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

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.

Sponsor

Romeo Saganash  NDP

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

Status

Third reading (Senate), as of June 11, 2019
(This bill did not become law.)

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

June 18th, 2019 / 12:35 p.m.
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Assembly of First Nations

National Chief Perry Bellegarde

One of the things that we're looking for is to go beyond the duty to consult and accommodate. Working towards free, prior and informed consent creates economic certainty.

There's been such a dialogue, discussion and debate in this country regarding the UN declaration, and I spin it around and say that it creates economic certainty. It creates economic certainty in every province and territory once it's passed. Governments and industry will know what the rules and terms of reference are. That's what it is. You have to know what the rules are.

As indigenous peoples, we're not stakeholders. We're indigenous peoples with rights and title, and that has to be respected. That's what this speaks to. When we talk about a human rights impact assessment, it's having impacts on all that because when we started talking about CUSMA.... There are four chapters, labour, environment, gender and indigenous people, and people are asking what that has to do with business. Well, it has a lot to do with business when you want to create the right environment for investments and economic certainty, so it's very important.

Those are some quick comments within my time—I know the chair's giving me the eye. We have to get that passed in terms of economic certainty—Bill C-262. It does create that economic certainty, and that's what we all have to push for.

June 18th, 2019 / 12:35 p.m.
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NDP

Tracey Ramsey NDP Essex, ON

Thank you so much.

My questions are for Chief Bellegarde.

I take your point that this was the most inclusive deal to date, but certainly we'd like to see a true, nation-to-nation.... We would like to see indigenous peoples at the table as full partners in the negotiations.

Well, first of all, I want to say thank you for your push on those important pieces of legislation, including Bill C-262, Romeo Saganash's bill. It's very important that this bill pass.

When you were here previously on the TPP in June 2016, you brought the issue of a development of a human rights impact assessment for all trade agreements. You talked about the recommendation from Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur, to use the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a basis for assessing the impact of all trade agreements. I wonder if you can speak to whether that was a consideration in this agreement, or if there was any movement made in this agreement towards that important step.

Also, I look at your document here, and the first item of article 19 states that indigenous peoples must have free, informed and prior consent. I'm wondering if that's been obtained around this agreement. If not, were there conversations towards how that would be implemented in further trade agreements?

June 18th, 2019 / 11:25 a.m.
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National Chief Perry Bellegarde Assembly of First Nations

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

[Witness spoke in Cree]

[English]

To all the distinguished members of the committee, I'm very happy to be here acknowledging you all as friends and relatives. I also acknowledge the Algonquin peoples for hosting this on their ancestral lands. For me, from our AFN, I'm happy to be here.

I want to share some perspectives. I'm very honoured to speak here on behalf of the Assembly of First Nations regarding Bill C-100. I'll also say a few words about the process to negotiate, ratify and implement the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement.

Trade in resources and goods in this land, I always say, began with us, the indigenous peoples. The participation now in 2019 in international trade should not be seen merely as part of history. Going forward, how do we get more involved?

As self-determining peoples, we have interests and rights respecting today's international trade agreements. We've always said that for far too long we have not seen the benefits from international trade flow to our businesses or to our communities as first nations people. These facts should form a part of legal and political frameworks when Canada explores new free trade agreements. I've always said, from a first nations perspective in Canada, that whenever Canada goes out to negotiate or discuss anything from softwood lumber to trees, anything from potash in southern Saskatchewan, to uranium in the north or any oil, coal, or whatever natural resource it is, indigenous peoples should be involved and should be participating, because there's respect or reference that we still have unextinguished aboriginal title and rights to the land and territory and resources. It's a simple fact. So we need to be involved.

When Canada, through Minister Chrystia Freeland, welcomed me to be on the NAFTA advisory committee, it was very important, because to date, indigenous peoples haven't been involved. We also had indigenous officials working as part of the working group. In the end, we'll say that this work resulted in the most inclusive international trade agreement for indigenous peoples to date. It's not perfect, but to date it's the best that we have in Canada.

