United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act

An Act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

This bill was last introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2021.

Sponsor

David Lametti  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment provides that the Government of Canada must take all measures necessary to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and must prepare and implement an action plan to achieve the objectives of the Declaration.

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 25, 2021 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-15, An Act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
May 14, 2021 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-15, An Act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
April 19, 2021 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-15, An Act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
April 15, 2021 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-15, An Act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActGovernment Orders

May 12th, 2021 / 5:40 p.m.
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NDP

Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I find it peculiar that this member holds indigenous people to higher standards for democracy, with every indigenous person having to agree to pass anything. If we were held to the same standards, we would never have another government in Canada.

My question relates to international trade law. As the member is aware, international trade law obligations require us to divulge any risks to investment. The member spoke a lot about investments. When Canada fails to divulge, for example, that vast tracts of indigenous lands are still under dispute, are we not negotiating free trade agreements on a lie? When we do not divulge this information are we not, in fact, breaking the law?

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActGovernment Orders

May 12th, 2021 / 5:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Chair, the Canadian Constitution applies clear across the country. I do not think the member is disputing that. Whatever she is talking about in terms of our trade disputes, I do not think that Bill C-15 would clarify any of that. If anything, we would end up in an area of less clarity than before.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActGovernment Orders

May 12th, 2021 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Gary Vidal Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Madam Speaker, at the INAN committee we heard a number of witnesses talk about what the benefit might be of having the action plan prepared and presented before we introduced the legislation, and that there might have been some benefit to that because it would have reduced some of the uncertainty and given clarity.

Through you, Madam Speaker, to the member, does he have some comments around that?

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActGovernment Orders

May 12th, 2021 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for all the work he does at committee as well. The really frustrating piece around this bill for me is that the Liberals are taking a victory lap, because they say they are fulfilling one of the truth and reconciliation requirements by implementing UNDRIP. In reality they are not implementing UNDRIP: They are putting into legislation a plan to make a plan to attempt to bring in UNDRIP. That is extremely frustrating to me.

Again, to go back to the beginning of all of this, it is the “say what you mean and mean what you say” principle. Bill C-15 does not implement UNDRIP. It provides a plan to develop a plan to start implementing UNDRIP. It is not bringing any clarity to the situation. It is not enabling us to move forward. It just leaves us in the limbo we were in prior to Bill C-15.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActGovernment Orders

May 12th, 2021 / 5:45 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I listened to the member's speech and did not find it very compelling. I feel like there is a kind of persistent confusion here. On one hand, he said that it is a bill to make a plan to implement a plan, which is silly, and why do they not just go ahead and do it. On the other hand, he said that this is all very complex and not that easy. What is clear to me at least is that the job is not done. We have seen that through the many controversies around projects on indigenous land, and through the frustration and dire need of indigenous people to get access to resources and the things that they need to live well. We are not going to get started unless we start taking those steps.

I am always on board with criticizing the Liberals for not getting done what they say they want done quickly enough, but we are not here, on our side at least, belabouring the complexities of it and having a record of sometimes not supporting moving forward toward a solution.

Which is it? Is this just a plan to make a plan for a complex set of issues? The gist of the member's position is really not clear to me after having spent some time listening.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActGovernment Orders

May 12th, 2021 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, the main point is that this bill does not bring any clarity to what it means to bring Canada's law into alignment with UNDRIP. We could have seen a bill that would have explained how we could improve duty to consult and bring it in line with FPIC. We could have seen mechanisms around land disputes. Do current land-dispute resolution mechanisms align with UNDRIP? We could have had a bill that would have tried to tweak some of those things. We could have had a bill that would have outlined each and every one of the UNDRIP protocols and said, “This is how we are aligning with it.” We do not have that bill.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActGovernment Orders

May 12th, 2021 / 5:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak again on Bill C-15, which seeks to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

At this point, we are cautiously confident that it will finally pass. I say “finally” because we have been waiting for this bill for a very long time. We hope it will pass quickly, although it is still not a done deal.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted on September 13, 2007. It is now May 2021, almost 15 years later, and it still has not been enshrined in Canadian law. It has been 15 years. Fifteen years is a long time. Fifteen years is the length of four Parliaments. Fifteen years is also slightly less than the difference in life expectancy between Inuit people and the rest of the Canadian population. Among men, the gap was 15 years in 2017. Fifteen years is half a generation, one-sixth of a century. That is a long time within a human lifetime.

Time passes, the world changes, but not for indigenous rights. Nothing moves, nothing changes, because Canada is the land of stalling. It is time for things to change. Despite a few flaws, we believe, as does the Assembly of First Nations, that we must move forward and pass Bill C-15 as quickly as possible, even if that means amending it later.

Today I would like to first talk about the history of our party as it relates to the Declaration and then dispel some persistent myths that are often associated with this bill.

Today I would like to reiterate that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of this bill even though the amendments we wanted to make to clarify the scope of the bill were not incorporated. We have long been convinced that implementing the UNDRIP is essential for reconciliation with indigenous peoples, and we still believe that.

