I call this meeting of the indigenous and northern affairs committee to order. I will start by acknowledging that, when in Ottawa, we meet on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin people. In my personal case, I am on the traditional territories of the Haudenosaunee, Anishinabe and Chonnonton people.
Pursuant to the order of reference from the House on December 10, 2020, the committee is continuing its study of Bill , an act to amend the Citizenship Act, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action number 94.
I'd like to welcome officials from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada who are with us to answer questions members may have about the content of the bill, and perhaps questions from the chair as well.
I would like to provide members of the committee with some instructions and a few comments on how the committee will proceed with the clause-by-clause consideration of Bill in this hybrid meeting format. As the name indicates, it's an examination of all the clauses in the order in which they appear in the bill. I will call each clause successively and each clause is subject to debate and a vote. If there is an amendment to the clause in question, I will recognize the member proposing it who may explain it. The amendment will then be open for debate. When no further members wish to intervene, then the amendment will be voted on.
Amendments will be considered in the order in which the clauses they propose to amend appear in the bill or they appear in the package each member received from the clerk. Members should note that the amendments must be submitted in writing to the clerk of the committee or by email for members participating virtually.
Since this is the committee's first clause-by-clause consideration of a bill in a hybrid meeting format, I'll be going slowly to allow members to follow the proceedings properly as well as to accommodate my own procedure through the process. Amendments have been given an alphanumeric number in the top corner to indicate which party submitted them. There is no need for a seconder to move an amendment. Once an amendment is moved, unanimous consent will be needed to withdraw it.
During the debate on an amendment, members are permitted to move subamendments. These subamendments must be submitted in writing or by email for members participating virtually. They do not require the approval of the mover of the amendment. Only one subamendment may be considered at a time and that subamendment cannot be amended. When a subamendment is moved to an amendment, it is voted on first, and then another subamendment may be moved, or the committee may consider the main amendment and then vote on it.
Once every clause has been voted on, the committee will vote on the title and the bill itself, and an order to reprint the bill may be required if amendments are adopted so that the House has a proper copy for use at the report stage.
Finally, the committee will have to order the chair to report the bill to the House. That report contains only the text of any adopted amendments as well as an indication of any deleted clauses.
Thank you, all, for your attention, and let's hope for a productive clause-by-clause consideration of Bill .
Now I'd like to pose a question for my own enlightenment. With regard to the schedule, on the of the agenda there's a note that if BQ-1 is adopted, then the following two NDP amendments cannot be moved. Could I have an explanation of what that entails?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I imagine that you can guess my arguments in support of the Bloc's amendment, but I will take the liberty of reiterating them. I will try to do so in a relatively concise manner, but I would still like to present them in full for those members who did not attend the other meetings.
First, I would like you to remember that the Bloc Québécois is entirely in favour of the spirit of Bill and its purpose, namely the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples and the educational opportunities for new citizens when they take the oath.
As a reminder, the Bloc Québécois has always been in favour of defending the rights of indigenous peoples. It has always presented itself as an ally of indigenous peoples. In fact, I mentioned this in a question I asked at a previous meeting of the committee.
Even before the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was signed, the Bloc Québécois had participated in its development. In 2004, in Geneva, when the working group met on this project, the Bloc Québécois supported the process to have the indigenous peoples' right to self-determination recognized by the United Nations.
In 2006, as the declaration by the United Nations was adopted, the Bloc Québécois once again worked hard alongside indigenous peoples to have their rights recognized by the international community. We went all the way to the floor of the United Nations General Assembly to support the draft declaration. In 2007, when Canada expressed its intention to vote against the declaration, the Bloc Québécois raised the issue and maintained pressure in the House before the Conservative government of the day to ensure that the government signed the declaration, which finally happened in 2010.
Bill is about new citizens recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples. They are being asked to know not only their history, but also their rights. There is an educational aspect to this. We must remember that among the newcomers to Canada, I would say that some—and I hope most—will be Quebeckers.
