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North Island candidates chime in on Indigenous rights

Should we adopt the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People into Canadian law?
Local Green Party candidate Mark de Bruijn says he wants Canada to be an example for the rest of the world in how to respect and work alongside Indigenous populations at last week’s all-candidates forum at the Tidemark Theatre. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is an international instrument adopted by the United Nations on Sept. 13, 2007, but it remains unadopted by Canada.

At last week’s all-candidates debate at the Tidemark Theatre, the North Island – Powell River candidates in this month’s federal election were asked whether they would recommend Canada adopt UNDRIP and why they felt that way.

In the order the question was addressed at the forum, the candidates thoughts on the matter were as follows:

Glen Staples (Independent) says he hasn’t studied the document thoroughly enough to make an informed decision on the matter, “but I can’t understand why they haven’t adopted it.”

Mark de Bruijn (Green) says he can’t understand it, either.

“Canada has agreed to UNDRIP and it needs to be enshrined into Canadian law now,” de Bruijn says. “It’s based largely on truly having a nation to nation relationship with First Nations people … so we want to move that way strongly and get on with living together joyously in a country we can all be proud of and the world can look to as an example of how to do this.”

Peter Schwarzhoff (Liberal) says the current Liberal government actually passed legislation that would see UNDRIP adopted into law, but it didn’t pass the Senate, and they have promised to resubmit it should they be re-elected.

Rachel Blaney (NDP) points out that the legislation passed by the Liberal government was actually NDP MP Romeo Saganash’s private members bill, C-262, which creates a framework for all legislation passed in Canada to be “seen and vetted through the lens of UNDRIP,” and she points to the failure of it to pass as another example of the decisions that need to be made surrounding the continuing roll of the Senate in our political system.

Shelley Downey (Conservative) says First Nations rights are already protected in the Constitution, “so the question, really, is what happens if we sign this declaration? How does that relate to our constitution? Which one will take precedence and how do we manage that? It’s for those reasons the Conservatives haven’t signed onto it.”

Brian Rundle (PPC) echoed Downey’s assertion that more needs to be done to clarify the declaration and what it will mean, “but I understand that there’s some opposition to it from the First Nations, as well. It’s something that isn’t universally accepted as the right way to go, and there might be some alternatives that would be better.”

Carla Neal (Marxist-Leninist) was not in attendance.

The Mirror live-streamed Thursday night’s forum to its Facebook page, so if you’d like to know more about how the candidates feel about this or any other matter discussed, head to to find the event in its entirety.

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