for Canada and for its indigenous people.

I would like to start by thanking the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for bringing the bill forward, and I am truly honoured to have the opportunity to speak to it.

As an indigenous member of the House and this Parliament, the bill is truly special to me.

I think we all know that indigenous people of the country have historically suffered far too many traumas and injustices as a direct result of colonization. Over the past 150 years, Canada's indigenous people have lost much of their identity and culture, a loss that has left many struggling to find their place within the country. As a result, we see a huge disparity between indigenous and non-indigenous people, in particular, poverty, incarceration, health care, housing, access to clean water, and in their overall quality of life. Sadly, this is just the start of a long list of others.

I believe that the adoption of the bill would be a strong first step in helping to right these wrongs, to close this gap going forward.

The bill would fulfill one of the very important calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It calls on the federal government to use the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation. In doing so, the federal government is required to exercise a more contemporary approach when engaging with indigenous people, an approach that is rooted in respect for indigenous rights and equality. This is exactly what indigenous people of the country need.

I have stated many times in the House that Nunavummiut experience third world living conditions in a first world country. Sadly, this is a fact, and the statistics to support this statement are there. Nunavut has the highest rate of food insecurity in the country, with nearly 70% of homes being food insecure. There is currently a housing crisis where nearly 40% of Nunavummiut are in need of suitable safe housing. This is not to mention the highest rate of suicide and the lowest graduation rates in the country. Something needs to change.

Therefore, yes, I agree that we do need a new approach on how the Government of Canada engages with indigenous people and this bill represents a good step toward reconciliation in addressing the current disparity.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2018 / 6:10 p.m.
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NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I had the great honour of meeting modern-day pilgrims coming from the faith communities across Canada, young people, people well into their eighties who had been walking for days. Members of the Mennonite Church and young activists were expressing themselves through their church in a way that I had never seen before.

The cause they had taken up, in the spirit of the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, was to urge the government and Parliament to adopt Bill C-262, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It was such a beautiful marrying of faith, activism, and commitment to improving the country, to indigenous reconciliation, and to our parliamentary process. To see protest signs with a bill number on them is not something we see every day. It was the bill that was advanced by my New Democrat colleague, the member of Parliament for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou.

I am so honoured to have been greeted by that final pilgrimage coming into Ottawa. I am also grateful to be at the service of the people of Nanaimo—Ladysmith in Coast Salish territory, representing that riding at this time in Parliament, because this is a historic day.

My colleague said so powerfully in his opening statement this afternoon that there was no reconciliation in the absence of justice. He reminded us that UNDRIP had been reaffirmed eight times by the United Nations, by consensus. He reminded us that no state in the world opposed UNDRIP, and that even the Harper Conservatives in 2010 acceded to UNDRIP. Therefore, it is well past the time.

The framework for UNDRIP is the framework for reconciliation for Canada. It was used by Justice Sinclair in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as the framework for the report. In turn, Bill C-262 responds directly to the calls to action in the TRC report, specifically calls to action 43 and 44.

I am reminded of the words of my friend and colleague from Snuneymuxw, a former Snuneymuxw chief, Doug White III. Kwul’a’sul’tun is his Coast Salish name, his Hul'q'umin'um' name. He said:

...to those of us personally and intimately engaged in the struggle for justice for Indigenous peoples, one can sense that while the work remains fierce and intense, there is momentum building toward potential breakthroughs.

He further stated:

Canadians are far more aware of our history of colonialism, and the required work of reconciliation. I am hopeful that in 2018, Canadians will not succumb to voices that are intent on looking backward and maintaining what has been. The reality of what has been for Indigenous peoples is nothing to be preserved.

He urges specifically the endorsement of UNDRIP, and my colleague's bill, Bill C-262.

I asked this Parliament if we need this bill, given the government has acceded to the UN treaty. I say we do.

UNDRIP article 18 calls on governments to recognize that indigenous people have the right to participate in decision-making in matters that would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures. Yet the government has approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline and its attendant oil tanker traffic running through the waters of the Salish Sea, through the riding I represent.

