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

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 ski hill is clearly marked as a no snowmobiling zone, but that hasn’t deterred sledders from ruining it for the second time this season (Patrick Gunderson photo)
Tweedsmuir Ski Hill wrecked by sledders for second time this season

The Club is respectfully requesting snowmobilers stay off the ski hill

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 cases climb to 52 as first vaccinations to begin Jan. 19

VCH has indicated vaccines will be available for off-reserve elders, but has not provided specifics

NES hosts grades 5 - 7 in Hagensborg (file photo)
COVID-19 exposure confirmed at Nusatsum Elementary School

The exposure was in grade 5 and took place Jan. 6, 2021

Jeffery Snow has been our community paramedic for the past three years and has worked as a paramedic for over three decades. He is now certified to offer COVID-19 testing to clients (Caitlin Thompson photo)
Bella Coola’s community paramedic can now test people for COVID-19

Jeffery Snow became certified to offer COVID-19 testing on Jan. 13, 2021

The first cases were reported by the Nuxalk EOC on Jan. 7 (file photo)
COVID-19 cases climb to 25 in Bella Coola

The first cases were reported by the Nuxalk EOC on Jan. 7

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Most Read