The Bloc was there well before the declaration was signed. When the working group on the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples met in Geneva in September 2004, the Bloc was there to advocate for their right to self-determination. The Bloc was there again in 2006 during the final sprint to adoption, when we had to redouble our efforts alongside indigenous peoples and the international community. The Bloc was there in 2007, condemning Canada for voting against the declaration at the United Nations general assembly. The Bloc was there in the years that followed to put pressure on Harper's Conservative government to sign the declaration.

The Bloc was there, the Bloc is there, and the Bloc will always be there to promote the declaration. Parliament's ratification will not only recognize the inherent rights, emphasis on “inherent”, of indigenous peoples, but also clarify them for everyone because, let me remind the House, indigenous peoples' rights are not a privilege. Indigenous rights are legitimate and, as I said, inherent.

The Bloc Québécois believes that implementing the UN declaration will not only improve social and economic conditions for indigenous communities, but also guarantee greater predictability for companies operating in the primary sector, while ensuring sustainable and responsible resource development.

In that sense, if only in that sense, it will be a win for everyone, including the economy and first nations.

I stated earlier that time is standing absolutely still for indigenous rights. I am therefore appealing to my colleagues from the other parties and those in the upper chamber. It is now up to them to get the clock going again.

I have to admit that I have never understood the Conservative Party's visceral opposition to the declaration. Last August, in an interview with Perry Bellegarde, the Leader of the Opposition justified his objections to the declaration by saying that, in his view, case law already creates a duty to consult, so there is no value added in the declaration. If it changes nothing, why be afraid of adopting it?

At the same time, the Conservatives are trying to scare us. We saw this during the debates and in the last few minutes. They say that adopting the declaration will block projects because it creates new duties to consult.

They cannot, on the one hand, say that it will not change anything and, on the other, fear that it might change something. The Leader of the Opposition should clarify his thoughts. Is he against the change because it will change something, or is he against it because it will not change anything? He will have to explain this to us because his argument is self-contradictory and sounds to me more like an excuse.

Now is the time to dispel myths like this one. I cannot remain silent about the notion of free, prior and informed consent, or FPIC, which is much more controversial than it should be. It has been at the centre of these debates, and it haunts the nightmares of my colleagues in the official opposition.

Opponents to the declaration have said over and over that free, prior and informed consent is tantamount to a veto. Nothing could be further from the truth. This time, the legislator's intention is evident, as it was in Bill C-262 introduced by my predecessor Roméo Saganash, to whom we owe a lot in this fight and whom I salute with respect and friendship. The legislator in no way sees FPIC as a veto. The Minister of Justice has said so many times. The courts cannot ignore that fact.

The declaration is absolutely clear on this issue. It states, and I quote:

States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent....

That is a requirement to consult in good faith. There is no mention at all of a veto in the declaration. It cannot be repeated often enough, or perhaps it bears repeating until it is understood, that this argument falls in on itself.

For me, the legislator's intent also seems very clear with regard to the scope of the bill. It applies only to areas under this Parliament's jurisdiction. Even though that is something that stands to reason and that just seems to make sense, the sponsor of the bill still went to the effort of reiterating that Bill C-15 will not impose any obligations on any other levels of government. That could not be more clear. In fact, it is crystal clear. We need to keep in mind that, if the members of the Bloc Québécois support this bill, as I am sure the government members do, it is because they understand and believe that the incorporation of the declaration into our laws should be done in partnership with the provinces and with complete respect for their areas of jurisdiction.

I must insist on this point.

In an article in the most recent issue of Recherches amérindiennes au Québec, lawyer Camille Fréchette wrote, “In light of the sharing of jurisdictions within the Canadian federal government system, the implementation of the right to [free, prior and informed consent] directly concerns the provinces, which have exclusive jurisdiction over public lands and natural resource development”.

We believe that the different levels of government must work together if the act is to be properly implemented. The provinces will have to be consulted and participate in the implementation process to ensure consistency. In our humble opinion, this bill will only help with reconciliation, provided that everyone acts in good faith and strives to maintain a dialogue.

On that note, I want to make a little aside to clarify something, because we must be thorough and there is a lot of disinformation about Bill C-15. Some people have tried to claim that the Bloc Québécois was jeopardizing Quebec's sovereignty. That is an absurd idea, but I can refute that claim with the example of territory.

The Constitution Act, 1867, makes it clear that the provinces own and are the guardians of their territory. To paraphrase constitutional expert André Binette, if that were not the case, then Hydro-Québec would not exist. Quebec's inalienable sovereignty over its territory just reinforces the need for a collaborative approach to ensure that the declaration is implemented consistently and seamlessly.

In 1985, led by René Lévesque's government, the Quebec National Assembly recognized 10 and later 11 indigenous nations on Quebec territory. In 2006, the House of Commons recognized Quebec as a nation. The Bloc Québécois has said and will say again that nation-to-nation dialogue is the only way to achieve peace and harmony, among other things.

