UNDRIP Bill C-262 finally reaches the Senate committee and Conservative skepticism


NDP MP Romeo Saganash’s UNDRIP bill is inching toward passage. Sen. Murray Sinclair says equating free, prior and informed consent with a veto misses the point (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

If Bill C-262 is to pass before the House rises next month, some Conservative Senators will have to be convinced it won’t create new problems for Canada.

On Tuesday Cree MP Romeo Saganash’s private members’ bill had its first day before the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples.

If passed, it would require Canada to align its laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which articulates the global minimum human rights standards for Indigenous Peoples.

But the proposed legislation, introduced in the House of Commons by Saganash in 2016, could meet its demise on the order paper if its proponents, and witnesses who will address the committee in the coming days, don’t convince Conservative senators the bill won’t have unintended legal and economic consequences for Canada.

“We all acknowledge that Canadians, I believe, overwhelmingly support the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” Conservative Senator and committee Deputy Chair Scott Tannas told APTN News Tuesday.  But if [the bill] involves more court cases and economic disruption, they’re not in support of it,” he continued, adding Canadians have “never been asked that question.

“We don’t know if they’re in support of it — but I suspect they’re not. So we need to get clarity around this, and that’s our job here in the Senate.”

UNDRIP(From the left, NDP MP Romeo Saganash, Wilton Littlechild, and Senator Murray Sinclair at the Senate hearings Tuesday. Photo: Justin Brake/APTN)

The committee heard from several witnesses Tuesday, including Saganash himself, and Senator Murray Sinclair, who is the bill’s senate sponsor and, a former judge and chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“A lot is being made of the possibility that the U.N. Declaration itself is going to become the law of Canada by virtue of this bill, and that is not the case,” Sinclair said in his opening remarks to the committee Tuesday.

“People need to stop suggesting that, because the only extent to which this bill will have an impact anywhere in that direction is that it will call upon Canada to look at its legislation and to make its legislation consistent with the principles that are set out in the Declaration.” MORE

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