OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is committing his government to implement a new legal framework to advance the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In a speech to the House of Commons Tuesday, the prime minister laid out a new vision for his government and its dealings with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples.
“We need a government-wide shift in how we do things,” Trudeau said, according to a text of the speech.
“We need to both recognize and implement Indigenous rights, because the truth is . . . , until we get this part right, we won’t have lasting success on the concrete outcomes that we know mean so much to people,” Trudeau said.
At the heart of his pledge is a vow to create a “recognition and implementation of (an) Indigenous rights framework” that will include new ways to recognize and implement such rights.
“Going forward, recognition of rights will guide all government relations with Indigenous Peoples,” he said.
He said the framework would be developed through national consultations, led by Carolyn Bennett, the minister of crown-Indigenous relations and northern affairs, and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.
While the Constitution sets out that “existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed,” Trudeau said those rights have not been implemented by governments.
“While there has been some success, progress has not been sustained, or carried out . . . . And, so, over time, it too often fell to the courts to pick up the pieces and fill in the gaps,” Trudeau said.
As a result, he said that too many feel the country and its institutions “will never deliver the fairness, justice and real conciliation that Indigenous Peoples deserve.”
Although the speech had been planned for some time, it comes in the wake of the controversial acquittal of a Saskatchewan farmer in the death of Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old Indigenous man fatally shot in 2016.
In the wake of that decision, questions have been raised about the fairness of the justice system to Indigenous Peoples.
The Liberal government is expected to propose Criminal Code changes next month to reform jury-selection rules, bail processes and other justice measures.
Trudeau told MPs Wednesday that the justice system is an area where reforms are “urgently needed.
“That is why we will bring forward broad-based, concrete reforms to the criminal justice system, including changes to how juries are selected,” he said.