The current wording of the oath of citizenship in the bill means that they will be asked to recognize something that Quebec has never recognized, namely the Constitution, or rather the Constitution Act, 1982. In his testimony, Professor Cardinal explained the difference between the Canadian Constitution and the Constitution Act. The Constitution is the set of rules and court decisions that govern Canadian law. The oath of citizenship refers specifically to the Constitution Act, 1982. There is a small typo that needs to be corrected.
Future Canadian and Quebec citizens will be asked to recognize the Canadian Constitution when no Quebec government, either sovereignist or federalist, has signed the Constitution with honour and enthusiasm. A question arises. Is it necessary to mention the Constitution in the oath of citizenship?
If I refer to the appearance of the various leaders of the indigenous communities, I note that no one mentioned that this addition was absolutely necessary. It was pointed out as a useful addition. Furthermore, it was not in call to action number 94, which is the original call to change the oath of citizenship.
Chief Poitras even mentioned that she would have been comfortable if Bill had included the text of call to action number 94 as it stands, without reference to the Constitution. At best, a reference to the Constitution is not absolutely necessary in the wording of the oath of citizenship. At worst, I would argue that it is unnecessary, if not downright wrong.
In that respect, let me refer you to the testimony of Professor Cardinal. He reminded us that the text dealing with the oath, as it reads, recognizes the Constitution, but does not specifically recognize rights. The Constitution is what is really being recognized. It recognizes the Constitution, which includes rights, but it does not specifically recognize rights.
I would like to quote Professor Cardinal as follows:
To be fully consistent with the concept of reconciliation and the principles of nation-to-nation relations, I believe that the reference to the Constitution should be removed and that the declaration should simply, directly, refer to a solemn promise to respect the indigenous and treaty rights of first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
Our proposed amendment is intended to set the record straight by advocating the direct recognition of these rights. We are also making an addition to the first proposed amendment that we submitted to you and that we are currently debating, namely the recognition of inherent rights. Once again, I will take the liberty of quoting Professor Cardinal. I asked him to further explain what inherent rights are. We had talked about them but we did not define them. He said the following:
An inherent right is a right that exists independently of state or constitutional recognition. For indigenous peoples, this is very important. As you know, before the Europeans came here and created New France, New England and eventually Canada, there were peoples who had lived on these lands for thousands of years. We're talking about time immemorial. This ancestral occupation was well organized. There were organized societies, what we can call normative orders. When I teach indigenous law, I always describe a circle to represent indigenous normative orders, and this circle is not completely included within the larger framework of what might be called the Canadian Constitution, where the normative order is of a Canadian type. The Supreme Court recognizes that before the assertion of Crown sovereignty, there were pre-existing sovereignties, therefore indigenous sovereignties. Among these are rights that are recognized—not completely yet, but increasingly—by the Canadian state, notably by the Constitution Act, 1982, but also by other laws or provisions, as well as by court judgments. These rights are therefore said to be inherent. It has long been thought that it was the Royal Proclamation that conferred rights on indigenous people. This is not the case. Indigenous people have special rights within Canada because they existed prior to the assertion of Crown sovereignty. These are called inherent rights.
Professor Cardinal also mentioned that the recognition of indigenous rights by the Constitution Act, 1982, is a promise that has not been fully honoured. When I asked him to give me some examples, he said that negotiations were still under way and many indigenous nations were still waiting for the state to recognize their rights. In addition, the Supreme Court's interpretation of section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, has limited its scope by allowing governments, in some cases, to infringe on indigenous and treaty rights. In my view, recognizing the Constitution without specifically recognizing indigenous rights is incomplete.
In conclusion, I invite my colleagues to vote in favour of the Bloc Québécois amendment for two main reasons. As I mentioned in my questions, when we defend the rights of indigenous peoples, we are defending the rights of all nations, including those of another minority nation, Quebec. Bill seeks to recognize the rights of nations because it enshrines the general principle of recognizing the history and rights of nations. However, the current wording of Bill ignores part of the history of one of the nations, of Quebec. I am afraid that by voting for Bill C-8 as it stands, the guiding principle of recognition of nations and this important message will be somewhat watered down, eroded. It seems to me that the recognition of the rights of nations must be the heart, the cardinal principle, that guides oaths.