With the ratification of the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement, we would take a step to making international trade more aware of and more equitable in its treatment of indigenous peoples, and especially for indigenous women entrepreneurs. We still have more work to do.

We believe the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement is a step in the right direction with the new general exception for indigenous rights with respect to inherent and aboriginal and treaty rights. As well, with specific preferences to carve out procurement benefits and other opportunities for indigenous businesses and service providers, there's also a promise of future co-operation to enhance indigenous businesses. As well, importantly, the investor-state dispute settlement process, which was a threat to indigenous people's rights, will be phased out for Canada. This is the groundwork for positive change.

While the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement is a new example of the difference it makes to engage with indigenous peoples at an early stage, there must be increased opportunities for first nations participation not only in international trade negotiations but also in trade missions.

Canada should extend an official role to first nations in negotiations of all international agreements on trade and investments that impact inherent treaty aboriginal rights. This would better reflect the nation-to-nation relationship and the whole-of-government commitment by Canada to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In addition, the inclusion of first nations leads to better decisions and better outcomes.

With regard to Bill C-100, what I'm recommending to all the committee members here is that there should be in place a non-derogation clause. It's a safe clause, that nothing in this agreement will affect existing aboriginal treaty rights, which are affirmed in section 35 of Canada's Constitution. I'm making that recommendation as well as that it be interpreted and implemented consistent with those rights in section 35. It's good to have it ratified by Canada, the United States and Mexico on one hand, but each nation-state will come back and do some sort of legislation with the implementation. That's the piece we're looking at making the recommendation on. I'm not advising that we open up the agreement; no, leave it the way it is, but move in tandem with the other two countries to get it ratified. We have to be careful to be not too fast and not too slow, because if one of the three countries doesn't get it ratified, the deal is not going to be implemented.

It's not just that international trade and investment agreements can impact our rights, but also how the agreement is implemented through domestic regulatory and policy matters. That has to be looked at. Once the agreement is ratified, we must work together to realize the economic gains and ensure the provisions related to indigenous peoples in international trade agreements are implemented in a manner that brings greater economic equity to first nations peoples.

The first area where indigenous peoples can see the benefits from this agreement is government procurement. Procurement is always a big thing. Everybody says this should be easy, that it's low-hanging fruit. Canada must move from policies and objectives to mandatory requirements for procuring goods and services from first nations businesses. The Assembly of First Nations is ready to work with Canada to make sure we develop legislation together for social procurement that benefits first nations and other indigenous peoples.

The only other thing I'd like to share here before concluding is there are three or four very important bills we want to see passed before this week is up. Bill C-91 on languages, Bill C-92 on child welfare, and two private members' bills, Bill C-262 and Bill C-337, all need to be passed. If in the event the legislature is called back, those should form the priority. But we're hoping and praying that all MPs, all the leadership here on Parliament Hill, will get behind and pass those pieces of legislation as soon as possible.

That's it, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for the time.

The SenateOral Questions

June 13th, 2019 / 2:25 p.m.
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Toronto—St. Paul's Ontario

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett LiberalMinister of Crown-Indigenous Relations

Mr. Speaker, the government is moving forward on key legislative initiatives to implement the UN declaration, including the legislation on languages and child and family services.

We also supported Bill C-262 as an important next step.

We too are deeply disappointed to see that the Conservative leader continues to allow his caucus members in the other place to use partisan delay tactics to prevent this important bill from moving forward, blatantly ignoring the unanimous motion passed by the House.

Reconciliation with indigenous peoples should not be subject—

Mackenzie Valley Resource Management ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2019 / 1:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Yvonne Jones Liberal Labrador, NL

Madam Speaker, the member spoke about her former colleague and his representation on this issue back in 2015. I remember he was very strong on this issue and advocating for it.

