Indigenous Bar Association warns of Bill C-58

OTTAWA – The Indigenous Bar Association (IBA) wishes to express its concerns with respect to the content of Bill C-58 which, if passed into law, would seriously undermine the ability of Indigenous communities to access government records and information in support of their claims against the Government of Canada.

The IBA fully supports and endorses the submission of the National Claims Research Directors and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (dated October 10, 2017) to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics urging the immediate withdrawal of Bill C-58.

Bill C-58 has been developed unilaterally by the Government of Canada without any effort or attempt to consult with Indigenous Peoples, in violation of Canada’s obligations under the UNDRIP. Moreover, Bill C-58, as drafted, would provide legislative authority for the suppression of crucial information which Indigenous communities require to pursue and resolve their outstanding claims against Canada. As such, Bill C-58 further contravenes Canada’s obligations under the UNDRIP to provide effective mechanisms of redress for historical wrongs  by denying Indigenous Peoples access to crucial evidence in support of their legal claims.

Access to this information and records is crucial to support claims made by Indigenous communities against the Government of Canada as the government holds the vast majority of the information required to properly document claims as required under the federal Specific Claims  Policy. Canada’s clear conflict of interest in this regard would be further entrenched by Bill C-58  which would provide the Government of Canada with a legislative basis to deny legitimate  requests for information thereby serving to insulate itself from legal claims made by Indigenous  communities.

The IBA, therefore, calls on the Standing Committee and the Government of Canada to   immediately and unconditionally withdraw Bill C-58 and to engage in full and meaningful consultations with Indigenous Peoples and communities, as equal partners, regarding any and all legislative reforms to the access to information and privacy regime that may affect the rights or interests of Indigenous Peoples.

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