Thanks to advocacy efforts around Bill C-262 during the last Parliament, the current government plans to introduce a legislative framework for United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration) implementation in the second week of December. Send a message to the Minister of Justice and your Member of Parliament to ask them to act on that commitment.
Both COVID-19 and the minority Parliament pose challenges to the quick introduction and passage of the proposed legislation. Public spotlights on systemic racism, along with the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 on Indigenous communities, however, underline the urgency of measures to protect Indigenous rights in law.
Given these challenges and the urgency of acting, the Minister of Justice and Members of Parliament need to hear from Canadians about the importance of moving legislation forward and honouring their promise.
As people of faith we are committed to addressing the legacy of harm done to Indigenous Peoples by churches and governments, and to forging right relationships. MCC believes that passing a legislative framework to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration) is an excellent step toward ensuring the human rights of Indigenous Peoples are respected and honoured in Canada.
We invite you to join us in urging the Canadian government to fulfill its commitment to reconciliation by tabling legislation this fall, using C-262 as the floor, and making every effort to bring this legislation to Royal Assent in advance of the next election.
Background Information on the UN Declaration and legislation:
After close to 30 years of negotiations, in 2007 the United Nations adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration). It is an International Human Rights instrument drafted with Indigenous Peoples globally advocating for the recognition of their basic human rights.
In response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to action #48 and #49, calling on governments and churches to adopt and implement the UN Declaration, in January 2017 MCC Canada issued a statement of lament, apology, and commitment to its full implementation. This commitment by MCC articulated, among other things, that “we affirm the principles of self-determination, equality and respect embedded in UNDRIP and commit ourselves anew to the ministry of reconciliation entrusted to us by Jesus Christ, the great reconciler.”
Our support for current legislation is framed and shaped by the following considerations:
1. The TRC refers to the Declaration as a framework for reconciliation in both Call to Action 43 and 48. Legislative implementation of the Declaration will move Canada from noble words of apology and aspiration to cooperation with Indigenous Peoples and will affirm justiciability of Indigenous rights. This is critical for Canada's collective commitments made to upholding the TRC.
2. Any co-development efforts focused on Indigenous support for the legislation must include clear commitments to community-based implementation, both during the legislation creation process and once legislation is in place.
3. Bill C-262, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (introduced by MP Romeo Saganash in 2016), was a private member’s bill to ensure that the laws of Canada were in harmony with the UN Declaration. Bill C-262 was passed by the House of Commons in the last Parliament but did not receive Royal Assent in the Senate. The bill had the wide support of Indigenous communities, was the subject of extensive debate in a Parliamentary committee (including testimony from 71 witnesses) and had the active support of many faith and civil society groups. The five elements it contained must be the floor of new legislation, including:
- Setting out the key principles that must guide implementation of the Declaration.
- Providing clear public affirmation that the standards set out in the Declaration have “application in Canadian law.”
- Requiring a process for the review of federal legislation to ensure consistency with the minimum standards set out in the Declaration.
- Requiring the federal government to work with Indigenous Peoples to develop a national action plan to implement the Declaration.
- Providing transparency and accountability by requiring annual reporting to Parliament on progress made toward implementation of the Declaration.
For further information, see resources by the Coalition for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples here.