United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act

An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Sponsor

Romeo Saganash  NDP

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

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of Oct. 23, 2018

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-262.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment requires the Government of Canada to take all measures necessary to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

May 30, 2018 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-262, An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Feb. 7, 2018 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-262, An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

May 1st, 2018 / 3:35 p.m.
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National Chief Robert Bertrand National Chief, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

Thank you.

Chairman Mihychuk, vice-chairs McLeod and Saganash, committee members, representatives, and guests, I am National Chief Robert Bertrand of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples—in other words, CAP.

I am pleased to be with you all today and wish to acknowledge that we are on the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin peoples.

The teachings and wisdom of our ancestors are essential for guiding our work and our discussions today.

I would like to recognize NDP MP Romeo Saganash for his dedication and perseverance in advancing Bill C-262 and commend the Liberal government for its full support of this crucial bill. Enshrining the principles set out in the UN declaration in Canadian law is a momentous step toward genuine reconciliation and safeguarding the individual and collective human rights of all indigenous peoples in Canada.

For over 47 years, CAP has committed itself to advocating for the rights and needs of the off-reserve status and non-status Indians, Métis peoples, and southern Inuit, the majority of whom live in urban, rural, and remote areas. CAP also serves as the national voice for its 11 provincial and territorial affiliates, which are instrumental in providing us with a direct connection to the priorities and needs of our constituents.

From coast to coast, the provincial and territorial affiliates of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples play a leading role in providing us with direct access to the needs and interests of our fellow citizens.

Since Canada's full endorsement of the UN declaration, our people have been questioning what this means, what impact UNDRIP will have, and what the future now holds for them. During this time, we also witnessed Canada's commitment to advancing reconciliation, the TRC's 94 calls to action, and a renewed relationship with indigenous peoples based on recognition and implementation of indigenous rights.

As citizens of this country, we have come to recognize that to move forward together we need to have true reconciliation between all indigenous peoples, non-indigenous Canadians, and all levels of government. However, Canada's proclaimed renewed relationship with indigenous peoples and vision to achieve reconciliation has seemingly extended itself in a distinction-based approach to a select number of the five national indigenous organizations recognized by the Government of Canada.

Disguised as reconciliation, this approach is a strong indicator of the desire on the part of the federal government to simplify its political interface with indigenous peoples. This lends itself to creating a culture of exclusion, division, and inequality. One could argue that it further perpetuates competition for social, political, and economic interests amongst indigenous groups, communities, and families. As was done through the Indian Act, which created eligibility rules that classified status Indians as Canada's legitimate Indians for public policy purposes, Canada continues to justify its exclusionary relationship through public policy and law.

The federal government continues to pose the question: Who are non-status Indians? They are Indians who were ultimately forced into an identity category of the government's own creation. As of the 2016 census, non-status Indians—some 232,000 indigenous people—now account for nearly a quarter of the first nations population in Canada.

A great number of our constituents are skeptical that any significant changes would ensue as a result of UNDRIP and Bill C-262, as their voices have largely been ignored in terms of political recognition and engagement in policy development on substantive issues that affect them.

Certainly, the inherent rights expressed in the UN declaration are not exclusive or limited to federally recognized status Indians or indigenous peoples who live on reserve in Inuit Nunangat or the Red River Settlement.

Canada's ongoing unilateral decision-making on behalf of non-status Indians and the urban indigenous peoples must come to an end, as it is a direct violation of their fundamental human rights in UNDRIP.

Our constituents are the most vulnerable and marginalized of all Canadian citizens, who have and continue to fall through the jurisdictional and legislative cracks. In 1972, the Secretary of State for the Government of Canada submitted a confidential memo to cabinet showing that Canada was well aware that the Métis and non-status Indians were far more exposed to discrimination and other social disabilities and were the most disadvantaged of all Canadian citizens, living in circumstances that were intolerable, judged by the standards of Canadian society. Over 45 years later, we must ask ourselves why this situation remains the same.

For years, both federal and provincial governments in Canada have denied having legislative authority over Métis and non-status Indians, the federal government under the justification that subsection 91(24) of the Constitution has precluded them from doing so, and the provincial governments on the basis that the issue is a federal one. This has left many Métis and non-status Indians in what the Supreme Court of Canada has characterized as “a jurisdictional wasteland with significant and obvious disadvantaging consequences”. Justice Michael Phelan acknowledged that these consequences produced a large population of collaterally damaged people as the result of their being deprived of programs, services, and intangible benefits, recognized by all governments as needed.

