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 (House), as of Dec. 5, 2017

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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.

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)