Canada’s unions welcome new bill to adopt Indigenous rights framework

Canada’s unions welcome the federal government’s recent announcement and subsequent tabling of a bill to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), a commitment which was to be fulfilled before the end of the year.

The new bill, Bill C-15, comes four years after former NDP MP Romeo Saganash introduced Bill C-262, a similar private members bill that died in the Senate.

“By introducing Bill C-15, the federal government is taking a long overdue and much needed step on the path toward reconciliation,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff. “The Bill would require the government to take concrete action to ensure that Canadian laws are consistent with the Declaration.”

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People establishes a framework of global minimum human rights standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous peoples. Just as Bill C-262 did before it, the new Bill affirms UNDRIP as a universal international human rights framework with application in Canadian law.

The Bill would require the federal government, in consultation and cooperation with Indigenous peoples, to:

  • Ensure the laws of Canada are consistent with the Declaration;
  • Prepare and implement an action plan to achieve the objectives of UNDRIP, to be completed as soon as practicable, but no later than three years after the day on which this section comes into force; and
  • Prepare and table an annual report on progress on the action plan, and to align the laws of Canada with UNDRIP.

Both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls called for the government to fully adopt and implement UNDRIP as the framework for reconciliation and justice for Indigenous peoples, including Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit persons who continue to face the deep brunt of the legacy of colonial violence.

Canada’s unions are calling on the federal government to pass and enact Bill C-15 in a timely fashion and are joining Indigenous leaders and community members in stressing that Indigenous peoples have been waiting far too long for substantive and resolute measures from the federal government when it comes to justice and reconciliation.

“The government must seize this opportunity to make significant and meaningful change in the lives of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples and move forward on the path to true reconciliation,” said CLC Executive Vice-President Larry Rousseau.

Canada’s unions call for immediate federal action to uphold treaty rights of Mi’kmaq Fishers

Canada’s unions are condemning the illegal efforts of non-Indigenous fishers to sabotage the inherent rights of the Mi’kmaq people to hunt, fish and gather off the coast of Nova Scotia, and are calling on the federal government to take immediate action to end the racist violence and uphold their treaty rights.

“We are appalled and outraged by the relentless attempts to disrupt and undermine the Mi’kmaq fisher fleets and their right to a moderate livelihood as guaranteed by the Supreme Court of Canada,” said Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress. 

“We are also alarmed that even in the midst of the escalating violence by non‑Indigenous fishers, there have been troubling reports of the RCMP’s failure to protect the Mi’kmaq people, further entrenching a relationship of distrust between Indigenous communities and law enforcement,” added Yussuff. “This points to systemic racism that cannot be left to stand. Law enforcement must take the appropriate actions to end the violence.”

All levels of government have a duty to uphold the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples, as per section 35 of the Constitution, the Peace and Friendship Treaties, and relevant court decisions. Canada’s unions call on the federal government to:

  1. Uphold the rule of law and respect treaty rights. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans must negotiate in good faith with the Sipekne’katik First Nation representatives, to work out a reasonable solution to the fishery dispute that respects the Marshall Decision;
  2. Address the threats, attacks and discrimination against Mi’kmaq people; and
  3. Ensure the safety and security of Mi’kmaq people as they exercise their legal treaty rights.

Justice for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit (FNMI) peoples is long overdue, and Canada’s unions are committed to ensuring the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are fully implemented. Reconciliation is only possible when the rights of First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples are fully respected.

On Orange Shirt Day, Canada’s unions recommit to supporting Indigenous communities

September 30 is recognized across Canada as Orange Shirt Day to commemorate the children who were removed from their families and sent to residential schools where many became victims of physical, sexual, mental and emotional abuse and torture.

Orange Shirt Day serves as an important reminder of the legacy of residential schools, the generational trauma and systemic barriers still faced by First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities in what we call Canada today.

“Orange Shirt Day is an opportunity to honour Indigenous lives and work to confront ongoing colonialism and violence against Indigenous communities,” said Larry Rousseau, Executive Vice President of the Canadian Labour Congress.

The horrors of the residential school system are an important part of Canada’s colonial history. For unions, part of taking action on Orange Shirt Day includes recognizing that the legacy of residential schools is echoed in existing government policies, including the discriminatory practice of birth alerts, the over representation of Indigenous children in the foster care system, and the underfunding of child and family services on reserves.

“There is no erasing the experiences of the victims of residential schools and the ongoing generational impacts, we can only honour their memory by moving forward towards reconciliation,” said Rousseau. “That’s why we, as unions, have taken action to support Indigenous-led campaigns to address the systemic inequities and injustices faced by Indigenous communities, and push all levels of government to adopt the calls to action from the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Report.”

Residential schools are estimated to have impacted the lives of at least 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children between 1880 to 1996. Approximately 80,000 survivors are still alive today.

“There is still a long way to go to ensure justice for Indigenous children in this country, but by taking part in Orange Shirt Day, unions can take a meaningful step in raising awareness of the legacy of residential schools and the work that lies ahead to combat racism and colonialism in this country,” said Rousseau. “In the midst of a global pandemic, we cannot and we won’t leave behind Indigenous children and their families. Every child matters.”

The trauma inflicted by residential schools has had far-reaching and devastating impacts on survivors, their families and Indigenous communities.

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