CANADA/TURTLE ISLAND: Members of CPT Canada meet with Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations & Northern Affairs on UNDRIP

17 November 2017
CANADA/TURTLE ISLAND: Members of CPT Canada meet with Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations & Northern Affairs on UNDRIP

by Robin Buyers

On November 13th, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) Canada Coordinator, Rachelle Friesen, and reservists Esther Townshend and Robin Buyers met with Carolyn Bennett, Canada's Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations & Northern Affairs. Following up on CPT's co-sponsorship of this spring's Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights and fall Fast, Friesen, Townsend, and Buyers urged the Minister and her Liberal government to vote yes this December 4th for Bill C-262: An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Minister Bennett and her staff welcomed our delegation graciously. She spoke of her desire to "accelerate steps towards reconcili-action." She noted the importance of responding to UNDRIP with domestic legislation that allows for the work of "reconstituting nations" who then define their own identity and relationship to Canada. She suggested that, for some, Bill C-262 does not go far enough, and anticipated a vigorous House of Commons debate on how to implement UNDRIP on the 4th.

According to Bennett, the Liberal government plans to put forward their own legislation based on rights recognition under Section 35 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees Treaty and other Aboriginal rights. A Working Group of Ministers including Bennett was established 8 months ago to "work with Indigenous leaders, youth, and experts on various legal and policy questions relating to Indigenous Peoples."

CPTers meet with Carolyn Bennett
Photo (from left to right): Carolyn Bennett, Robin Buyers, Rachelle Friesen, Esther Townshend

Two months later, Working Group Chair, Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould laid out 10 non-binding principles respecting the Government of Canada's relationship with Indigenous peoples. When asked about current timelines, however, Minister Bennett was not able to provide Monday's delegates with any specifics on when we might expect to see Liberal legislation to implement UNDRIP

Friesen commended Minister Bennett and her government for taking steps to establish a whole-of-government approach. But she pointed out that supporting MP Romeo Saganash's Private Members Bill would not only honour Saganash's more than two decades of work on UNDRIP as a leader of the Cree People, but demonstrate that the implementation of UNDRIP in Canada should be supported by Parliamentarians from all parties.

Friesen referenced Liberal support while in opposition for a similar Private Members Bill tabled by Saganash, as well as support for the current Bill by Liberal MP Robert Falcon-Ouelette (Winnipeg Centre) In making his November 4th announcement, Falcon-Ouelette acknowledged that he was responding to support for C-262 from his constituents. CPT Reservist and Mennonite Church of Canada CPT Steering Committee representative Steve Heinrichs stood by his side.

Because we believe that Bill C-262 offers the necessary legislative, binding framework in Canadian law for getting started now on the implementation of UNDRIP, CPT Canada supporters will be joining our voices with Indigenous, Christian, and other civil society partners in asking all Members of Parliament to vote their conscience and, on December 4th, support Bill C-262.

As Anishnaabekwe cultural educator and longstanding friend to CPT's Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Team, Kaaren Dannenmann puts it, supporting Bill C-262 "is important for all people and is the right thing to do."