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.


Romeo Saganash  NDP

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


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


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.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


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

Indigenous ServicesGovernment Orders

December 11th, 2023 / 9:40 p.m.
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Lori Idlout NDP Nunavut, NU

Uqaqtittiji, I will be splitting my time with the member for Winnipeg Centre.

I acknowledge all of the work that has been done by the New Democrats for indigenous rights, now and before my time. Jordan's principle emerged out of the work of former MP Jean Crowder's Motion No. 296. This motion was followed by Bill C-249 tabled by former NDP MP Pat Martin in 2008. Both called on the government to immediately adopt a child first principle based on Jordan's principle.

Jordan's principle is now one of the most important programs run by the federal government to uphold its obligations to indigenous children, thanks to the NDP. Bill C-262, introduced by former NDP MP Romeo Saganash in 2016 finally forced the breakthrough that led to the government passing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act in 2021.

New Democrats fought for investments in the last budget, and we secured $4 billion over seven years for the for indigenous, by indigenous housing program. From the beginning, I knew this amount was not enough. Much more investment is needed. The NDP agreed to the urban, rural and northern indigenous housing strategy, knowing it could make a dent in the current situation. If the NDP did not fight, we would not have gotten anything for housing. When the Liberals and Conservatives will not step up, New Democrats do.

Last week, the Conservatives voted against the supplementary estimates, which included investments for Indigenous Services Canada at $6.8 billion and investments to Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada at $3.2 billion. These total over $10 billion in departmental funding that indigenous peoples rely on, which the Conservatives voted to deny.

As for the Liberals, they are not much better. We have heard from the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council that there are massive backlogs at Indigenous Services Canada for issuing status to registrants. This leaves infants waiting 18 to 24 months to get their health benefits. This is absolutely unacceptable.

We hear about the huge backlogs to address Jordan's principle issues. We hear about the backlogs to address payments for services through the non-insured health benefits program. We have heard that Indigenous Services Canada is changing funding formulas for education without even talking to indigenous communities.

Indigenous Services Canada set a goal of 2030 to eliminate the infrastructure gap, but they have no hope of achieving that at current investment levels, as it is a $349.2-billion first nations infrastructure gap. Indigenous peoples have offered solutions, but they are consistently ignored.

Not only are they making cuts to investments to improve the well-being of indigenous peoples, they are planning to cut staff in their department. According to their website, they anticipate cutting staff by 1,000. Imagine how much worse these backlogs will be. They will keep indigenous peoples marginalized.

Grassy Narrows is still waiting for its mercury care facility, despite repeated assurances from the Liberal government that it would be built. Tataskweyak Cree Nation in Manitoba had students with no school to go to as the school remained closed because it had no heat. It is still waiting for a new school after their roof caved in last month. That school, when it was built originally, was already overcrowded.

There are many more examples across the country. The Liberals love announcements and photo ops, but they disappear when it is time to actually flow the funds that indigenous peoples need. The urban, rural and northern indigenous housing strategy is one such example. It was announced in 2022, and it was supposed to be released in 2023. It is now December 2023, and we have not seen the release of those funds.

Opposition Motion—Passage of Bill C-234 by the SenateBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2023 / 12:05 p.m.
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Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, we do have selective amnesia in this place. I thank the member for Courtenay—Alberni for referencing that, because we lose sight of our history in this place.

The member for Carleton has been an MP for 19 very long years. I know the Conservatives have spent millions of dollars on burnishing up his image, but he has a long history in this House of Commons. If we do some digging, there are a lot of comments, a lot of questions and a lot of speeches from the member for Carleton that will give truth to who he really is.

However, it gets better, because the Conservatives have stood in this place accusing Liberals of bullying senators and imposing their will, when the Conservative Party is the only party in this House that still has 15 senators at caucus every Wednesday. Fifteen Conservative senators join their MP counterparts for every Wednesday meeting, and they get their marching orders from the member for Carleton on how to play games in the Senate. This has been the case for several Parliaments and we have seen it in the past.

Conservative senators have taken their marching orders from former prime minister Harper and have done the very thing that Conservatives are mad about today with Bill C-234. Senators took their marching orders from the Conservative Party in the House of Commons and used their procedural shenanigans in the red chamber to block multiple bills on multiple occasions that were passed by the democratic House. Again, it is rank hypocrisy from the Conservatives.

I will outline a few notable examples.

Our former beloved leader Jack Layton, several Parliaments ago, had a bill that was passed by the House called the climate change accountability act. My God, how things would be different now if we had actually paid attention back then and passed that law. However, right now in 2023, we are dealing with the consequences of years of inaction from both Liberal and Conservative governments. That bill was held up. It died in the Senate because of procedural shenanigans instigated by Conservative senators.

We have also had other cases. Former NDP member of Parliament Paul Dewar, who represented Ottawa Centre, introduced Bill C-393. It was a bill to permit the shipment and provision of generic drugs to Africa, a worthy cause, but it died in the Senate because of Conservative senator procedural shenanigans.

Then of course, in the 42nd Parliament, there was the bill that brought us to where we are today. It was the bill introduced to fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a groundbreaking piece of legislation, Bill C-262. It was ahead of its time, ahead of where the puck was going, and it directly led to the government introducing its own legislation in the subsequent Parliament to make sure Canada's federal laws were in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That bill, which was duly passed by the House of Commons in the 42nd Parliament, was held up because of procedural shenanigans and games by Conservative senators at the request of their leader.

