(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, B.C. – October 16, 2017) The Union of BC Indian Chiefs stands with the National Claims Research Directors in condemnation of Bill C-58, which will install massive new barriers for Indigenous Nations trying to access information for land claims and other purposes. The UBCIC supports the Directors’ call for the withdrawal of the bill and for full and meaningful engagement with Indigenous Nations regarding any legislative change on this issue.
Today, the Directors made a formal submission to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics study of the bill. The submission, entitled Impaired Access, reflects the shared view of Claims Research Directors from across Canada and has been widely endorsed by First Nations, regional and National Indigenous bodies, and like-minded organizations.
Impaired Access shows how Bill C-58 will create new ways for the government to deny access to records for applicants, including Indigenous Nations, who need this information to document their claims and disputes with Canada. This directly contravenes the Liberals’ commitments to open government. “Government and its information should be open by default,” Prime Minister Trudeau wrote in his recent mandate letter to Minister Bennett. But Canada is not only failing to be “open by default”—it is actively creating new obstacles to information access.
Further, the Directors’ submission shows, Bill C-58 was developed unilaterally, without any consultation with Indigenous Nations. UBCIC President Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said: “Canada continues to talk of a Nation-to-Nation relationship, but then goes rogue and pushes forward legislation that will have substantive detrimental effects on Indigenous Nations’ ability to research claims. How can we talk about reconciliation when Canada repeatedly fails to consult Indigenous Nations and organizations on legislation that affects our communities and our chances of achieving redress for historical wrongs? Bill C-58 is a major leap backward in terms of transparency and equal partnership.”
The Directors, too, see the legislation as undermining reconciliation, noting that Bill C-58 will “significantly impede First Nations’ access to justice.” They write: “In keeping with Canada’s commitment to reconciliation, the [UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples], and access to justice for First Nations, we call on the committee to withdraw bill C-58 and engage in full and meaningful consultation with First Nations regarding legislative reforms to access to information.”
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Phone: (604) 684-0231