That said, at this point, I think we have debated the implementation of the declaration long enough and should move on to the next step. Let me point out that indigenous nations have been waiting almost 15 years — 163 months or 4,990 days, to be exact — for us as legislators to take decisive action. Indigenous peoples have waited long enough. I would venture to say that they have waited too long. Their eyes are fixed on us, and the clock is ticking. It is up to us to take action now, because their inherent rights are at stake.

Tshi nashkumitin. Thank you.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActGovernment Orders

May 12th, 2021 / 6 p.m.
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NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Madam Speaker, in British Columbia, where I live, the B.C. government has passed the B.C. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, which is based on this declaration. In Quebec, the National Assembly had a unanimous motion to recognize its principles.

Does the member think that it is time for every province, including Quebec, to bring in legislation to enshrine the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in provincial law, in addition to the federal law?

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActGovernment Orders

May 12th, 2021 / 6 p.m.
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Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.

I mentioned that first nations have been waiting too long for their rights to be enshrined in federal legislation.

As a member of the House of Commons, I will leave it up to Quebec's National Assembly to decide. Quebec has always led the way on this, as evidenced by treaties signed with the Cree and Naskapi nations. The relationship is one of such deep respect that it is exemplary.

I am certainly in favour of Bill C-15, so of course I want these inherent rights to be enshrined in federal legislation, but I will leave it up to the National Assembly of Quebec to work out its own legislation. After all, everyone knows the Bloc Québécois does not appreciate anyone interfering in anyone else's jurisdiction.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActGovernment Orders

May 12th, 2021 / 6 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, I just returned from the traditional territory of the Kyuquot First Nation and Coast Salish First Nation.

I really enjoyed my colleague's speech.

She touched on the issue of future rights. Article 13 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples deals specifically with the right of indigenous peoples to transmit their language and oral traditions to future generations. Two-thirds of indigenous languages in Canada are currently threatened. In other words, dozens of languages are at risk.

How much support will the federal government be giving these resources and languages so that these oral traditions and languages can be passed on to future generations?

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActGovernment Orders

May 12th, 2021 / 6:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.

As a member of the Bloc Québécois, I am very sensitive to the issue of culture and language. For me, culture and language form the very foundation of identity, of who we are as individuals, who we are as a distinct nation and what we want to bring to the world.

First nations must be able to preserve their language, which is what drives their culture. In the case of my Innu friends, Innu-aimun is the language and Innu-aitun is the culture. This is important to preserving the rich identity that inhabits the Quebec territory and the North Shore. I see this as essential.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActGovernment Orders

May 12th, 2021 / 6:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Simard Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, in her speech my colleague referred to the fact that much time has passed. It has been 15 years.

I may have an explanation for this. Canada is allergic to the recognition of national minorities. Indigenous peoples are a national minority and I have always felt that the Liberal and Conservative governments have been reticent to establish a precedent because they would have been obligated to recognize another national minority, Quebeckers. What does my colleague think of this?

Could that explain in part why so much time passed before we were able to debate this bill?

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActGovernment Orders

May 12th, 2021 / 6:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, as the member for Manicouagan, this is my own personal read of the situation, but I think it may be an after-effect of colonialism. Indeed, that is my personal view. In my opinion, that may be a holdover from our colonialist past, although, colonialism still exists.

I will come back to the issue of minorities.

Whether it is first nations or francophones, we see that they are treated differently. When a nation is prevented from speaking its language and practising its culture through the use of institutions, legislation and budget standards, that is the result of a colonial past that is very difficult to move on from.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActGovernment Orders

May 12th, 2021 / 6:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I listened very carefully to my colleague's speech, and I want to ask her a question about free, prior and informed consent. Some people have characterized FPIC, as it is known, as an absolute veto. Others have said no, it is not a veto. This is of course of concern, as we have to know what free, prior and informed consent really means.

The courts have spent decades defining the duty to consult, which informs Canadians, who want to develop and build our country, about our duty to consult with first nations. Now we have introduced the new concept called free, prior and informed consent. Is the member not afraid that when the courts start to interpret this new standard and judicial creep sets in, FPIC is going to become a veto right that would dramatically undermine Canada's ability to get things done, develop our economy, etc.? I would like her comments on that.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ActGovernment Orders

May 12th, 2021 / 6:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.

I will go over two different things. First, in the speech I just gave, I repeated, and I actually pointed out that I was repeating myself, that this veto does not exist. It is not a veto.

In my opinion, one of the first things to do is to stop pushing the idea that FPIC is a veto. The legislator was clear about this, and it is in the legislation. It is not the legislator's intent.

That being said, it is like being scared there is a monster under the bed. Just look under the bed, and then the fear will go away. My colleague should do the same thing with the issue of veto versus FPIC. It does not exist.

Second, I also talked about Quebec and Hydro-Québec as examples of development. On the North Shore, back home, there are mines, fisheries and forestry. There are nine Innu and Naskapi nations collaborating on these projects, and they want to collaborate more.

I do not think that consulting the first nations, working with them and talking with them to ensure that they are involved in the process will undermine the economy. On the contrary, I think mutual respect would make things much easier.