In 1999, CAP addressed a crucial stalemate directly by launching a legal challenge in Daniels v. Canada. On April 14, 2016, after a 17-year court battle, the Supreme Court issued an unanimous decision on Daniels, declaring that the Métis and non-status Indians are Indians under subsection 91(24) of the Constitution Act of 1867. This landmark ruling confirmed that Canada is constitutionally responsible for the Métis and non-status Indians. It also affirmed that the federal government has a fiduciary relationship with the Métis and non-status Indians just as it does with status Indians and has a duty to consult and negotiate with them on matters that affect them.

In the Supreme Court's decision on Daniels, Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Abella stated:

As the curtain opens wider and wider on the history of Canada’s relationship with its Indigenous peoples, inequities are increasingly revealed and remedies urgently sought. Many revelations have resulted in good faith policy and legislative responses, but the list of disadvantages remains robust. This case represents another chapter in the pursuit of reconciliation and redress in that relationship.

The Daniels decision, in addition to the application of UNDRIP and Canadian law, has the potential to transform the relationship between Canada, Métis, and non-status Indians, and help shape the framework, including new legislation to recognize and implement indigenous rights in support of its commitment toward reconciliation with indigenous peoples.

As of today, two years following the decision, Canada remains an inactive partner in engaging CAP on Daniels. CAP, and by extension, the voices of the Métis and non-status Indians continue to experience exclusion from crucial discussions with the Canadian government that impact the rights and the lives of our constituents.

Bill C-262 would require the federal government to take all necessary measures to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with UNDRIP and develop a national plan to do so in consultation and co-operation with indigenous peoples.

This concludes my remarks this afternoon.

Thank you very much. Meegwetch.

May 1st, 2018 / 3:35 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Welcome, everybody.

It's a historic day, and now we are at the INAN committee. We are discussing 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.

As we sit in this relatively new committee room, we are actually on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people. History is still alive and we must understand the truth before we can deal with reconciliation. We have begun the process.

The way it works is that you'll have up to 10 minutes to present. I'll try to give you signals, first very subtle and then not so subtle as we get closer to the time being up, so just keep an eye on me once in a while and I'll let you know. Then, after the presentations, we'll go to rounds of questions with the honourable MPs who are here, to get even more insight on your words of wisdom.

To begin with, we've got the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.

Hi, Robert. Welcome.

April 26th, 2018 / 5:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

However, when you endorse something such as a document like Bill C-262, you're basically saying, “Go ahead; this is great,” that we all should be sitting here voting for it. That's important; what you say matters. If you haven't had that detailed discussion and in-depth look at it to come to those conclusions, I just wonder how....

April 26th, 2018 / 5:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Thank you.

I'm going to start with the chamber, and thank you both for your presentations.

The chamber has formally endorsed both UNDRIP and Bill C-262. Did your membership look at it? What was your process to come to a formal endorsement? Is it both...under Bill C-262?

April 26th, 2018 / 4:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

Okay. It was surprising.

Moving back to Pamela or François, what suggestions do you have for us—we have less than a minute—to improve Bill C-262?

April 26th, 2018 / 4:40 p.m.
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François Dufresne President, Forest Stewardship Council of Canada

Thank you, Madam Chair.

My name is François Dufresne. I am the President and CEO of the Forest Stewardship Council or FSC Canada.

I would to first acknowledge that we are gathered on the unceded territory of the Algonquin peoples. FSC Canada has been welcomed onto this territory many times since our creation in 1996, and we have been honoured with their support for our work on sustainable forest management.

FSC Canada would like to recognize Mr. Saganash for introducing Bill C-262 to the Canadian public for review and debate. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been a guidepost for our work on establishing new standards for forest certification in Canada and around the world. We would like to thank this committee for including FSC in the lineup of distinguished guests to speak on the topic of indigenous rights; free, prior, and informed consent; and UNDRIP.

I will provide a brief introduction to FSC and then I will turn the microphone over to Pamela Perreault, our coordinator of aboriginal initiatives within FSC Canada, to provide an overview of our work on indigenous rights.

