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Help C-262, an Act to ensure Canada’s laws are in harmony with UNDRIP, pass second reading on Dec. 4

NDP MP Romeo Saganash

Bill C-262 will go to second reading in the House of Commons on December 4. 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, was introduced as a private members bill in April 2016 by NDP MP Romeo Saganash.

APTN has reported, “Saganash said passage of his bill … would complete a circle that began in 1984 when he began work on UNDRIP which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2007.”

The Council of Canadians has long-supported UNDRIP. In September 2007, we issued a media release that stated, “The Council of Canadians denounces the Harper government for voting against UNDRIP … along with the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. The Council of Canadians is demanding that the Canadian government show leadership on Indigenous rights by supporting the Declaration and taking necessary measures to ensure justice for Aboriginal communities in Canada.”

As noted in a rabble.ca blog, “Saganash’s bill would require a process for the review of federal laws to ensure consistency with the standards set out in the UN declaration. It would require the government to work with Indigenous peoples to develop a national action plan to implement the declaration. The bill would also provide for annual reporting to parliament on progress made toward implementation.”

The Liberals promised to implement UNDRIP, right?

In May 2016, the Trudeau government announced that Canada would no longer object to UNDRIP and that it would adopt the declaration. But by July of that year, iPolitics reported, “Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould called the adoption of [UNDRIP] into Canadian law ‘unworkable’… Wilson-Raybould … described a cut-and-paste approach to making UNDRIP compatible with domestic laws an overly simplistic and untenable method of protecting indigenous rights in Canada.”

Significantly, Article 19 of UNDRIP says, “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 before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.”

A CBC article adds, “If the government [were to] enforce the UN declaration through law, it’s clear that Indigenous communities would have the power to halt resource projects, according to Larry Chartrand, law professor at the University of Ottawa. …The Constitution includes a duty to consult Aboriginal Peoples, but it doesn’t go as far as a duty for consent. Enacting the UN document would ultimately give more power to Indigenous Peoples on development decisions, said Chartrand.”

That’s likely the real reason behind Liberal opposition to C-262. If it were the law, it would have stopped the Trudeau government’s approval of destructive projects like the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline that violate Indigenous rights.

What happens in second reading?

A Parliament of Canada website explains, “Debate on the general scope of a bill takes place at second reading. …Second reading of a bill and reference to a committee are moved in the same motion. The motion specifies the committee (standing, special, legislative) to which the bill is being referred. …At the end of the debate on second reading, the Speaker puts the question on the motion ‘That the bill be now read a second time and referred to the ___ committee’. Once the motion is adopted, the bill is referred to the appropriate committee. The defeat of a motion for second reading results in the bill being withdrawn.”

After the second reading of a bill, it goes to the committee stage (with hearings about the bill, possibly suggested changes to the bill), then the report stage (a further debate in the House of Commons and a vote on the bill), then third reading (a final debate and vote on the bill), and finally Royal Assent (where the Governor-General gives final approval to the bill).

What chance does C-262 have to make it through all these stages?

iPolitics has commented, “Although the goal underlying the bill doubtless will be praised by most MPs who get the chance to speak on it, the scope of the bill may be too sweeping for the government. Some Liberals may back it anyway, as there’s little chance the party would make it a whipped vote. Like other noble but possibly unworkable backbench proposals, it could make it to committee, but seems doomed either to defeat or to amendments that would render it largely symbolic.”

We want to work with you to improve those odds. To help C-262 become law, please contact your Member of Parliament today to say that you support the bill. In addition, an online action alert will be coming from us in the next few days that will be directed to the Prime Minister, Carolyn Bennett (the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs), the opposition party leaders, and your local MP.