This is the amazing thing about the Senate. We cannot do that here in the House. With the rules there, one senator can throw in a wrench and jam up the entire works for days on end, and this tactic is used again and again. Conservative senators, under orders from their leader, have been doing precisely the same thing that Conservatives are mad about today when it comes to their own legislation.

These are the things we have to highlight. They are incredibly important because we have short memories in this place.

I am coming down to my final three minutes, and I very much look forward to the questions that will come. However, it does us well to understand that, first of all, Bill C-234 would not have passed in this place if it were not for all opposition parties working together to pass it because they saw merit in the bill. That is number one. Number two, we fundamentally agree with the principle that the Senate, as an unelected body, needs to respect the will of the House. The only party that has been consistent on that position through several parliaments is the NDP. We are the only party that comes out squeaky clean in a debate about the Senate, and all members would do well to acknowledge that fact.

Consistent with our third reading vote on Bill C-234, we will be voting in favour of today's motion, because that is consistent with the approach we have always taken. Had there been motions on our own private members' bills from several previous parliaments, we would have done the same thing. It is important to remind senators that we are the ones who have to face the electorate. We are the ones conveying the wishes of the people of Canada. Every seat in this place represents a distinct geographic area of Canada. We are the ones bringing the voice of the people here, and senators need to be reminded of that fact.

I will end by again highlighting the hypocrisy. I like serving with many of my Conservative colleagues, but as a party, we cannot take any moral lessons from them on the Senate given their history with appointing failed candidates, with party bagmen and with the instructions they give to their 15 caucus members who are members of the Senate. With the entire history they have of blocking bills, Canadians who are listening to today's debate need to understand that the last place we would ever go for a moral lesson on the problems with the Senate is the Conservative Party of Canada. I just want to make that very clear.

I will end my remarks there. I thank everyone for taking the time to listen, and I look forward to any questions or comments.

June 19th, 2023 / 11:10 a.m.
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Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Thank you so much.

I agree with Michelle that we have been leaders, particularly in this study, in terms of clearly defining, so I'm going to go back and then I will go to the motion.

I think one thing that came out of the study for me is that I think we are coming up with definitions in the study. We are differentiating. There's child sexual exploitation, which is deeply concerning for me. Children are often being called sex workers. I don't think a 12-year-old is a sex worker. I think they're a sexually exploited child. There's also sex work and human trafficking. Because the area of human trafficking has been so conflated with everything, I think it is premature, especially getting the study out, to put forward another motion.

Speaking about the group from Winnipeg, because I am from Winnipeg—lovely people—Steve Bell is a friend of mine. We worked on Bill C-262 together to advance the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. How we feel—Paul Brandt, me or Steve Bell—in regard to this specific matter is different, just like I had a different opinion from the woman who works with Joy Smith. I can't remember her name.

June 5th, 2023 / 4 p.m.
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Shannon Cumming Legal Counsel, Northwest Territory Métis Nation

Good afternoon.

The Northwest Territory Métis Nation appreciates the opportunity to appear before you today. President Garry Bailey asked me to convey his kind regards.

I'd like to give a brief history of the NWTMN.

We are indigenous Métis with aboriginal rights to lands, resources and governance throughout our traditional territory. We are aboriginal people of the Mackenzie and Athabasca river basins. That includes lands we have traditionally used and occupied in Wood Buffalo National Park and in Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve. Our ancestors lived on these lands that the Creator provided, and they governed themselves according to our own laws and customs from time before memory.

We are a distinct Métis nation within Canada. We have a right to self-determination. Our rights are protected under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

In 1900, an adhesion to Treaty 8 was signed with treaty Indians at Fort Resolution. Our Métis ancestors were there, but the Government of Canada failed to deal honourably with Métis rights. This legacy of differential treatment between Métis and treaty Indians continues to this day. We regard it as a matter of fairness, equity and justice that reconciliation and redress for historical wrongs must be addressed through our NWTMN negotiating process.

The NWTMN comprises indigenous Métis members from the Fort Smith Métis Council, the Hay River Métis Government Council and the Fort Resolution Métis Council. Our members comprise a significant portion of the communities of Fort Smith, Hay River, Fort Resolution and Yellowknife.

NWTMN were full participants to the Dene/Métis negotiations from the late 1970s to 1990. When the Dene and Métis leadership did not ratify the final agreement in 1990, some regions pursued regional land claim agreements, with the failed Dene/Métis agreement becoming a template for regional negotiations.

In August 1996, the NWTMN, Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories signed a framework agreement. An agreement-in-principle was signed in July 2015. Final agreement negotiations are under way. In May 2021, a self-government framework agreement was signed. These negotiations place the NWTMN in the unique position of being the first stand-alone Métis land, resources and self-government agreement in Canada—a modern-day treaty.

The NWTMN has chosen the path of good-faith negotiations on lands, resources and self-government as a means to achieve what we understand to be at the core of the land back principle. [Technical difficulty—Editor] the land back principle has gathered momentum recently in light of article 28 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which provides indigenous peoples, in part, “the right to redress, by means that can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just, fair and equitable compensation”.

We also note the importance of article 26, which upholds indigenous peoples' right to the lands, territories and resources that they have traditionally owned, occupied or used and the need for states to recognize such lands, territories and resources.

We were encouraged in May 2018 when Parliament passed Bill C-262 to harmonize Canada's laws with the UN declaration. Further, the mandate letter of December 2021 from the Prime Minister to the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General calls for the full implementation of the UN declaration across government. The NWTMN looks forward to Canada honouring the implementation of the declaration in respect to Métis rights.

