The House

A new chapter for Indigenous rights?

This week on The House, Chris Hall sits down with two cabinet ministers, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Carolyn Bennett, to discuss the recently promised legal framework to recognize Indigenous rights. We also talk to NDP leader Jagmeet Singh about crafting a progressive alternative to the Liberal Party.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould, left, and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett will help lead the implementation of a new framework on Indigenous rights. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The newly announced legal framework to recognize Indigenous rights will focus on addressing unfinished business and showing the government is ready for reforms, according to two ministers overseeing the file.

"It's the political will to make sure people know things have changed," Carolyn Bennett, the minister of Crown-Indigenous relations, told The House.

"We are saying 'we know you have rights, let's sit down at the table and figure out what are the most important things you want to work on now to be able to exercise the rights that are the most important to your community.'"

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised a fundamental rethink of how the federal government recognizes Indigenous rights, vowing to work with Indigenous partners to develop a new legal framework to foster self-governance.

The shift toward respecting Indigenous rights gained momentum when the Constitution Act was passed in 1982 by Pierre Elliott Trudeau, but the rights outlined in that document weren't always respected.

As an example of the issues that need addressing, the prime minister pointed to decades of rights-based legal battles.

The Crown-Indigenous relations Minister discusses Justin Trudeau's commitment to create a new legal framework to guarantee Indigenous rights.

"Instead of outright recognizing and affirming Indigenous rights, as we promised we would, Indigenous Peoples were forced to prove, time and time again, through costly and drawn-out court challenges, that their rights existed, must be recognized and implemented," Justin Trudeau said this week.

The framework, which still has to be developed despite a promise to be in place by the next election, will outline a new way to deal with those court cases.

In addition to fostering self determination, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said proper rights recognition will essentially mean the government won't meet Indigenous groups in court to challenge their claims.

Finally, there will be a way forward to help in "correcting the unfinished business of Confederation," she told The House.

"Our justice system is challenged when it comes to addressing issues of individuals who have been marginalized."

The Justice Minister talks about Justin Trudeau's commitment to create a new legal framework to guarantee Indigenous rights.

Jagmeet Singh not picking sides in B.C.-Alberta pipeline battle

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and hundreds of party members are in Ottawa this weekend for their national convention. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is refusing to take sides in the British Columbia-Alberta pipeline feud.

Environmental resolutions are set to take up a large amount of real estate at the party's convention in Ottawa this weekend.

But Singh wouldn't pick either side with either of the NDP premiers currently at odds over the proposed expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

Instead, he opted for diplomacy.

"Premier Notley is doing exactly what she promised to do… Premier Horgan is doing exactly what he promised to do," Singh told The House.

The disagreement has started to affect the flow of goods between the two provinces, and Notley has reached out to the Justin Trudeau to ask for a quick resolution.

But neither Notley or Horgan has reached out to Singh to ask for his help.

"I haven't spoken to either of them on this issue," Singh admitted.

The leader of the NDP talks about the work being done this weekend at the party's convention in Ottawa.

In addition, he blamed the ongoing discord on the environmental review systems used by the Trudeau and Harper governments.

A new review process based in science and evidence would make him more at ease in discussing issues relating to pipelines, he said. He also mentioned it was the responsibility of the prime minister to restore Canadians' confidence in the environmental review process.

By not weighing in, Singh avoids angering either B.C. or Alberta, but sitting on the sidelines isn't what the new leader needs to do, according to some critics.

"We need big change," said Avi Lewis, one of the drafters of the divisive LEAP manifesto.

Lewis added that for the NDP to have a chance in the 2019 election, he thinks the party needs to look outside the normal policy bubble.

"You need to excite people."

Becky Bond, a senior advisor to Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign, agreed.

"You actually have to propose the big solutions that are going to solve problems."

One of the drafters of the Leap Manifesto, Avi Lewis, and Becky Bond, a senior advisor to Bernie Sanders during his 2016 presidential campaign, discuss how big ideas are the key to success for the Left.

'Put up with the rhetoric' to buy NAFTA more time

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland talks with United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, right, and Mexico's Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarrea after the sixth round of NAFTA negotiations in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

The NAFTA talks timeline could be extended to give Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. more time for trilateral negotiations.

President Trump could be extending his authority which would push back the deadline three years, international trade lawyer Dan Ujczo told The House.

"The President looks like he's willing to ask for an extension of this authority he has to do any trade deal — including NAFTA — which could kick this into 2021," he said. 

U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer has signalled that the U.S. was seeking an extension in late January at the most recent negotiation round in Montreal, Ujczo added.

The question of whether NAFTA would be renegotiated or terminated under the current administration has been ongoing.

Ujczo believes that an extension would "open a window in the negotiating room and let in some fresh air."

"For the North American business community, more time is what we need," Ujczo said. "And so I think we're going to have to put up with the rhetoric in order to get that additional time to come up with those creative solutions on some very difficult issues."

The latest NAFTA rhetoric has been divisive from both sides.

On Monday, President Trump said that Canada has mistreated the U.S. on farming and trade. He suggested that a new "reciprocal tax" may be imposed on Canada and other "so-called allies" in future.

Also this week, Canada's chief negotiator Steve Verheul said that the U.S. isn't bringing much "flexibility" to the NAFTA negotiation table.

Verheul indicated that the inflexibility starts at the top of the administration.

The parties could be feeling a "time crunch" Ujczo said, referring to both political calendars and the looming procedural deadline. There are two negotiation rounds left - Mexico City later this month and a final round is slated for Washington in the spring ahead of the June deal deadline.  Domestically, Mexico has presidential elections this July and the U.S. has congressional elections in the fall.

"You could have a scenario where the U.S. and Mexico are ready to go and Canada is seen as foot-dragging a bit."

But overall, Ujczo said he's optimistic about the negotiations moving forward.

"There's a great opportunity here to make NAFTA the gold standard — or maybe even the platinum standard — of 21st century trade agreements. It's just we've got to get the time to get there."

International trade lawyer Dan Ujczo talks about the state of the NAFTA negotiations.