With regard to Bill C-262, like many others in this House, I want to see the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples implemented in Canada. We have supported it. We strongly believe in it. We believe in the fundamental principles of UNDRIP. We believe that it is important in guiding future governments in Canada in how we deal with indigenous people. I, too, would support the member in encouraging the Senate to move forward with its amendments and bring it back to the House of Commons.

Mackenzie Valley Resource Management ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2019 / 1:35 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member. I am a great admirer. She clearly stands up for the rights of the people of Labrador, and definitely the indigenous people of Labrador.

I, too, am deeply concerned that it has taken the government so long to bring forward this bill. It was a reprehensible move by the Conservatives in the last Parliament. Indeed, all parties were forced for vote for it, because the Conservatives tied it to the devolution vote. It was reprehensible. My former colleague Dennis Bevington, then the member for Northwest Territories, spoke strongly against this move. It was clearly unconstitutional.

I had the privilege of being the assistant deputy minister for renewable resources in the Yukon, and I played a part in the negotiation of first nations final agreements and self-governance agreements. I was well aware of what was being done to the Tlicho, the Gwich'in and the Dehcho, who finally had final agreements.

If the hon. member and her party are so dedicated to respecting the rights of indigenous people, will she speak up, speak to the senators and tell them to finally bring forward Bill C-262 and finally put in place, as Liberals had promised, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples? Will they finally—

Bill C-68—Time Allocation MotionFisheries ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2019 / 10:50 a.m.
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Liberal

Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, in the Senate there are a number of bills that are so important, just like this exact bill here, Bill C-68. There are also Bill C-88, Bill C-91, Bill C-92, Bill C-93, Bill C-391, Bill C-374, Bill C-369 and Bill CC-262. All these bills are being delayed by the Senate because they are taking far too long.

I was wondering if the hon. minister could tell us why the Conservative senators are delaying all these bills, delaying us from doing the job that Canadians have sent us here to do. They gave us a mandate in 2015, after a decade of darkness with the Conservatives, to repair the damage they had done to the environment and to indigenous communities and to make sure we get this job done.

Can the hon. minister talk a little bit about that, please?

Resuming debateExtension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2019 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I also find it a bit rich when we hear the Liberals talking about the opposition delaying bills. I will provide a concrete example.

When the House was debating Bill C-69, our colleague from Edmonton Strathcona, who worked so diligently at committee on that bill, proposed many amendments seeking to bring that environmental review legislation in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. These amendments were moved at committee only days after the Liberals had voted in favour of Bill C-262.

It is wrong for us to be accused of holding up the legislation. We were doing the hard work of listening to witnesses at committee and bringing forward amendments to make the bill more in line with indigenous rights, for which the government had already signalled its support.

For my friend from New Westminster—Burnaby, that is just another example of where we have tried our best. We listened to those witnesses at committee. Time and again we tried to insert those amendments that were directly attributable to concrete evidence heard at committee only to see it fail both at the committee stage and when the bill was reported to the House.

Could my colleague comment a bit further on our efforts through this 42nd Parliament to improve those bills that have been backed up by solid witness testimony every step of the way?

Royal Canadian Mounted Police ActGovernment Orders

May 17th, 2019 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is exactly right. The government has left this bill sitting there, even though it was one of the top priorities of communities, which called on the government to act. In fact, the minister promised that there would be action. Lo and behold, there are five weeks before this place adjourns before an election, and the government finally brings this bill forward.

The Senate is notorious. The unaccountable, unelected Senate has done its level best to block bills that have been passed in this House. One example is my colleague's bill, Bill C-262, regarding the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We advanced that bill. It went through this House and on to the Senate, and it was just yesterday that it was finally referred to committee. We do not even know whether it will come back from committee in time for it to receive royal assent. It is absolutely atrocious.

When the government does not plan its legislative agenda carefully and thoughtfully, this is what can happen. It is absolutely outrageous. We should not stand for it.