We will continue to seek creative solutions to address the key outstanding issues for our negotiating process, and we can offer a few points, based on our experience, for the committee's consideration.

Indigenous governments may choose different approaches to resolve fundamental questions of land, resources and governance, and land back is one way of looking at the issues. The NWTMN, having chosen the path of good-faith negotiation, is confident that our decision to negotiate can achieve what the land back issue seeks to achieve: a balance between the Crown's actions in respect of our traditional territory and the rights that indigenous Métis will have recognized and affirmed in the modern treaty.

Resolving the key outstanding issues for negotiations may require Canada to examine any impediments that stand in the way of concluding these critical processes and achieving reconciliation. For example, in our process, we have to deal with different ministries to address land issues: INAC or Parks Canada. Although the Crown, as a matter of law, is indivisible, it does at times operate in silos.

In summary, the resolution of long-standing Métis rights, title and governance remains at the forefront of our approach to engaging with Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories. The NWTMN has always preferred the path of good-faith negotiations. While the path has not been easy, we are approaching a final agreement. In our view, the modern-day treaty we are seeking will achieve the principles that underpin the land back issue. A Métis government with jurisdictions and authorities over its land and people will provide us with what we need to move forward on the path of reconciliation with Canada.

Thank you, and I would be happy to answer any questions at the appropriate time.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

December 5th, 2022 / 11:40 a.m.
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Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a real honour to be able to rise today to speak to Bill S-223. Before I get into my remarks, it is important to recognize the two individuals who have been working diligently over the years to shepherd this bill through Parliament, starting in the other place, with Senator Ataullahjan, and here, the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan. Both individuals have been long involved in this process, over several Parliaments.

The bill, of course, passed very quickly through second and third reading in the other place. In fact, it even skipped consideration by the committee on December 9 of last year. It gives a sense of the arduous journey that private members' bills, both from the Senate side and from the House side, have to make in order to pass the entire parliamentary process: the fact that we are here in December 2022, only now considering its third reading, and it has taken a full year to get to that stage.

Before I get into the details of why this legislation is necessary, I would like to talk about a few key points in terms of what the bill is going to do, so we are all very clear on what the House is going to be debating and hopefully passing in short order.

Essentially, it is a substantive amendment to a narrow section of the Criminal Code in relation to the crime of trafficking in human organs. We know that organs like kidneys and livers are being forcibly removed from many people, but this bill, with a new section 240.1, is going to create some new offences: anyone who obtains organs without informed consent, either for use in another person or for themselves; anyone who is involved in the carrying out of the procedure to remove those organs without informed consent; and anyone who does anything in connection with the removal of the organs without informed consent.

That is quite broad. It could involve anyone who was involved in allowing a place to be used for the surgery and anyone who is involved in the transportation of the organs or their smuggling across borders. It is a very real problem. It is something that, through several Parliaments, we have been waiting for substantive action on.

We know this is a crime that disproportionately affects people who live in impoverished countries and who live under authoritarian rule and do not have access to the same rights, privileges and equality under the law that we sometimes take for granted here in Canada. It is important that countries like Canada, with its well-known track record in standing up for human rights and the rule of law, not only here in our own country but abroad, follow suit and really establish what we think should be the norm and what all citizens of the world should be able to enjoy.

There is also a very important amendment to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, so that a permanent resident or any foreign national would be inadmissible to Canada if the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship is of the opinion that they have engaged in any activities related to the new offence that is going to be put into the Criminal Code through the passage of this bill.

Through the conversation today, I have heard several members talk about how having this provision in Canadian law for a crime that occurred in another country is important. It reminds me that we sometimes have a double standard in this place about how we apply Canadian law.

I have been a member of this House for seven years now. I was here in the 42nd Parliament. I remember a previous private member's bill, which was sponsored by the member for New Westminster—Burnaby. It was Bill C-331. In the dying days of the 42nd Parliament, we managed to come to a vote on that bill at second reading. It was June 19, 2019, pretty much the very last day of the 42nd Parliament.

That was an important bill, because it intended to amend the Federal Courts Act so that people from other countries who wanted to bring a civil claim could do so under the jurisdiction of federal court.

The nature of the claims could have to do with genocide, a war crime or a crime against humanity, slavery or slave trading, extrajudicial killings, torture, prolonged arbitrary detention, or the sale or trafficking of persons. These are all crimes that every member of this House agrees are abhorrent and certainly need the full force of the law.

The problem is that when the member for New Westminster—Burnaby was attempting, for many good reasons, to bring that bill forward, the House voted against it. In fact, the Liberals and the Conservatives joined together to shut the bill down at second reading.

I do not want to take away from the debate on the bill today. Bill S-223 is going to have our full support. I just hope that when Parliament is conducting itself and when we see value in these types of measures that try to apply Canadian law to things that happen abroad, we can do so on a consistent basis.

We need to recognize that there are huge problems out there, not just with human trafficking in organs, but also in war crimes, slavery and other methods. Should the member for New Westminster—Burnaby try to bring that initiative back, I hope the House will apply the lessons from the debate on Bill S-223 to that similar and worthy initiative.

Bill S-223 is no stranger to us. In the 42nd Parliament, it was before the House as Bill S-240. The reason I think it is a forgone conclusion that this bill is going to pass the House is that it is identical to the version we debated and passed as Bill S-240. In fact, in the 42nd Parliament it received the unanimous support of the House at second reading and again at third reading on April 30, 2019.

