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Senator Lillian Dyck says the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples is waiting for Bill C-262 so that it can move the bill along with the hope it will be passed into law before the senate rises in June. Justin Brake
The chair of the Senate Aboriginal Affairs committee says the sooner Bill C-262 gets through its second reading in the upper chamber, the better.

On Wednesday Senator Lillian Dyck told APTN News that the committee she leads is working ahead of schedule on other matters in order to free up time to deal with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

But a coalition of Indigenous and human rights groups are calling out Conservative senators for using “partisan stalling tactics” to prevent the bill from getting to committee in time for it to reach royal ascent before the Senate rises in June.

If that happened, years of work by Cree NDP MP Romeo Saganash, Indigenous leaders and politicians would be lost in their efforts to align Canada’s laws with the globally recognized minimum human rights standards for Indigenous Peoples.

On Tuesday evening Conservative Senator Larry Smith introduced a motion to adjourn debate just as senators were set to begin their eleventh sitting related to the bill.

That motion was voted down by Liberal and Independent Senators Group (ISG) senators.

Conservative Senator Donald Plett then used senate rules to delay any further debate in the chamber until they sit again.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, which is a member of the Coalition for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, says the move is “a shameful moment for Canada,” and that it’s “profoundly troubling that a crucial opportunity to now move ahead with the urgent work of reconciliation could be jeopardized by Conservative Senators resorting to procedural dirty tricks.”

Plett says there’s no point in referring the bill to the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples at present because that committee already has its hands full with two government bills, C-91 and C-92 — the child welfare and Indigenous languages legislation — which take precedent over private members’ bills.

“Until the committee has time to study it, then let’s keep it in the chamber so that if there are senators that want to speak to it, then they can speak to it,” Plett says.

But Dyck, who was among the senators that opposed Smith’s motion Tuesday, says her committee wants C-262 as soon as possible so that it can begin to plan and schedule witnesses.

“It would be very helpful to actually have it referred to us so that the steering committee could discuss it and see how we can fit it in,” she says.

Dyck says that with C-91 and C-92 still in the House of Commons, “there may be a possibility that there’s a period of time when we’re finished with [those bills’] pre-studies and we still don’t have the bills in the Senate yet — so that would free up committee time” to study C-262.

“But until we actually get Bill 262 we will not actually discuss how we’re going to handle that, we won’t set up a witness list and plan when we will have people come, because we don’t have it yet,” she explains.

Wendy Moss, an Indigenous rights advocate, policy advisor and member of the coalition, says Tuesday’s efforts by Smith and Plett to adjourn the debate on C-262 isn’t the first time Conservatives have hampered progress on UNDRIP.She said Conservative opposition to the declaration in Parliament goes back to the Harper Government’s vote against C-262’s predecessor, also a private members’ bill from Saganash, […]

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