Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

UNDRIP a top priority, says Miller, but won’t rule out delay due to COVID-19

The House of Commons is currently supposed to resume in full on Sept. 21

A Liberal commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is still a top priority, says Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller, but he could not say whether it is still possible within the promised timeline.

During the 2019 election and again in ministerial mandate letters, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to introduce legislation, developed with Indigenous Peoples, by the end of 2020 that would enshrine the UN declaration in Canadian law.

That remains an “utmost priority” for the Trudeau government, Miller said, adding that legislation will come in the “shortest time frame possible.”

But he also noted the House of Commons has been operating under special rules adopted by all political parties after the pandemic forced the country into lockdown. The rules only allow the tabling of legislation that deals with COVID-19 emergency measures.

“We’ve heard it from every regional and national leadership that it is a, or the top, priority,” Miller told reporters in Ottawa Wednesday.

“The challenges I would highlight … are such that we have a Parliament that is operating under rules that are dictated by all the parties so we could agree to have the format to combat COVID.”

The House of Commons is currently supposed to resume in full on Sept. 21.

Justice Minister David Lametti, whose portfolio is overseeing work on UNDRIP legislation, is on vacation this week and thus unavailable for an interview.

His spokeswoman, Rachel Rappaport, said his office has been working closely with national Indigenous organizations on a path forward for developing the legislation that is adapted to the new circumstances imposed by the pandemic.

“That work is very much ongoing. We look forward to having more to share soon,” Rappaport said.

The commitment to introduce a bill to implement UNDRIP by the end of 2020 has not changed, she said.

“Our priority has always been to see this legislation passed as quickly as possible, working in lockstep with Indigenous partners and rights holders,” Rappaport said in her statement.

“There is no doubt that COVID-19 has created new challenges and circumstances that we must adapt to, but it has not changed the fact that this remains a key priority for our government and for Indigenous partners.”

Last month, Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould, who served as justice minister under the Liberals until 2019 when she resigned over the SNC-Lavalin controversy, told the House of Commons she had heard legislation had been drafted and that the Liberals would soon release a discussion paper on UNDRIP.

At the time, she said hoped the government is “aware that fundamental to the declaration’s articles are the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous Peoples.”

She cited concerns about tensions between a luxury fishing lodge in B.C. that reopened to visitors despite a state of emergency issued by the Haida Nation because of COVID-19. The lodge has since shut down.

In response to Wilson-Raybould’s query on UNDRIP, Lametti noted his mandate letter dictates he must implement the declaration before the end of this calendar year.

“It remains a priority for me,” Lametti said in the House of Commons July 22.

“Once we have done that, we will be able to better address the kinds of questions that (Wilson-Raybould) is raising now. We feel the declaration will help reframe the relationship between people in Canada in a positive way moving forward.”

But NDP MP Charlie Angus says he is not hopeful the promised bill will deliver the kinds of reforms that are needed when it comes to the Crown’s relationship with Indigenous Peoples, regardless of when it arrives.

“I think the reality is that whatever the government says about Indigenous rights, they send in the Justice Department to fight tooth and nail against it,” Angus said Wednesday.

“Until we get that change in terms of the confrontational legal approach the government has towards Indigenous rights, we’re going to continue to see problems.”

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Indigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation held its inaugural Grand Gala in November 2019 at Harrison Hot Springs Resort. This year’s event will be held online. (Submitted photo)
Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation holds virtual Grand Gala

Second annual event takes place online on Nov. 20, raising funds for local hospitals

The smaller eagle on the left side of the picture has been stolen from the Sq’ewá:lxw First Nation. If found, contact the community office at 604-796-6129 or email info@skwahlook.com. (Contributed Photo/Sq’ewá:lxw First Nation)
Eagle carving stolen from Sq’ewá:lxw First Nation

If seen, contact the First Nation community office at 604-796-9129

Chilliwack has several railway crossings that can be hazardous to inattentive and unprepared drivers during the fall and winter months. (Martin Duperre photo)
CN Rail urges Fraser Valley drivers to be careful around railway crossings

The danger level jumps up during icy, windy fall and winter months causing a spike in accidents

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Mt. Cheam closes for COVID-19 isolation measures, moving to online learning

School principal confirms coronavirus exposure led to staffing reduction and need to close

Carolyn and Steve Touhey came across a pod of humpback whales while on their boat Sunday, Oct. 25. Photo supplied
VIDEO: Boaters encounter pod of humpbacks in Georgia Strait

Pod spotted between Comox and Texada Island

It’s been eight years since Gordon Spencer (pictured), and cousin, ‘Lil’ Bruce Mayo, were gunned down in a home in Langley, and Spencer’s widow is hoping someone who knows something will step up (file)
Eight years on and still no answers in Langley double murder

Wife of victim makes public appeal for people with information to come forward

Langley resident Sean Nugent, who died in 2019 shortly he saved a swimmer from drowning, has been awarded a posthumous medal for bravery by the Royal Canadian Humane Association (Courtesy Nugent family)
Langley man who died after saving swimmer receives posthumous medal for bravery

Sean Nugent rescued woman from Hayward Lake near Mission in July of 2019

Washington State Department of Agriculture workers, wearing protective suits and working vacuumed a nest of Asian giant hornets from a tree Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. Scientists in Washington state discovered the first nest earlier in the week of so-called murder hornets in the United States and worked to wipe it out Saturday morning to protect native honeybees. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Nest of ‘murder hornets’ found near South Surrey

String of traps set up along border to capture Asian giant hornets

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The Williams Lake Indian Band is stipulating no-go zones for mushroom picking in areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. 100 Mile Free Press photo
Who controls mushroom harvesting on Indigenous lands?

‘We don’t necessarily know where the mushrooms grow, how old the stands need to be, those types of things.’

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
U.S. election results one factor that could impact immigration to Canada next year

The survey polled 1,523 Canadians between Oct. 23 and Oct. 25

Most Read