The important and notable difference with Bill S-223 is that it incorporates the amendments the House made to the previous version of the bill. That is what caused the delay on Bill S-240. It had to be sent back to the Senate so it could consider House amendments.

Unfortunately, at that time, the bill was held up because of the procedural shenanigans going on in the other place related to the old bill, Bill C-262, which was introduced by my former colleague, Romeo Saganash. That was his attempt with a private member's bill to enshrine the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

I am glad to see, from the tone and content of the speeches so far, that there is recognition that this is an important and long-overdue change to criminal law. It sends a strong message, not only to people around the world who are facing these barbaric practices under regimes such as China, and we have heard well-documented testimony on what the Uighur population is going through, but also to impoverished people living in countries where the rule of law is applied selectively at best.

These people may be targeted by criminal organizations. We have heard testimony from people who have woken up in a drugged haze to someone wearing a surgical mask and gloves telling them that their kidney has just been removed and that they need to take care. Often, these victims can suffer very serious, lifelong health consequences from that, and because of the nature of the operation, some people have ultimately died from it. It is a very real issue.

We know the demand for organs is very high worldwide, and we need to take steps to encourage people to put themselves on an organ donor registry. I am pleased to see that this Parliament has tried to address that by making it easier for people to sign up and so on. However, those are problems that are not going to go away. The demand for organs is high, and as our population ages we certainly need to have smart and effective policy to address that.

On behalf of the New Democratic caucus, I will indicate that we are looking forward to supporting this bill and voting on it so it gets sent to the Governor General for royal assent. We have long opposed all forms of trafficking, whether it be human trafficking for sexual exploitation, labour trafficking or the trafficking of human organs. We must do all we can to protect vulnerable people. With that, I will conclude my remarks. I appreciate this opportunity.

Motions in amendmentNational Council for Reconciliation ActGovernment Orders

November 29th, 2022 / 12:05 p.m.
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Scarborough—Rouge Park Ontario


Gary Anandasangaree LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-29, an act to provide for the establishment of a national council for truth and reconciliation. I want to begin by acknowledging that we are gathered on the traditional unceded lands of the Algonquin peoples.

At the outset, I want to acknowledge the incredible work of many of my colleagues from different parties, including the member for Sydney—Victoria, who is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, the member for Northwest Territories, the member for Nunavut, the member for Winnipeg Centre, the member for Edmonton Griesbach and others, who, over the many years we have been here, have been inspirational in their work and advocacy as we make sure that as a government, we move forward on reconciliation.

Reconciliation is multi-layered, is often complex and is an issue that will take generations to achieve in Canada. Canada has gone through 154 years of colonialism and deeply rooted legislation that often disempowered and displaced first nations, Inuit and Métis across Canada. We have gone from having over 90 indigenous languages to only a handful being spoken today. We have seen the horrific results of residential schools and the intergenerational trauma they have created, and the lasting effects of the hurt and loss. We saw this with the unmarked graves, starting last year, and I suspect we will see it again and again as we unpack this deeply hurtful issue over the next few years. Parliament recently acknowledged what happened with residential schools as genocide, and that, too, is a very important aspect of moving forward and speaking truth to power.

As we look at establishing the national council for reconciliation, it is important to look at history. In 2015, when we took office, the commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission presented their findings, with 94 calls to action. That was in December 2015. They outlined the bare minimum that needs to be done in order for our path to reconciliation to move forward.

Since then, we have seen a number of different initiatives, including the report of the MMIWG, the missing and murdered women and girls report, and the calls to justice, as well as several other very important findings, including the unmarked graves. These things put additional responsibilities on the government and on all Canadians to address.

The 94 calls to action are an all-encompassing set of guidelines for the federal government, provincial governments and in some cases municipal governments, as well as organizations, particularly national indigenous organizations, and all Canadians. It is important to recognize that reconciliation is not a journey that can just be undertaken by Canada as a government. It needs to be an all-of-Canada effort that includes all stakeholders.

When we talk about reconciliation, oftentimes we talk about what Canada is prepared to do, but it really comes down to how much trust and confidence indigenous people can have in this process. What we have seen in the last seven years is that while we have moved ahead on a number of very important initiatives, we have often seen this relationship be two steps forward and one step back because there is a lot of unpacking to do. As we approach and encounter these issues, it is important that as a government we double down and recommit to working harder to ensure we move forward on this process.

It is an imperfect process. It is an imperfect set of ideas that often may need reflection, and in that I am pleased to share with the House some of my experiences over the past seven years working across party lines with the members opposite.

I do want to start off with our work on Bill C-262, which was a private member's bill brought forward by my friend Romeo Saganash. It essentially called for the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and I was fortunate to work with Mr. Saganash over the couple of years he was actively advocating for Bill C-262. We travelled a fair bit in our committee work and spoke to many individuals: young people, elders, band councils and indigenous organization members. The enormous support the bill had across Canada with indigenous people was remarkable. However, we saw that the same level of commitment was not here in Parliament.

Over time, sadly, Bill C-262 did not pass, but we were able to get Bill C-15 through Parliament in 2021, and basically it is calls to action 43 and 44, and it was able to pass. The second part of UNDRIP is the implementation of a national action plan, and our department is working very hard with indigenous partners and national indigenous organizations, as well as rights holders and many others, to make sure we have an action plan that can really address a review of laws and move us forward on this path.

