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Bill C-69 - Amendment- Impact Assessment

Honourable senators, our country Canada is a land of plenty, and yet there is inequality and inequity in how our resources are shared. Many of our citizens are rendered hungry, homeless and vulnerable. What is worse, certain people face a dire struggle to obtain their inherent human dignity and basic human rights. How did we, as an internationally esteemed country, get here?

Colleagues, last week, you heard several perspectives on the narrative surrounding Bill C-69. Today, I want to share with you my perspective as an Indigenous woman and senator. As a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, I was tasked with others here to study this bill. I feel compelled to share my disappointment with how Indigenous voices were often sidelined in favour of industry.

This issue was reflected by the committee’s travel itinerary. When the topic of travel was initially introduced, I asked if the committee could go to Fort Chip in Alberta or Fox Lake in Manitoba, both greatly impacted by resource extraction. The committee opted instead to visit city centres, which, I argue, favours industry headquarters and mobilization capacity as opposed to the remoteness and travel limitations faced by many Indigenous communities.

Honourable senators, I am sure most of you have heard a working group was formed, of which I was not a member, tasked to review the 200-plus amendments submitted by all senators on Bill C-69. They were asked to streamline these amendments for a more efficient journey through clause-by-clause.

What you did not hear was that the amendments that surrounded Indigenous issues — my amendments — were not allowed to be part of this agreement. All of the ISG amendments and all of the Conservative amendments, however, were. The committee then proceeded to pass all of these agreement-centric amendments, on division, on Thursday, May 16.

I strongly encourage every single senator here to review the transcripts of that meeting. You will see chunks of amendments in groups of 10, 12 and even 16 passed without a word of debate. The only interruption in this process was when my amendments came up — the ones not suitable to be included in this prearranged agreement. I, unlike the vast majority of others, had to fight for the amendments I had presented in committee on behalf of Indigenous groups across Canada.

Today, I will be presenting a single amendment that encompasses three of these, all dealing with the same subject matter: the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Colleagues, in response to assertions made by some senators that they would like a Canada-made solution, I and many others, support them wholeheartedly. In their preface of the second special report of the Centre for International Governance Innovation entitled, UNDRIP Implementation: More Reflections on the Braiding of International, Domestic and Indigenous Laws, Oonagh Fitzgerald and Larry Chartrand stated:

UNDRIP represents the concerted efforts of Indigenous leaders from around the world to stem the destructive and disempowering effects of colonialism and to create conditions for Indigenous peoples to reclaim their social, cultural, linguistic, spiritual, political, economic, environmental and legal autonomy.

Yet, many of these documents expressed concern that:

. . . Canada’s vision of Indigenous jurisdiction over lands and resources is a very narrow one, and perhaps little more than a modified version of the status quo.

They go on to say:

In September 2017, on the occasion of Canada’s 150th anniversary, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made an impassioned speech to the UN General Assembly in which he acknowledged that . . . Canada was best seen as “a work in progress.” He referred to Canada’s colonial legacy, the broken promises and the harms that racist policies have inflicted on Inuit, Métis and First Nations peoples, and he renewed promises to use domestic implementation of UNDRIP as “a way forward” to correct past wrongs, support nation-to-nation, government-to-government, and Inuit-Crown relationships, and achieve reconciliation.

Honourable senators, First Nations from Canada went to the United Nations to help draft the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples since they had received no support from Canada on this effort. Chief Wilton Littlechild from Alberta went to the UN for 40 years to help draft the minimum standards that would protect Indigenous peoples. Despite this long road to fruition, UNDRIP is a solution that is proudly representative of the input of Indigenous peoples from Canada. In this way, it is very much a Canada-made solution.

This is perhaps best described by Chief Littlechild himself. In his address to the UN Human Rights Council on the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, he stated:

Sixty years ago the United Nations General Assembly adopted the world’s most important human rights document, an international law to recognize the inherent rights of all peoples. For the Cree Nation we say “Kikpaktinkosowin”, “Oyotamsowin”, those we are blessed with by the Great Spirit, Our Creator, rights we were born with as members of the human family. An inherent right to self-determination. An inherent right to govern ourselves, our territories and resources, according to our own laws and customs. Rights that were recognized for all peoples as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.

But in 1948 Indigenous Peoples were not included in the Universal Declaration [of Human Rights]. We were not considered to have equal rights as everyone else. Indeed we were not considered as human nor as peoples. Consequently, there were violations, at times gross violations of our human rights. Indigenous peoples simply did not benefit from the rights and freedoms set forth in the Universal Declaration.

. . . In my community the leaders and Elders gathered in the mid-seventies, very concerned about this. . . . After much deliberation and spiritual ceremonies they decided to seek recognition and justice from the international community. We were here in 1977, when we could not gain access so we could inform the UN family of nations about our issues and concerns. The Maskwacis Cree delegations have been coming here since then. Yes, we have called attention to ongoing Treaty and Treaty rights’ violations but we have always also recommended solutions for positive change, recognition and inclusion.

Chief Littlechild concludes by saying:

Many challenges remain. Why is it that we as indigenous tribes, peoples and nations continue to lead in all the negative statistics? Why is it that there is still abject poverty among our families, especially our children? Why is it in our country the education of indigenous students is in a crisis? Why is it that we continue to be excluded from the economic mainstream, . . .? Why is it that our treaties continue to be violated? . . . Why do [States] want to pick and choose which rights they want to uphold, contrary to the statement of the Secretary-General today? . . .

I would not do justice to those I represent not to call on others to:

Say Yes to a new framework for partnership.

Say Yes to honoring treaties and agreements with mutual respect for each other.

Say Yes to our full inclusion and continued contribution to humankind. . . .

Honourable senators, as this was a commitment made by the Canadian government and not by industry or a project’s proponent, this amendment ensures that this responsibility lies solely with government. This is accomplished by the reference within these amended clauses to the decision statement in clause 65 of this bill, which would ensure that any reference to UNDRIP is connected to government action and consideration and not the actions of individuals or companies.

I will close by extending my thanks for allowing me the opportunity to speak to the critical human rights element of this bill. At times, the nature of the conversation has been industry laden, which underscores the importance for me to bring balance and give voice to the Indigenous perspective.

Senators, our Constitution is put in place to protect individuals and not industry. I respectfully ask that you join me in supporting this amendment.

Motion in Amendment

Therefore, honourable senators, in amendment, I move:

That Bill C-69, as amended, be not now read a third time, but that it be further amended in clause 1,

(a)on page 16, by adding the following after line 15:

“(c.1) the extent to which the issuance of a decision statement under section 65 allowing the proponent of the designated project to carry out the designated project would be consistent with the Government of Canada’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;”;

(b)on page 20, by adding the following after line 19:

“(c.1) the extent to which the issuance of a decision statement under section 65 allowing the proponent of the designated project to carry out the designated project would be consistent with the Government of Canada’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;”; and

(c)on page 42, by adding the following after line 25:

“(c.1) the extent to which the issuance of a decision statement under section 65 allowing the proponent of the designated project to carry out the designated project would be consistent with the Government of Canada’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;”.

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