Updated: Jan 28, 2021
This article was originally issued for release by Onion Lake Cree Nation on January 14, 2021. No edits have been made to the original text.
Okimaw Henry Lewis rejects, on behalf of his Nation, Bill C15 – An Act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was introduced into Parliament on 3 December 2020.
“Our Nation entered into Treaty with the British Crown in 1876. We do not need domestic
legislation that undermines and diminishes our rights as a sovereign Nation” said Okimaw Lewis.
This latest Bill demonstrates the same arrogant and unilateral intent by the Government to say that they are upholding and advancing our Treaty Rights, when in fact they are doing the opposite. They are window-dressing reconciliation.
Onion Lake is informed that the federal government relied on the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and its technical people to work on the draft bill. “We are not part of the AFN and have never given our consent to an organization to speak for our Peoples” added Okimaw Lewis.
Canada’s proposed legislation unilaterally changes the international standards – for example – who are Indigenous Peoples? The internationally accepted definition of Indigenous Peoples from 1971 relates to Peoples who were present at the time of contact and have maintained their own distinctive languages, territories, laws and governance structures.
“The Crown recognized our Peoples at the time of the treaty making – Canada wants a pan aboriginal definition that moves away from our territories – this is unacceptable to our Peoples.” Canada wants our territories and by using the language of the legislation, Canada will assert its control over our territories in violation of our treaty rights.
There was no process to engage our Nations. It is ironic and totally unacceptable that the UNDRIP specifically calls for free, prior and informed consent; and yet nothing meaningful occurred in this process.
We heard about Bill C-15 through the media. To introduce legislation that has impacts our Treaty and international rights during a pandemic while our Nation is undergoing a Covid-19 outbreak calls into question the motives behind fast tracking this Bill.
This is not respectful. Rather, this signals to us that Canada continues on its campaign to erode our sovereignty and destroy our nations through its termination agenda.
Onion Lake has written a letter to the Prime Minister and the United Nations calling for this legislation to be removed from the legislative agenda. We call on the government to support that any actions taken regarding the Bill must be reviewed by the General Assembly – the body that passed the original resolution in 2007.
There must be international oversight of Canada’s actions as the state continues to destroy our Nations and our territories.