Liberals promise to table UNDRIP law within one year

National Inuit organization “encouraged” by some throne speech promises

Governor General Julie Payette delivers the government’s throne speech on Thursday, Dec. 5, from the Senate chamber, in a ritual that marks the start of the 43rd Parliament. (Screenshot)

By Jim Bell

Within the first year of its mandate, Justin Trudeau’s minority Liberal government will introduce a law to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the government said in yesterday’s throne speech.

That proposed new law—promised in a section of the speech that claims the government will continue work on reconciliation—would be co-developed with Indigenous peoples, the government said.

The last attempt to acknowledge UNDRIP in Canadian law was a private member’s bill sponsored by Romeo Saganash, the former New Democratic Party member for the northern Quebec riding that includes Nunavik.

Saganash’s bill passed in the House of Commons, but died on the Senate order paper after the Senate adjourned ahead of the October federal election.

The bill became bogged down early this year over discussions about the meaning of the term “free, prior and informed consent” and its implications for resource projects.

This time, the next attempt at passing an UNDRIP law will be sponsored by the government, but it remains to be seen what the bill will say and how long it will take to pass it.

Canada’s national Inuit organization, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, responded to that and other promises with guarded optimism.

“Inuit leadership takes the co-development of legislation seriously and we are committed to working in the spirit of true partnership with government to realize our joint ambitions,” ITK said in a statement.

And ITK said they’re encouraged by two other commitments:

• To close the Indigenous infrastructure gap by 2030.

• To co-develop a new law that would ensure that Indigenous people have access to high-quality, culturally relevant health care and mental health services comparable to those received by other Canadians.

“Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami welcomes the affirmation in today’s speech from the throne that reconciliation with Indigenous peoples remains a core priority for this government,” ITK said.

No mention of Arctic policy framework

The throne speech had nothing to say about the Arctic and northern policy framework that was released the day before the start of the federal election campaign.

It also had nothing specific to say about the northern territories or most Inuit priorities.

However, Trudeau, with Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, met yesterday with the recently elected premier of the Northwest Territories, Caroline Cochrane.

“The Prime Minister affirmed the Government of Canada’s commitment to continued support for Canada’s Arctic and northern regions,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

The throne speech, which Governor General Julie Payette gave on Thursday, Dec. 5, from the Senate’s temporary quarters inside a former railway station in downtown Ottawa, marks the start of the 43rd Parliament.

Written by government officials, but delivered by the Governor General, throne speeches are intended to state the government’s priorities for its upcoming mandate.

Focus on climate change

Another big focus of yesterday’s throne speech was action on climate change, including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Those commitments include:

• Net-zero emissions by 2050

• Government measures to encourage the construction of energy-efficient homes

• Government measures to help people buy electric vehicles

• Measures to help people start clean technology companies

• Making “clean, affordable power” available in every community

• Help for people displaced by disasters related to climate change

At the same time, using thinly disguised code, the government promised to build the Trans Mountain Pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby, B.C.

“And while the Government takes strong action to fight climate change, it will also work just as hard to get Canadian resources to new markets, and offer unwavering support to the hardworking women and men in Canada’s natural resources sectors, many of whom have faced tough times recently,” the throne speech said.

Other promises that could affect families in Nunavut and Nunavik include:

• Steps to introduce a national pharmacare program

• Tax cuts for middle-income earners

• A promise to reduce the cost of cellphone bills by up to 25 per cent

• Increases to old age pensions

• More spending on affordable housing

• Discussions about a universal dental care program

Following the Oct. 21 federal election, the governing Liberals now hold 157 seats. The Conservatives have 121 seats; the Bloc Québécois, 32; and the NDP, 24; while the Green party controls three seats.

Speech From the Throne 2019 by NunatsiaqNews on Scribd

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(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by ATIP about NLCA on

    I hope there will be a story about the recent ATIP revealing that Mulroney instructed government lawyers to refuse granting language rights in the NLCA. That deserves to be reported on.

  2. Posted by Israel MacArthur on

    The corollary of that story would be that NLCA negotiators failed to secure language rights.

    That is a story that would be embarrassing to a number of still-living and prominent folks in Nunavut. Might be better to wait until they have passed on.

    • Posted by iWonder on

      Describe the failure in not securing rights around your language in a land you have occupied for a thousand years, when securing those rights must be done in opposition to systems of power and the inheritors of power that have in a fraction of that time declared and secured ownership over you, and have rejected your inherent claim because it is inconvenient for them. Who should feel the shame here? The one who did not succeed against a system that has determined to deny your right, or the ones who have determined to deny it in order to perpetuate their power while weakening yours?

      • Posted by Israel MacArthur on

        Okay, let’s try this again. My comment was poorly worded, so I’ll resubmit with a slight modification:

        The corollary of that story would be that NLCA negotiators failed to PRIORITIZE language rights.

        That is a story that would be embarrassing to a number of still-living and prominent folks in Nunavut. Might be better to wait until they have passed on.

