The House of Commons rose for the summer on June 23rd, 2016. This Parliamentary Wrap-Up includes events from April 10th until then.
On April 14th, the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Committee (INAN) heard from AFN Ontario Regional Chief, Isadore Day, Nishnabe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler and Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon, as well as other witnesses, at a meeting concerning the “Declaration of Health Emergency by First Nations Communities in Northern Ontario.” They testified regarding high mortality rates in communities and made recommendations for action. Their full testimony can be read at this link: http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Language=e&Mode=1&Parl=42&Ses=1&DocId=8193223
On April 20th, Ontario Regional Chief Day and others appeared at the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology to provide comment toward the Senate’s study of dementia. The full testimony for that meeting can be found at this link: http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/SEN/Committee/421/soci/05ev-52514-e.htm?Language=E&Parl=42&Ses=1&comm_id=13
On May 30th, National Chief Perry Bellegarde participated in a seminar hosted by the Library of Parliament where he addressed Members of Parliament, Senators and their staff on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the Declaration), urging all parties to work cooperatively with Indigenous peoples on measures to adopt and implement the Declaration in Canada.
Also on May 30th, AFN British Columbia Regional Chief Shane Gottfriedson provided a written submission to the House Standing Committee on Natural Resources for that Committee’s Study on the Future of Canada’s Oil and Gas, Mining, and Nuclear Sectors: Innovation, Sustainable Solutions and Economic Opportunities. That submission can be located at the following link:http://www.parl.gc.ca/Search/Results.aspx?Language=E&search_term=gottfriedson
On June 9th, INAN heard from AFN Northwest Territories Regional Chief Bill Erasmus, and Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, concerning “Supplementary Estimates (A) 2016-17: Votes 1a, 5a, 10a and L20a under Indian Affairs and Northern Development.” At the same meeting, it heard from Ontario Regional Chief Day, concerning “Suicide Among Indigenous Peoples and Communities.” The full testimony on both these subjects can be found at this link: http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=8351720&Language=E&Mode=1
On June 14th, National Chief Perry Bellegarde appeared before the House Standing Committee on International Trade concerning the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. The full testimony from this appearance is available at the following link: http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=8364218&Language=E&Mode=1
Also on June 14th, National Chief Bellegarde and AFN Alberta Regional Chief Craig Makinaw appeared before the Senate Committee on Transport and Communications to outline First Nations concerns respecting the regulation of oil pipelines and the role of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That testimony is at this link: http://www.parl.gc.ca/content/sen/committee/421/TRCM/52704-E.HTM
And on June 20th, AFN Nova Scotia and Newfoundland Regional Chief Morley Googoo organized a summit meeting between 13 Chiefs and the 11 Members of Parliament from Nova Scotia to begin a dialogue on the nation-to-nation relationship. This was the first time such a meeting had been held.
In legislative news, Parliament passed Bill C-14, the Medical Assistance in Dying Act. This legislation was required by a Supreme Court of Canada ruling and had a short deadline for reaching Royal Assent to become law. Other bills passed included those implementing Budget 2016, facilitating the administration of government, making changes to the Copyright Act to increase access for persons with disabilities, and one concerning maintenance of Air Canada aircraft.
The fall Parliamentary session begins on Sept 19th, with week-long breaks at Thanksgiving in October and Veterans Day in November. The House is scheduled to rise on Dec. 16th.
Some Bills currently on the order paper that are of particular significance to First Nations include the following:
- C-17, An Act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act. This is a government Bill, introduced by the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. The Bill is intended to address problems created by passing S-6, the Senate bill introduced under the Conservative government affecting the rights and interests of Yukon First Nations. This bill has been through first reading and committee hearings can be expected after second reading.
- C-262, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. This Private Members Bill (PMB) was introduced by NDP MP Romeo Saganash and calls on the Government of Canada to implement the UN Declaration.
- S-212, the Aboriginal Languages of Canada Act. This Senate Private Bill (SPB) introduced by Senator Serge Joyal is for recognition and support of Indigenous languages. Note that SPBs cannot commit the Government of Canada to spend money.
- S-215, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for violent offences against Aboriginal women), introduced as an SPB by Senator Lillian Dyck, requires courts to consider the fact that the victim is an Aboriginal woman to be an aggravating circumstance when sentencing violent offenders.
It is anticipated that the federal government will unveil its overall approach to engagement, and how it proposes to work with First Nations in partnership, cooperation and consultation to implement the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, starting with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is also anticipated that any proposed reconciliation framework (content and process) will ensure First Nations, as rights holders, provide direction and input on their priorities and visions for reconciliation and the Crown’s obligations to respect and comply with all of its legal obligations to First Nations under Treaty, the Constitution and international law.
Legislative development is expected that reflects some of the key priorities expressed in the 2015 Speech from the Throne and the Prime Minister’s mandate letters to his Cabinet Ministers. Recently launched engagement initiatives respecting the reform of environmental assessment and resource regulatory systems have begun. More information on this engagement process is available at the following link: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/conservation/assessments/environmental-reviews.html
Pre-budget discussions and Committee hearings will begin in the fall, building toward Budget 2017.
It is also anticipated that the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs will introduce legislation to respond to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Descheneaux case to address the Court’s finding of discrimination on the basis of gender in section 6 of the Indian Act. No bill has been introduced, but the timeline given by the Court requires an amendment to the Indian Act before the end of February 2017 and will require speedy action, as with the medically assisted dying legislation in the previous Parliamentary session. We can expect the Bill to be introduced early, with a brief timeline for submissions to the Committee and appearances.
Look to this site for updates on the progress of each of these bills and committee hearing dates once they are set.