FSC is a global organization that is present in more than 80 countries with 200 million hectares of certified forests around the globe. It was created in 1993 after the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit as a voluntary forest certification system. Based on a consensus obtained with social, indigenous, environmental, and economic stakeholders, we set strict standards to ensure that FSC-certified forest products are issued from responsibly managed forests. The wood fibre from certified forests is tracked to retail stores through the FSC chain of custody system. FSC-certified wood, paper, and other forest products are then sold with the FSC label by certified companies in the marketplace. With 55 million hectares, Canada has the largest area of FSC-certified forests in the world. Sixteen per cent of Canada's forests are FSC-certified, and six of the 10 largest FSC-certified forests in the world are located here in Canada.

Pamela will now explain how FSC has worked within the UNDRIP framework to craft a standard that recognizes and upholds the rights of indigenous peoples.

April 26th, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.
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Susanna Cluff-Clyburne Director, Parliamentary Affairs, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Great. Thank you very much, Madam Chair. I'm used to presenting for five minutes, so I'll be fast, and I'll give my co-panellists the remainder of my time.

First of all, thank you very much for the invitation to be here this afternoon. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce deeply appreciates it. I'm Susanna Cluff-Clyburne, obviously, and amongst my files at the Canadian chamber is the indigenous affairs file. I too wish to acknowledge, as I'm sure has been done previously this afternoon, the fact that we're meeting on unceded territory of the Algonquin people.

The Canadian chamber is not a newcomer to the examination of relationships between business and indigenous peoples. I've had the opportunity to meet several of the members of this committee to talk about our work in the past and in the present as well. Our members know that indigenous peoples, the youngest and fastest-growing segment of Canada's population, hold the promise of being a social and economic powerhouse if they have the same opportunities available to them as all Canadians do.

Over the past several years, Canadian chamber members have given us the mandate and resources to examine public policy tools and business practices that would improve indigenous peoples' participation in, and increase their benefits from, our economy. Indigenous peoples in what is now Canada once enjoyed strong, nation-to-nation, social, military, and commercial alliances with European colonists. Had it not been for the co-operation of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples—for example, during the War of 1812—Canada might not exist, and that was before the Indian Act, residential schools, and a spate of policies and programs aimed at assimilating indigenous peoples.

It wasn't just government policies that caused harm. Canada's businesses have often fallen short on seeking respectful relationships with indigenous peoples. Governments, businesses, and all Canadians need to do the hard work necessary to restore these nation-to-nation, partner-to-partner relationships throughout Canada. They're critical to the well-being of each and every one of us.

In its final report, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called upon Canadian businesses to adopt the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for their relationships. Many of our members are doing so and had respectful, mutually beneficial relationships prior to the declaration's existence. Our members support Bill C-262. It's time that indigenous rights took their proper place in Canadian laws and regulations.

Our members also support the objectives of the approach being taken by the government, first, with its review of the laws and policies affecting indigenous peoples, and more recently, with the process to recognize and implement indigenous rights.

However—and unfortunately, there is a however—our members are frustrated with the lack of a formal process to allow for their perspectives to be heard as the government moves forward. The environment has become extremely complex on the issue of reconciliation, and our repeated requests to be part of the reconciliation conversation have, to date, fallen on deaf ears.

Last year, we were encouraged when it was indicated that the government's review of laws and policies would include a formal process to seek the input of stakeholders, including business. The government's engagement process for the recognition and implementation of indigenous rights does not have the rigour we had expected and hoped for, for such an important issue. Those stakeholders not invited to face-to-face round tables can provide their perspectives through an email address or a Canada Post address. However, the engagement guide is still not available online—that's as of this morning—and the deadline for providing input is not clear. I was able to obtain the guide by contacting an ADM at Indigenous and Northern Affairs. That's the only way I could get it.

Canada's businesses and other stakeholders, as well as indigenous rights holders, need a principles-based, reliable, consistent framework for the governance of their relationships. Until then, we will all continue to rely on a project-by-project approach, based on what we can negotiate and not necessarily on the correct principles. Too often, as it is today, the ultimate outcome will be determined by the courts, and this is not in anyone's interests.

Improving indigenous peoples' engagement in our economy is in every Canadian's interest. Companies that have worked hard to establish and now enjoy strong relationships with indigenous communities are the most vocal on the benefits of doing so.

