During my nine years working on Parliament Hill, I was blessed to get to be a part of and witness some amazing things. There are things that I got to experience that I will be telling my grandchildren about someday, as I got the chance to life out a dream of mine. There are also some things I got to do that I am seriously proud about and moments around them that I will always remember. One of those moments came on May 30th, 2018, when this happened in the House of Commons:
On that night, NDP MP Romeo Saganash’s Bill C-262, a bill that would harmonize the Laws of Canada with the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples, passed third reading in the House of Commons and was sent to the Senate. It was a night that at my darkest moments I thought might never come. I was Mr. Saganash’s Legislative Assistant for five years, and over that time I had the privilege to work on that bill with him; it was one of my biggest duties and more than a bit of a passion project for me. It was a chance to make a difference. So that night, I couldn’t have been much happier.
For me, this bill is about getting a lot of things right not just for now, but for generations to come. That’s why one of my other most memorable moments was sitting in the Members Gallery of the House of Commons in December of 2017, as the first hour of debate took place on C-262, the first chance the bill had to start to move forward. That night, I had my then-five-year-old daughter with me, sitting in the gallery, as she shyly waved down at Romeo from above after we heard him speak. Because in the end, that’s what a bill like this is all about; the future. Making a better future for our kids, our grandkids, looking seven generations ahead.
So, after that vote at third reading at the end of May last year, C-262 was sent off to the Senate, which had over a year to get this bill passed after the six months it took to get through the House of Commons. That was more than enough time to give it serious consideration and to get things rolling. But sadly, this supposedly new Senate hasn’t been acting so new on this bill, and this week it’s all started to come to a head:
Yes, you see the Senate Conservatives have decided to play silly buggers with this important piece of legislation and instead of giving this bill “sober second thought”, they seem to be trying to kill it through procedural BS. Needless to say, that’s brought out a wide amount of response to these childish tactics and from some places they might not have expected:
Look at that wide list, from Indigenous leaders, to civil society groups, all Members of the House of Commons unanimously (even those who voted against the Bill), to the Mennonite Central Committee. I mean if Senator Don Plett, one of the Conservatives supposedly leading these attempts to kill this Bill who just happens to be from Southeastern Manitoba, would listen to anyone, you’d expect it to be the Mennonite Central Committee. Of course, if he were actually elected, he’d had to face those folks come election time, but of course that’s not how our Senate works. Sober second thought here? Nah seems more like drunk on power today.
Now to be fair, this is not the majority of the Senate acting this way, only the shrinking minority in the Conservative ranks that have decided to play partisan games with a bill passed by the people who actually have to face the electorate. And folks, this isn’t the first time this has happened. Many of those same Conservative Senators were in those same seats when they killed off Jack Layton’s climate change bill through procedural tricks, without so much as a vote or a second of debate.
And to me that is the crux of pointing this out today; there are no guarantees that a chance like this will come again. Jack Layton’s climate change bill died a decade ago and we haven’t seen anything like it get passed through the House since, let alone to the Senate. Beyond the importance and historic nature of Bill C-262, the imperative of getting this done now cannot be lost on us. Mr. Saganash introduced his first version of this bill in 2012, and it took six years and two parliaments for it to get into the Senate. The fact that it has been sitting there for 10 months, when the House was able to give it proper debate and pass it just six months, is just unacceptable.
This is the time to get this bill passed, to move further down the road of reconciliation and to start getting things right. So, I invite and implore you to visit the link I’ve posted below, reach out to those Senators who are playing partisan games with this important piece of legislation and ask them to get out of the way. We can’t say when this chance may come again and honestly, I won’t want us to have to find out. Miigwetch, Maarsi, Thank you and Merci!