The Liberals will support an NDP private member’s bill to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said Monday.
In a major about-face for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, Wilson-Raybould made the announcement at a conference in Gatineau to mark the 10th anniversary of the declaration, according to speech notes provided by her office.
The Liberals had previously opposed bill C-262, with the minister calling it “unworkable” in Canadian law. She said reforms to federal laws and policies affecting Indigenous peoples would be based on existing legal interpretations of section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
Section 35 is seen by many as the backbone of protection for contemporary Indigenous rights.
Sponsored by Abitibi-Baie James-Nunavik-Eeyou MP Romeo Saganash, bill C-262, would make sure all Canadians laws are consistent with UNDRIP and require Ottawa to create an action plan to implement the declaration.
The bill says nothing in it should be construed “so as to diminish or extinguish existing aboriginal or treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada” as they are affirmed in section 35.
The Liberals previously cast the bill as too inefficient and vague to support. Critics of the government said they were avoiding upholding Indigenous rights.
UNDRIP was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007, but Canada didn’t fully adopt the declaration until 2016.
The declaration, which required decades of negotiations, outlines a path for former colonial countries seeking to rectify historical and current human rights abuses against Indigenous peoples.
While it isn’t a binding agreement like some other U.N. documents, it’s often treated in countries like Canada as a measuring stick to judge national policies.
In her prepared remarks, Wilson-Raybould said C-262 would not be the only way to implement UNDRIP.
She also referred to the government’s working group of ministers who are overseeing a review of laws and policies affecting Indigenous peoples.
C-262 is currently in first hearing. It’s first hour of debate will be on December 5.