The hypocrisy of the government in saying that it believes that communities should control their own destiny, that it believes in the nation-to-nation relationship and then run roughshod over democracy and those promises tells us that we need the bill and we need to legislate a commitment to UNDRIP. Despite articles 21 and 22, which specifically point to the ending of violence against women and children and the particular role of indigenous women in our democracy, the government passed Bill S-3. It specifically chose to enshrine the continuation of discrimination against the rights of some indigenous women in the Indian Act over the urging and the voices of the six women, known as the Famous Six, who had fought for 40 years in the Supreme Court. We fully expected the government, given its feminist agenda and its commitment to a nation-to-nation relationship, to do better.

We do need this legislation. I am so honoured to serve with the member. The spirit he is offering to our country, especially given his own family's personal history with residential schools, is an extremely generous gift.

I urge the House in its entirety to vote together in consensus to move our country forward.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2018 / 6:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for bringing the bill forward and also for helping the students at John McCrae Public School in Guelph to get some textbooks into his riding. We did a switch between our trucks and it was greatly appreciated.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which completed its work in 2015, included UNDRIP in its 94 calls to action. As has been mentioned, the 43rd call to action challenges federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for reconciliation. The hon. member has done extensive work on that.

Thankfully, this government has already taken action to fulfill the call to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the principles in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Article 13 states that indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize and transmit their culture to future generations, including language. This is why the government set aside $69 million to significantly enhance the aboriginal languages initiative. This funding will help develop learning materials, fund language classes, culture camps, and archiving.

Article 14 of the declaration states that indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems. To accomplish this goal our government has set aside $2.6 billion over five years for primary and secondary education on reserve.

According to article 24 of the declaration, indigenous peoples have the right to access, without any discrimination, all social and health services. Canada has shown tremendous leadership and recognized a right to housing, allotting $40 billion to provide housing for all Canadians.

Stable living conditions must also include access to clean water. Since November 2015, 62 long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserve have been lifted. We still have 76 in effect. Our government has committed to ending boil water advisories by March 2021, and progress can be seen online at Canada.ca/water-on-reserve.

We welcome the bill coming forward. I fully support the work of the hon. member and the goals to which this private member's bill aspires.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2018 / 6:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

[Member spoke in Cree]

[English]

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased of the work the people of Winnipeg Centre did in getting the bill here today. People from across Canada had a profound impact on the bill and seeing it get to third reading.

Last summer, Steve Heinrichs met me on the streets of my riding and asked what I thought about UNDRIP, especially Bill C-262. I told him that I supported it, naturally of course. His next question was whether the government supported it. I told him that I had no idea what the government's position was or would be, but that I was willing to work to see the bill passed. I wanted it passed.

Steve Heinrichs set up one of the most interesting meetings of my short political career. It was a meeting full of passion and debate with the MP for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou. It was not a conclusive meeting. The principal question that we looked at was how to move forward and see this passed into Canadian law.

After this meeting, Steve set up additional meetings. Later he said that the most important words he had ever heard in a very long time, and it is to the true Christian and Mennonite tradition, “It's about relationships. It's about relationships”.

As a result of the encouragement of citizens of Winnipeg Centre, I support UNDRIP and Bill C-262. I would support the bill no matter if it were from the opposition or from the government.

Citizens from Winnipeg Centre met me at Thom Bargen's coffee house. The met me at my meet and greet. They also met me at the Feast Cafe Bistro on Ellice, at my riding office, and finally at a press conference announcing public support of the citizens of Winnipeg Centre. What great work they did.

I would like to thank the CPT (Indigenous Peoples Solidarity), Leah Gazan, Steve Heinrichs, Chuck Wright, Erin Froese, Kathy Moorhead Thiessen, and all the participants of the indigenous rights walk from Kitchener to Ottawa.

The main thrust of the bill is extremely important. It has many clauses. It affirms the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a universal international human rights instrument with application in Canadian law. It states that it must work in consultation with indigenous peoples and take all measures necessary to ensure Canadian laws are consistent with UNDRIP, that the Government of Canada must, in consultation and co-operation with indigenous peoples, develop and implement a national action plan to achieve the objectives of UNDRIP, and that the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada must report annually to the House for 20 years on the implementation of these measures and on the national action plan.

There are many more things that could be said, but we really want to see the legislation put into law. I am looking forward to hearing the final words from my colleague the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou.

God bless Canada for getting this done.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

May 29th, 2018 / 6:25 p.m.
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NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I can pick up where my colleague from Winnipeg Centre left off.

First, I believe that human rights should not be a partisan issue in this place, because human rights are human rights. It is unfortunate that one party has expressed its opposition to this bill, but I respect its right to do so.