One of the things that has really humbled me is the work we have done on indigenous languages. There is an act, Bill C-91, which was passed in 2019, and it was a critical moment in Canada because, when we talk about language, it is so fundamental to all of us. Often, I look at the passion with which my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois address the issue of bilingualism and language, and the passion with which many of my colleagues on this side speak to the need to protect the French language.

I think it is so critical to ensure that linguistic minorities are protected across Canada, but often missing in that conversation is the need to protect and save the many indigenous languages that existed prior to Confederation. In many ways, those languages are in their last stages. Medically speaking, they are on life support because we have so many languages that are at a point of being lost permanently.

I know the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London spoke about Oneida Nation on the Thames, and that is one of the groups we met during the development of Bill C-91. It was devastating to see that only a handful of people were able to speak that language, which shows how important it is that Bill C-91 is there. As well, we, along with the support of the New Democratic Party, repealed mandatory minimum penalties just last week, and we implemented the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

These are some measures that speak to the work that has been done, but there is a lot more to do, and I believe the national council would be a very important tool for us to measure objectively what work we need to do. It would measure and report back to the House, as well as to Canadians, on the need to fill in the gaps and to make sure we fulfill all the commitments in the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

I look forward to questions and comments from my friends, and I thank them for this opportunity to speak.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

May 13th, 2022 / 1:30 p.m.
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Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, allow me to thank the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan for tenaciously sponsoring this legislation again. He should get an award for the number of times he has appeared on this very same bill.

In the House, we all recognize the importance of this bill. We have had several Parliaments debate it. I do not think there is any argument against this kind of an amendment being necessary to the Criminal Code and to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

I did have a number of comments I wanted to make, but in the spirit of what has already been said today, I would conclude by saying that the NDP absolutely does support this legislation. It is a shame that we did not see the former Bill S-240 pass through the 42nd Parliament quickly. If people remember correctly, that piece of legislation was held up, literally yards away from the finish line, because of the procedural shenanigans that were going on in the other place, when Conservative senators were trying to hold up Romeo Saganash's Bill C-262. That ultimately prevented the Senate from voting on the House amendments to Bill S-240.

That being said, we are here now with Bill S-223. I am proud to support this bill at second reading. We look forward to seeing it get to committee, back to the House and on to the Governor General's desk as quickly as possible.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActGovernment Orders

May 14th, 2021 / 1:40 p.m.
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Scarborough—Rouge Park Ontario


Gary Anandasangaree LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations

Madam Speaker, I always appreciate my colleague's comments, but I have to express a bit of disappointment in the position she is taking.

There has been extensive consultation. With respect to Bill C-262, I was with Romeo Saganash in many communities and on many travels with the INAN committee, where many people came out and talked about his direct engagement. The foundation of Bill C-15 is from Bill C-262, and our ministers, as well as other colleagues and I, were part of extensive consultations across Canada, even during the pandemic. In fact, during the INAN study itself we had many more people who came forward and spoke.

I do believe we have had a wide range of consultations, not perfect but extensive. We cannot say that we support UNDRIP in principle but are not ready to implement it. I would urge my colleague to reconsider her position, because this is a historic moment—

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActGovernment Orders

May 14th, 2021 / 1:30 p.m.
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Jenica Atwin Green Fredericton, NB

Madam Speaker, I would like to start by acknowledging the unceded Wolastoqiyik territory from which I speak today. I have commented in this House before about the importance of this recognition and, most importantly, the actions that must accompany it.

There has never been a more important time to highlight this than with our discussion of Bill C-15, an act to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples here in Canada, in a colonial country, where land was extorted. In addition to threats and force, there were efforts to exterminate and bury the original peoples of this land. These efforts failed. Instead, they planted seeds, and what we are seeing is a reclamation, the ushering in of a new age. The time has come for reparations.

Many of my colleagues in this House know that my children are indigenous. I have also worked closely with hundreds of indigenous youth as a teacher. They have informed my work every step of the way. When I think of voting on this bill, I ask myself what their world will look like in five years, in 10 years and for the generations after them, with or without passing Bill C-15.

Bill C-15 introduces the notion of a national action plan to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into Canadian law, with annual reporting mechanisms. It is important to note that the specifics of these measures are not articulated. This has brought with it uncertainty and a manifestation of a well-placed mistrust in government.

What Bill C-15 does well is lay out a robust preamble with ambitious, frankly incredible language. It includes value statements that acknowledge systemic discrimination, and now racism, thanks to an important amendment. It recognizes self-determination of indigenous peoples, including an acknowledgement of their legal systems. It actually says, “the Government of Canada rejects all forms of colonialism and is committed to advancing relations...that are based on good faith and on the principles of justice, democracy, equality, non-discrimination, good governance and respect for human rights”.

Can we take these words at face value, or in good faith, as the bill proclaims? The criticisms of Bill C-15 are nuanced. The most obvious issue is that the notion of good faith itself is on shaky ground. For a bill that enshrines the notion of free, prior and informed consent, consultation is severely lacking. I know that is a contested point, but I must say I believe it was lacking.

It is not enough to have closed-door meetings with national bodies or organizations. The individual rights holders have a right to be heard and to weigh in on legislation with such significant implications. All Canadians, Québécois and indigenous peoples of this land require an understanding of the declaration and what it truly means to affirm it as a universal international human rights instrument.

