Indigenous leaders, experts urge Ottawa to quickly pass UNDRIP bill before election

·1 min read

OTTAWA — Indigenous leaders and legal experts are pushing federal lawmakers to ensure long-promised legislation to enshrine the rights of Indigenous Peoples into Canadian law doesn't end up once again on the cutting room floor.

National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde told a Commons committee today he fears the Liberal government’s bill respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples could get tangled in legislative limbo before Parliament rises for the summer or is dissolved for an early election.

Bellegarde says this would be a step backward in the road to reconciliation.

The AFN is proposing some tweaks to the bill, including speeding up a proposed action plan to implement the bill from three years to two and adding clear references to "racism" long endured by Canada's Indigenous Peoples.

Conservatives have been raising concerns that language in the legislation could give First Nations a "veto" over controversial resource development projects.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, a former judge who helped draft British Columbia's UNDRIP bill, says this is nothing but "fearmongering," explaining that the bill will simply put into operation processes to ensure First Nations are involved and engaged at the outset when it comes to decisions regarding their land and human rights.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2021.

The Canadian Press