In Bill C-262, the federal government of Canada is considering adopting, as Canadian law, the provisions of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). In 2016, “the Christian Reformed churches in Canada” affirmed UNDRIP “as a framework for reconciliation” with indigenous peoples in Canada, but more recently, the CRC, via “the leadership of the CRC in Canada”, is now formally endorsing and lobbying for Bill C-262, which would essentially incorporate UNDRIP into federal Canadian law. See the Do Justice article Bill C-262: Another Step on the Reconciliation Journey.
So what exactly is in UNDRIP? A breathtakingly broad array of provisions that, if adopted as law, would create specific legal rights in favor of indigenous peoples. The most breathtaking is Article 26, which states:
Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied, or otherwise used or acquired.
Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories, and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.
States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories, and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions, and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.
The past tense language of Article 26 was a central reason for the original rejection of UNDRIP in the past by four countries: Canada, United States, Australia, and New Zealand. The concern was that this language quite literally granted indigenous peoples real property rights in all land their ancestors may have once been owned, occupied, or used. The concerns are well founded—that is precisely what the language says. Thus, if Bill C-262 becomes Canadian law, then: (1) the Canadian Supreme Court will declare that Article 26 doesn’t mean what it says, or (2) the various indigenous peoples will decide not to avail themselves of the new law, or (3) there will be an enormous change in the ownership rights of pretty much all of the real estate that makes up the country of Canada.
I generally choose not to get involved in “Canadian CRC politics,” but this is simply too significant (including, potentially, for the United States). The endorsement of and lobbying for C-262 here wasn’t done or decided by Synod, despite the enormity of impact C-262 can/will have. Has Synod prior pronouncements, as claimed, really authorized “the leadership of the CRC in Canada” to decide to take specific political sides on this kind of legislation?
The United States has its “Green New Deal” and Canada its “C-262.” Both are breathtakingly impacting. Both have lots of political energy behind them. Both are proposal for specific, multi-pointed federal law that if passed, for better or for worse, will greatly impact their respective nations, not to mention the practical lives of many millions of citizens.
Should the CRC really be politically endorsing/lobbying here? And if it does, shouldn’t something this impacting be an action taken by Synod as opposed to “the leadership of the CRC in Canada”? My own answers are “no” and “yes.”