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OTTAWA, Monday, June 7, 2021

The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met by videoconference this day at 2 p.m. [ET] to consider Bill C-15, An Act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Senator Dan Christmas (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: Honourable senators, I wish to welcome all of you and our viewers across the country who may be watching on to the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples.

Before we begin, I’d like to acknowledge that we are meeting today on the unceded lands of the Algonquin Anishinaabe.

We have a few housekeeping items to go through. I’d like to remind senators to please keep your microphones muted at all times unless recognized by name by chair. Should any technical challenges arise, particularly in relation to interpretation, please signal this to the chair or the clerk, and we will work to resolve the issue. If you experience other technical challenges, please contact the ISD service desk with the technical assistance number provided in the meeting confirmation document.

Before we begin our discussions, in order to safeguard the confidentiality of conversations, I remind senators, their staff and committee support staff participating in this meeting that it is their responsibility to ensure that the environment in which they find themselves is private and that conversations held in the context of this committee meeting cannot be overheard by third parties. Participants should know to do so in a private area and to be mindful of their surroundings.

My name is Dan Christmas. I’m a senator for Nova Scotia, and I have the privilege to be the chair of this committee. I would like to introduce the members of the committee who are participating in this meeting: Senator Anderson from the Northwest Territories, Senator Coyle from Nova Scotia, Senator Forest-Niesing from Ontario, Senator Francis from Prince Edward Island, Senator M. Deacon from Ontario, Senator LaBoucane-Benson from Alberta, Senator MacDonald from Nova Scotia, Senator Pate from Ontario, Senator Patterson from Nunavut, Senator Stewart Olsen from New Brunswick and Senator Tannas from Alberta. Other senators who are also attending with us this afternoon are Senator McCallum from Manitoba and Senator Gold from Quebec.

We are meeting to consider Bill C-15. During our pre-study, we heard from many witnesses, and we are now at the stage where we’ll begin going through the bill clause by clause. Before we do this, I would like to remind senators of a few points.

If at any point a senator is not clear where we are in the process, please ask for clarification. We must do our utmost to ensure that we have the same understanding of where we are in the process.

I wish to advise senators that we do have officials on hand from both Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada and the Department of Justice Canada to answer any technical questions that may arise during this meeting.

In terms of the mechanics of the process, I wish to remind senators that when more than one amendment is going to be moved in a clause, the amendments should be proposed in the order of the lines of a clause. Therefore, before we take up an amendment in a clause, I will be verifying whether any senators had intended to move an amendment earlier in that clause. If senators do intend to move an earlier amendment, they’ll be given the chance to do so.

There is one small point: If a senator is opposed to an entire clause, I would remind members that, in committee, the proper process is not to move a motion to delete the entire clause but rather to vote against a clause standing as part of the bill.

I would remind senators that some amendments that are moved may have consequential effects on other parts of the bill. It is very important that the committee remain consistent in its decisions and that they be consistently applied throughout the bill. It would be very useful to this process if a senator moving an amendment would identify to the committee other clauses in this bill where this amendment could have an effect. Otherwise, it would be very difficult for members of the committee to remain consistent in their decision making. Staff will endeavour to keep track of these places where subsequent amendments need to be moved, and they will draw our attention to them. Because no notice is required to move amendments, there can, of course, have been no preliminary analysis of amendments to establish which ones may be consequent to others and which may be contradictory.

If members ever have questions about the process or the propriety of anything going on, they can raise a point of order. The chair will listen to the argument, decide when there has been sufficient discussion on the matter of order and make a ruling. The committee, of course, is the ultimate master of its business within the bounds set upon it by the Senate, and a ruling can be appealed to the full committee by asking whether the ruling shall be sustained.

As chair, I will do my utmost to ensure that the senators wishing to speak can do so. For this, however, I will depend upon your cooperation, and I ask all of you to think of other senators and keep your remarks to the point and as brief as possible.

Finally, I wish to remind senators that if there is ever any uncertainty as to the results of a voice vote or show of hands, the cleanest route is to request a recorded vote, which provides clear results. Senators are aware that any tied vote negatives the motion in question.