    • Posted by This is white supremecy on

      Israel, your comment takes for granted the validity and place of European languages and suggests that indigenous languages must fight the systems they have put in place in order to secure an equal footing, thus these same inherent rights that you take for granted and are probably invisible to you, simply don’t exist for indigenous people or their language.
      You need to reflect on this

      • Posted by Israel MacArthur on

        Okay, let’s try this again. My comment was poorly worded, so I’ll resubmit with a slight modification:

        The corollary of that story would be that NLCA negotiators failed to PRIORITIZE language rights.

        That is a story that would be embarrassing to a number of still-living and prominent folks in Nunavut. Might be better to wait until they have passed on.

        It is a legitimate question. The successive Canadian governments partnered in the creation of Nunavut were extremely generous and giving (as far as governments engaged in negotiations that involve a certain loss of power go), which raises the question why the negotiators didn’t prioritize language rights.

      • Posted by Israel MacArthur on

        I disagree with your characterization of my approach. I have said nothing about “European languages”. I acknowledge the current truth of Canada, which is that there are three types of language speakers; Allophones, Angophones, and Francophones. That’s it.

        All Canadian speakers of languages that are not English are French are Allophones, whether they speak Ukrainian, Mandarin, Cree, or one of the Inuit languages. They could all be argued to be equally disadvantaged. Regardless, English and French are privileged in our country’s system. Is it the way it should be? That’s a matter that will be taken up by others in the future no doubt. Is it way that it is? Yes, and it has been for decades.

        Anyway, this really has nothing to do with the point that I poorly tried to make, which is that language rights were not prioritized by negotiators when Nunavut was created. The question is why not?

        • Posted by iWonder on

          Israel, I find the lack of introspection around your original comment discouraging, though unsurprising. Certainly, it would be nice in life if we could rewind and reframe some of the less enlightened things we’ve said so as to make those more palatable (or simply to dig ourselves out of a hole) when the need arose.
          That said, a shift in phraseology from “failed to secure” to “failed to prioritize” is neither a slight modification nor a trivial one. It completely changes the meaning of the comment (of course we all know that’s the point: change the meaning and intent, quick, then change the subject).
          Yet, all this begs the question, is this “new” point actually true? Is it in fact a corollary to the original point that the Mulroney Government intended to keep Inuktitut rights off the table?
          I wonder, do you really believe the primacy of Inuktitut in Nunavut was negotiable to the original negotiators of the NLCA? I don’t, and find the notion that they did absurd. In the end Inuktitut is an official language in Nunavut today. So, what did they actually fail at, specifically? What should they be so ashamed at that we should wait until their passing to speak about?
          You also seem to have missed the point of the critique made on grounds of the supremacy of European languages (which is to really say white supremacy). Allow me try a little rewording myself, though you should find this consistent with the original comments.
          First, this critique assumes that there is an inherent right to speak one’s native language, and specifically that this right is not open to suspension or negotiation based on notions of what is pragmatic or convenient to an outsider.
          Do you agree with this statement?
          Your follow up comment that there are three language groupings in Canada reiterates the point on supremacy, note your wording: there is English, French, and the third group, whatever isn’t English or French (Allophones).

          Think about that for a moment; the entire schematic centers on the centrality and primacy of two European languages and the relationship of all “other” languages to them (that is, either you are a dominant language, or you are not).

  3. Posted by Colin on

    There’s a secret agenda Inuit need to know about.

    As envisioned by Senator Murray (TRC) Sinclair and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples aims to empower and enrich Indians and Inuit who are already rich, as well as unaccountable people like board members holding up work at Baffinland. They’d be out of a job if Inuit were educated and qualified to run the mine.

    The practical intent is to deprive next generations of young people of opportunity for gainful employment in the high-tech economy. This is what the Declaration says:

    Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

    This repeats almost word for word a 1958 speech by then Native Affairs Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid in South Africa:

    The policy of separate development is the basis of the happiness, security and stability which are maintained by means of a homeland, a language and a government peculiar to each people.

    In sum, the thrust expand the racialization of Indigenous peoples apart from the Canadian mainstream.

    • Posted by Soothsayer on

      “There’s a secret agenda”
      Beware whenever you read something like this as it is very often followed by a set of obvious falsehoods and borderline delusions. Which is what we have here.
      Did Justin Trudeau, or Murray Sinclair have anything to do with the drafting of UNDRIP? Did they bring it into public consciousness? The whole notion is so easily falsifiable that one should simply marvel that anyone would believe or suggest it.
      For a real history of how the declaration came to be, see this link:
      As for apartheid, interesting connection but a real analogy does not exist. UNDRIP offers self determination, something the apartheid regime worked to prevent. Apartheid was about taking away power, segregating, UNDRIP is built on an idealism that suggests indigenous peoples have the right to determine their own destiny, whatever that may be, but it is hardly exclusive of participation of the high tech or modern economy. Yet, in reality and beyond all the feel-good declarations, these are never just givens.
      What the results of an implemented UNDRIP might look like will have to be seen. I don’t imagine any utopias springing up anytime soon. That it could lead to a political fracturing within the greater polity, or even put strains on Canadian nationalism seems to be a concern and perhaps this is a possibility. Who knows? In the end we should not forget that Canada is an artificial construct, if it is to be reconstructed, or perhaps deconstructed, the process will be no less valid than the one under which it was put together in the first place.

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