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Bill to align Canadian law with UN Indigenous rights declaration passes to become law


The Senate has passed Bill C-15, which seeks to align Canadian law with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which the global body adopted in 2007.

The long-anticipated legislation passed the upper chamber by a vote of 61 to 10, with nine abstentions.

While the bill is often described as enshrining UNDRIP into law, it would not actually directly implement the declaration’s various articles into Canadian law. Rather, it would establish a framework for their implementation.

The legislation spells out how the government must “take all measures necessary to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and must prepare and implement an action plan to achieve the objectives of the Declaration.”

The federal government will have to present annual reports to Parliament on the progress made in implementing the action plan “in consultation and co-operation with Indigenous peoples.”

Framed as a step forward on the path to reconciliation, support for the bill from Indigenous leadership has been fairly widespread, but also guarded and not unanimous, with concerns raised during the parliamentary process about the amount of consultation done before the bill was tabled.

Seeing Bill C-15 pass will fulfill an election commitment by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, though previous attempts to enshrine UNDRIP into law were made through private member’s bills advanced by former NDP MP Romeo Saganash.

In a joint statement, Justice Minister David Lametti and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett called the passage of Bill C-15 a “critical step recognizing, promoting, protecting and upholding the human rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada.”

“This legislation will require the Government of Canada to examine federal laws, policies, and practices and to take all measures, in consultation and cooperation with Indigenous Peoples, to ensure consistency with the Declaration. It provides the foundation for transformational change in Canada’s relationships with Indigenous Peoples,” they said.

Bill C-15 passed third reading in the House of Commons on May 25 by a vote of 210 to 118, with the Conservative caucus and Independent MP Derek Sloan voting against it.

The Senate had conducted a pre-study on the bill, and after it formally came before the upper chamber, it passed through the Senate Aboriginal Peoples Committee without amendment.

The bill is now awaiting Royal Assent before it fully becomes law, alongside a few other bills that have passed both the House and Senate recently.

With wide speculation that an election could be imminent, there are a handful of key bills still moving through the House and Senate that the federal government is looking to see pass in the final few days of the spring parliamentary session.

With files from CTV News’ Cameron French



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