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 Oct. 23, 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.”

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

February 5th, 2018 / 11:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on the unceded and unsurrendered land of the Algonquin people to speak to 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.

I want to first thank my dear friend from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for his leadership in bringing forward Bill C-262. When we travelled together across the country for our work on the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs Committee, we heard a great deal from many indigenous communities and leaders expressing support for the bill, and, in particular, Canada's acceptance of UNDRIP.

I want to thank and acknowledge our indigenous caucus, our Ministers of Justice, Crown-Indigenous Relations, and Indigenous Services, as well as their parliamentary secretaries.

For me, the starting point of this debate is the mere fact that many of our laws are not in line with, or respectful of, or even acknowledge indigenous peoples. As we concluded our 150th anniversary of Confederation, we had the opportunity to take stock of where we are and what this federation means to us. For many of us, Canada is a work in progress and full of paradoxes. Settlers to this land, including me and my family, have benefited from this land, its natural resources, and its laws. These laws have protected me, and in fact have given me safety and refuge. Millions of others, since the 1600s, share this experience.

Concurrently, and in the simplest of terms, these laws continue to limit the rights of our indigenous brothers and sisters, and in many cases continue to oppress them. In fact, the Indian Act, passed in 1876, remains one of the most regressive, racist, and colonial pieces of legislation in Canada's history, and I would dare say in world history. While many advances have taken place in the area of human rights, the regressive legislation and practices that hold our indigenous peoples back, in virtually every barometer of social development, are unacceptable.

On December 10, 2018, we will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, yet during the first 35 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, very little progress has taken place relating to indigenous rights in Canada. The Constitution Act, 1982 enshrined section 35 rights for our first nations, Inuit, and Métis people. Asserting these rights over the past 35 years has led to some modest advances through a highly litigious process that has resulted in incremental changes.

Due to the work of so many indigenous leaders from Canada, including Chief Willie Littlechild, our friend from Abitibi—James Bay, and others, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the UN in 2007. Regrettably, the previous government failed to adopt it.

In 2016, our government accepted UNDRIP and, last spring, our Minister of Crown Indigenous Relations, along with many of our colleagues, went to the United Nations in New York on the 10th anniversary of UNDRIP to assert the unconditional support of the Canadian government for the declaration.

These pronouncements have been coupled with the following steps undertaken by our government: one, establishing the working group of ministers on the review of laws and policies and operations practices related to indigenous peoples; two, adopting and publicly releasing the 10 principles respecting the Government of Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples; three, creating three permanent, distinctions-based policy forums with the Assembly of First Nations, ITK, and the Métis National Council and its governing members; four, adopting new strategies for resolving disputes that prioritize negotiation over litigation; five, pursuing environmental assessment and indigenous languages legislative initiatives; and, six, establishing over 50 recognition of rights and self-determination tables.

These have been important and necessary steps toward reshaping how government engages and partners with indigenous peoples. That being said, our commitment to indigenous peoples will not be measured by individual steps taken but rather by a continuous and persistent effort to advancing reconciliation in a way that is transformative. As such, our government intends to build on these initial steps and continue down a path that will see relations shift based on the recognition of indigenous rights and self-determination.

The implementation of the UN declaration is an important part of this work. Bill C-262 calls for consistency between the standards set out in the UN declaration and federal laws, as well as a national action plan and reporting mechanisms to ensure its implementation. This is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action no. 43, which calls upon our government to implement the UN declaration as a framework for reconciliation. Both call on our government to enact measures to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples and to ensure indigenous communities are able to thrive, socially, economically, and culturally. That is what reconciliation means.

As a starting point, our government understands that reconciliation is not possible without recognition. Indeed, recognition must occur before reconciliation can truly begin to manifest itself in the lives of indigenous peoples, and all Canadians, and in their relationships. This is why the fundamental next step is to address the legacy of denial that lies at the heart of federal laws and policies, and to replace it with the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples.

When we speak of recognition and implementation of rights, including historic and modern treaties, we mean what indigenous peoples have always meant by these terms, that rights are inherent, that they are grounded in the reality that indigenous peoples had systems of government and laws, and that they owned and used the lands which make up Canada prior to the arrival of Europeans.

The lack of recognition of rights and the patterns of relations based on denial of these rights have contributed to the unacceptable socio-economic indicators for indigenous peoples that were so starkly outlined by the Minister of Indigenous Services, in January, during the important emergency meeting on first nations, Inuit and Métis nation child and family services among governments, indigenous leaders and experts. These include life expectancy up to 15 years shorter for indigenous peoples than the rest of the population, infant mortality rates that are two to three times higher for first nations and Inuit, overdose deaths in Alberta and B.C. up to three times higher for first nations people, and Inuit tuberculosis rates that are 270 times higher than the rest of the population.

Implementing a framework for the recognition of rights is fundamental to closing the socio-economic gap; alleviating poverty; ending the scourge of youth suicide; building healthier families, communities, and nations; and ensuring that all generations of indigenous children to come will live in ever-increasing conditions of well-being, prosperity, and opportunity.

It is imperative that we, as a country, have a long overdue conversation about the recognition and implementation of indigenous rights, not only because of our constitutional obligation to recognize those rights, but because the social and economic gaps that continue to exist between indigenous and non-indigenous communities are a matter of national shame. Now is the time for action.

Both turning the tide and shifting our laws, policies, and operational practices to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples will require a range of measures, including legislative measures such as those set out in Bill C-262 as well as many more steps to come. This is entirely consistent with article 38 of the UN declaration, which recognizes that implementation requires governments to take a range of appropriate measures, including legislative ones, in consultation and co-operation with indigenous peoples to achieve the ends for this declaration.

For this reason, in addition to supporting Bill C-262, our government will continue to work with indigenous peoples to bring forward further legislative and policy shifts that effect a change to relations based on recognition and implementation of rights.

Indigenous peoples and their leaders and communities must necessarily be a part of effecting this shift. It is important to acknowledge that indigenous peoples have long advocated for the recognition of their rights here in Canada and internationally. Our government's commitment to renewing its relationship with indigenous peoples calls on us to hear and act on those calls at last.

We look forward to continuing our mutual co-operation and partnership. As I have stated, the many actions taken thus far do not represent the completion of our commitment but rather the start of an evolving and continued commitment to true reconciliation.

We are in the midst of an opportunity to build on current efforts, gather momentum, and to accelerate progress towards a better, more effective relationship. As the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou noted when Bill C-262 was discussed in this place in December, the work required to achieve objectives like reconciliation and the recognition of rights can only be achieved “if we all work together”.

Our government must and will be a leader in these efforts, as well as every first nation, Inuit, and Métis community and organization, and indeed all Canadians, including youth, women, and elders.

We look forward to continuing this important work in collaboration and co-operation with our colleagues, indigenous peoples, and all Canadians.