Are there any questions regarding what I’ve just read?

I believe we can now proceed. Is it agreed that the committee proceed to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-15, An Act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Thank you. Agreed.

Shall the title stand postponed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Thank you.

Shall the preamble stand postponed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 1, which contains the short title, stand postponed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 2 carry?

Senator Patterson: Mr. Chair, I’d like to propose an amendment to clause 2, on page 4, which has been circulated in advance to the clerk. May I go ahead?

The Chair: Yes. I have it in front of me now, Senator Patterson. You may go ahead.

Senator Patterson: I move:

That Bill C-15 be amended in clause 2, on page 4, by adding the following after line 23:

(2.1) For greater certainty, nothing in this Act affects the validity of judicial decisions rendered prior to its coming into force.”.

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Patterson. Do you wish to comment further on the amendment?

Senator Patterson: Yes. This is a clarifying amendment, and I should say that I have more than one to propose today. This amendment is to clarify that Canadian jurisprudence continues to prevail, since there seems to be an ongoing debate about this.

We heard from legal scholar Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond who told our committee that the jurisprudence will evolve and that the UN declaration will not be subject to a bad decision from 30 years ago. On the other hand, we had Minister Lametti telling us, and I’m quoting from his testimony to committee:

 . . . Canadian federal and provincial law also still continues to exist, and they will continue to be the last word in a number of different contexts.

As I said, this amendment is a clarifying amendment and is aimed at ensuring the law reflects what the minister has told this committee. This amendment isn’t saying that jurisprudence isn’t capable of changing or evolving, but it is saying that existing case law and jurisprudence continue to stand until the appropriate mechanisms are used to create that change. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Patterson. Any comments or questions?

Senator LaBoucane-Benson: Thank you to my colleague who brought the amendment forward.

I would just note that Bill C-15 recognizes and affirms that the declaration can be used as an interpretive tool, which may, over time, influence the development of Canadian jurisprudence. By nature and definition, Canadian jurisprudence continues to apply in Canada at the same time it can grow and evolve. Thank you.

Senator Forest-Niesing: Senator LaBoucane-Benson said exactly what I was going to say. I don’t know that this is an amendment that will bring the desired clarity. In fact, by expressing that notion in the bill, it may, in my view, tend to confuse things. Independently, every piece of legislation to which Royal Assent is granted is subject to past judicial decisions and becomes an interpretive tool for future judicial decisions by its very nature.

Senator Stewart Olsen: I believe the amendment itself is dealing with the future, and it’s saying that you can’t go back in the past to say this isn’t appropriate — the new laws or the new additions to the law. I understand the point. It gives greater clarity for people who are trying to sort out the legalities and where it will be going with everything new coming into play.

Yes, Senator LaBoucane-Benson, we will be reviewing each piece of legislation. I would hope that’s in the plan in the near future. This amendment clarifies the fact that we don’t think it’s necessary. We don’t want to go back and review. It doesn’t apply to things in the past. It only applies going forward, and that’s not really clear in the existing bill.

The Chair: Any other comments or questions? Can I ask government officials if they wish to make any comments?

Senator Patterson: Point of order, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: Yes, Senator Patterson?

Senator Patterson: Mr. Chair, I’m grateful for the presence of government officials, but I believe strongly that we should not ask them to weigh in on our debate on amendments. They are there as a resource to the committee, and we should be able to call on them if there are technical questions that need to be answered. However, I strongly object to the practice of having them comment on every amendment. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, senator. Can I suspend just for a moment and get clarification? We’ll suspend for a brief moment.

(The committee suspended.)

(The committee resumed.)

The Chair: The opinion is that the committee has the right to hear from government officials. I’ll leave it to the committee to decide, but I notice Senator Tannas’s hand is raised.

Senator Tannas: Thanks. I think the government officials can be, as Senator Patterson said, invaluable if we ask specific questions. However, if they enter into debate when we’re talking about amendments, I’ll bet a bag of doughnuts that no government official is going to agree it’s a great amendment. The bill is perfect. That’s their position. If any senator has a specific question they want to ask a government official, that’s entirely in order and should be done so, but I don’t think is appropriate to throw a softball over to them and say, “What do you think, guys?”