May 14th, 2019 / 9:05 p.m.
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Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Marco Mendicino LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities

Madam Chair, I would like to begin by acknowledging that we are gathered on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people. I would also like to commend the minister for his hard work and his dedication to the portfolio, which has seen his shepherding of legislation dealing with criminal justice reforms; important justice reforms that will enhance access to justice; his and his team's work on ensuring that we have a very capable and high-calibre bench through the ongoing work of judicial appointments, and finally, the all-important and historic work with reconciliation as it relates to our indigenous peoples.

I am honoured to be here to contribute to this debate, to speak to some of the concrete steps we have taken towards recognizing and realizing the government's vision of reconciliation with indigenous peoples across Canada.

Our government has taken the time to meet with many indigenous leaders across this country. We heard about their priorities, their vision for the future, and the challenges and obstacles they still face in achieving this vision. Hearing these perspectives has served to reinforce our government's commitment to renewing its relationship with indigenous peoples. We have continued with our efforts to address the ongoing negative and adverse impacts of colonialism, discrimination and marginalization that have, for far too long, been part of this country's social fabric.

Contributing to renewed Crown-indigenous relationships based on rights, respect, co-operation and partnership remains a priority for the Government of Canada. This is especially true in relation to Canada's justice system. Over the past few years, the Department of Justice and the Government of Canada have introduced transformative laws and initiatives to help achieve reconciliation.

One such initiative that we are very proud of is the release of the principles respecting the Government of Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples. This document will ensure that the rights and needs of indigenous peoples are considered whenever new policy initiatives or laws are being introduced or considered.

Another key document that the Department of Justice has released is the Attorney General's directive on civil litigation involving indigenous peoples. This document will help guide litigation positions being developed. The Department of Justice also continues to work with other government departments to find alternatives to litigation with indigenous peoples wherever and whenever possible and appropriate.

These are both foundational documents that establish a modern legal framework and clearly identify the core values informing the department's day-to-day work. As the introduction to the principles notes, they are “rooted in section 35, guided by the UN Declaration, and informed by the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action”.

In addition, they reflect a commitment to good faith, the rule of law, democracy, equality, non-discrimination and respect for human rights. Training that focuses on the history and context that underlie the principles has been provided to approximately 25% of the Department of Justice's employees. It also covers practical ways in which these important documents can inform all the legal and policy work the Department of Justice oversees.

The directive is also a testament to the government's desire to transform Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples and uphold the promises of section 35 of the Constitution.

The directive continues to guide the Government of Canada's legal approaches, positions and decisions in civil litigation over ancestral and treaty rights and the Crown's duty towards indigenous peoples.

The Department of Justice also continues its efforts to advance the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action, including the call upon governments to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.

Canada has already stated its unqualified support for the UN declaration. Recently, in this session, the House of Commons restated its support for the passage 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.

If passed, Bill C-262 will bring us even closer to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It will require us to continue the work we have already started on regularly reviewing federal legislation to assess consistency with the standards set out in the declaration. In collaboration with our indigenous partners, we will also have to develop an action plan for the implementation of the declaration and release annual reports on our progress.

The Department of Justice continues to advance a number of additional and more specific measures that will contribute to reconciliation over the long term. A key priority for the department is Bill C-75, which is now in the other place. The bill proposes various measures meant to help to address court delays. It will also play a role in one of the most serious issues facing our criminal justice system: the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples in the justice system itself and in particular in our jails.

Bill C-75 tackles bail reform and also addresses administration of justice offences, such as breaching bail. These offences can unfortunately function as an entry point into the criminal justice system and significantly contribute to the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples in the criminal justice system.

The Department of Justice also continues to support and expand the use of restorative justice, which we know is a priority for many of our indigenous partners. It is also committed to supporting innovative approaches to the administration of justice in Canada. This means focusing not just on renewing the government's relationship with indigenous peoples, but building a partnership where indigenous perspectives, laws and legal traditions find voice in an indigenous justice system in harmonization with the justice system regimes and processes across Canada.