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

February 5th, 2018 / 11:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for bringing forward this private member's bill, Bill C-262. I would also like to acknowledge the important contribution to the discussion on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Before addressing the private member's bill, I would like to echo the observation made by my colleague from Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo. It is worth repeating today: “Section 35 of our Constitution and Canada's existing laws has in the past, and will in the future, ensure that indigenous rights are protected in Canada.” That is a profound statement.

Today, I want to add my voice to the debate on this important piece of legislation.

Bill C-262 is important to Canada as a whole, and it is vital that we get this right. My hesitation on this stems from the fact that it is a private member's bill and as such will not be subject to the same scrutiny and debate that a government-sponsored bill would be subject to.

I would like to read from the UN website a question and answer that will prove my point. Here is the question: “What is the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?” Here is the answer:

The Declaration is a comprehensive statement addressing the rights of indigenous peoples. It was drafted and formally debated for over twenty years prior to being adopted on 29 June 2006 during the inaugural session of the Human Rights Council. The document emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations.

It is obvious that the member states recognized that this was an important declaration to be made and debated for over 20 years. Here we are, in a country that is directly affected, and we cannot afford the time to question the minister herself on the legislation, not to mention the experts. As a member of the indigenous and northern affairs committee, I want the opportunity to ask questions and to get straightforward and complete answers to my questions.

Let me give the members an example. In her address to 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 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I'm here to announce, on behalf of Canada, that we are now a full supporter of the Declaration without qualification....

By adopting and implementing the Declaration...we are breathing life into Section 35 and recognizing it now as a full box of rights for Indigenous peoples in Canada.

I represent the riding of Saskatoon—Grasswood in Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan is home to a vast population of indigenous peoples, both on and off reserve. I want to know from the minister what this full box of rights would look like. I want to know if the indigenous community viewed the box at the same level of fullness as the minister did.

Here is another question. If it took over 20 years for the 193 United Nations member states to debate and finally adopt this declaration, is it not incumbent upon all of us 338 Canadian legislators to fully understand any and all possible outcomes of adopting the legislation that we are being asked to vote on?

Yet another question comes to mind. In her address to the Assembly of First Nations on July 12, 2016, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada called the adoption of UNDRIP into Canadian law “unworkable”.

She went on to say:

...a cut-and-paste approach to making UNDRIP compatible with domestic laws [is] an overly simplistic and untenable method of protecting indigenous rights in Canada.

However, the following year, on July 25, 2017, in my province of Saskatchewan, in the capital city of Regina, the minister addressed the same group and said:

as many of you know, over the years I have attended the AFN AGA [Annual General Assembly] in various capacities: with my father as his daughter, as a treaty commissioner, as an elected councillor of my Indian Act band, as the Regional Chief of British Columbia, and in the last couple of years as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

There is no doubt that the minister is very experienced, very well educated, and a very informed member of cabinet.

She went on to say:

Of course, if proper relations had occurred at the time of Canada’s founding, the first 150 years of Canada’s history would have been markedly different. So, the challenge now, knowing the past and learning from it, is to make sure that today, for the next 150 years and beyond, we give life to a new and transformed era of Indigenous-Crown relations.

Further on she states:

This is why in February our Prime Minister formed a working group of federal ministers to review laws, policies and operational practices to ensure that the Government of Canada is fulfilling its constitutional obligations and implementing its international human rights commitments, including the United Nations Declaration.

I was very pleased to have been asked to chair this working group. Never before has a federal government created a body of ministers with this unique flexibility and scope of action on a whole-of-government basis.

There we have the question. On July 12, 2016, the adoption of UNDRIP into Canadian law was simply “unworkable” for the minister. Then, a year later, on July 25, 2017, she was very pleased to be asked to chair the working group reviewing the laws, policies, and operational practices to ensure that we are fulfilling our UNDRIP commitments.

What monumental change took place in that year to make this workable? I would like a chance to ask her that. In fact, I am sure all of us in this place would like to ask her that.

When the minister appeared at the indigenous and northern affairs committee meeting on November 30, 2017, in her response to a question from my colleague, the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, she said:

I think we have been very clear that free, prior, and informed consent is not a veto. It means you have to work very hard at the earliest part of a project to try to work together to find an outcome that is mutually acceptable. That is the way indigenous groups are seeing themselves in the project.

How do we know that? It may be that the current national chief does not see this as veto power, as she suggests. What about the next national chief? Is it our responsibility to have issues such as that debated and clarified before this becomes law?

Finally, in the midst of all these unanswered questions about UNDRIP, we have the dismantling of the very department responsible for indigenous affairs in this country and the so-called creation now of two departments, one to be responsible for indigenous services and another for relations with the aboriginal communities in Canada. I find it very disturbing that the government would go ahead and create this turmoil while supporting this legislation that could have far-reaching ramifications for the future of this country.

I have serious reservations about the many unanswered questions and the prospect that they will continue to be unanswered until it is too late and all Canadians, indigenous or not, are left with what the Liberals think is best for us, with absolutely no regard for input on this issue.

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

February 5th, 2018 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, since this is my first time to rise this session, I want to say how pleased I am to have the new role as deputy whip. It is an honour to continue my work on behalf of the great people of North Island—Powell River in this place.

In December, I was meant to be here to do my speech with the amazing member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou. Sadly, I had to rush home to be with my mother, who had a stroke. I apologize to the member for missing his important speech and thank him for his kindness during a very difficult time for me and my family. As my mother slowly heals, it makes me reflect on how often many of us are here, away from home, and I hope that we all take time to appreciate the people who love us most.

When I was four, I was adopted after two years of my mother and I being part of my father's family. I did not find out I was adopted until I was almost nine. This is important today, because this is how I am able to say that my family is from Stellat'en First Nation, and my aunt is my hereditary chief, Hatix-kuwa, which means “peace within the frame of a house”. I am very honoured to be a part of my family and all the great and courageous work they do.

My granny, Minnie Mould, went to residential school from the time she was four until she was 16. The impact on our family has been powerful due to the abuse she suffered there. She has been gone for many years, but I can promise members that this is not a place where she would ever have thought one of her granddaughters would be speaking. There are days when I feel her spirit sigh with relief. She told me many times, “No complaining, we are still here.”

The very reason we are speaking to this bill today is that indigenous people are still here after many attempts to assimilate them. Today, we speak about how important this bill is, 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.

This bill would provide clarity. Across my riding of North Island—Powell River, communities and businesses are asking for clarity. They want to know how to move forward. They continuously ask me about this bill and ask for a secure definition of what nation to nation means.

This bill would move Canada in that direction by providing a legislative framework that would begin to harmonize Canadian laws with the UN declaration. To repeal the Indian Act means that we need a new legislative framework.