Second, I want to raise a point that I wanted to mention in my presentation but I ran out of time. I want to express my thanks to the many indigenous and non-indigenous organizations and communities across this country that have supported and endorsed Bill C-262 through resolution.

I would particularly like to thank the mayor of Val-d'Or, Pierre Corbeil, and his council. Val-d'Or was the first non-indigenous city in the country to adopt a resolution in support of Bill C-262 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I also want to thank the people of Val-d'Or.

The member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo rightly pointed out that declarations are not the same as international conventions or treaties, which are binding.

She is right in raising that point, but she forgets to mention that international declarations, such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, do have legal effect, and our courts can refer to declarations when interpreting domestic law in our country. That is an important point we cannot forget.

I remember the days when the Constitution of 1982 was discussed and finally patriated in our country. No one knew at that time what aboriginal rights were, and we did not ask the government at that time to clarify what aboriginal rights were in this country. We adopted the Constitution of 1982, and it was up to the courts to interpret the concept of aboriginal rights.

In those years, when aboriginal rights and treaty rights were enshrined in the Constitution, there were fears expressed by many opponents. However, the good news is that the sky did not fall, and it is going to be the same with the human rights of indigenous peoples. It is important to recognize that.

It has been said that it took 150 years to get into this mess. This is the 151st year of this country. Why not take this major fundamental step in the right direction? This is what Bill C-262 is proposing to do.

Finally, I want to mention one thing that I have said in this place before. My colleague from Saskatchewan referred to the fact that I was sent to residential school. I spent 10 years in residential school. I should have been mad the rest of my life because of that, because it was not my choice to go to residential school. I was forced to do so. However, when I came out of residential school, I set out to reconcile with the people who put me away. Bill C-262 is all about that reconciliation.

Mr. Speaker, this is my extended hand to you and, through you, to all members of this place and to all Canadians across the country. The 151st year of this country is a momentous occasion for us in this place, and for all Canadians, to do the right thing when it comes to the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

February 5th, 2018 / 11:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be in the House today to talk about Bill C-262. At the outset, I would like to thank the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for his passion and his lifelong work to advance the causes of indigenous peoples, both in his riding and across the country. He is a passionate defender of indigenous rights. He is a passionate defender of indigenous languages. He is a survivor of the residential school system.

It was a pleasure to work with the member when I was the parliamentary secretary to the minister of aboriginal affairs in the last Parliament. We had discussions about this. He brought forward a similar bill calling on the Government of Canada to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canadian law. At the time, when I spoke to his bill, I said:

It must be said at the outset that our government is dedicated to protecting aboriginal rights in Canada. Indeed, Canada already boasts a unique and robust legal framework through which aboriginal rights are protected....

More than just lip service, we have enshrined the rights of aboriginal peoples in our Constitution, one of the only countries in the world to do so. As my hon. colleagues will know, aboriginal and treaty rights are recognized and affirmed in section 35 of the Constitution Act and reaffirmed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Moreover, our government has also issued a statement of support for the principles of the very document at the core of this bill, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which are consistent with our own commitment to continue working in partnership with aboriginal peoples to improve the well-being of aboriginal Canadians.

However, we have also been clear from the outset that while we support the general principles behind the declaration, there are several portions of the document with which our government has grave concerns, and we have articulated those concerns clearly to Canadians and to the international community, particularly as they relate to the concept of free, prior, and informed consent....

That really is at the crux of this debate. Can the concept of free, prior, and informed consent reconcile with section 35 of the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Can we reconcile free, prior, and informed consent with the Canadian concept, which has been developed by Canadian legislatures, by Canadian Parliaments, by negotiations, and through jurisprudence, of the duty to consult and accommodate where necessary? Can the two be reconciled, or would the implementation of UNDRIP and FPIC, as they are called, supersede the work that has been done over the last 15 years especially, by the courts, by government, to create the duty to consult and accommodate? That is still a concept that is under constant refinement. It is one that is uniquely Canadian, and it responds to the unique circumstances Canadians have, which include section 35. We are one of the only countries in the world that specifically outlines indigenous rights and has them enshrined in our Constitution.

There is grave concern that if we were to simply adopt the United Nations convention how it would interact with our laws. That is why our previous government supported the goals and the underlying principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People but said that it was an aspirational document that should serve as a guide, not as a legal text.