Senator Patterson: Agreed.

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Tannas. Senator Patterson, anything further?

Senator Patterson: I want to clarify that I certainly do not question the right of officials to appear in the committee. I’m glad they’re here, and they should feel welcome, but they should only be available if a member of the committee calls on them to clarify a technical question. I’d like to endorse what Senator Tannas said just now, that it should not be the practice to call on them to comment on every amendment, unless we need technical advice. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, senator. It sounds like the way we’ll go forward here is that if any senator wishes to ask the officials questions regarding the amendments, it is certainly within their right to do so. Any other comments or questions on that? Great. Thank you very much.

Going back to the amendment in clause 2, is there any further debate? Hearing none, I shall then ask, shall clause 2, as amended, carry?

Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Some Hon. Senators: No.

Andrea Mugny, Clerk of the Committee: Mr. Chair, I’ll ask if you could call a suspension, please.

The Chair: Thank you, senators. We’ll suspend the meeting momentarily.

(The committee suspended.)

(The committee resumed.)

The Chair: The meeting is now resumed.

It was moved by the Honourable Senator Patterson that Bill C-15 be amended at clause 2, page 4, on line 22. Shall the amendment carry? Please, you can vote by showing your card. If you agree, show the check. If you disagree, show the X.

Ms. Mugny: In favour, 3; against, 8.

The Chair: I declare the amendment defeated.

Shall clause 2 carry?

Senator Patterson: On division.

The Chair: On division. Thank you, Senator Patterson. Thank you very much. That’s much easier.

We now wish to go to clause 3. Shall clause 3 carry?

Senator Patterson: I have an amendment on clause 5, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: I’ll go through clause 3, clause 4 and then clause 5.

Shall clause 3 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: I declare that clause 3 is carried.

Shall clause 4 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: I declare clause 4 carried.

Shall clause 5 carry?

Senator Patterson: I move:

That Bill C-15 be amended in clause 5, on page 5, by replacing line 9 with the following:

“necessary to ensure that federal Acts and regulations are consis-”.

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Patterson. On debate?

Senator Patterson: Clause 5 requires the government to “. . . take all measures necessary to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the Declaration.” “Laws of Canada” suggests this includes laws of provinces and territories.

I’m suggesting we replace “laws of Canada,” which is a stylistic choice, with more clear wording. We heard from Champagne and Aishihik that they believe this bill applies to Yukon. We also heard from Minister Dunn from New Brunswick that this was a concern.

This brings up the important question of what happens if the federal Parliament passes Bill C-15 but a province has not done so. How does this impact areas of shared jurisdiction like health or environmental reviews? These are important questions that need to be clarified. Premiers and ministers representing Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick have all expressed this concern. The minister told us unequivocally on May 31 that this review of laws only applies to federal laws and regulations.

In the French version now, it’s more clear and says “lois fédérales,” so we would be adding the words “et règlements” to include regulations. Again, I think this is a clarifying amendment that logically makes the English version clearly compatible with the French.

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Patterson.

Senator LaBoucane-Benson: I would just note that this is consistent with how “laws of Canada” is used in some other forms of legislation, including the Income Tax Act, and that the Government of Canada understands that “laws of Canada” is used in clause 5 of the bill as being limited only to federal legislation passed by the Parliament of Canada.

Senator Forest-Niesing: May I ask the officials to clarify for us whether they estimate this change would have any impact other than clarification. In other words, would it exclude laws that the bill was intended to include?

Laurie Sargent, Assistant Deputy Minister, Aboriginal Affairs Portfolio, Department of Justice Canada: Chair, I’m happy to respond to that briefly.

The Chair: Ms. Sargent, please go ahead.

Ms. Sargent: Thank you.

