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October 26, 2023
The Standing Senate Committee on Indigenous Peoples has the honour to present its
Your committee, to which was referred Bill C-29, An Act to provide for the establishment of a national council for reconciliation, has, in obedience to the order of reference of May 4, 2023, examined the said bill and now reports the same with the following amendments:
1.Clause 2, page 2:
(a) Replace lines 25 and 26 with the following:
“governments means the Government of Canada, provincial and local governments and Indigenous governing bodies. (gouver-”; and
(b) add the following after line 27:
“Indigenous governing body means a council, government or other entity that is authorized to act on behalf of an Indigenous group, community or people that holds rights recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. (corps dirigeant autochtone)”.
2.Clause 6, page 3: Replace line 22 with the following:
“between Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous peoples.”.
3.Clause 7, pages 3 and 4:
(a) On page 3, replace lines 24 to 29 with the following:
“(a) monitor, evaluate and report annually on the Government of Canada’s post-apology progress towards reconciliation, to ensure that government accountability for reconciling the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the Crown is maintained in the coming years;
(b) monitor, evaluate and report on the progress being made towards reconciliation across all levels of government and sectors of Canadian society, including the progress being made towards the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of ”; and
(b) on page 4,
(i) replace lines 3 to 5 with the following:
“(c) develop and implement a multi-year National Action Plan for Reconciliation that includes
(i) research on practices that advance reconciliation in all sectors of Canadian society, by all governments in Canada and at the international level,
(ii) policy development, and
(iii) public education programs;”, and
(ii) replace lines 16 and 17 with the following:
“(g) stimulate and promote innovative dialogue, partnerships between public and private sector bodies and public initiatives aimed at reconciliation;”.
4.New clauses 7.1 and 7.2, page 4: Add the following after line 26:
“7.1 For greater certainty,
(a) nothing in this Act is to be construed as authorizing the Council to act on behalf of, or represent the interests of, an Indigenous governing body; and
(b) no duty to consult an Indigenous group, community or people that holds rights recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 is discharged by consulting or engaging with the Council.
7.2 For greater certainty, if the Government of Canada establishes or has established a bilateral mechanism with an Indigenous governing body, that bilateral mechanism is not affected by this Act.”.
5.Clause 16, page 7: Add the following after line 8:
“(3) If the Minister fails to comply with the obligations set out in subsections (1) and (2), the Council may apply to a judge of the Federal Court for a declaration to that effect or for any other appropriate order.”.
6.Clause 16.1, page 7: Replace lines 9 and 10 with the following:
“16.1 The Minister must, within six months after March 31 of each year, submit to the Council an annual”.
7.Clause 17, page 8: Replace lines 7 to 11 with the following:
“(a) the Government of Canada’s post-apology progress towards reconciliation;
(b) the progress being made towards reconciliation across all levels of government and sectors of Canadian society; and
(c) the Council’s recommendations respecting mea-”.
8. Make any necessary consequential changes to the numbering of provisions and cross-references resulting from the amendments to the bill.
Your committee has also made certain observations, which are appended to this report.
Observations to the Fifteenth Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Indigenous Peoples (Bill C-29)
Your committee observes that the context behind the establishment of the National Council for Reconciliation (the Council) is the devastating intergenerational effects of assimilationist policies promoted by the federal government. Residential schools and other colonialist Canadian practices and policies have had significant negative impacts on Indigenous peoples’ well-being, including disproportionate health, social and economic disparities between Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. These disparities highlight the need to establish the National Council for Reconciliation so that an independent, Indigenous-operated organization can measure progress on eliminating these disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Elders, Survivors and their descendants are integral to the governance of the Council.
Timely and unencumbered access to information is vital to ensuring the Council can fulfill its mandate to monitor and conduct research on the advancement of reconciliation within Canada.
Reflecting on difficulties experienced by other bodies, such as the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to access records critical to their mandate, this committee notes the vital importance of a complaint resolution mechanism that should be established at the same time as the information sharing and disclosure protocol described in section 16(1) of Bill C-29, An Act to provide for the establishment of a national council for reconciliation (the bill). Your committee believes the amendments made to this section of the bill will enable the Council to obtain remedies to any non-disclosure of information by governments through the courts.
The Board of Directors of the Council should strive to include a broader representation of Indigenous peoples than those currently identified in the Act; in particular, the council should reflect the wide diversity, backgrounds and experiences of Indigenous peoples regardless of where they live.
The committee amended the bill to reflect the paramount importance of the permanent bilateral mechanisms established between the Government of Canada and First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. These mechanisms have been effective in enabling representative organizations to identify, promote and advance their own priorities and perspectives on how Canada can continue to make progress on reconciliation. This committee recognizes that other bilateral mechanisms have also been established by the Government of Canada with other Indigenous governing bodies. The Council should not interfere with these mechanisms; bilateral mechanisms, however, could be complemented by the work of the Council.
The committee is pleased that the Government of Canada allocated funds for an endowment for the Council, which will enable it to function independently. However, the committee was persuaded by witness testimony arguing that the current amount of the endowment is insufficient to enable the Council to fulfill their mandate as set out in the bill. An appropriate endowment will enable the Council to contribute meaningfully to reconciliation. Based on testimony received, this committee strongly recommends that the government must increase the endowment funds to a more appropriate level, at least commensurate with the endowment provided to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, and ensure the Council has access to long-term, multi-year funding.