Indigenous

Canada could be 1st country to harmonize laws with UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Canada would be the first country in the world to harmonize its federal laws with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples if the Senate passes Bill C-262, according to the chair of the UN permanent forum on Indigenous issues.

Assembly of First Nations, Amnesty International call on Senate to pass Bill C-262

Mariam Wallet Med Aboubakrine, chair of the UN permanent forum on Indigenous issues, speaks at a news conference in Ottawa Monday. (CBC News)

Canada would be the first country in the world to harmonize its federal laws with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) if the Senate passes Bill C-262, according to the chair of the UN permanent forum on Indigenous issues.

UN permanent forum chair Mariam Wallet Med Aboubakrine said some countries have amended or passed legislation in response to the declaration, but Bill C-262, a private member's bill introduced by NDP MP Romeo Saganash, goes one step further.

"Harmonizing national laws with UNDRIP would be a first," said Aboubakrine.

"We hope to see Canada achieve that."

Aboubakrine spoke at a news conference Monday in Ottawa alongside Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, Amnesty International Canada secretary general Alex Neve and Rosemarie Kuptana, a prominent Inuk human rights activist. They called on the Senate to pass Bill C-262.

The bill was passed by the House of Commons last May, with the Conservatives voting against it

It is currently in second reading at the Senate and could head to the committee stage for study as early as this week.

Rosemarie Kuptana, a prominent Inuk human rights activist, holds up a copy of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (CBC News)

Conservative senators have expressed concerns about the bill and UNDRIP's section outlining the need for free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous Peoples on any action by a government that infringes on Indigenous rights and territory.

"The declaration does not create new rights, it affirms our fundamental rights as a people," said Kuptana, a residential school survivor and former president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

"We continue to live in a colonial system so long as the declaration is not implemented."

Bellegarde said Saganash's UNDRIP bill is one of three key pieces of legislation affecting Indigenous communities that need to pass before Parliament is dissolved in June and the federal election begins.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde is urging the Senate to pass Bill C-262, a private member's bill tabled by NDP MP Romeo Saganash. (CBC News)

Bellegarde said he also wants to see the tabled bills on Indigenous child welfare and Indigenous languages pass before the end of this Parliament's life.

"[The bills] need to have Royal Assent, or everything is for naught," said Bellegarde.

"If you want to use the word of reconciliation, there is a good example of passing those three bills to Royal Assent. That is reconciliation in action."

About the Author

Jorge Barrera is a Caracas-born, award-winning journalist who has worked across the country and internationally. He works for CBC's Indigenous unit based out of Ottawa. Follow him on Twitter @JorgeBarrera or email him jorge.barrera@cbc.ca.