I would note that I think there is a possibility that changing to “federal acts and regulations” might exclude some parts of what would be captured by “laws of Canada,” by which, as the minister has said and as has been noted, we understand it to mean laws within the jurisdiction of the federal Parliament, partly because there may be areas of federal law that are not just statute-based but that can go beyond that. They can be a federal common law, and that wouldn’t be captured by “acts and regulations.”

All that said, I would also note that adding “regulations” would be a change as well relative to the legislation as currently written. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Sargent.

Senator Stewart Olsen: I would note that, as senators, we represent our regions, and I feel quite strongly that if we have this many provincial governments worried about this aspect, then it behooves us, as their voice in the federal scene, to give this some severe attention. I don’t think any time you clarify a law, that’s a bad thing. I think any time you don’t is the bad thing. I think we’re trying not to set up areas for future litigation, if we can possibly do that. So I would ask that we give this real consideration. Thank you.

Senator Forest-Niesing: I can’t disagree with the desire for clarity, but I don’t want to erroneously or inadvertently change the scope of the legislation for want of a clarification.

The other point I think that is important to make — and Senator Patterson has pointed it out — and I’m making most of my comments in English today because I note that most of my colleagues in attendance are in English, so as a courtesy to you I’ll speak in English primarily — but if there is a discrepancy in the French version and the second, then there are two questions for us. The first is which of the two do we wish to uphold? Is it going to be “federal laws and regulations” or is it going to be the “laws of Canada”? Once we’ve settled on that, we will need to amend either the French version or the English version to ensure consistency, I would submit.

Senator Stewart Olsen: Absolutely.

Senator Gold: I think Senator Forest-Niesing said it pretty much all, as did the officials. This doesn’t clarify. It changes the scope in both directions, and I would argue that it’s not necessary, nor is it desirable, for that reason.

Senator Patterson: Following up on Senator Forest-Niesing’s observation, and I respect that she is bilingual, she has suggested what I suggested, which is that there’s a clear conflict between the English and French versions. I wonder if I could ask the official again: Which is going to prevail, “lois fédérales” in French or “laws of Canada” in English? Which is operative here?

Ms. Sargent: Mr. Chair, I will note on that point that the principle of statutory interpretation is that both languages are equally valid and will be looked to for purposes of interpretation or understanding what the legislative intent is.

Perhaps, if I can, to pick up on a point made by Senator Forest-Niesing, we actually see the use of “lois fédérales” to translate as “laws of Canada” sometimes. So those two phrases, the English “laws of Canada” and “lois fédérales,” as currently appear, are consistent in our experience.

I will say there is a variety of terminology across the federal statute book. There isn’t 100% consistency, so you will find some different wording in different federal statutes. But there are some examples where “laws of Canada” is translated as “lois fédérales.” There are some other terms used, but perhaps that’s what I can add for the moment. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Sargent.

Senator Forest-Niesing: I don’t want to belabour the point, but I do think it’s important. Since we’re having a discussion specifically about the wording and use of either “federal laws” or “laws of Canada,” if we agree on one or the other, then I believe we should amend the other version to ensure consistency.

Ms. Sargent was absolutely right that both versions will have equal force and may be interpreted differently if that consistency isn’t attended to here and now. My recommendation would therefore be, and my position is, that we should maintain “laws of Canada” and therefore defeat the intent of the amendment being proposed by Senator Patterson. That said, I thank him for pointing out the inconsistency, because I would then propose an amendment to the French version only to change the term “lois fédérales” to “loi du Canada.” It’s very simple: “lois du Canada,” “laws of Canada.”

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Forest-Niesing.

Senator Gold: I think we should move to the question. However, I heard the officials say clearly that there is no inconsistency between the English and the French, and for that reason, I’d ask you to move to the question. I’ll be voting against the amendment.

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Gold.

Senator Stewart Olsen: Thank you, Senator Gold, as Government Representative in the Senate. However, I have to say that I totally support Senator Forest-Niesing’s motion — or what she’s saying — because I’ve sat in on many rules and regulations meetings where if the translation is not matched in the law — if it’s not consistent — the bill is ultimately rejected and sent back for months of revisions. This is such a simple thing, Senator Gold. It’s a small clarification. We know what happens when the English doesn’t translate into the French. I’m sorry. The officials are here, and I get that, but I have seen too many problems when the official translations don’t match.