A more complex problem some are having with this bill is that indigenous people are tired of the gaslighting. Indigenous rights are inherent. People are born with them and no one can take them away. These rights have existed since time immemorial, and yet Canadian history presents things as though indigenous peoples were handed those rights with the coming into force of the 1982 Constitution Act. It is a nice idea, but it misses hundreds of years of colonialism and abuse rooted in the doctrine of discovery. The notions that the Crown holds sovereignty over indigenous peoples, that indigenous laws and legal traditions have no place and that the Crown has ultimate title to the land held in trust underpin all of Canadian law. They are embedded in the Canadian charter, and they have placed the burden of labour on indigenous peoples and nations to establish their rights in Canadian courts.

Bill C-15 also fails to enshrine a distinctions-based approach to implementing UNDRIP in Canada and stands more as pan-indigenous legislation, disregarding the incredible diversity within indigenous nations. It is possible that Bill C-15 may be a tool in the tool kit for future court cases, but I have to question what the future holds for Canada and indigenous nationhood with this implication. Are we preparing for years of expensive legal battles? Are we asking once again for indigenous people to bear the burden of proof in the protection of their collective inherent rights?

What will happen with the Mi'kmaq fishery dispute, with a new season set to start in June? Fishers and leadership have had to call on the United Nations for protection from violence and racist intimidation. Will the passing of Bill C-15 prevent this from happening? Will it remind the non-indigenous fishers of their treaty obligations, of their history of settlement in Unama'ki? If B.C.'s UNDRIP law is any indication, sadly, I do not think it will.

I want to take a moment to talk about the journey I have been on when it comes to the study of this bill. My first step was with the Wolastoqiyik Grand Council, under Grand Chief Spasaqsit Possesom and Wolastoqiyik grandmothers. My next step was to meet with the Wabanaki Peace & Friendship Alliance.

I reviewed numerous analyses and interpretations. I met with my hon. colleague from Winnipeg Centre to learn more about the work of Romeo Saganash with Bill C-262. I met with local community leadership. I met with our local friendship centre. I met with the association of Iroquois and allied nations, with my hon. colleague from Vancouver Granville. I met with the Assembly of First Nations and staff from Chief Bellegarde's office. I listened and I learned.

My last stop was again with the Wolastoqiyik grandmothers, scholars and leaders in my riding. I would encourage all members of the House to also seek out that guidance.

The assertion of these critical voices from Fredericton, from my mentors and most trusted allies, is to reject Bill C-15 at third reading. This is not easy for me. The Green Party of Canada stands by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and we campaigned on passing it into law. However, that is not what Bill C-15 would accomplish.

I am told to celebrate Bill C-15 as it sets out the basic minimum standards for dignity and human rights for indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples already have these rights: charter rights. They already have title to their land and to hunt and fish for their livelihoods. They already have the right to self-determination. Canadians are the ones who have a problem upholding these rights, and Canada fails to enforce them.

We have a moral, legal and fiduciary responsibility as a nation to uphold our laws. However, we have broken these laws in pursuit of domination over indigenous nations, and there is significant work ahead in dismantling these systems and structures of oppression that got us here. There are no easy fixes, such as passing Bill C-15 to check the box of reconciliation.

Clarity on the implementation of UNDRIP would have been a golden opportunity to demonstrate what a new relationship could be, to demonstrate true respect and co-operation. Canada and sovereign indigenous nations could continue on a path in their own canoes, the lesson that the Two Row Wampum teaches us.

It is 2021, and it is time for us to face the truth. We cannot reconcile if we were never conciliatory; we can only work to repair the damage done. An essential part of these reparations is respecting the first treaty we all have as humans: the treaty with the land and with our planet. We forget far too often the interconnectedness of all life and our role and responsibility in preserving this place for future generations. What we have now is a race to consume resources.

There is a component of the bill that reflects sustainable development, but what this conversation must include is a re-evaluation of what that means. What is the value of protecting old-growth forests, food security and cultural safety? How are we to measure the success of Bill C-15? There are too many questions left unanswered.

The study of Bill C-15 has been a roller-coaster ride for me, and I wish to recognize the immense privilege I have as a non-indigenous person in pursuing this study. It has been difficult to see the infighting and division among people I look up to, among some of my personal heroes. I want to say for the record that it is okay to support the bill, and it is okay to reject it. What is not okay is ignoring our role and responsibilities as treaty people and treating each other with disrespect, which is a legacy that remains, with or without this bill.

Finally, whether Bill C-15 receives royal assent or not will not determine the future for my children. They are Wolastoqiyik. They are people of the beautiful and bountiful river. They are rooted to this land. They know who they are, and they know their rights.

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May 14th, 2021 / 1:30 p.m.
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Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, in response to the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, I have a great amount of respect for Romeo Saganash. It was a great privilege to have the opportunity to serve with him in the last Parliament.

That being said, Bill C-262 was a flawed piece of legislation for many of the same reasons that Bill C-15 is a flawed piece of legislation. I was unable to support Bill C-262 and I am unable to support this bill.

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May 14th, 2021 / 1:15 p.m.
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Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to speak to Bill C-15, an act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, or UNDRIP.

The purpose of this legislation is to align Canadian laws with UNDRIP. The road to reconciliation has been a long and difficult one, with many ups and downs. Underlying it all is an understandable level of distrust on the part of indigenous peoples. Seen in that context, it could be said that at best, this is a well-intentioned piece of legislation, but even if that were so, it does not make it a good piece of legislation.

This legislation will likely move the process of reconciliation backward, rather than forward, and have grave impacts upon first nations communities to develop and prosper and achieve true self-determination. This legislation would undermine reconciliation, and nowhere is that clearer than in the complete failure on the part of the government in this bill to define what constitutes “free, prior and informed consent”.