On April 12, 2016, the Minister of Justice stated in the House of Commons:

It is not easy to remove the shackles of 140 years of life under the Indian Act....

[T]he Indian Act is not a suitable system of government. It is not consistent with the rights enshrined in our Constitution, the principles as set out in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, or the calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.

As Canada moves toward repealing the Indian Act, we require a new framework. In my riding, Tla'amin recently signed a treaty. It was a difficult process with a very close vote that was hard on the community in many ways. However, there was a very clear celebration, where the community members burned the Indian Act because it no longer applies to them. In a supportive movement of reconciliation, the wider community was invited and attended the ceremony.

The reality is that reconciliation is happening on the ground in many communities across Canada. I know of many in my riding. It is well past time that the federal government get on this pathway by passing this bill.

There are concerns. The biggest one I have heard is about the idea of indigenous communities having the power of veto.

Grand Chief Ed John said it best:

The bad thing about the media and those who don't support the declaration is, “How could those Indians have a veto?”

I think there's a misconstruction of the concept of free, prior, and informed consent. The better interpretation of free, prior, and informed consent.... Consent at the end of the day is a decision that's made after a process, so governments go through a process to come to some decision. First nations' governments are in that same place. First nations' governments will look at information ahead of time. They should be free from any coercion. It should be prior to decisions being made. There should be extensive consideration. It may require an environmental assessment process or some other process that would help inform the decision-making process.

Free, prior, and informed consent essentially, at its core, is about governments making decisions. When the Province of British Columbia, the provinces, the national government, the territorial governments, or municipal governments are making decisions, that's what they're doing.

This bill is not about giving away power; it is about making sure that everyone is at the table. Currently, in my riding, a very long-term issue has been gaining momentum as several indigenous communities have begun occupying fish farms. This has been a very divisive issue for many years. I want to be clear. There are some indigenous communities that support fish farms and some that do not. Within the communities themselves, there are people working for fish farms and some who are occupying them. The concerned indigenous communities have been asking for a process of consultation. The federal government has not shown up. Just last week, there were discussions between indigenous communities and the provincial government. The federal government was invited, specifically the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, but he did not show up. In fact, two DFO staff showed up, but no one from the minister's office.

My hope is that the government will take seriously the commitment of Bill C-262 and make sure everyone is at the table so the best decisions can be made. In my riding, workers and indigenous communities are filled with uncertainty, and this is not good for anyone. I hope to see the government respect the rights of indigenous leaders so that they have a voice on what happens in their territories and are part of the decision-making process.

Across my riding, the process of a nation-to-nation relationship is in action. A couple of summers ago, I went to Tahsis for a flag-raising ceremony. The communities of Gold River, Tahsis, and Mowachaht/Muchalaht signed an MOU on how to work together. The flag-raising was to add the Mowachaht/Muchalaht flag along with the Canadian, provincial, and town flags. The knowledge that they are all in this together has become a cornerstone of their economic and social decision-making.

These are not the only communities that have signed agreements. Tla'amin and Powell River, K'ómoks and the Town of Comox, the Village of Alert Bay and 'Namgis are but a few of the examples across the riding. They know that together they can work for the betterment of all of their people. Like my granny always said, “We are in this together”.

Last summer, I had the honour to participate in a discussion with a high school, the teachers and care people, in my riding on the issues of reconciliation. Many non-indigenous teachers asked how they can help when they are so worried they will cause harm without intending to, beautifully honest questions from people who really care. What we came to was simply this. We have to be honest about what we know and what we do not know. A safe place must be created for conversation and guidance from elders is a must. This is reconciliation in action.

A couple of weeks ago, a young indigenous man aged 19 committed suicide successfully in one of our communities. The impact has been painful, to say the least. We know in too many indigenous communities across Canada, we are losing our young people. Many of these communities are calling for help. This bill would increase the attention on the realities that too many indigenous communities face. These are the ongoing impacts of colonialism and with this bill, we would see a legislative framework that would begin to take into account the realities of intergenerational trauma, severe impoverishment, epidemics of suicide, impairment of mental and physical health, and the profound loss of hope, and they should receive the attention they so richly deserve. We are all in this together and it is time to face the history of Canada, to let go of blame and shame, and finally focus on working on healing. Our children deserve it and they can no longer wait.

Paulo Freire said, “Any situation in which some [individuals] prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence. The means used are not important; to alienate [human beings] from their own decision-making is to change them into objects.” For too long, indigenous communities across the country have been treated like objects that do not deserve the right to engage in the process of decision-making. This bill is a step toward reconciliation, a step in moving from words to action.

I must say that there is just so much that Canada and this place can learn from indigenous communities. In my riding, I have been approached my many people, indigenous and non-indigenous, asking if we could not work together here to change the culture of this place. Would it not be better if rather than yelling at one another, we spoke to one another, listened, and made decisions that were more balanced? I hope this bill leads us in that very direction.

I believe that reconciliation is also about learning from the first peoples of this land. There is much to learn.

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

February 5th, 2018 / 11:50 a.m.
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NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, UNDRIP, was adopted by the UN General Assembly more than a decade ago, on September 13, 2007. This declaration enshrines the rights that “constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.”

Passing and enacting Bill C-262 is a critical step for the government to take in order to fulfill its promise to implement all of the calls for action made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The TRC refers to the UN declaration as “the framework for reconciliation”, and the declaration is included in 16 calls for action. Bill C-262 provides a legislative framework for implementing the UN declaration, and would affirm its central significance in the process of national reconciliation efforts. Its implementation would highlight the necessity of harmonizing federal laws so that they are consistent with the UN declaration. It would affirm that the declaration has legal application in Canada.

Bill C-262 calls for a national action plan to be created in collaboration with the federal government and indigenous representatives to set a pathway for matters of implementation. I would argue that, most importantly, it calls for a yearly report on how progress is being made.

At its heart, Bill C-262 would provide the foundation to move the UN declaration from an aspirational document to an actionable one with accountability measures. The importance of that simply cannot be understated. For far too long, successive governments have made aspirational statement after aspirational statement. However, as we know, there has been a long succession of promises made and promises broken by successive governments. We have all heard that the current government will be different, that it will treat indigenous people fairly, that it will stop the discrimination, that it will address the intergenerational impacts of trauma, and that it will restore the important nation-to-nation relationship. Tragically, too many times, these statements have rung hollow and have not been met with action.

As we know, there are numerous examples of systemic discrimination and inaction to address ongoing historical wrongdoings perpetrated against indigenous peoples. To be clear, as of October 31, 2017, there were still 100 long-term drinking water advisories for first nations communities. Just imagine that it is not safe for them to drink their water. There are an additional 47 communities with short-term advisories. A disproportionate number of indigenous people are homeless. We just heard from my colleague, who talked about teen suicide. This was a crisis in this House when we discussed this issue, yet the crisis continues.