The Chair: Thank you, senators.

Any further debate on the motion? If not, it is moved by Senator Patterson that clause 5 of Bill C-15 be amended on page 5, at line 9. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the amendment?

Ms. Mugny: For, 3; against, 9.

The Chair: I declare the amendment defeated.

Shall clause 5 carry?

Senator Tannas: I thought Senator Forest-Niesing was going to propose an amendment.

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Tannas.

Senator Forest-Niesing: I’m concerned about proposing an amendment if it is the only one. I would be satisfied to leave the wording as it is if there are other amendments to the act. But if it is the only amendment, it is a housekeeping issue. Can we postpone this question until the end of the discussion and come back to clause 5?

The Chair: Okay. So we’ll postpone the question of whether clause 5 will carry.

Senator LaBoucane-Benson: I wonder if my colleague Senator Forest-Niesing would consider making this an observation to the government, that there could be but there probably isn’t a conflict. In many cases, we know that one means the other, and we want to make sure the government knows that one, in fact, does mean the other. So maybe we can propose an observation in that direction.

The Chair: Thank you, senator.

Senator Forest-Niesing: Yes, I’m quite prepared to do that. I’ll work on the wording and have it to you by the end of the meeting.

The Chair: Okay. Therefore, I shall ask:

Shall clause 5 carry?

Senator Patterson: On division.

The Chair: I declare that the motion has carried, on division.

Shall clause 6 carry? Senator Patterson, you have an amendment.

Senator Patterson: I move:

That Bill C-15 be amended in clause 6, on page 5, by adding the following after line 14:

(1.1) The consultations referred to in subsection (1) must include consultations with representatives from

(a) councils, governments or other entities that are authorized to act on behalf of an Indigenous group, community or people that holds rights recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982;

(b) groups and organizations that work with or advocate on behalf of Indigenous women, Indigenous youth and urban Indigenous populations;

(c) groups and communities of Indigenous peoples, including those who are parties to or the subject of a treaty — including a land claims agreement — or a self-government agreement.”.

The Chair: Thank you, senator. On debate?

Senator Patterson: This is an amendment to the clause that deals with the establishment of the action plan.

I believe committee members are well aware of the testimony that we have received seriously criticizing the government on their consultation record.

We heard from Treaty 6, Treaty 7 and Treaty 8 about their bilateral agreements being eroded by consistent engagement of this government with the Assembly of First Nations, a national Indigenous organization that we were repeatedly told is an advocacy group and not a rights holder.

We heard that the Native Women’s Association of Canada had to fight to get to the table. I won’t describe the actors in the national organizations pejoratively, but they are all men. The Native Women’s Association of Canada said that they were prepared to continue fighting for a seat at the action plan table.

We read in the Canadian Roots Exchange submission that they call upon the government to ensure that they are not “tokenizing youth,” and we heard from witnesses like Mr. Russ Diabo, representing grassroots organizations, and Grand Chief Joel Abram from the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians that the consultation on this bill was dismal.

I’d also point out that the consultation record provided of sessions occurred before the tabling of this bill, which was included as Appendix B of the report entitled What We Learned tabled by the government, listed Treaty 6, Treaty 8 and Alexander First Nation as organizations that had been consulted with. I found it particularly disturbing to have those organizations, those rights holders, listed in that appendix when we heard from each of them that they had not been consulted. We also had an official state, in addition to what was in the What we Learned Report, that indeed they were consulted.

Now, Grand Chief Watchmaker was quite clear in his testimony and he reiterated this in his follow-up submission that states:

The Bill does not meet the minimum standards that UNDRIP attempted to achieve, or the definition provided by the Yellowhead Institute. Instead, Canada has diluted it, is forcing artificial timelines, not talking with the rights holders, manufacturing consent with corporate bodies, and provided us with little to no information. Most of the information we have to date is from listening to the Senate Committee on this Bill. This is clearly a breach of our treaty relationship.

