Brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms

Published May 1, 2021

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) has submitted a brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs. The brief, written by Bruce Pardy, Professor of Law, and Jody Wells, JD candidate, calls the Federal government’s Bill C-15 “’useless, dangerous, and divisive”. It goes on to say “Bill C-15: An Act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been heralded as the means to build a better future for Indigenous people in Canada, and an important step towards reconciliation. It is neither. Instead, Bill C-15 and UNDRIP itself are based upon mistakes and myths. They will be an obstacle to the prosperity of ordinary Indigenous men, women, and children. Bill C-15 is useless, dangerous, and divisive.”

According to the EPOCH Times: “The UN General Assembly adopted UNDRIP in September 2007, but Canada voted against it at the time—due to concerns over natural resources and land use.” In December 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission listed ratifying UNDRIP as one of its national “calls to action” in its final report. In 2016, Canada officially adopted and promised to implement the declaration fully. According to the Fraser Institute, UNDRIP is not a convention or a treaty and is thus not legally binding unless it is adopted in legislation.  Further, Canada opposed UNDRIP at the United Nations because of a controversial feature that required free, prior, and informed (FPIC) consent by Indigenous peoples before economic development projects can take place on lands they inhabit or to which they may have a claim. FPIC and similar sweeping provisions in the document are not consistent with Canadian constitutional law. The government of Stephen Harper adopted it in 2010 with the proviso that it was a statement of aspirations but not legally binding. The same position was taken by the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. See https://www.fraserinstitute.org/studies/squaring-the-circle-adopting-undrip-in-canada.

Enter Federal Bill C-15, An Act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which is meant to legislate UNDRIP into Canadian law, a move which JCCF calls “useless, dangerous, and divisive”. The Bill has passed second reading and is now before the Commons Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs. Read JCCF’s brief as submitted to this Committee https://www.jccf.ca/federal-bill-to-adopt-undrip-is-useless-dangerous-and-divisive/.

In November 2019, British Columbia adopted UNDRIP as law with their Bill 41. Tom Flannigan speculates in the Financial Post that “the adoption of Bill 41 led directly to the proliferation of blockades on Canadian National Railway lines. Those traditional Wet’suwet’en chiefs who oppose the presence of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in their territory claimed that Bill 41 gave them a right to veto construction. Their assertions about Bill 41 and FPIC were echoed by other Indigenous advocates as well as the United Nations Commission on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. When the RCMP took down the barricades put up by supporters of the traditional Wet’suwet’en chiefs, sympathy blockades and demonstrations sprang up across the country.”  If Bill C-15 passes, can we anticipate more blockades stopping natural resource development across Canada; could it jeopardize ongoing indigenous land claim negotiations?

JCCF’s website https://www.jccf.ca states: “Founded in 2010 as a voice for freedom in Canada’s courtrooms, the mission of the Justice Centre is to defend the constitutional freedoms of Canadians through litigation and education. We fight for Canada to become and remain a free society, where the equality of all Canadians and their individual freedoms are celebrated and respected.” Among other legal challenges, their website lists several instances of Covid related legal activity.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE OLA NEWSLETTER