Ministerial Question Period: United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

By: The Hon. Brian Francis

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Hon. Brian Francis: Minister Lametti, prior to the coming into force of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act in June 2021, the Standing Senate Committee on Indigenous Peoples heard from many witnesses who were critical of the federal consultation process.

Could you tell us what steps you and your department have taken in the last year to ensure that Indigenous people have the capacity to adequately and meaningfully participate in the co-development of upcoming legislation as well as the action plan? I also want to know whether you have a plan to increase the use of mediation with Indigenous communities to prevent and resolve disputes and avoid the use of costly and time-consuming litigation.

Hon. David Lametti, P.C., M.P., Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada: Thank you, senator. That’s a good question. I felt that the consultation process for UNDRIP was a good process, and even a very good process. There were some voices who felt that they hadn’t been heard, although we did our best.

The main thing we have done — and I say “we” in a collaborative way — to ensure a better process this time around is to put much of the responsibility and the mechanics of the consultation process on the Indigenous leadership groups themselves. We have provided support. We have provided funding. A number of leadership structures across Canada — because it is completely asymmetrical, particularly with the Assembly of First Nations, or First Nations. It is a completely asymmetrical picture when it comes to consultation, and so we are working in collaboration with a number of different groups at a number of different levels, as I’ve mentioned before — nations, regions, national groups, treaties, modern treaties, no treaties, et cetera — and we’ve put much of the consultation and the leadership for that consultation in the hands of Indigenous peoples such that it is a truly collaborative process.

On the Department of Justice side, we have created a secretariat that is dedicated to working with and collaborating with and trying to fill in any gaps that might exist, and I think the process is moving very well. It is an intense process, but I do think this will get us to an action plan in a better —

The Hon. the Speaker: Thank you, minister, but your time has expired.

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