Colleagues, this amendment would attempt to ensure that the right people are around the table from the very beginning because we’ve heard a lot of testimony that this wasn’t the case on this bill. The government engaged with Indigenous national organizations very early on, in June, and developed a draft that was then presented to rights holders in October-November. This is not the way to consult according to UNDRIP. You involve them from the beginning in developing the proposals; you don’t present them with a draft and ask if they like it or not.

It also clarifies the commitments we heard made by ministers during their testimonies to be inclusive and collaborative. “Co-development” and “joint development” were phrases that were used. To quote the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, Carolyn Bennett, the development of the action plan really is “nothing about us without us.” You don’t talk about rights holders without them being there at the table and don’t risk leaving out everyone, including women, youth and, as I say, the all-important rights holders.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Patterson.

Senator Coyle: I want to thank Senator Patterson for both what you mentioned in debate and what you have put in this amendment. I think the intent of what you have put forward here is something that is easy for us to embrace, the spirit of what you have put here, and you will have seen from many observations from various senators, including myself, that I have actually articulated something very similar that I’m hoping will be considered in an observation when we get to that point in this meeting. I think that it can be handled in an observation. I think we absolutely need to say something. I don’t believe that we need to say it in an amendment form, though. Thank you.

Senator LaBoucane-Benson: I would add that including a list of specific groups to consult would run the risk of being over or under inclusive, particularly when drafted and inserted without the benefit of the input from the full diversity of Indigenous peoples. I would agree with Senator Coyle that in our observations we will have much to say about consultation, but not in an amendment. Thank you.

Senator Forest-Niesing: My position is quite similar to that expressed by my two colleagues. I do have a concern about listing groups for two reasons. Not only is there a risk of being over or under inclusive, but there is, in my respectful submission, a risk of being further seen as perpetuating colonialism. If it is the law and we select the groups that must be consulted, I think that’s where we might be going in the wrong direction.

I believe very strongly in the intent, and I thank Senator Patterson for raising this issue, but I agree with Senator Coyle that we can and should raise this in an observation. Many of us have similar observations, and we’ll have a fun time putting all those ideas together into one.

Until we get there, I fear that an amendment such as this one will not give way to what I hope will be an undertaking not only by the government to ensure that everyone who needs to be at the table is at the table, but an undertaking on the part of our Indigenous peoples that, depending on the issue that’s at hand, those that must be at the table are at the table. I believe that it is up to the diverse Indigenous communities to ensure that those that are at the table represent them and negotiate and consent on their behalf, and if not, to make sure whoever else must be at that table is at the table.

Senator M. Deacon: I don’t need to repeat it. I appreciate the last three colleagues. Thank you, Senator Patterson. I would like to see this absolutely in an observation and under the auspices or umbrella of consultation and engagement. Thank you.

Senator Patterson: I want to say briefly that the list proposed in this amendment is a non-exhaustive list. It doesn’t purport or suggest it includes everyone. I say that to answer concerns about it being too prescriptive. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, senator. Any further debate?

It is moved by the Honourable Senator Patterson that Bill C-15 be amended on clause 6, on page 5, after line 14. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the amendment? Please hold up your cards.

Ms. Mugny: For, 3; against, 9.

The Chair: Thank you, senators. I declare the amendment defeated.

Shall clause 6 carry?

Senator Patterson: On division.

The Chair: On division.

We’ll move on to clause 7. Shall clause 7 carry?

Ms. Mugny: For, 8; against, 0.

The Chair: I declare clause 7 carried.

We are now into the schedule. Shall the schedule carry?

Senator Patterson: A point of order, chair.

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Patterson. Go ahead.

Senator Patterson: Did we miss clause 8? Because I have an amendment to clause 8.

The Chair: My text doesn’t have clause 8.

Ms. Mugny: Because there is no clause 8. The amendment is to add a clause.

Senator Patterson: Oh, I’m sorry. Thank you.

Mr. Chair, before we go to the schedule, I would like to move an amendment to add a new clause 8.

The Chair: Please, Senator Patterson, go ahead with your motion.