For this reason, our government has encouraged indigenous communities to share their views and perspectives on indigenous laws and legal traditions. We are actively working to promote more dialogue with indigenous peoples that will guide our collective efforts to recognize and implement indigenous justice systems in Canada. Not only does this work occur in the Department of Justice, but across many ministries so as to give effect to reconciliation.

The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada is holding a symposium on the indigenous justice system today and tomorrow. This is an valuable opportunity to talk to indigenous partners, academics, students of indigenous law and public servants from across Canada about revitalizing indigenous law and national and international perspectives on interactions between indigenous and non-indigenous justice systems.

The government also recognizes the importance of revitalizing indigenous legal systems. We know that indigenous law institutes, in partnership with indigenous communities, can play crucial roles in understanding, developing and implementing indigenous laws.

Not only are we working on transforming and modernizing our laws and programs, but we also have a transparent, inclusive and accountable judicial appointment process.

This new process underlines our government's commitment to reshaping the bench to better reflect Canada as it is today and to make the courts more accessible. I mentioned this important work at the outset of my remarks.

Ultimately the goal of all of the measures and initiatives I have just mentioned is to transform both how the Department of Justice engages with indigenous peoples and how indigenous people experience the justice system. We believe that the efforts made by this government to improve its relationship with indigenous peoples has led to some very significant progress and improvements to the lives of indigenous peoples over the last few years. However, much more work remains to be done.

Working in tandem with indigenous communities, we believe we can continue to ensure the implementation of the necessary work and the shifts in mindset required to advance our shared goal of achieving true reconciliation. Our government is committed to promoting, protecting and implementing the rights of indigenous peoples.

We hope that the efforts and accomplishments of the Department of Justice will continue to reflect our government's shared commitment to achieving reconciliation and earnestly carrying out the work required to accomplish such an important goal.

Not only do I encourage the government to continue this work, but I certainly encourage my colleagues across the aisle to support this transformative and historical work when it comes to reconciliation.

I have a number of questions for the minister.

First, what are some of the ways the government is working to reduce the over-incarceration of our indigenous peoples in the criminal justice system?

Indigenous Languages ActGovernment Orders

May 9th, 2019 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, I think the member and I chatted once after a speech about Diefenbaker. We were on the same side for a short period, and then we veered off.

The government members have said that they entertained amendments from the opposition regarding the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I am not sure my colleague shares my view, but I would like to see the declaration in the text of the bill. I would like to hear his comments on that. The government has included it in the purpose of the bill, with language like “contribute to” and “facilitate”. It is not in the binding text of the bill, and for me, this means that it is not something the government has to adhere to.

I would also like him comment on the fact that we do not have to wait for a private member's bill, Bill C-262, to pass. The government has all the power it needs to include sections of the UN declaration immediately in the language bill.

Indigenous Languages ActGovernment Orders

May 9th, 2019 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, whether in the Prairies or any other region of our country, indigenous issues are of the utmost importance. I know my colleague and friend gives a great deal of attention to this issue. I truly respect that.

The member points out what I would like to highlight as a very important issue. We can demonstrate, at the national level, implementing the calls to action where we can, but when we talk about the 94 calls, it is not just the national government that has a role to play. There are other levels of government, other groups, and indigenous leaders themselves who all have a role to play in the issue of reconciliation and the calls to action.

As an example, I appreciate some of the fine work that my local school division, the Seven Oaks School Division, is doing in Amber Trails, one of the schools promoting indigenous language. These are the types of initiatives that can really make a difference.

Our role here in Ottawa is to be able to lead and demonstrate leadership on the issue of reconciliation. That is something the government has taken very seriously since day one. Bill C-91 is an excellent example of that.

