The Senate is currently reviewing Bill C-29, An Act to provide for the establishment of a national council for reconciliation, which if passed will be a significant step in Canada’s effort to fulfill the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action by creating Canada’s first Indigenous-led council for reconciliation.
In 2015, after extensive engagement, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (“TRC”) released 94 Calls to Action to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance Canadian reconciliation. Among these 94 Calls to Action, the TRC calls upon Parliament to create a National Council for Reconciliation to monitor, evaluate, and report on Canada’s reconciliation progress (Call to Action 53), to establish funding for this Council (Call to Action 54), and for all levels of government to provide the Council with annual reports or any current data requested (Call to Action 55).
An Interim Board was formed in 2018 to lead national engagement on the Bill. In 2021, after the discovery of the 200 unmarked graves in Kamloops, a Transitional Committee appointed by the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations took over and prioritized a more targeted and urgent approach to engagement. Since then, the Bill has passed through all stages at the House of Commons and is currently being considered by the Standing Senate Committee on Indigenous Peoples.
The Bill establishes an independent, non-political, and permanent, Indigenous-led national council to advance reconciliation. In carrying out its purpose, the Council will develop and implement a multi-year national action plan to advance reconciliation, conduct research and report on progress made, monitor government action that affects Indigenous peoples, educate the public, protect Indigenous language rights, and ensure that Canada’s reconciliation efforts are advancing a rights-based approach to self-determination.
The Council will be incorporated under the Canada Not-for profit Corporations Act and will have a board of nine to thirteen directors. The Bill requires each director to have knowledge and experience on Indigenous issues and has several representation requirements. At least two thirds of the board must be Indigenous, and to the extent possible, the board must include representation from First Nations, Inuit and the Métis, Indigenous elders, Indigenous survivors of Canada’s discriminatory and assimilationist policies, Indigenous organizations, people from various regions in Canada, and gender diverse persons.
The Bill includes several reporting requirements. The Minister must submit an annual report to the Council regarding the status of Indigenous children in care services, funding for education on reserve, Indigenous persons’ income and educational attainment, progress on eliminating the overrepresentation of Indigenous youth in custody, reducing the rate of criminal victimization, and closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in health indicators. Within three months after the end of the financial year, the Council must submit to the Minister an annual report setting out the state of reconciliation and their recommendations. Within 15 days of receiving the report, the Minister must distribute a copy to each House of Parliament. Within 60 days of receiving the distributed report, the Prime Minister must respond to the matters addressed by publishing an annual report that outlines the Government’s plans for advancing reconciliation.
Once the Committee Stage is complete, the Bill must be read a third time in the Senate before becoming law. Click here to keep informed of Bill C-29’s progression through the Senate.
Note: Lawson Lundell summer student Allison Bilenkey was a co-author on this blog.
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