Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde is urging a House of Commons Committee to recommend 12 changes to a proposed Bill to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

The legislation tabled in December would require the federal government, in consultation with Indigenous Peoples to ensure Canadian laws are consistent with the Declaration, and “to address injustices, combat prejudice and eliminate all forms of violence and discrimination against Indigenous peoples, including elders, youth, children, persons with disabilities, women, men and gender-diverse and two-spirit persons.”

Many of the changes being proposed by Bellegarde focus on the language within clauses.

He wants “racism” added, as First Nations face this daily.

“Given the deep racism and discrimination that First Nations still face every day, Bill C-15 is critical commitment to combat all forms of discrimination makes this bill both timely and urgent,” Bellegarde explained. “I felt very strongly that a collaborative and coordinated approach to implementing the Declaration was critical to closing the social and economic gap facing First Nations people. So today, I am even more convinced that implementation legislation is the right way forward.”

Three years ago, Bellegarde spoke in favour of similar legislation presented by then NDP MP Romeo Saganash.

Yet that legislation did not clear the Senate. The federal government said the legislation is needed as it would create the framework as it would establish accountability and provide greater clarity regarding the path forward for Indigenous peoples, communities, industry. Bellegarde was speaking to the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Committee.

Conservative member Jamie Schmale said the Conservatives generally support UNDRIP, but are concerned with the definition of “free, prior and informed consent” on large development projects.

Bellegarde explained that this was intended to ensure that First Nations were included in such projects at the very beginning, as a way of collaboration with all parties.

“The AFN is eager to see Bill C 15 move forward to final votes in the House of Commons and the senate as soon as possible,” said Bellegarde.