I have had the opportunity to speak on our foster care legislation, which is another excellent piece of legislation. We had a private member's bill, Bill C-262, another excellent piece of legislation. We have seen strong leadership coming from the House of Commons, and we need to be able to see that sense of co-operation and leadership being applied in all the different areas of Canadian society.

Indigenous Languages ActGovernment Orders

May 9th, 2019 / 11:25 a.m.
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NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Edmonton Strathcona. I will try to stay constructive and positive, but I have to say that this government's holier-than-thou attitude annoys me to no end. It is exasperating. The Liberals seem to believe they are above all comments and constructive feedback. They think they know everything, and that is incredibly irritating. We can always sense it in their tone. I have never felt this way before. In the last Parliament, under the Conservatives, I never sensed this level of arrogance. “We know best”, the Liberals say. It is so infuriating.

I sit on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, and this is an issue that is close to my heart. I have here 17 NDP amendments, which obviously were not adopted, and I can confirm that the amendment my colleague mentioned earlier was extremely constructive and opened up doors. Unfortunately, the Liberals think they have all the answers when it comes to drafting bills. They were like that with the SNC-Lavalin affair as well, when they added that little line to the omnibus bill. That was an inspired move. The Liberals must be kicking themselves, because all of Quebec is now complaining about it.

I cannot talk about Bill C-91 without talking about my experience as a member of this House. I represent the people of Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, so of course I want to stand up for the interests of my constituents, for aerospace and for our social fabric. More importantly, I want to find solutions to address the fact that one-third of the children in Longueuil—Saint-Hubert are living in poverty. It is a shocking figure, and no one ever talks about it.

I want to talk about my election in 2011. When I was elected, I was an ordinary citizen from Longueuil who did not have a clear understanding of the issues facing first nations. When I arrived here, my main concerns were defending Quebec's distinct culture and fighting climate change. Quite frankly, first nations were not on my list of priorities. On top of that, I did not know very much about the topic.

Many will recall the leadership race that happened so quickly following Jack Layton's death, and my colleague, the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, was one of the candidates. At that point, many people in Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, including myself, discovered an ambassador for the Cree Nation. Today that member is one of the people scratching their heads, wondering whether this bill on indigenous languages lives up to the expectations.

When I became acquainted with the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, I saw how hard he had worked, especially on the peace of the braves agreement and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I saw how diligently he had to work to solve such issues. I also realized that what was needed was a compassionate approach, not a theoretical one.

This man, whom I consider a friend, taught me that this privileged relationship, as the Liberal Party often calls it, needs to be cultivated. Every time we deal with indigenous languages in committee, I am struck by the heart-wrenching testimony that shows this goes well beyond a theory that language is important. We saw people who were suffering because their past and their roots had been erased, and their personalities and cultures had been bleached white by a centralizing government.

As the representative for the people of Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, I was shocked to see just how many open wounds the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was trying to heal. The commission attempted to set out a path for reconciliation.

We came to committee with this in mind, with the goal of working together congenially and collaboratively.

I mentioned the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou today because his outstanding bill seeking to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Bill C-262, has stalled in the Senate. This is a very important bill because it would redefine our relationship with indigenous peoples, with those who are at the very core of this country, but partisan politics are holding it up in the Senate.

I will not call out those involved in the Senate, but it is quite shameful. Things need to get moving. They could use a little nudge to get things going and see them through. This bill would ensure that the government respects the rights of our indigenous peoples and that these rights would be enshrined in all of our bills.

Bill C-91 is by all accounts fundamental and extremely important to the reconciliation process. I understand perfectly just how valuable language is, and how culture is primarily carried through language. It is essential to everything. The situation looks precarious. During one of my visits to Kahnawake, Mr. Norton told me that the Mohawk language is in jeopardy. He said that he was committed to supporting the process. He wants to encourage people to take interest in this issue. Teaching people who are interested in learning these languages again will take several months or years. I therefore understand how important this is.