Instead of providing funding for these incredibly important initiatives, the government instead did things like spend $110,000 in court fees fighting against a young first nation girl to block the payment of a $6,000 orthodontic treatment. It is these actions and inactions that highlight the systemic discrimination that is ongoing against indigenous peoples in Canada, and highlights the importance of passing Bill C-262 and taking further action to follow through on the TRC calls for action.

At the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, the hon. Senator Murray Sinclair, formerly Justice Murray Sinclair, the chair of the TRC, stated his support for Bill C-262. He also provided valuable insight into the systemic racism that indigenous peoples and others in Canada face when he stated:

...systemic racism is the racism that's left over after you get rid of the racists. Once you get rid of the racists within the justice system, for example, you will still have...rules, procedures, guidelines, precedents, and laws that are inherently discriminatory and racist because those laws, policies, procedures, processes, and beliefs—including beliefs that direct individuals on how and when to exercise their discretion—come from a history of the common law, which comes from a different culture, a different way of thinking.

Passing Bill C-262, alongside the UN declaration and the TRC's calls for action, will finally lead to real action being taken to address that leftover racism.

Another supporter of Bill C-262 who appeared at the committee was Dr. Cindy Blackstock. Dr. Blackstock is a fierce and unstoppable champion for the rights of first nations children in Canada. She spoke to the chronic and discriminatory underfunding of first nations child welfare in Canada. She noted that, not 10 years ago, not during the sixties scoop, not during the height of the residential school system, but today, there are more first nations children in care than at any other time in our history.

She further spoke to the chronic and simply unacceptable underfunding of first nations education. She made it quite clear when she said:

For those who say it's too expensive or too complicated, I ask you this: if we are so broke as a nation that the only way we can fund things like arenas or subway systems is through racial discrimination against children, then what are the children losing to? What does this country really stand for?

For those who ask what the adoption of Bill C-262 will look like, Bill C-262 lays the groundwork to fundamentally examine and act on our aspirations to end this systemic discrimination. It is not an end point, but it lays a path to reach one.

Let us get to work and stop asking why we have to do this.

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

February 5th, 2018 / 11:55 a.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, meegwetch.

[Member spoke in Cree]

[Translation]

I wanted to start by expressing my gratitude. I would like to thank all of the members who have spoken about this very important bill, even those who expressed concerns about it. I appreciate their comments. I am looking forward to taking a very close look at this bill in committee because I think some of the questions and concerns people raised are worth discussing.

I know I only have five minutes, but there are a couple of things that are important to talk about in reply.

It was said that the UN declaration is an aspirational document. I have heard that before and I heard it again today. I want to respond to that. I also heard that the UN declaration is going to create some uncertainty in this country. I want to respond to that as well. Let me remind members that Bill C-262 is the first piece of legislation in the country that explicitly rejects colonialism. If we are going to move on to reconciliation, then we have to reject colonialism. It cannot continue within that framework in this country.

This is what former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said about the declaration:

The Declaration is a visionary step towards addressing the human rights of indigenous peoples...and provides a momentous opportunity for States and indigenous peoples to strengthen their relationships, promote reconciliation and ensure that the past is not repeated.

The other thing I heard in this place today is that Bill C-262 might be incompatible with our Constitution as it stands today. Back in 2008, in response to that very same claim, over 100 experts, law professors, international human rights experts, and scholars said:

The Declaration provides a principled framework that promises a vision of justice and reconciliation. In our considered opinion, it is consistent with the Canadian Constitution and Charter and is profoundly important for fulfilling their promise.

It is important to remind people of that very fact. It is important to remind people that it is not appropriate to try to read provisions of the declaration in isolation. When we talk about prior and informed consent, we have to read those provisions alongside the other provisions. There are 46 provisions in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and we have to combine them.

Paragraph 3 of article 46 of the UN declaration states:

The provisions set forth in this Declaration shall be interpreted in accordance with the principles of justice, democracy, respect for human rights, equality, non-discrimination, good governance and good faith.

I think one of the reasons that article was drafted in that way is that we need to balance the rights that are enshrined for indigenous peoples contained in the UN declaration with the rights of others. That is important to remember when considering the UN declaration.

I thank all the members who stood up to speak to the bill. I look forward to the work in committee on the bill.

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

December 5th, 2017 / 5:45 p.m.
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NDP

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

moved that 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, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

[Member spoke in Cree]

[English]

Mr. Speaker, I just thanked the Anishinaabe for allowing us to be in this place at this moment. We often forget that there are families who lived on this territory before Parliament Hill was established and that is the Pinaceae family. I want to thank them for allowing us to be on their territory, and we always need to recognize that fact.

I want to say from the outset how privileged I feel to be able to stand in this place and talk about the fundamental rights of the first peoples of this country. I say privileged because there are a lot of indigenous people in this country who do not have that voice, so I am privileged to be able to stand in this room and speak on their behalf so that they can be heard as well. My mom only speaks Cree, and I do not think she would be able to be a member of Parliament because of that very fact. She only speaks Cree, and this place does not allow us to be able to do that. Therefore, I want to honour those people who are not often often heard and are not often listened to.

It is also quite fitting that this bill is being debated on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Confederation. We are now beginning to discuss the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples as human rights. That does not happen a lot, very rarely as a matter of fact, so it is important that we remind ourselves that the indigenous peoples' fundamental rights in this country are indeed human rights.

Bill C-262 would also allow us to begin to redress the past wrongs, the past injustices that were inflicted on indigenous people. This is the main objective of Bill C-262, to recognize that on one hand they are human rights but on the other hand that we begin to redress the past injustices that were inflicted on the first peoples of this country.

Mr. Speaker, you already know that I am a survivor of the residential school system where I spent 10 years incarcerated culturally, politically, linguistically, spiritually even, in the residential school system. I set out to do exactly two things coming out of residential school: first, to go back to the land where I come from and live off the land, hunting, fishing, and trapping. That is exactly what I did the first year I came out of residential school. The other thing I said to myself was that when I came out the objective for me that I set out was to reconcile with the people who had put me away for 10 years. That was my objective, to reconcile with the people who had put me away for 10 years.

Bill C-262 is my response and my extended hand to you, Mr. Speaker, for reconciliation and, of course, through you to all Canadians and to all parliamentarians in this place.

There are momentous occasions and this is a momentous occasion for all of us as parliamentarians. One of the things that we can do in the name of reconciliation is to adopt this framework that I am proposing through Bill C-262. I do not need to remind members that the world is watching. This is an occasion for us all to show that we are truly sorry and the world that we in 2017, in this time of reconciliation with indigenous peoples, are ready for what I am proposing in the bill, namely, that our minimum standards for relations with the indigenous peoples of this country be those set out in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

I want to thank the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, and their colleagues for finally accepting that this should be a framework for reconciliation in this country. I also want to thank previous members of Parliament who have proposed similar instruments in this place, in particular two other MPs who have proposed similar bills here.