It's not clear to Canada's businesses and those who invest in them what the government's commitments to reconciliation with indigenous peoples mean for them. A clear, rigorous stakeholder engagement process would greatly assist. The sooner it's clear what the government's commitments mean for Canada's businesses, the better positioned they will be to deliver on sustainable economic reconciliation and the quality-of-life benefits that often accompany it.

Thanks again for the opportunity to be here this afternoon.

April 26th, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

TJ Harvey Liberal Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

My question is based around that premise. Having had numerous conversations with Chief Paul, and Chief Ross and Chief Candice Paul and others, there are differing opinions on that issue, but those would be the three communities that would be the closest to Sisson. I recognize the differentiation between the Maliseet and the Mi'kmaq in New Brunswick and how that's traditionally been separated. But the federal process concluded that one group would be adversely affected and one group would not be adversely affected. How do you feel Bill C-262 would have changed the outcome of that?

I can also put that over to you, Mr. Simon.

April 26th, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

TJ Harvey Liberal Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Yes, Chief Ross, as well as Chief Candice Paul. I think that we work collaboratively despite some differences of opinion on multiple subjects. I think that we overall work very collaboratively together, and in the spirit of collaboration we're certainly putting our best foot forward. You referenced the Sisson project, energy east, and fracking as three specific instances where we've had trouble in New Brunswick. I want to get your opinion on how you felt Bill C-262 could have played a more positive role in the development of any of those projects or how you feel that those projects were adversely affected by its lack.

April 26th, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.
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NDP

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

Maybe to both lawyers, do you think that Bill C-262 adds clarity to everything? I remember the discussions we had back in the days of the early 1980s, when the Constitution Act, 1982, came into effect and the whole concept of aboriginal rights wasn't very clear to me. Do you think Bill C-262 improves on that clarity?

April 26th, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

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

Thank you.

Chief Knockwood, you're right that Bill C-262 refers to laws strictly, which have to be consistent with the UN declaration in this country. You suggested that we add policies to that. I agree.

The Prime Minister has talked in a speech about adding another element to laws and policies, namely operational practices, which have to be consistent with the UN declaration. An operational practice is, for example, when the Minister of Justice decides to appeal decisions that are in favour of indigenous peoples. That's an operational practice.

Do you agree that we should also add operational practices to the bill?

April 26th, 2018 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

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

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you to our presenters, and welcome. Thanks for the support for the UN declaration as well as for Bill C-262. It's very much appreciated. Having travelled throughout the country promoting Bill C-262, I know this is also the desire of all indigenous and non-indigenous communities across the country, so you're perfectly in sync with the rest of the country on this one.

I want to start with you, Chief Leween. I want to understand more in detail how your organization arrived at the position of using the UN declaration as the basis or framework for the work that you do on behalf of your members.

I took note of all the expressions that he used about UNDRIP: that your work is inspired by UNDRIP; that it matters for indigenous peoples; that It's the new future; that UNDRIP is about working together, about collaboration and partnership, and so on and so forth.

Were there difficulties or challenges in arriving at that position about using UNDRIP as a framework for the work you do on behalf of the coalition?

April 26th, 2018 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

That's still leaving me with—which I think we frankly expressed upfront—some discomfort with proceeding forward until we.... I mean, as legislators, to not understand the implications to passing something....

I think we all recognize UNDRIP as important, so what we're talking about is Bill C-262.

How does the Daniels decision overlay into Bill C-262? Perhaps that is a question for the lawyers here.

April 26th, 2018 / 3:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Amos and I are on the environment committee and right now we're studying Bill C-69, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. This, of course, is a key discussion as part of that act, what amendments need to occur to bring about that meaningful participation, that collaborative consent type of approach, and how we can put that within the act so it recognizes UNDRIP, and starts to work toward a rights framework.

In going forward with Bill C- 262, I would assume you would agree that we need to ensure that, as we are going through these other acts, we develop a consistent approach across legislation so we can arrive at the place you're discussing right now.

April 26th, 2018 / 3:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Do you think this is a potential flaw within Bill C-262, that there should be a definition of what FPIC is, or should we...?

There's this argument we've heard here about the legalistic defined approach and then the nation-to-nation relationship approach—you know, the black letter of the law versus political will. Some say that you can't really have one without the other, and others say that it can happen concurrently; it doesn't have to be stated right up front; the black letter of the law does not have to come first, before we enter into UNDRIP and the nation-to-nation relationship that will ensue, in developing a rights framework and toward conciliation.

What would be your view of that?