Senator Patterson: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I represent a region that includes the minority of Aboriginal people in Canada, Indigenous people in Canada, the Inuit, so I, on their behalf, wish to bring forward an amendment that I have resolved to bring forward. It’s the only one that I wouldn’t describe as a clarifying amendment.

Inuit engaged fully in the consultation process on Bill C-15. They have been clear, consistent and unanimous — that is, all four regions of Inuit Nunangat, from Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, Nunavut and the Inuvialuit region in the Northwest Territories — clear and unanimous in their insistence that we bring forward an Indigenous Human Rights Council as an accountability and enforcement measure within this bill.

This amendment is in keeping with an Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, ITK, board of directors resolution from March 31, 2021, that says they support Bill C-15 but also support the advancement of this proposal for an Indigenous Human Rights Council as an accountability and enforcement measure within this bill, which is otherwise lacking in accountability and enforcement measures. ITK president, Natan Obed, and the president of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, Aluki Kotierk, called for this in their testimony, and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation in their written submission to the committee reiterated their preference to see Bill C-15 go through with this important measure included. This amendment is essentially the wording they brought forward, which was fine-tuned by the law clerk’s office based on legislative drafting principles.

Mr. Chair, the Inuit have presented amendments to important legislation affecting their rights respecting Indigenous languages, which were actually supported by this committee but rejected by the government, and I’m hoping that again today, out of respect for the Inuit, this committee will support this amendment recommended by them, and I ask for your thoughtful consideration of this amendment. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Patterson.

Senator Coyle: Thank you, Senator Patterson. Like you, I always listen when Natan Obed and Aluki Kotierk and others from the Arctic region of Canada representing the Inuit population speak. I think it’s very important to listen to what they have to say.

Like you, I considered — I didn’t act, but I did consider — supporting them with an amendment. I came to a different conclusion, though, for two reasons.

I agree with the need for accountability that they are concerned about, and I think their concern about accountability would be shared beyond the Inuit population in Canada. I do believe that there is plenty of scope, though, in the action planning process to actually consider this and, in fact, that may be a better time to do that rather than our taking it from one group and sort of imposing it at this point, not having really had a chance to test the idea with other Indigenous peoples and leaders across Canada. I would hope that this idea, this accountability mechanism, the Indigenous Human Rights Commission, would be something that would be considered and discussed thoroughly with all parties during the action planning process, which will take place, as we know, hopefully as soon as this bill is passed.

I do support the intent but believe that it will require further consultation with other Indigenous groups, and that does not mean to say that I do not take very seriously this amendment that they had asked us to put forward. So thank you for doing that, senator.

Senator Francis: I’m supportive of greater accountability and enforcement mechanisms, but I remember multiple Inuit organizations noted that they would not be supportive of amendments that would defeat the bill. There’s an understanding that these measures and others could be examined further through a distinctions-based lens during the action plan. As a result, I do not support this amendment, but I commend Senator Patterson for his advocacy. We should consider putting an observation that accountability and enforcement mechanisms are part of the initial phase of the action plan. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Francis. Any further debate?

Senator Forest-Niesing: If I may, just a quick point of order: Before you proceed to a vote, I believe that the mover will be required to move the text of his motion into the record.

The Chair: Senator Patterson, can I oblige you to read your motion?

Senator Patterson: Yes. Thank you, Mr. Chair. It states:

That Bill C-15 be amended on page 6 by adding the following after line 26:

8 (1) The Minister must, in consultation and collaboration with Indigenous peoples and their representatives, develop a proposal to establish an Indigenous human rights commission.

(2) The proposal must set out the following in relation to the commission:

(a) its mandate, powers, duties and functions;

(b) an estimate of the funds required for its establishment and operation;

(c) a location for its head office;

(d) its composition, which must include First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples;

(e) a process for the appointment of commissioners, including prior consultations with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples; and

(f) a process and time frame for its establishment.

(3) The proposal must be developed as soon as practicable but must be completed no later than three years after the day on which this Act comes into force.

(4) The Minister must cause the proposal to be tabled in each House of Parliament on any of the first 15 days on which that House is sitting after the proposal is completed.”.

