By: Greg Staley
Written on May 28th, 2021
On Tuesday, May 25, 2021, Canada’s politicians voted in favour of the adoption of bill C-15 – a bill that will see Canada adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The bill is now going to the Senate for consideration and passage.
The bill was approved with 210 members of parliament voting in favour of the bill and 118 members voting against. The entire Conservative Party of Canada voted against the bill accompanied by one member of the Green Party (Mrs. Jenica Atwin) and by independent MPP Derek Sloan.
The issues with bill C-15 (UNDRIP) according to the Justice Centre
The Justice Centre released a document on April 9, 2021, detailing why the adoption of bill C-15 (UNDRIP) is “dangerous and divisive.” Now that the bill has been passed and is headed towards the Senate for consideration and passage it feels appropriate to discuss their many criticisms of the bill – as they echo many of my own.
The document was put together by Bruce Pardy, Professor of Law, and Jody Wells, a Justice diploma candidate. In their document criticizing bill C-15 titled “Bill C-15: Useless, dangerous, and divisive” they start by stating that “UNDRIP essentially provides that Indigenous people, among other things, own the land and resources, have the right to self-government and to their own distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions and educational systems, and that the federal government shall pay for all of it.“
The report continues by stating some of what the declaration (UNDRIP) provides.
The declaration provides in part that under UNDRIP “Indigenous peoples have the right to” the following:
“Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired. This means the right to own, use, develop and control, to redress, restitution, compensation” and to have “access to financial and technical assistance, to autonomy or self-government as
well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.”
UNDRIP suggests that Indigenous Peoples could veto resource projects
The Justice Centre report says that the “duty to consult” has “become a threat to the Canadian economy” and that “Bill C-15 threatens to make this untenable situation worse.” The report also says that “UNDRIP suggests that Indigenous people shall have not just a right to be consulted but a veto over resource projects that might affect any lands or territories that they “traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired” and refers to article 19 of the UNDRIP document.
Article 19 UNDRIP
Article 19 of UNDRIP reads “States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous
peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.”
Bill C-15 doesn’t fix Indigenous Property rights problems
Another criticism of the Justice Centre is that Indigenous persons are not permitted to own Aboriginal property. The report said that “neither Bill C-15 nor UNDRIP will change that.” The report noted that Reserves are held on by the Crown on behalf of a band and that “plots of land are not privately owned.” Instead, “people must make do with
other kinds of property interests such as certificates of possession under the Indian Act.” The report notes that this is different from homeownership where owners can reap the benefits of equity in the property.
Can’t be self governed if you’re funded by the government
Another critique brought up in the report is that Indigenous Peoples under C-15 still wouldn’t be independent or self-governed in any real tangible way if they are by definition dependent on the government for funding. The report said “If Indigenous communities are dependent, they cannot be independent. “Self-government” is a
fiction while taxpayers are footing the bill.” I would also add that it’s likely not a good idea to hitch your future income (funding) to the Canadian Government at this moment in time.
Bill C-15 threatens to divide rather than reconcile
The report from the Justice Centre also noted that Bill C-15 threatens to “divide rather than reconcile” because “UNDRIP prescribes vast and broad collective land rights for Aboriginal people but no property rights for anyone else.” This is in line with the World Economic Forum’s idea that we’ll own nothing and be happy by 2030.
In an article now scrubbed from the World Economic Forum website, Danish MP Ida Auken wrote about the idea of owning nothing coming to the world as soon as 2030. She wrote “I don’t own anything. I don’t own a car. I don’t own a house. I don’t own any appliances or any clothes, Shopping is a distant memory in the city of 2030.”
Concerns over expropriation of land
The Justice Centre sees the concern brought on by Bill C-15 writing that ” Non-Aboriginal Canadians will rightfully wonder if the government may expropriate their land in the name of complying with UNDRIP’s directives and Bill C-15’s requirements.” The report continued to detail the problem writing that “there is no better recipe for resentment and resistance” before ultimately concluding that “the road to truth and reconciliation does not run through Bill C-15 and UNDRIP.”
UNDRIP will become the standard to which Canadian laws are to conform to
The report notes that on its own, UNDRIP is nothing more “than a resolution of the UN General Assembly” and as such is not formally binding in Canadian law. However, Bill C-15 changes this by giving “UNDRIP quasi-constitutional status in Canada by requiring the federal government to make the laws of Canada consistent with it” thereby giving teeth to an otherwise useless declaration.
The report concluded by saying “we urge the House of Commons Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs to reflect on the consequences of a declaration dedicated to wreaking havoc on Canada’s economy and legal system before recommending that Bill C-15 be unleashed on the country.“
The adoption of Bill C-15, which will usher UNDRIP into the Canadian legal framework is going to be an absolute disaster for Canadians. Where is the media on this? Why is the media silent on a bill that will fundamentally change our legal framework here in Canada? This bill doesn’t ensure equality of reconciliation – it ensures conflict, resentment and resistance instead of a path forward towards true reconciliation.
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