Canada’s Senate must immediately pass Bill C-15: UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) calls on Canada’s Senate for immediate passage of Bill C-15, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. LRWC welcomes the House of Commons passage if the Bill on 25 May 2021 on Third Reading.

In 2015 Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) issued  94 Calls to Action, including the emphatic call to “federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.” The TRC’s Calls to Action call for implementation of the Declaration more than a dozen times.

Bill C-15 is endorsed by Indigenous leaders across Canada. It builds on the previous Bill C-262, a Private Member’s Bill tabled in Canada’s Parliament in 2015 by then Member of Parliament Romeo Saganash and championed by Indigenous advocates and supporters across Canada, including LRWC. Bill C-262 was passed by the House of Commons in 2018 but foundered in the Senate in 2019 after opposition procedural manoeuvres prevented its passage into law.

The current Bill C-15 was adopted by the House of Commons on 3rd reading by a vote of 210 to 118 and will now proceed to Canada’s Senate for debate and adoption. Bill C-15 is endorsed by prominent Indigenous leaders across Canada, including Chief Willie Littlechild, former Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and former member of the UN Human Rights Council’s Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP), and Professor Sheryl Lightfoot, Canada Research Chair of Global Indigenous Rights and Politics, University of British Columbia and current member of EMRIP. Chief Littlechild and Prof. Lightfoot are among 13 prominent Indigenous leaders in Canada who wrote an open letter dated 10 February 2021, stating that,

Bill C-15 is completely consistent with the UN Declaration. Bill C-15 does not attempt to interpret the UN Declaration or alter its status as a global human rights instrument. Bill C-15 is about the federal government living up to the standards contained in the Declaration.


Bill C-15 requires the current government – and future governments – to work collaboratively with Indigenous peoples to develop a national implementation plan with priorities and deadlines, as well as to bring federal laws into line with the requirements of the Declaration.

These were the same key provisions found in C-262. However, Bill C-15 in some ways goes beyond Bill C-262, including the legal provision that an implementation plan “must include measures to address injustices, combat prejudice and eliminate all forms of violence and discrimination, including systemic discrimination.”

LRWC was among the organizations signing a 10 March 2021 open letter calling for the timely passage of Bill C-15 to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The letter, published in The Hill Times, was signed by 37 Indigenous Nations and governments and other organizations, and 125 human rights advocates.