The Chair: Thank you, senator. Any further debate?

Senator Patterson: I’d just like to respond to Senator Francis. Before I do so, I would like to thank colleagues on the committee who have thanked me for bringing this amendment forward.

Senator Francis suggested that voting for the amendment would defeat the bill. I just want to make it clear that my intentions with this amendment, and with the other amendments, were to clarify and improve the bill, not to defeat it. I haven’t talked about defeating the bill. I’ve talked about improving and strengthening it, and this amendment is about improving and strengthening the enforcement and accountability provisions in the bill, not defeating it. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Patterson.

Any further debate? It is moved by the Honourable Senator Patterson that Bill C-15 be amended on clause 8, on page 6, at line 26. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the amendment? Please hold your cards so the clerk can do the count.

Ms. Mugny: For, 4; against, 8.

The Chair: Thank you. I declare the amendment defeated.

We will now go to the schedule. Shall the schedule carry?

Ms. Mugny: For, 8; against, 0.

The Chair: I declare the schedule carried.

Shall clause 1, which contains the short title, carry?

Ms. Mugny: For, 10; against, 0.

The Chair: I declare clause 1 carried.

Shall the preamble carry?

Senator Patterson: I move:

That Bill C-15 be amended in the preamble, on page 3, by adding the following after line 4:

“Whereas implementation of the Declaration affirms the importance of Indigenous rights to economic prosperity and the Government of Canada must, through accelerated economic inclusion of Indigenous peoples in partnership with them and their institutions, remedy the disadvantages imposed on generations of Indigenous peoples by laws and policies designed to restrict access to lands and resources, quality education, skills development, capital, infrastructure and business ownership;”.

The Chair: On debate, senator?

Senator Patterson: This final amendment is based on testimony from the Indian Resource Council and the National Coalition of Chiefs and is also based on the joint letter from business organizations such as the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association and so forth.

Minister Lametti stated:

The declaration itself, as well as the rights contained in the preamble, have interpretive force in Canadian law.

This clarifies that the bill should be interpreted with a view that confirms the Government of Canada’s belief in economic inclusion and economic reconciliation, which is also clearly contemplated in UNDRIP’s core principles.

Senator LaBoucane-Benson: Yes, I agree, and many of us agree that Indigenous participation in economic development is critical, but the preamble already reflects these concepts in several paragraphs that highlight Indigenous peoples’ political, economic and social rights. In addition, the declaration itself speaks of the rights relating to economic development in many places.

Senator Francis: To ensure that Bill C-15 receives Royal Assent at this stage of the proceedings, the best way to address the importance of economic inclusion is through observations. That is what I intend to do later today. In suggesting this approach, I note this amendment is based on the House of Commons’ submission from several Indigenous economic development organizations. Indeed, three of the four organizations appeared at our committee: the National Indigenous Economic Development Board, the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association and the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. These organizations were very clear that while they would like to see economic issues highlighted, they strongly support Bill C-15 and do not wish to see the final vote delayed.

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Francis.

Any further debate? It is moved by the Honourable Senator Patterson that Bill C-15 be amended on page 3, on line 4. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the amendment?

Ms. Mugny: For, 2; against, 9.

The Chair: I declare the amendment defeated.

Shall the preamble carry?

Ms. Mugny: For, 8; against 0.

The Chair: I declare the preamble carried.

Shall the title carry?

Ms. Mugny: For, 9; against, 0.

The Chair: I declare the title carried.

Shall the bill carry?

Senator Tannas: Chair, point of order: I just want to check. Did we pass clause 5? We did? Okay, thank you.

The Chair: The question is: Shall the bill carry?

Ms. Mugny: For, 9; abstentions, 2.

The Chair: I declare the bill carried.

That concludes our clause-by-clause review of Bill C-15.

Do we wish now to proceed to the observations? I see nods.

Rule 12-16(1)(d) allows us to go in camera to discuss a draft report. Does the committee wish to discuss the observations in camera?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: We will now suspend the meeting to go in camera.

(The committee continued in camera.)