The UN declaration has been decades in the making. In fact, it took more than 20 years to achieve. It has been 10 years since the UN General Assembly formally accepted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. There is no member state in the world as we speak that objects to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In fact, the United Nations has reaffirmed at least five times in the past this declaration as a universal human rights declaration.

This is a momentous opportunity to set a global precedent that is expected of a country like Canada. It is the responsibility of parliamentarians, as the UN charter calls us to do, to respect and promote all human rights, including the human rights of indigenous peoples. The rule of law in this country obliges us to respect the Constitution, and in the Constitution there are the section 35 rights of indigenous peoples. That is what the rule of law is. It calls on us to respect and promote the universal rights of indigenous peoples.

I want to remind my fellow members that with Bill C-262, we are not creating new law or new rights. Those rights are fundamental and they exist. They are inherent. They exist because we exist as indigenous people.

In that sense, it is important to recognize that we need to continue to promote, and we have an obligation as a country to promote, those fundamental rights.

Bill C-262 also does away with colonialism in this country, very explicitly. We have explicit ties with our territories. We have spiritual ties with our territories. We need to recognize that once and for all.

Bill C-262 is about human rights. Bill C-262 is about justice. Bill C-262 is about reconciliation. If we are true to our commitment to reconciliation, this is the first step in that direction. No one in this place, or in the galleries, opposes the human rights of indigenous peoples. No one in this place opposes human rights. No one in this place is opposed to reconciliation.

This is the way forward. This is a first step in the right direction. Let us stop talking about those rights and the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples of this country; let us do something about it. This is what we are proposing today.

I want to quote former secretary-general of the UN when, in talking about the declaration in 2008, he said that the declaration is “a visionary step towards addressing the human rights of Indigenous peoples”, and, he added, “a momentous opportunity for States and Indigenous peoples to strengthen their relationships, promote reconciliation and ensure that the past is not repeated.

It is important to realize that this is one of the most important pieces of legislation this House will have to deal with. We are talking about the first peoples of this country. We are talking about the fundamental human rights of the first peoples of this country. This is a step in the right direction.

In closing, I wish to underline that I am committed to, and am looking forward to, working with the ministers across the way on improving the rights of indigenous peoples. The work can only be fully achieved if we all work together. That is what I am proposing: the recognition that the rights must remain in the framework of international human rights standards.

I know my time is almost up, but I also want to quote what many have said in the past with respect to the UN declaration. The former attorney general of British Columbia had this to say recently about the UN declaration:

There's a better approach. As the Supreme Court of Canada has said now on several occasions, Indigenous peoples are the beneficial owners of their traditional lands. They have the right—guaranteed by our Constitution and reflected in UNDRIP....

I agree with that. That is the road we need to take from now on.

I appreciate this moment to discuss Bill C-262 to recognize those rights we have as the first peoples of this country. If we are serious about reconciliation in this country, we need to take that path of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We have waited far too long to get here. We are here now. This is an opportunity for this House to recognize that those universal rights that also belong to indigenous peoples need to be enshrined in our way of doing things in this country.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the many promoters of the bill. I call them the Steve Heinrichs of the country, and there are several of them in the gallery today. I want to thank them for their support. Without them, we would not be standing here talking about this today.

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

December 5th, 2017 / 6 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for a very powerful speech, and for talking about introducing the bill and the hand it is extending to all of us in reconciliation.

He talked about the fact that this is perhaps one of the most important pieces of legislation in the House, but I have a concern. As he knows, a private member's bill gets very limited debate. My question is, with having it come through the House as a private member's bill, where we do not get the opportunity to debate it in the way I think it should be debated, is that a concern for him?

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

December 5th, 2017 / 6 p.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague on the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs for that question. It is an important one. She understands a lot of these issues, and thus her important question.

I understand her concerns thoroughly. One of the things we could perhaps do is to send the bill to committee, so we can study it further with experts, and some of them are in the gallery today. We could answer some of the concerns the member has in regard to the UN declaration and the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples. I appreciate her raising that question.

For a lot of the concerns that both Her Majesty's official opposition and the government may have with respect to the fundamental human rights of indigenous peoples of the country, there a lot of experts who could come to committee and respond to those concerns. I could do it in the House. I have no problem doing that, but I think the bill deserves further study, if we are to answer a lot of the concerns that may be raised.

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

December 5th, 2017 / 6:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my friend for his lifetime of work on UNDRIP and bringing this forward today in the House. I also want to say what a privilege it is for us to have heard the speech. We are also blessed to be working with the hon. member on the indigenous affairs committee.

One of the things he indicated in his speech was that the bill would get rid of colonialism. I think it is safe to say that this is probably one step further in decolonizing our country, but we still have a long way to go. I want to ask the member if he feels that there is more that needs to be done, apart from this particular bill alone. Does the bill goes far enough to ensure that we implement and are in compliance with the principles of UNDRIP?

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

December 5th, 2017 / 6:05 p.m.
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NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, prior to answering the question, human rights should not be a partisan issue. Human rights are human rights. We are obliged, as a member state at the United Nations, to uphold at all times the human rights of all. That certainly includes indigenous peoples. Therefore, I do not consider my bill a partisan bill, but a matter of concern for all of us.

The bill was drafted in a way to at least provide the basis or framework for reconciliation in our country. If members carefully read call to action 43 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it calls on the Government of Canada, the provinces, the territories, and the municipalities to fully adopt and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation. Therefore, governments cannot say that they agree with the majority of the calls to action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but have a slight problem with calls to action 43 and 44. They are the fundamental and core calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This is the road and path we need to take as a country.

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

December 5th, 2017 / 6:05 p.m.
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Labrador Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

Yvonne Jones LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand here today as an Inuk woman in Canada and to be part of a government that has been clear that Canada is fully in support of the UN Declaration on the Rights of indigenous Peoples. As has been stated by our ministers and the Prime Minister, we are committed to its adoption and implementation in Canada. This means translating the standards set out in the declaration into effective change.

I want to reassure my colleague, the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, who asked a question earlier, that UNDRIP and its components in Bill C-262 are a priority for our government and that we fully intend to honour these priorities.

Bill C-262 bill proposes a process of dialogue and the development of an action plan aimed at ensuring consistency between federal law and the declaration. Such an approach would be consistent with other ongoing processes, including the review of laws, policies, operational practices, and the permanent bilateral mechanisms that are in place. It would also consistent with our government's commitment to advance the recognition and implementation of indigenous peoples' rights. As a result, we are pleased to support Bill C-262, while remaining committed to further action, in partnership with indigenous peoples.

