Jun 19, 2021

By Jeremy Logan

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A landmark piece of legislation that cleared the Senate this week includes language that overtly rejects a set of doctrines that European settlers used to claim the lands of Canada and oppress Indigenous Peoples.

Changes made to Bill C-15 will see the Canadian government denounce the doctrines of discovery and “terra nullius” as “racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust.”

The bill, which aims to harmonize Canada’s laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, has only now to be given Royal Assent to come into legal effect.

Justice Minister David Lametti says the changes to the bill were made after Indigenous leaders and chiefs pressed the federal government to include stronger language rejecting these “racist” doctrines.

The move was also supported by a Commons committee that studied the bill.

Lametti says he was happy to make the changes after spending years as a law teacher “preaching” to his students about how these doctrines were “colonialist and destructive.”

National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations says European settlers used these doctrines to try to eliminate Indigenous land and treaty rights and rejecting them will help in the decolonization of Canada’s laws and policies.

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