Justice Minister David Lametti said on Wednesday he knew the government’s draft action plan to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was not perfect.
“It’s not perfect. It’s not final. It’s not complete,” he told a special gathering of the Assembly of Aboriginal Chiefs.
“There’s a lot missing there that needs to be improved.”
National advocates for Canada’s more than 600 Indigenous peoples organized the meeting so chiefs could vote on a series of draft policy resolutions and debate a proposed action plan released by Lametti’s department last month.
The document aims to create the first step in Ottawa’s blueprint to bring Canadian law into line with the United Nations Declaration, which affirms the right of Indigenous peoples to self-determination and the rights to their languages, cultures and traditional lands
That’s the aim behind landmark legislation passed by the federal Liberals in 2021, which will give the government until June this year to submit an implementation plan to parliament.
Lametti said the timetable was given the green light by former parliamentary national president Perry Bellegarde, who during his tenure pushed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to pass the bill.
Former NDP MP Romeo Saganash has introduced similar legislation twice.
His first private MP’s bill was defeated in 2014 under Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper’s majority. The second passed the lower house in 2018 but failed to pass the Senate before parliament was dissolved for the 2019 general election.
Canada first ratified the Declaration in 2010.
Lametti said Wednesday that finalizing the action plan is just the next step in implementation, but noted that the process of getting it right could continue into his lifetime.
The draft contains 101 specific measures that Ottawa has pledged to take to better align its actions and laws with the recognition of Aboriginal rights.
The steps span different federal departments and include commitments to “include measures to address anti-Indigenous racism” as part of the government’s broader anti-racism strategy and to work with Indigenous peoples to ensure communities receive “equitable and sustainable development from natural resources”. benefit” on their land.
Sara Mainville, a lawyer working with council on the issue, told chiefs at a briefing on Tuesday that there was “too much noncommittal language” in the plan. She expressed concern that it appears to be clinging to the status quo.
“Canada hasn’t done its homework,” she said, responding to criticism that the plan was worded too vaguely.
Lametti seemed to understand the criticism, emphasizing to the Chiefs on Wednesday that the next few months are committed to making changes.
“The action plan is a draft,” he said. “It will be the focus of intense discussions over the next three months.”
He added that there would be a lot of conversation about the document’s strengths and weaknesses, but ultimately “it’s just a draft”.
—Stephanie Taylor, Canadian Press