What is free, prior and informed consent? If we were to look at the remarks of the Minister of Justice, we would be led to believe that it really means not much of anything, that the status quo ante would not be upended. In that regard, when the minister spoke in the House on this bill and the question of free, prior and informed consent, he said, “Free, prior and informed consent does not constitute veto power over the government's decision-making process.” The minister went on to say it “will not change Canada's existing duty to consult with indigenous peoples”. Clearly, that cannot be so.

Free, prior and informed consent is not the same as the duty to consult and accommodate, which is embedded in section 35 of our Constitution. There is a wide body of jurisprudence on that doctrine that makes clear that the right to be consulted and the right to be accommodated do not constitute a right of an absolute veto. When one looks at the words “free, prior and informed consent” on their face, they would seem to mean precisely the opposite of what the minister purports, namely that there would be a veto by someone.

Consistent with that, many persons who are authoritative on this matter have said as much. Let us take Senator Murray Sinclair, for example. Senator Sinclair championed Bill C-262 in the Senate in the last Parliament, which was the predecessor to this piece of legislation. Senator Sinclair is an esteemed retired justice of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench.

On the question of what constitutes free, prior and informed consent, Senator Sinclair said this: “Free, prior and informed consent is a very simple concept.... And that is, before you affect my land, you need to talk to me, and you need to have my permission.” If “you need to have my permission” is not a veto, I do not know what is.

Assembly of First Nations chief Perry Bellegarde said that free, prior and informed consent, “very simply, is the right to say yes, and the right to say no”. He said it is “the right to say no”, full stop. If that does not constitute a veto, then I say I do not know what does.

It did not have to be this way. The one thing the government could have done was incorporate language expressly into the bill that made it clear that free, prior and informed consent does not constitute a veto. The Liberals could have provided a clearer definition of its meaning and its effect, thereby removing the considerable questions that currently exist about the implications of its meaning and effect, and what that will do to the development of major resource and other projects if this bill is passed.

One thing that is certain is that this lack of a definition would create considerable uncertainty and a torrent of new litigation around major development projects. It would undermine regulatory certainty, undermine investor confidence, and undermine the ability of individual first nations communities to determine their own destinies by seeking opportunities to engage and participate in projects that could help their people develop and prosper.

This is hardly a hypothetical. One need only look at Bill 41, passed by the B.C. NDP government in December 2019. That bill is quite similar to Bill C-15. It does not expressly enshrine UNDRIP into law in the Province of British Columbia, but it uses aspirational language about aligning B.C.'s laws with UNDRIP, similar to Bill C-15.

Within two months of the passage of Bill 41, three major projects were challenged by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: the Kitimat LNG project, the Site C dam and Coastal GasLink. The UN committee said that UNDRIP did apply, and that there had not been free, prior and informed consent. Many indigenous communities and leaders also took that position. That was despite the fact that, in the case of Coastal GasLink, 20 indigenous communities had supported the project but one faction of unelected hereditary chiefs opposed it. It underscores the uncertainty that would result from the passage of this bill, and it is why I cannot support this bill.

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May 14th, 2021 / 1:10 p.m.
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Scarborough—Rouge Park Ontario


Gary Anandasangaree LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations

Madam Speaker, I noticed that the member hardly spoke about Bill C-15 and UNDRIP.

I do want to ask him a question. He was very much involved with the previous government. UNDRIP was accepted by the General Assembly 13 years ago. The previous Conservative government was in power for many of those years.

At what point would the Conservative Party accept UNDRIP and develop a plan to implement it or at least have a road map to success? The Conservative Party has consistently opposed it every step of the way, including with the blocking of Bill C-262 and Bill C-15.

At what point would the Conservative Party accept the principles of UNDRIP so it could be implemented into Canadian law?

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May 14th, 2021 / 12:45 p.m.
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Oakville North—Burlington Ontario


Pam Damoff LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services

Madam Speaker, kwe, kwe. Ulaakut. Tansi. Hello. Bonjour.

I would like to acknowledge that I am speaking from the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit first nation from my home in Oakville and my riding of Oakville North—Burlington.

I am happy to speak today on this proposed legislation as it represents a critical step forward on the path to reconciliation. This legislation has been strengthened through extensive engagement and consultation with indigenous peoples at every step in its development. I believe the greatest strength of Bill C-15's development was the input of indigenous peoples from coast to coast to coast, which positively shaped the bill. Collaborating with indigenous partners through the engagement process has been pivotal in ensuring that we get it right.

As members know, the legislation is based on Romeo Saganash's private members' bill, Bill C-262. Mr. Saganash was the first parliamentary champion to endorse The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, often referred to as UNDRIP, and we all owe him a debt of gratitude.

A consultation draft of this bill was shared during engagement sessions to seek feedback from indigenous organizations in order to improve and amend the draft. During engagement, the government received contributions from many groups. In total, over 700 virtual sessions took place. They included sessions with national and regional indigenous organizations, indigenous rights holders, modern treaty and self-governing nations, as well as with women, youth, two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual plus persons.

This included regional engagement sessions where more than 450 people participated providing feedback and advice on potential enhancements to the consultation draft. Provincial and territorial governments, experts and industry stakeholders also informed the development of the bill.

We heard consistent calls to include strong language in the preamble on the need to consider the diversity of indigenous peoples; recognize inherent rights and respect treaties; include a reference to the historic and ongoing injustices and discrimination suffered by indigenous peoples and marginalized groups; acknowledge the role of the declaration as a framework for reconciliation, justice, healing and peace; and address systemic racism and discrimination.

