Ottawa approves new truth and reconciliation legislation on National Indigenous Peoples Day
NDP calls Liberal government 'hypocritical' for touting progress with Indigenous peoples
New Canadians will soon have to affirm their commitment to respecting treaties with Indigenous peoples when they are sworn in as citizens.
Two pieces of legislation concerning the government's relationship with Indigenous peoples received royal assent and became law Monday evening.
One of them, Bill C-8, will change Canada's oath of citizenship to include a new line acknowledging the country's treaties with Indigenous communities.
New citizens will be asked to affirm their commitment to Canadian law, "including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples."
That change reflects the 94th and final recommendation in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's landmark 2015 report.
Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said the change "will help new Canadians better understand the role of Indigenous peoples, the ongoing impact of colonialism and residential schools and our collective obligation to uphold the treaties."
The other legal change comes through Bill C-15, which will see Canada formally adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Both bills have been approved already by the House of Commons and the Senate, although Conservatives in both chambers said they were concerned by the UNDRIP bill and largely voted against it.
Richard Wagner, who is serving temporarily as the acting governor general, granted the bills royal assent on Monday evening, which enshrines them as law.
The legislation was approved on National Indigenous Peoples Day.
Grand chief notes 'abysmal' situation in Indigenous communities
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau marked the occasion on social media earlier Monday by acknowledging that Canada has "much more work to do to advance truth and reconciliation."
Today, on National Indigenous Peoples Day, we celebrate the vibrant and diverse cultures, languages, and traditions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. But as we do that, we must also acknowledge that there is much more work to do to advance truth and reconciliation.—@JustinTrudeau
Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip described the government's adoption of UNDRIP as a "significant development" before laying out numerous inequities that continue to plague Indigenous peoples in Canada.
"The true measure of reconciliation must be taken on the ground itself, and in that regard we still have abysmal rates of infant mortality, children are apprehended on an ever-increasing basis, we have an epidemic of youth suicides, Indigenous women are continuing to be kidnapped and murdered," Stewart said in an interview on CBC's Power & Politics.
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"When one looks at the reality on the ground, we haven't really moved to where we need to be," Phillip added.
Singh, Qaqqaq say Liberals have nothing to be proud of
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Monday he believes the Liberal government is "hypocritical" for saying it wants to make reparations for past sins against Indigenous people while also facing tough criticism of its handling of a number of key files.
Singh said the Liberals are hoping to turn the page and celebrate their achievements on reconciliation with First Peoples, but he believes they should instead be taken to task over their record.
The Liberals have faced several weeks of challenging questions following the discovery of what are believed to be the remains of 215 children at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
A number of Indigenous groups also condemned Ottawa's action plan responding to the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, saying the development process was not consultative enough and calling the plan "fragmented."
Ottawa was also in Federal Court last week challenging two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings that found the federal government discriminated against Indigenous children by not properly funding child and family services.
Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq acknowledged National Indigenous Peoples Day while speaking to the House of Commons on Monday.
She said the federal government ought to be ashamed of its record on serving Indigenous communities.
"It should be a day of celebration, of culture and history. But I am filled with a tremendous amount of sadness and anger," Qaqqaq said.
"There is nothing for Indigenous peoples to be proud of in this institution."
With files from The Canadian Press