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?