Nature Canada

Opportunity to support Indigenous reconciliation dies in the Senate

Outrage, disgust, shame – three words that describe my emotions after the Senate killed legislation that would have been a key part of reconciling Canada’s disgraceful historical treatment of Indigenous Peoples.

Bill C-262, a private member’s bill to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), was scuttled last week. A few rogue Senators killed the bill despite it passing final reading with overwhelming support in the House in May 2018.

The opposing Conservative Senators maintained that the legislation could have unintended legal and economic consequences.

Despite a campaign mounted by the bill’s sponsor, Cree NDP MP Romeo Saganash and many other supporters, it ultimately died in the Senate with several other bills.

While Conservative Senators played stalling tactics, trading on fears of the bill’s impact, Canada has lost the most important impact of all. What the new legislation was actually intended to do was ensure that Canada’s laws are in harmony with the UNDRIP.

The declaration represents the biggest step forward for Indigenous Peoples of the world in modern times.  It aims to recognize the fundamental rights of Indigenous People throughout the world to their land, their culture and their customs. It also acknowledges the damage done to Indigenous Peoples by colonialism.

It sets a framework for reconciliation and the restoration of cultures and languages.

It sets a framework for harmony.

When UNDRIP was first adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007, only four countries opposed it – the United States, Australia, New Zealand and yes, shamefully, Canada.

In 2010 the Canadian Government endorsed the UNDRIP but refused to ratify it. Our current government finally ratified it in 2016, but has struggled with their promise of implementing it. Implementing the UNDRIP means taking it seriously, by harmonizing laws and policies with it and making it a framework for reconciliation. That dream inspired the private member’s bill from MP Saganash.

Most private member’s bills don’t see the light of day, but this one made it through first, second, and third readings, had the full support of the government as well as many opposition MPs (though not Conservatives), and by all accounts, had a legitimate shot at passing and becoming law.

In April, a motion calling for the speedy passage of the bill into law received support from all sides including Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and many Conservative MPs. Many human rights and religious leaders mounted campaigns for its passing.

How disappointing and troubling that Bill C-262, which was so carefully worked through our democratic process, was scuttled in the unelected Senate. 

Nature Canada has committed to advance reconciliation and the rights of Indigenous Peoples within the context of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

 

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