Time is ticking for Bill C-262, An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and those in favour of the bill in the Senate are urging churches to reach out again to all senators to ensure its passage.

General Secretary Nora Sanders, Executive Minister Maggie Dieter, and Reconciliation and Indigenous Justice Animator Sara Stratton took part in an ecumenical visit to the Senate March 20‒21 in support of Bill C-262. The Anglican Church of Canada, Canadian Friends Service Committee, Mennonite Central Committee (Canada), and The Presbyterian Church in Canada were also represented in the delegation.

Adopting the Declaration as “the framework of reconciliation” was a key Call to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. We were encouraged by the support for the bill that we saw from non-aligned and Independent Senators. There is a clear sense among many that this bill could help provide clarity and an orderly process to develop a new relationship based on the principles of mutuality, equity, and respect—those longed-for ideals of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples that have yet to come to fruition. 

Others we met with expressed the need to learn more about the bill before making a decision about support, or expressed concern that the Declaration’s inclusion of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) constitutes a de facto Indigenous veto on development projects.

Senator Murray Sinclair, the bill’s sponsor, expressed his thanks for the reconciliation efforts he witnesses in communities of faith across the country, and stressed the importance of continuing to reach out to those senators who have yet to make up their minds, or whose concerns around FPIC could be addressed.

In response, our friends at Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) have updated a letter that you can use to contact all senators in these last few crucial weeks of the current session. Currently at second reading and waiting to go before committee, Bill C-262 faces a distinct time crunch: if it does not move quickly, it will die on the order paper when the 2019 election is called.

Please visit the MCC site to send this essential message to all senators.