To begin, I would like to acknowledge the member for Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik—Eeyou for his tremendous work not only in this Parliament, but also in recognizing and putting forward Bill C-262, as a supporter of the declaration of indigenous people in Canada.

I also want to recognize and congratulate many others who may have worked with our government to advance these goals. I saw one of our former chiefs, Chief Willie Littlechild, here today. He worked with the member of Parliament in making this a reality and on a united declaration. I know there are many others as well.

As our government has emphasized, it is time for a renewed nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples, one that is based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership. We see Bill C-262 as a good next step in the ongoing work of transforming the relationship with indigenous peoples. I think that is the vision my colleague held when he brought this bill forward to the House of Commons.

Bill C-262 would continue to build on the progress made by our government to date. We have already established 50 recognition of indigenous rights and and self-determination discussion tables across the country. We have created a permanent bilateral mechanism with a national indigenous organization. Further, we have established a working group of ministers to review federal laws, policies, and operational practices to ensure that they align with section 35 of our Constitution, as well as the UN declaration. That process is being led by our Minister of Justice, a first nations woman in Canada.

Also, as a government we released 10 principles with respect to the Government of Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples. The principles reflect the views expressed by indigenous peoples over generations, and reinforce the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, a document dating back more than 20 years that has not really been enacted in Canada.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action and UNDRIP, combined with all of these others, are certainly the groundwork that we needed to really advance our relationship with indigenous people in this country. These and other efforts are part of the government's approach in advancing reconciliation and improving the lives of indigenous people in Canada.

We really appreciate all of the people who have been involved, both indigenous and non-indigenous people in this country, in speaking out for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We heard today a passionate plea from my colleague opposite, a plea that was built on life experiences and came from the heart. That is what we have heard expressed by so many indigenous people across our country. We know that view is far-reaching and we also know what must be done to operationalize the United Nations declaration provisions in Canadian law. This includes pursuing comprehensive legislation and policy changes in partnership with first nations, Inuit, and Métis nations, in order to fully adopt and implement the declaration and meet the promise of section 35 of our Constitution.

A transformative shift in relations is required, and that is what we are doing. Relationships must be based on the recognition of rights and a shift that enables tangible change to the marginalization and disempowerment that have been experienced by indigenous people and communities for far too long. This shift cannot be achieved through just one piece of legislation alone.

For this reason, our government is working with indigenous people to bring forward further legislative and policy shifts that will be based on the recognition and implementation of rights. This may include new legislative standards for crown conduct based on recognition, mechanisms to support indigenous self-determination and the inherent right of self-government, and changes to core policies regarding indigenous people. I am sure that many of my colleagues in the House are, as I am today, happy to hear that the government is prepared to walk that line and bring forward the legislation that will be necessary to implement this declaration.

I think we can all agree that while the principles speak of the shift to recognition, they cannot operationalize this shift themselves. The same is true for the UN declaration. Words are not enough; action is needed. Therefore, we need to build a framework, in full partnership with indigenous people, that embeds recognition in all federal decisions, actions, and negotiations; that aligns federal laws with the UN declaration; and that creates mechanisms that have been supported by indigenous governments for a very long time. That includes transitioning out of the Indian Act.

In closing, I want to congratulate the member for bringing forward this motion today. We, on this side of the House, are proud to support this private member's bill and give him our guarantee that we are on this path together, all indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians, and we will do what is long past due in this country, which is to bring forward the right legislation and standards to ensure that self-determination and the inherent rights of indigenous people are respected in the lands that we all love.

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

December 5th, 2017 / 6:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for bringing forward his private member's bill, Bill C-262. I note his important contribution to the discussion on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I would also like to share my profound respect for my colleague and acknowledge the important work he has done over many years that has significantly impacted indigenous policy in this country.

Before addressing the private member's bill, I would like to make a general observation. Section 35 of our Constitution and Canada's existing laws has in the past, and will in the future, ensure that indigenous rights are protected in Canada. We only need to reflect on a number of historical court decisions to understand how section 35 is shaping these rights. From the 1999 Marshall decision that confirmed the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet treaty right to catch and sell fish, to the 2014 Tsilhqot'in decision that granted aboriginal title to more than 1,700 sq kilometres of territory, a first in Canadian law, it is clear that our understanding of indigenous rights is constantly evolving. Just last week, the Supreme Court of Canada rendered a decision regarding the Peel watershed, which upheld aboriginal land use rights protected in treaties.

It might be suggested that the gap or problem in Canada is not our legal framework, but our frequent failure to live up to the obligations and the honour of the crown.

The bill before us today seeks to implement the 46 articles in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as stated in the document, “a standard...to be pursued in a spirit of partnership and mutual respect”. All parties in the House acknowledge the need for reconciliation, a better shared future, and the importance of the declaration. The 46 articles are essential guiding principles for that journey.

I do have some unanswered questions regarding how this international document will transpose into a domestic framework. In my opinion, we need some clear answers before we can move forward on Bill C-262. Let me share some general and specific concerns that need to be addressed.

In the past, the Liberals have argued vehemently that any small changes to the Indian Act and the Labour Code must only be introduced as government legislation, where there is an opportunity for comprehensive reflection and not just a couple of hours of debate. I would suggest that the bill before us today has more far-reaching implications than the right to a secret ballot for union certification. For the Liberals to support an NDP private member's bill to implement UNDRIP and not put it forward as government-initiated legislation is unfathomable. The debate will not be afforded the due diligence that it requires and deserves. Even today, members might have noticed that we did not hear from the minister. We did not have an opportunity under private members' business to even question the minister. In my mind, that is a problem.

To get into more specifics, first and foremost was the statement by the Minister of Justice in 2016, and I quote, “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.”

The justice minister, unlike many of us who will be speaking to the bill, has access to all sorts of comprehensive briefings and advice. The minister would not have made that comment lightly, so it is critical for her to explain why she made the comment at that time, and how she now reconciles that with her recent commitment to support the bill. I would note that because it is private member's bill, we are very unlikely to get a chance to ask her that question.

On Thursday of last week, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations was at committee. At that time, we had the opportunity to ask a number of questions, and I want to provide a brief summary of that testimony.

Article 19 suggests that the government ensure free, prior, and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative measures that may affect them. When the minister was asked if that would apply to laws of general application or only laws that exclusively impact indigenous people, she clearly indicated that there would be a broader application. That brings us to a question of what future laws of broader application in this country would require free, prior, and informed consent, and how will that be determined in a country as diverse as Canada. How will that consent be given?

The national organizations acknowledge they are not rights holders, they are not the authorized decision-makers, and their mandate is advocacy. The indigenous community has indicated that it has to do a lot of work in terms of nation rebuilding. Therefore, what government structure or consultation framework would be put in place to actually engage in these consultations? To what degree would this commitment around the laws of general application fetter the government's ability to move forward? I will give some recent examples.