We also heard consistent calls to consider the importance of educating Canadians to ensure that indigenous rights are understood and valued; recognize the right of self-determination and self-government as vital, and that the need for a strong distinctions-based approach throughout the legislation is essential; emphasize the importance of respecting article 37, which outlines respect of treaty rights, self-government agreements and other constructive agreements, and is important for modern treaty partners; not interfere with work under way at regional and provincial levels; and include references to climate change and sustainable development.

Because of this valuable feedback, the bill includes strong language in the preamble on the need to consider the diversity of indigenous peoples, recognize inherent rights and respect treaties. I should point out that all Canadians have access to this wealth of ideas and input. We have produced the “What We Learned” report, which is publicly available on the Canada website.

Engagement with partners did not stop when the bill was introduced. Ministers, their offices and the departments have been meeting extensively with indigenous partners and other stakeholders since introduction, and they will continue to do so throughout the parliamentary process. We learned from indigenous partners that there was much consensus around further suggested changes to the bill, including legislation that has been further improved by amendments as it was making its way through Parliament.

As an example, Bill C-15 required the development of the initial action plan as soon as possible and set a maximum three-year timeline. Based on feedback from indigenous partners during engagement sessions, the bill has now been amended to shorten the maximum timeline to a period of two years instead of three years for the development of the action plan in consultation and co-operation with indigenous peoples.

We recognize that collaboration with first nations, Inuit and Métis partners takes time, but it should proceed with purpose. Bill C-15 now includes language from the declaration emphasizing that all doctrines, policies and practices based on racist or discriminatory notions are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust. An important amendment will modernize our laws by making specific reference to the fact that Canadian courts have stated that aboriginal and treaty rights are not frozen in time. Instead, they are capable of growth and evolution.

Most recently, we heard from the national indigenous organizations and indigenous women's organization at the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs. They stressed the urgency of passing this legislation, and I would like to share some of their testimony today in the House.

The president of the Women of the Métis Nation, Melanie Omeniho, said:

Elders and representatives from across the Métis motherland have noted that this historic piece of legislation, if implemented according to its spirit and intent, could have the transformative power of an indigenous bill of rights. Bill C-15, the proposed UNDRIP act, represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reset both the scales of justice and the balance of power so that indigenous women, children and two-spirit and gender-diverse people are protected, safe and free.

The Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada vice-president Gerri Sharpe said:

Bill C-15 is a step forward for Inuit women and all Canadians on the journey towards reconciliation. It is important because it states that Inuit women will have the right to participate in decision-making in matters that affect them; the right to improvement of economic and social conditions including education, housing, health, employment and social security; the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; and the same rights and freedoms guaranteed to Inuit men.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed said:

Bill C-15...is very focused on two particular concepts: one, the alignment of laws and policies within this country with the UN declaration; and two, the creation of an action plan.... Indigenous peoples' rights are human rights. This is a class of human rights that needs this particular legislation, and we do hope that Canadians accept the rights of indigenous peoples as human rights in this country.

Native Women's Association of Canada president Lorraine Whitman said:

UNDRIP is about us, our families, our communities, the thousands of pages of the national inquiry testimony and its calls for justice. Specifically, call to action 1.3 demands that government end the political marginalization of indigenous women.

David Chartrand of the Métis Nation Council said:

...change is coming and UNDRIP is another pathway that's going to really let us play catch-up so that indigenous and non-indigenous people can compare economically, educationally and so forth. It's about catching up. We're slowly catching up, which is something we should have done 50 years ago or 80 years ago.

If approved by Parliament, the bill will also require the Government of Canada, in consultation and co-operation with indigenous peoples, to take all measures necessary to ensure the laws of Canada are consistent with the declaration, prepare and implement an action plan to achieve the declaration's objectives and table an annual report. Co-development of the action plan will also be a further opportunity to work in close partnership on implementation.

We are ushering in a new era in which we build stronger and lasting relationships, close socio-economic gaps and promote greater prosperity for indigenous peoples and all Canadians. Together we are building a brighter future and a better Canada for today, tomorrow and into our shared future. That is why this legislation is so crucial. Built by extensive indigenous input and strengthened by committee amendments, Bill C-15 must now become the law of the land.

To conclude, I would like to affirm the words of AFN Chief Perry Bellegarde, who said, “We need to seize this moment and not miss the opportunity to get Bill C-15 passed. It is a road map to reconciliation.”

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May 14th, 2021 / 12:45 p.m.
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Adam van Koeverden Liberal Milton, ON

Madam Speaker, I too feel a great sense of pride and obligation in working on this bill. I wish I had been around to vote for Bill C-262. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to move forward on this. This bill will, indeed, require multi-party support. I look forward to supporting this bill with my colleague and further discussing the urgency when there is more time.

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May 14th, 2021 / 12:45 p.m.
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Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, one of the proudest moments of my parliamentary career was my vote in favour of Bill C-262 at third reading in the last Parliament. COVID-19 has demonstrated that the federal government is able to move quite quickly to address urgent situations with massive financial resources. We saw the hundreds of billions of dollars that were made available in very short order as liquidity supports for banks.

What I want to know from the parliamentary secretary is whether the Government of Canada will commit the same level of urgency to this bill when it receives royal assent so that indigenous peoples across Canada, who have been waiting for hundreds of years for this important step, can have confidence that this receives the same amount of attention as supports that were given for COVID-19.