That is a significant difference between the vision of the NDP and the current government. The government has now indicated that it will support the bill, which says that the Government of Canada must adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and make Canadian laws compliant with it.

One of the issues the member took with my speech and my position in the last Parliament was the subject of whether free, prior, and informed consent constituted a veto.

There are specific articles of the United Nations declaration that speak to natural resource development, for instance, on traditional territories. The member took great offence when I indicated that this would constitute a veto for indigenous communities, but I am not the only who has said that. Dr. Pam Palmater, an indigenous activist and commentator, said very clearly in a CBC interview:

We have...a legal right to free and informed and prior consent.... First Nations aren't asking for anything. First Nations have the right to free, informed and prior consent. That right is guaranteed in law and in effect that is a veto. First Nations say no on their territory, that means no. And [the Prime Minister] said very clearly that no means no when talking to First Nations. His job is to try to find ways in which to go forward with a yes to make sure that...the environment is protected and the economy goes forward, but not one at the expense of the other.

On February 8, 2017, under the headline “[The Prime Minister] has forgotten his promises to Indigenous Canadians”, she went on to say:

During the 2015 election campaign, [the Prime Minister] told First Nations that if we elected him, he would absolutely respect our legal right to veto any development on our territories. And yet his government has approved two major pipelines.

We have no choice but to challenge the Canadian government over its pipeline plans, and continue to fight.

Clearly, there are some indigenous scholars who believe that simply agreeing to the principles of UNDRIP means that a right to veto has already been granted to indigenous communities. Clearly, more work needs to be done. We cannot simply rush into a process where there is no agreement on what these articles mean and how they would be applied in Canadian law.

I want to quote Frank Iacobucci, the former Supreme Court justice, who said:

An important tenet of UNDRIP is the consultation of indigenous peoples “in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent.” Future legislation, government policy and judicial interpretations will determine whether these principles differ significantly from Canada's existing jurisprudence on the duty to consult.

Regardless, the principles of free, prior and informed consent and the existing duty to consult share the same goal: to protect Indigenous peoples, remedy historical disadvantage and provide a foundation for a more respectful and mutually beneficial relationship.

Clearly, that is the goal of all parliamentarians. We want to find a way to make our laws and system work better for all indigenous communities in Canada. We want to make sure that they see the benefits of responsible resource development. We have certainly seen cases where the government has had no concern for the indigenous communities that support natural resource development. On the Eagle Spirit Energy pipeline, for instance, they were not consulted at all on the issue of the tanker moratorium in northern British Columbia. The northern gateway pipeline was cancelled without consulting indigenous communities that stood to benefit by a $2-billion equity share in that project. There is not even agreement yet in Canada as to which group would grant free, prior, and informed consent, the new concept that has been envisioned in UNDRIP.

We all want to move together toward reconciliation. Conservatives have made efforts on that. It was the Conservative government that launched the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. However, the Conservatives believe that we should respect Canadian law, Canadian jurisprudence, and the duty to consult and accommodate. We believe that this bill goes down a path of uncertainty that would create greater uncertainty in Canada, which would not lead to reconciliation. It would lead to greater fear and discord. We believe that we need to work together to come up with a Canadian solution to this issue and not simply adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We need to work together, using the tools available in our Constitution and in our courts.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActPrivate Members' Business

February 5th, 2018 / 11:10 a.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I wish at the outset to recognize the testimony of over 6,000 Canadians before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the many who have advocated for the enactment of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

I particularly wish to pay tribute to my colleague, the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, for his dedication and persistence in both the creation of the UNDRIP and its affirmation in Canadian law.

It is truly an honour and a privilege to speak in support of Bill C-262, an act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The bill was tabled by the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, the NDP critic for reconciliation. It affirms the UNDRIP as a universal international human rights instrument with application in Canadian law. It requires that the government take all necessary measures to ensure that Canadian laws are consistent with the declaration and to do so in consultation and co-operation with indigenous peoples in Canada. It also requires, through that same inclusive process, an action plan to achieve those objectives.

As early as 2006, former NDP leader Jack Layton expressed our party's support for the UNDRIP, saying that it was our belief in social justice and equality that led us to support the declaration. Related bills and motions were introduced during past Parliaments by former NDP MP Denise Savoie and the member for London—Fanshawe. In the previous Parliament, a bill similar to Bill C-262 was tabled by the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, but it was defeated at second reading by 17 votes.

