May 18, 2021
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Dear Right Honourable Prime Minister Trudeau,
I am writing you with an urgent request to reconsider the implementation of Bill C-15, An Act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“UNDRIP”, “Bill C-15”, or “Act”).
Not all Indigenous people support UNDRIP. Many prominent First Nations’ chiefs and leaders are speaking out against its implementation, including those from Treaty 6, 7, and 8, and the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke, to name a few.
I listened to impassioned Indigenous leaders who support resource development talk about why they oppose the implementation of UNDRIP, and I urge you to consider their concerns:
- It creates less rights for First Nations because it gives more rights to say “no” and less rights to say “yes” — including “yes” to resource development on their lands.
- Many First Nations’ leaders have said that Ottawa has not adequately consulted with them. For instance, only two consultation sessions were held in Alberta. How can a bill about “free, prior, and informed consent” at its core be developed without the free, prior and informed consent of the Alberta Treaty Nations? The Conservative Party of Canada and The Green Party of Canada agree that consultation has been inadequate; as a result, both oppose this legislation in its current form.
- There’s a problem with the term “free, prior, and informed consent”. What does this really mean to the Canadian government? How will it affect the ability for First Nations to say yes to revenue-generating resource development on their lands?
- “Indigenous” is not defined. I trust this was an oversight as this is divergent from the Jordan’s Principle where First Nation children are defined and many are excluded from receiving services under this program because of this definition.
- It is not clear whose lands are subject to UNDRIP.
- Bill C-15’s intent isn’t clear. If its purpose is to address human rights, then why doesn’t it address human rights? It doesn’t even mention access to clean drinking water – a fundamental human right in Canada.
- The Government of Canada cannot make this Act operational; it’s merely a promise to make promises.
- It doesn’t recognize First Nation peoples’ sovereignty and their right to create their own laws.
The leaders I listened to said they are concerned that this legislation allows special interest groups, particularly environmental groups, to delay development of projects that don’t follow the environmental movement. They worry that UNDRIP allows any individual to oppose a project, even if they are not a member of the First Nation. Instead of offering solutions, this could allow for legal loopholes for anyone overly invested in an outcome.
I support the human rights aspect of Bill C-15, but what is it doing to reduce poverty and unemployment? Did you know that at times the Maskwacis First Nation, located in central-Alberta, has had 70% or greater unemployment?
The leaders I listened to said that people need jobs for freedom, dignity, and self-worth. There’s value in economic reconciliation, but your government appears to be overlooking this. Please don’t. Alberta is full of success stories because of partnerships between First Nations and oil and gas companies.
I hope you will reconsider the Act in its current form and will make the necessary changes.
Cc: Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett