Copyright © 2019 Senator Dennis Patterson.

QP – Recognition of Self-Governing First Nations

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, P.C., M.P., Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

October 24, 2017

Recognition of Self-Governing First Nations

Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Welcome, minister. I believe you are well familiar, from your previous life — again, referring to your previous life — with a bill that was first introduced in the Senate of Canada in 2004 as Bill S-16, An Act providing for the Crown’s recognition of self-governing First Nations of Canada. That was last on our Order Paper as a bill sponsored by former Senator Gerry St. Germain. As I believe you know, that bill has had the support of the Assembly of First Nations and was drafted by prominent Aboriginal law scholars and indeed an eminent former Supreme Court jurist.

So I’d like to ask: Is this bill on your radar as a step towards reconciliation with First Nations, as a thoughtful and realistic option for willing First Nations to opt to get out of the colonial oppression of the Indian Act? And will your government support the bill if it’s reintroduced and recommended by this chamber?

Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould, P.C., M.P., Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada: Thank you to the honourable senator for the question and, again, a reference to my previous life. I always question whether or not there was a previous life. But I’m very happy to be here and to reflect on the incredible amount of work that is, in my capacity as regional chief, empowered by the extraordinary leadership of indigenous peoples across this country. We were able to put forward substantive solutions to enable indigenous communities to decolonize, in this case, to move beyond the Indian Act. As the Prime Minister recently said at the United Nations General Assembly, and as I’ve stated in many speeches, we are committed to ensuring that we operationalize the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which includes, in Articles 3 and 4, the right of self-determination and self-government, embracing a rights-recognition approach, which we have by releasing 10 principles around the recognition of rights and the relationship between our government and indigenous peoples.

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If this honourable house felt compelled to bring forward a piece of legislation that supported indigenous self-determination, including the right of self-government, I would be very pleased to work with the honourable senators on that.

I know that one of the greatest opportunities we have as a government, working in partnership with indigenous peoples, if that is again what they want to do, it’s entirely appropriate to look substantively and concretely at a mechanism to enable indigenous communities to move beyond the Indian Act. That is what Bill S-212 did, and I credit Senator St. Germain for bringing it forward. It built on the work of the late Senator Walter Twinn and others to ensure that indigenous peoples can move beyond the Indian Act and not have to go to court to render the Indian Act of no force and effect, or ultra vires, or to negotiate for what seems years and years and years — but that there is a mechanism that doesn’t exist right now in this country to enable indigenous communities to become self-governing.