March 12, 2015 (Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde today told the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to withdraw Bill C-51, the proposed federal anti-terrorism legislation.
“I am calling on the government to withdraw this Bill and consult properly with First Nations about the impact of any such legislation on First Nations rights,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “We believe in safety and security but the federal government’s rush to ram this legislation through is undemocratic and it violates our individual and collective rights. First Nations will vigorously oppose any legislation that does not respect and protect our rights.”
The National Chief told the Committee that Bill C-51 sets up “conditions for conflict” by creating circumstances where First Nations people will be labelled as threats when asserting their rights as First Nations citizens. National Chief Bellegarde said the Bill will infringe on First Nations’ rights to freedom of speech and assembly, the right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure, rights as peoples under section 35 of Canada’s 1982 Constitution which recognizes and affirms inherent Aboriginal rights and Treaty rights, and the right to self-determination, which includes the right to protect and make decisions about activities and laws affecting First Nation territories. The National Chief stated that the legislation was developed in a way that does not meet the federal government’s duty to consult and accommodate First Nations and that makes it subject to legal challenge if the government tries to impose it.
The National Chief further recommended that Canada discuss with First Nations options for a review process to examine all federal legislation that could impact the assertion of rights recognized and affirmed in section 35 of the Constitution.
National Chief Bellegarde stated: “Because of our history, First Nations know better than anyone how easy it is for governments to ignore, erode and eradicate our most basic human rights and freedoms until you barely recognize the land you’re living in. Canada must do better and it must do more to meet its constitutional and Treaty responsibilities to First Nations.”
The complete transcript of Chief Bellegarde’s presentation is available here.