Through Bill C-262
Bill C-262 is An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In some instances, the United Nations General Assembly will refer to resolutions that express political or legal principles of significance as “declarations.” Generally, such principles are reflective of existing international law and standards. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the “Declaration”) is an example of this practice. The Declaration was adopted as an annex to a UN General Assembly resolution and is reflective of existing rights set out in various human rights treaties and other tools. This critical human rights tool was developed through two decades of careful deliberation among Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous representatives.
The Declaration sets out minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous Peoples around the world and serves as an important human rights framework to guide the journey of reconciliation.1 Its standards affirm the existence of key inherent human rights as held by Indigenous Peoples, human rights which are interconnected. Not only should this instrument guide reconciliation of the Crown-Indigenous relationship, but it also has potential to meaningfully guide broader reconciliation efforts of all Canadians.
In the Canadian context, the legal and political landscape has undergone significant shifts. Both Canada and BC have officially endorsed and adopted the Declaration. Of particular note, MP Romeo Saganash, has introduced a private members Bill into the House of Commons, which is aimed at the implementation of the Declaration through a legislative framework. In December 2017, MP Saganash’s Bill C-262 underwent a second reading.2 Highlights of the Bill include: confirmation that the standards set out in the Declaration apply in Canadian law; the repudiation of colonialism; and a call for the development of a national action plan for implementation of this critical international tool. A legislative framework aimed at implementation of the Declaration offers some measure of protection of Indigenous human rights against actions of future governments. It’s worth noting that prior to the second reading of the draft Bill, Indigenous leadership from across the country attended the December 2017 Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs’ Assembly and adopted a resolution of support for Bill C-262.3
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (“TRC”) released its 94 calls to action, a number of which address the substance of the Declaration, and the necessity for its full implementation in the Canadian context. Specifically, Call to Action #43 calls on “federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.”
The TRC calls on Canadians to embark on a journey of reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and to uphold the important human rights set out in the Declaration, which can serve as a roadmap to guide that challenging work. In this context, members of the legal community are well positioned to use legal knowledge, advocacy and drafting skills to assist in the identification and implementation of solution-oriented strategies and activities to support the broader implementation of the Declaration and to advance the path of reconciliation.
- See: fns.bc.ca | ubcic.bc.ca/10yr_undeclaration | ↩
- ubcic.bc.ca/support_billc262 | ↩
- See: Support for Bill C-262 “An Act to Ensure the Laws of Canada are in Harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” at afn.ca | ↩
Melissa Louie, Kahahxstahlas, is a Coast Salish and Syilx lawyer who has worked with Morgan and Associates since 2007. She is a Citizen of the Tla’amin Nation and also has family ties to the Penticton Indian Band.