I will now talk about the other reason for inviting my colleagues to vote in favour of the Bloc Québécois amendment.
As Chief Poitras mentioned, in the spirit of reconciliation, it is important that the goal of Bill be affirmed unanimously. This would send a clear message in terms of reconciliation.
I therefore extend a hand to my colleagues. By passing our amendment, they would ensure that we achieve that unanimity. We can even hope to pass this bill more quickly; it has died on the Order Paper a little too often.
I thank Madame Normandin for her intervention. I note the work that the Bloc has done on UNDRIP, and we're hoping to get the support of the Bloc as we move Bill through the House and this committee.
Without getting into a prolonged constitutional discussion, I just want to put on the record the importance of having this work within Bill , the term “Constitution Act, 1982”. It is very important in the sense that it recognizes some very specific rights of indigenous people, defined in section 35.
Bill is a document that had consultation through a number of different indigenous organizations and peoples, and we believe it's an important outlet to reaffirm the importance of the Constitution and the constitutional rights of indigenous peoples as enshrined therein.
I will probably stop there. We are going to be opposing the amendment, and while we appreciate the suggestions put forward by Ms. Normandin, I do think it's an important element to incorporate into a citizenship oath.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Everybody has a copy of the amendment, so I don't need to read it out.
I will highlight the proposed language that's being added to the language in the bill. It basically adds “including the inherent rights and titles of and the treaties and agreements with first nations, the rights and agreements with Inuit and Métis peoples”, and then it goes on to the part about the Constitution.
This language was actually proposed by the AFN from the committee's work. Subsequent to that, I also canvassed other witnesses to see whether or not they would support this language, and those witnesses who responded indicated their support.
It is important for the citizenship oath to put emphasis here, as well as to highlight the inherent rights and titles, as indicated by the AFN.
It is important for newcomers to understand both the language in the Constitution, and what preceded the Constitution and the historical rights. That's the reason I have proposed this amendment.
I hope committee members will support it moving forward.
The NDP has indicated that through UNDRIP, especially legislation that directly impacts indigenous peoples, a co-development process needs to be developed and put forward. In spite of the AFN indicating some thoughts around a language change, we do have other organizations, peoples....Of course, the AFN is an advocacy group, but does not have rights in its own sense.
To move these kinds of motions at this stage of the game is actually contrary to the process that has been put in place, whereby engagement with ITK, Métis and first nations has brought us to this stage.
We would not be supporting the amendment at this time.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Anandasangaree mentioned the consultation process, as did Ms. McLeod. I requested from the officials, through the committee, the list of stakeholders with whom they consulted. I also asked for a list of the groups that led to the difference in the suggested language in the TRC 94 calls for action versus the language proposed under Bill .
Of course, the information provided to all committee members came eventually—yesterday—and provided only the list of stakeholder groups. As you can see from that list, after five years of consultation it is a very small list. I was quite taken aback, truth be told, with the level of consultation that the government might have embarked on with this important bill.
On the question that was asked about the groups that led to the differences in the language, there was no answer with respect to that. Then we heard from the committee where the committee took it upon themselves to invite a variety of people to the table. NWAC, for example, indicated that they were never consulted by the government on this. I asked NWAC specifically whether or not they would support language in terms of the amendment, as I indicted earlier, and they said yes. The witnesses all indicated the importance of recognizing inherent rights and title.
That is why I think this amendment is important, in reduced language, as proposed by the AFN. It's simply to acknowledge that inherent rights and titles actually existed with indigenous peoples.
Shall the preamble carry?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Shall the title carry?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Shall the bill carry?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Shall the chair report the bill to the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: With regard to a reprint of the bill, Mr. Clerk, is that a requirement?