On December 3, 2020, the federal government tabled Bill C-15 [1]. Bill C-15 is the federal government’s response to calls [2] to implement UNDRIP as a framework for reconciliation in Canada.

Bill C-15 is working its way through the legislative process – Second Reading of the bill commenced on February 17, 2021 in the House of Commons and resumed on April 15, 2021. Most recently, on April 22, 2021, Bill C-15 was approved by the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs (“INAN”), and on April 26, 2021, INAN presented its report to the House of Commons, which included several amendments. This bulletin summarizes those amendments.

The INAN Amendments

INAN – the committee tasked with studying the subject matter of the bill – studied Bill C-15 and reported it back to the House of Commons with several amendments. Three of INAN’s amendments are aimed at ensuring that racism experienced by Indigenous Peoples is explicitly recognized in the Bill:

  • One amendment to the Preamble provides that the doctrines of discovery and terra nullius “are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust”;
  • Another amendment to the Preamble incorporates “racism” and “systemic racism” among the injustices that Bill C-15 must concretely address;
  • Clause 6(2), which describes the content of the Action Plan, was amended to reflect the above change to the Preamble, mandating that the plan must include measures to combat “racism” and “systemic racism”.

Another amendment compels the government to prepare and complete the Action Plan laid out in Section 6 of the Bill no later than two years after the day on which the section comes into force (the originally tabled legislation proposed a three year timeline). Lastly, INAN also included an addition to the Preamble which states: “Whereas the protection of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights - recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act 1982 - is an underlying principle and value of the Constitution of Canada; and Canadian Courts have stated that such rights are not frozen and are capable of evolution and growth.” [3] The House of Commons will now decide whether to include INAN’s proposed amendments.

Next Steps

The Bill now moves to the Report Stage, which takes place in the House of Commons and gives the House a chance to examine, and to further amend the Bill as reported by INAN. The Bill will then proceed to a vote at Third Reading in the House, which it must pass in order to proceed to the Senate. A motion to begin a pre-study of the Bill has been adopted by the Senate, which will be sitting again on May 4, 2021.