Also, I was very pleased that my colleagues from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou and Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River supported me during the work on this bill and the study in committee. It is a sensitive topic that requires careful consideration. These are not routine laws. These laws have emotional consequences and will shape our relationship with these nations and the preservation of their culture.

People on the ground obviously saw and grasped the importance of this bill. They understood that public officials had tried to draft legislation that would meet their needs. I will try not to use provocative language. I will try not to make us out to be saintly know-it-alls. I just did it, but I apologize. I will try to put this delicately. If this bill is so important to the Liberal government, why are we only talking about it with five weeks left in the parliamentary session? Why is that? Is there a valid reason to explain why this bill was delayed until the very end of the parliamentary session?

The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is busy. The committee constantly deals with issues related to the cultural resilience of Quebec, first nations or the Innu people. Let me use a metaphor to describe what is going on here. The Liberals were thinking about where they stood. They realized that the parliamentary session was drawing to a close, and they decided that, given their meagre legislative agenda, they were not too busy to introduce some new bills. They figured it would be nice to do something about this issue. They thought they would look really stupid if they went four years without doing anything about it, so they threw a bill together at the last minute.

As my colleague rightly said, a major player, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, says it is not satisfied and was not consulted. This bill is being shoved down their throats. It is tragic to see this holier-than-thou government pretending it has not just been sitting on its hands this whole time. Sadly, that is what happened.

This is critically important bill. It is unfortunate that it had to be rammed through since it still has many flaws and is far from perfect.

May 9th, 2019 / 11:10 a.m.
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Assembly of First Nations

National Chief Perry Bellegarde

It's a good question, again, and I know we've met with your leader as well many times and we've discussed these. I would say there are many important bills, but we always focused on C-91, languages; C-92, child welfare; and then C-262, the UN declaration.

I said that I'd be a happy national chief if they all pass by the end of June. I know the issue is free, prior and informed consent. People think, “Is it a veto?” and “Did you hear from Paul Joffe and other experts?”

I say that it's not a veto, but you have to respect aboriginal rights, inherent rights and treaty rights, and involve the rights and title holders sooner than later in any initiative. With free, prior and informed consent, when people.... You mentioned that the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs are going to say, “Don't pass this”. That is a region and that's a regional chief. Grand Chief Arlen will be here to say that.

You know the numbers in Canada. There are 203 chiefs in British Columbia. There are 47 in Alberta. There are 74 in Saskatchewan. There are 66 in Manitoba. There are 134-plus in Ontario. There are 47 in la belle province of Quebec. There are 13 in Nova Scotia, 15 in New Brunswick, two in P.E.I., two in Newfoundland, 14 in the Yukon and 28 in the Northwest Territories.

Do you think there's unanimity?

There you go, but we have 400-plus chiefs supporting this. We have numerous resolutions to support this. I would encourage people to look at starting to fix this, because I'm going to disagree with people in a respectful way that the status quo is not acceptable, and it should not be acceptable to have 40,000 children in foster care. That's where my head goes at all times.

May 9th, 2019 / 9:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Thank you to all the witnesses. We've heard very compelling testimony.

As you are aware, this bill is supported on all sides of the House. It's just a matter of trying to make sure it is as good as it can be. I don't think anyone believes it is a perfect bill. I think we're trying to do our best to make it better than it is.

I'm going to start with Grand Chief John. The piece I've struggled with is there was talk about the UN declaration and embedding Mr. Saganash's Bill C-262 into the legislation. That would compel free, prior and informed consent from all the impacted first nations, indigenous peoples.

We're going to hear testimony later from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and others who are not supportive of this bill. Clearly, they are not giving free, prior and informed consent. I would really appreciate hearing how you align those two concepts. You're asking us to pass a bill. We know significant communities in this country—according to the article in the UN declaration and free, prior and informed consent—would be telling us not to do it.