Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by acknowledging the very good work of the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou and how important it has been for the House to consider Bill C-641.
I have been around for a number of years now. When many countries throughout the world endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Canada was a laggard. It was only through sustained public pressure and perhaps some international shaming that Canada finally came on board and agreed to endorse the declaration.
I want to put this a little bit in context. In the actual declaration itself there is a statement from the Chair of the UN Permanent Forum at the General Assembly on the occasion of the adoption, September 13, 2007. In this statement, the Chair said:
This Declaration has the distinction of being the only Declaration in the UN which was drafted with the rights-holders, themselves, the Indigenous Peoples. We see this is as a strong Declaration which embodies the most important rights we and our ancestors have long fought for; our right of self-determination, our right to own and control our lands, territories and resources, our right to free, prior and informed consent, among others.
Further on in the statement, the Chair went on to say:
Effective implementation of the Declaration will be the test of commitment of States and the whole international community to protect, respect and fulfill indigenous peoples collective and individual human rights.
That is the important statement in this opening of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I would argue quite strongly that the Conservative government has absolutely failed in terms of any efforts to work toward implementation when it initially endorsed what it promised was to take next steps, and we have seen virtually no activity.
I was not surprised, unfortunately, to hear the member for Wild Rose talk about the Conservative government issuing a clarification statement after it agreed to support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In their clarification statement, the Conservatives continue to claim, despite substantial legal analysis to the contrary, that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples continues to undermine Canadian law and Canadian sovereignty.
I would like to point them to article 46 in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Article 46 says:
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, people, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act contrary to the Charter of the United Nations or construed as authorizing or encouraging any action which would dismember or impair totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States.
This UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is so important for our country moving forward in the 21st century in a more mature relationship.
I would argue that the colonialist and patriarchal approach that successive governments, since Canada's inception and before, have undertaken in terms of relationship with first nations, Inuit and Métis should truly be a thing of the past in the 21st century. Unfortunately what we continue to see, in case after case, is the continued lack of respect for the founding peoples of this country and the way forward in terms of free, prior, informed consent.
There are numerous examples of why this is important, but in my very brief time I want to briefly mention the New Prosperity mine. In an article written by Bill Gallagher, he said, “Native Legal Win # 191”.
That highlights the fact that there is court case after court case largely to do with resource development or consultation and accommodation, which continue to reaffirm that first nations in this country do have the right to free, prior and informed consent, and do have to be included when decisions are made. In the New Prosperity mines, it was just one more example of how, if governments and business would come together and recognize that first nations have the right to determine what happens on their territories, then we would not have millions of dollars tied up in court cases where we continue to see industry not moving forward.
When we are speaking to leadership with first nations, Inuit and Métis, we find that the leaders and communities continue to say, “We are not opposed to development. We want to see our communities prosper. We want to see jobs created, but you need to include us.”
In the most recent Tsilhqot’in decision, it is not just about consultation and accommodation, it is actual consent.
A number of others have talked about some of the ongoing problems, and I want to talk briefly about Jordan's principle, and the latest Auditor General report 2015: access to health services for remote first nations communities. Jordan's principle was unanimously passed in this House many years ago. In 2015, we continue to have a complete and utter failure in terms of providing health care services to first nations communities, and rural, remote communities and many other communities.
It is just one more example of how we are failing to respect those very important relationships. I would encourage every member in this House to support Bill C-641.