This declaration was overwhelmingly adopted by the members of the UN General Assembly in September 2007, following more than 25 years of deliberation and debate. This process included decades of dedicated work by a number of esteemed Canadian indigenous leaders, among them the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou and Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, esteemed commissioner of the TRC.

As my colleague has shared, this milestone in the enshrining of human rights was the first time that rights-holder indigenous peoples had been given a central role in the creation of a global rights instrument. The declaration affirms the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination across every matter touching their lives. It underlines the prohibition against discrimination and genocide in international law.

Bill C-262 would enshrine the UNDRIP into Canadian law. It is important to note that voting in favour of a UN declaration is just the first step in showing commitment as a nation. A next critical step is the enactment of a law to affirm those principles in law, and then an action plan must be developed and delivered to actually implement the principles. By way of example, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity was enshrined in Canadian law through the Species at Risk Act. However, the struggle continues to ensure that the rights and benefits accorded under separate treaties are also observed in implementing that law.

It may be noted that the Federal Court held that a previous federal minister of the environment had erred in law by failing to consider the rights accorded to indigenous peoples, under treaty, for the recovery of woodland caribou. Sadly, little has changed, necessitating continued intervention by the courts and UN agencies. Indigenous leaders will be closely examining the coming bills regulating environmental assessment, major energy projects, fisheries, and navigable waters to verify that they are made consistent with the UNDRIP.

We were encouraged that the current Liberal government has moved beyond the position of the previous Conservative government that the UNDRIP is merely “an aspirational document”. In May 2016, then minister of indigenous and northern affairs announced her government's full support of the declaration, without qualification. However, confusion remained due to continued qualifiers for that support and a continuing refusal to enact the declaration in federal law.

The final breakthrough came in November last year, when the Minister of Justice publicly announced:

our government will support Bill C- 262. The bill acknowledges the application of the UN declaration in Canada and calls for the alignment of the laws of Canada with the UN declaration.

In enacting the UNDRIP in Canadian law, what will the Liberal government be committing to deliver? The declaration contains 46 articles specifying the rights to be accorded to indigenous peoples to affirm self-determination and an end to discrimination and genocide. It provides a detailed framework for justice and reconciliation.

Bill C-262 is consistent with the TRC call that any legislation be developed in consultation and collaboration with aboriginal peoples.

It is also important to recall the commitment made by the Prime Minister to deliver on all 94 of the calls to action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Calls to action nos. 43 to 52 specifically call on the “federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.”

Bill C-262 mirrors the TRC call for a national action plan, measures to ensure consistency between the UNDRIP and all federal laws, and government accountability through annual state of aboriginal peoples reports outlining plans to advance reconciliation. By this promise, the Government of Canada has therefore committed to “develop a national action plan, strategies and other concrete measures” to achieve the UNDRIP goals, including to enact legislation to establish a national council for reconciliation.

The TRC, in its interim report, recommended that all governments use the UNDRIP as the framework for reconciliation in Canada. The council, now established, is led by former TRC Commissioner, now Treaty No. 6 Grand Chief, Wilton Littlechild. As he recently reminded me, the declaration also clearly calls on all states to honour and respect the treaties and other agreements entered into with indigenous peoples.

In closing, I wish to share a message that Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild shared with me, which he recently delivered to the leaders of treaties nos. 1 to 11. He stated, “As with the eagle that represents first nations, one wing of the eagle represents the treaties we signed in good faith. The other wing represents the UNDRIP. It requires both wings to lift up and enable indigenous peoples so they may soar. Forty years ago indigenous leaders came together because their treaties were being violated and disrespected. They worked together to develop and seek global commitment to the UNDRIP to ensure that these treaties are respected.”

By supporting Bill C-262, we can provide the assurance that the UNDRIP will finally be enacted into law. However, we must remain vigilant in ensuring expedited action in delivering on those rights. Promises to respect land rights, rights to self-governance, access to safe drinking water, comparable education and services, and language and culture can no longer be considered adequate if delivered eventually.

As the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou has said, “The UN Declaration is a powerful assertion by Indigenous peoples that we have survived, that we will survive, and that we insist on fair and just treatment by governments and communities. The implementation of the UN Declaration...could be a world-changing development.”