OTTAWA—The federal Liberals have used an unpopular tool to limit time for debate in the House of Commons on a bill that would harmonize Canada’s laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The Liberals successfully passed a motion to impose closure on the opening round of debate on Bill C-15 in order to put it to a vote and move it along to a Commons committee for further scrutiny.
The minority Liberal government received the support of the NDP to pass the time limit motion, which will allow one additional day of debate before it is sent to committee.
Conservative and Bloc MPs voted against limiting debate on the bill.
Justice Minister David Lametti accused the Conservatives of using “dilatory tactics” to stall any and all Liberal government legislation.
He stressed the aim of the time allocation motion was to ensure swift passage of this bill.
“These discussions have been had in the House of Commons and are continuing to be had with Indigenous leadership in all its forms across Canada,” Lametti said.
“This is a positive way forward, this is long overdue, there are no surprises in this bill? this is the time to do our best as parliamentarians to move this forward.”
The move comes just two days after Indigenous leaders expressed concern that the bill, stalled at second reading since it was introduced in December, might never make it through all the legislative hoops before a possible election, which would kill it.
C-15 represents the third attempt to have Parliament approve implementation of the UN declaration in Canada.
Former NDP MP Romeo Saganash introduced two private member’s bills to implement UNDRIP, the first defeated at second reading in the Commons in 2014 and the second stalling in the Senate just before the 2019 election.
This time, the Liberals have essentially turned Saganash’s bill into a government bill.
The UN declaration, which Canada endorsed in 2010, affirms the rights of Indigenous Peoples to self-determination and to their language, culture and traditional lands.
It also spells out the need for free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous Peoples on anything that infringes on their lands or rights.
The bill does not include a definition of consent, raising objections from Conservatives who fear it would give First Nations a veto over natural resource development projects.
By Teresa Wright