Bill C-262 (the “Bill”) was adopted in third reading by the House of Commons on May 30, 2018, and was introduced in the Senate for first reading on May 31, 2018. The Bill is an Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“UNDRIP”), which was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 13, 2007.
Initially, the Government of Canada voted against UNDRIP when it was first introduced in 2007 because it contained elements that were “fundamentally incompatible with Canada’s constitutional framework.” In 2016, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett officially announced that Canada would fully support UNDRIP.
The UN created UNDRIP, a non-legally binding declaration, as an aspiration for how Indigenous individuals and peoples should be treated.
UNDRIP recognizes Indigenous peoples’ basic human rights, language, equality, land and their right to control their own lives. It also contains an article which requires the state to obtain the free, prior and informed consent (“FPIC”) of concerned Indigenous peoples prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands, territories, or other resources. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission raised UNDRIP in 13 of its 94 recommendations, including a recommendation that Canada adopt and fully implement UNDRIP.
The Bill provides for the creation of a national action plan to achieve the objectives of UNDRIP and for the Government to take measures to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with UNDRIP. The Bill has five elements to achieve this purpose:
- Setting out the key principles that must guide implementation of the Declaration;
- Providing clear public affirmation that the standards set out in the Declaration have application in Canadian law;
- Requiring a process for the review of federal legislation to ensure consistency with the minimum standards set out in the Declaration;
- Requiring the federal government to work with Indigenous Peoples to develop a national action plan to implement the Declaration; and
- Providing transparency and accountability by requiring annual reporting to Parliament on progress made toward implementation of the Declaration.
Before the Bill can become law, it must be considered by the Senate and then presented to the Governor General for assent. The Governor General may assent to the Bill in the Queen’s name, withhold assent, or reserve assent.