We certainly know that with Bill S-3, the government is committed to engaging in a consultation process. Clearly, that is not a general application law, but the government is going to have consultations with bands across the country. I have no idea how the government members are going to determine when they have concurrence and how long they are going to have to spend in a process where there will be human rights competing in terms of consent, and at the very dichotomy of the many consultations they will have to have. In that case it is first nations, but we also have the Métis and the Inuit.

The marijuana law is another example of broader application that is clearly going to have an impact in indigenous communities. Under our current framework, the government only engaged in a general consultation process. Would that bill be subject to article 19, and if so what would it do to the government's timelines and how are the Liberals going to move forward? The answer to that question is unknown, but it is important.

Today, we have been debating in the House Bill C-58, which is the privacy law. Again, we have a number of indigenous communities whose representatives have said that they have grave concerns. They have referenced the UN declaration in terms of their right to have input, and free, prior, and informed consent, but we have no system or process in terms of how we are going to move that forward. That is important work that needs to be done.

Where a lot of people have focused, the laws of general application are something we need to pay particular attention to, but there is also the issue of free, prior, and informed consent as it relates to the development of the natural resources. The minister has suggested it was not a veto and the position was supported by National Chief Bellegarde. However, he noted on three occasions that free, prior, and informed consent means the right to say yes and the right to say no. A number of lawyers have said the whole discussion is really a bit of semantics and whether it is veto or consent it has the same effect. Again, it leads to a question in law. What is the difference between “free, prior, and informed consent” and “consult and accommodate”, which is what we have in law right now? Certainly there is no question that the declaration proposes that change in our law and we need to simply know what that is going to mean because it is important. From what I have seen, the legal opinions out there are as varied as they possibly could be. As members might imagine, it leaves confusion in the minds of not only the indigenous communities but Canadians in general. We have some work to do in terms of developing a common understanding before we commit to an implementation into our legal framework.

Article 29 talks about the right to territories, lands, and resources. In British Columbia alone, that is 100% of the province. What are going to be the practical implications for perhaps the tourism operators in the Chilcotin or the ranchers who have depended on crown land, as these decisions get made? We have not talked about impacted third parties and how, as we correct the injustices of the past, we should not create a new injustice.

In conclusion, as members can see from my 10 minutes of speaking, there are a lot of important unanswered questions. My first concern is the fact that the government has committed to implementing this as a private member's bill where we are going to be limited in the debate and our opportunity to create a shared understanding. The shared understanding of all these concepts is going to be critical in terms of moving forward into success in the future for all.

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

December 5th, 2017 / 6:25 p.m.
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NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to rise today to support Bill C-262, which was introduced by my colleague and friend from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou.

The purpose of this bill is to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the place we now call Canada, we must take this opportunity to pursue genuine reconciliation with indigenous peoples. A good look at the living conditions of many of Canada's first nations might dampen our celebratory mood.

This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Drafted over a period of more than 20 years in collaboration with indigenous nations around the world, this living human rights instrument seeks to enhance harmonious relations between states and indigenous peoples.

Unfortunately, Canadian governments of the past 150 years have opposed the adoption of this declaration and its fundamental principles or have failed to take the necessary measures to implement it, a pattern that continues today.

I was very pleased to learn recently that there is some openness among certain members of this government, and I hope that we have enough support to finally implement this important declaration within our own legislative framework.

It is unacceptable and particularly shameful that a disconnect still persists between the official recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples and the implementation of policies that allow those rights to be fully implemented on the ground. It is high time that we did something, that we stopped talking and started acting, so that the first peoples of this country do not have to wait another second for their fundamental rights to be protected, respected, and recognized.

I sincerely thank my colleague and dear friend from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for playing such an important role in actively contributing to the drafting of this declaration. Above all, I congratulate him on having the courage and daring to introduce Bill C-262, giving us this historic opportunity to debate the fundamental rights of indigenous people here in the House of Commons.

The fight for indigenous rights is very near and dear to me. However, it is very frustrating that so much work remains to be done to ensure the survival, dignity, and well-being of indigenous peoples in Canada.

In 2012, as the official opposition housing critic, I went on an extensive Canada-wide tour to determine the extent of the housing crisis in our country. As long as I live, I will never forget the time I spent in the ridings of my colleagues from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou and Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River.

Thanks to them, I had the opportunity to meet with northern Inuit and Cree communities from Nunavik and members of the first nations of northern Saskatchewan. That is when theory became reality, and I grasped the scope of the indigenous housing problem in Canada.

I have a hard time understanding how the government can remain so idle on this file when we know that it is not uncommon, in indigenous communities, to see 15 family members living under one roof, with walls covered in mould, often with no access to potable water. They are living in conditions that we would never accept if those conditions were as widespread in the non-indigenous population.

What is more, the housing units they live in are not adapted to their traditional way of life or to the climate. This painful reality affects them deeply, but no targeted strategy was included in the national housing strategy that was announced less than two weeks ago.

Housing is not the only area in which they experience discrimination. As we speak, indigenous men, women and children are still subject to archaic, colonial, racist, discriminatory, and sexist laws. Indigenous peoples continue to be excluded and marginalized and to suffer serious violations of their fundamental rights.

Intergenerational trauma, the wave of suicides, and the deterioration of mental and physical health should receive the attention they deserve. I could go on and on, as there are many problems.

What is certain is that past and current colonialist measures and policies of governments and churches have resulted in the dispossession of their lands and resources, the shameful residential school system, and the cultural genocide brought on by the denial and destruction of indigenous languages and cultures.

It is now 2017, and our country claims to be in an era of reconciliation. If the time for reconciliation has truly arrived, if we are truly sincere, these actions must stop immediately.

It is imperative that we stop talking and start acting, because the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples are no longer negotiable. They are universal and should be treated accordingly.

Members will surely recall that last year, in call to action no. 43, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada called on the federal government “to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.”

In call to action no. 44, the commission called on the government to “develop a national action plan, strategies, and other concrete measures to achieve the goals of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

Today, Bill C-262 gives us an opportunity to reject our colonial past and to reverse the historical patterns and decisions that were imposed and that threatened the survival of many indigenous peoples. It gives us the opportunity to adopt a new approach based on justice, equality, respect for human rights, and good faith, an approach that should have been taken and recognized a long time ago.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples sets out a series of human rights and fundamental freedoms that indigenous peoples have the right to enjoy. Article 9 of the declaration specifically states that:

Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right to belong to an indigenous community or nation, in accordance with the traditions and customs of the community or nation concerned. No discrimination of any kind may arise from the exercise of such a right.

The days of forced assimilation and cultural genocide are over. Whether we are talking about education, health, or environmental protection, preserving their identity and their customs and traditions has to be the top priority.

The declaration also allows for the right to self-determination, the right to maintain and develop their own political, religious, cultural, and educational institutions, and the protection of their cultural and intellectual property.

Article 33 of the declaration states that:

Indigenous peoples have the right to determine their own identity or membership in accordance with their customs and traditions. This does not impair the right of indigenous individuals to obtain citizenship of the States in which they live.

[They also] have the right to determine the structures and to select the membership of their institutions in accordance with their own procedures.

Another key aspect of the declaration is control over their own lands, territories, and natural resources. The history of the indigenous peoples teaches us that they have lived on these lands since time immemorial.

Despite treaties and commitments to live in harmony on this land, the settlers did not keep their promises. There needs to be a return of lands, territory, and resources, as well as fair and equitable compensation.

On that note, article 19 of the declaration states, and I quote:

States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.

This article of the declaration would allow us to change the way we do things and our historically colonialist attitude and implement a process for true nation-to-nation negotiation, on equal terms.

The declaration also provides for fair and mutually acceptable procedures to resolve conflicts between indigenous peoples and states, including procedures such as negotiations, mediation, arbitration, the creation of national and international courts, and regional mechanisms for denouncing and examining human rights violations.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the culmination of more than 25 years of collaboration, and the bill from the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou will enable this country to build a truly meaningful nation-to-nation relationship at last.

This legislative framework will allow us to leave a lasting legacy by gradually correcting the mistakes of the past, serving as a catalyst that will ultimately lead to the repeal of the shameful Indian Act, and effectively banning the discriminatory doctrines of discovery and terra nullius.

Lastly, this legislative framework will affirm the significant value of the national reconciliation process. Without justice, there can be no reconciliation in Canada.

It is high time we adopted and implemented the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, so that the fundamental rights of first nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples can finally be restored and recognized.

In closing, I would like to note that we are on unceded Anishinabe territory.

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

December 5th, 2017 / 6:35 p.m.
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Thunder Bay—Rainy River Ontario

Liberal

Don Rusnak LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, reiterated, our government is proud of our commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We are pleased to be here today discussing our support for Bill C-262.

In considering the elements of the proposal, it is imperative that we consider it within the context of where we are now and where we are going. We are in the midst of a number of ongoing processes and initiatives that will assist in the implementation of the UN declaration in Canada. In addition to the establishment of a process to review laws, policies, and operational practices relating to indigenous peoples, and the creation of permanent bilateral mechanisms with the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and the Métis National Council, a number of other initiatives are furthering our pursuit of a renewed nation-to-nation, Inuit-crown, and government-to-government relationship with indigenous peoples. For instance, the Government of Canada has undertaken a review of Canada's environmental assessment and regulatory processes, including the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, the Fisheries Act, the Navigation Protection Act, and the National Energy Board Act.

The United Nations declaration was, and continues to be, considered one of the key elements of these review processes. Indigenous peoples were engaged in all four reviews. The government is currently considering the wide range of recommendations from the review reports, including those on how best to respect the rights of indigenous peoples and involve them in decision-making processes.

Since 2015, we have been engaged in recognition of indigenous rights and self-determination discussions with indigenous groups to address their rights, interests, and needs, and enable greater self-determination. At last count, there were more than 50 such discussion tables under way, representing 300 indigenous communities and a population of more than 500,000 people. Additional rights and recognition tables are also being contemplated.

Discussions like these are contributing to the development of new relationships and approaches that are ultimately intended to support the actualization of self-determination and contribute to reconciliation. These discussions are also resulting in the co-development of section 35-related policy reforms. All of this work aligns with the UN declaration. Concrete action reflecting the minimum standards of the UN declaration has also been taken in a variety of policy and program areas, including economic development, housing, education, access to safe drinking water, and governance.

The proposals in Bill C-262, including the development of an action plan aimed at ensuring consistency between Canadian laws and the declaration, are consistent with this work and highlight the importance of providing opportunities for dialogue on what changes can be made to federal laws and policies to advance reconciliation in this country.

However, Bill C-262 will not, on its own, operationalize the United Nations declaration in Canadian law. What is required to do that is to move from dialogue to tackling real issues faced by indigenous communities across Canada. Let me take a moment to describe some of the concrete progress we are making.

For example, the Inuit-crown partnership committee is working together to identify and oversee the implementation of short, medium, and long-term initiatives and solutions for addressing the housing crisis in the Inuit territory. As part of this process, we are currently co-developing an Inuit Nunangat housing strategy. This approach recognizes the direct role of Inuit organizations and governments in addressing housing needs in Inuit communities, the need for long-term sustainable investments, as well as the importance of ongoing collaboration among Inuit, the federal government, and provincial and territorial governments.

First nations communities and the government are also working towards long-term solutions to improve on-reserve water and wastewater infrastructure, ensure proper facility operation and maintenance, and strengthen capacity into the future. Since the commitment of $1.8 billion over five years for water and wastewater infrastructure in budget 2016, 348 projects have been completed, or are under way, or are planned to address and prevent long-term drinking water advisories now and into the future.

Together these projects will serve approximately 270,000 people in 275 first nation communities.

We are also working with indigenous people on the development of distinctions-based legislation to promote and revitalize Métis, Inuit, and first nations languages. In October this year, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs introduced Bill C-61, the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement act. This legislation would give effect to an agreement negotiated between Canada and the Anishinabek Nation that recognizes Anishinabek control over education for 23 participating first nation communities.

Each of these specific measures and initiatives play an important role in contributing to achieving the standards described in the UN declaration. However, there is more to do to get us where we are going.

The process of dissolving Indigenous and Northern Affairs to better align with the needs and rights of indigenous people is one such forward-looking measure. This shift to a new department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs coupled with the department of Indigenous Services will better support indigenous peoples in strengthening their own political, cultural, and economic institutions. In turn, this supports indigenous self-determination, reflected throughout the UN declaration. In this context, the approach proposed in Bill C-262 would continue to build on the progress that has already been made, and it deserves serious consideration by the committee.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActRoutine Proceedings

April 21st, 2016 / 10:05 a.m.
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NDP

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

moved for leave to introduce 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.

Mr. Speaker, I am greatly honoured to rise in this House to introduce this bill to harmonize the laws of Canada with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

As members know, a central component of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action is to use the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation. Therefore, if this bill is adopted, that would provide the legislative framework for a national reconciliation that is long overdue in this country. This would entail a collaborative process to ensure that federal laws are consistent with the declaration, and a national plan of action.

I am deeply honoured to introduce this bill.

In the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendations and calls to action, call to action 43 states that governments should adopt and fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and that is what this bill sets out to do.

I remember the first question I asked in the House of Commons. It was addressed to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. She thanked me for the work I have done on this bill over the past four years.

She also asked all members of the House to help with the work of reconciliation. Today, I am showing how I can help.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)