By Joan Bryden
THE CANADIAN PRESS
OTTAWA-Conservative senators are being blamed for running out the parliamentary clock on a number of bills, including several aimed at advancing the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The Conservatives’ Senate whip says the Liberal government will have only itself to blame if the bills aren’t passed before Parliament breaks for the summer and the subsequent fall election.
Sen. Don Plett says allegations of Conservative stalling tactics are unfair.
Nevertheless, it’s the Tory contingent in the upper house, and Plett in particular, who are bearing the brunt of Indigenous leaders’ wrath.
Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, has accused
Conservative senators of employing “outrageous, shameful and undemocratic procedural tactics’’ to make sure Bill C-262 never sees the light of day.
That’s a private member’s bill introduced by New Democrat MP Romeo Saganash that would ensure federal laws are harmonized with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Bellegarde was supposed to testify about the bill Wednesday at a meeting of the Senate’s aboriginal peoples committee. His appearance was abruptly cancelled after Plett used a procedural manoeuvre to prevent the committee from meeting.
That set off something of a Twitter war of words between Plett and Independent Sen. Murray Sinclair, former head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“It took the UN 24 years to pass UNDRIP and Senator Sinclair expects the Senate APPA committee to deal with it in less than 24 days,’’ Plett scoffed in response to one Murray tweet about the cancelled meeting.
“Yes … me and the rest of Canada think two years in the House of Commons and one year in the Senate is long enough,’’ Murray retorted.
Saganash issued a harshly worded statement, asserting that Conservative senators are showing “disdain for the human rights of Indigenous Peoples’’
and appear to “prefer to perpetuate colonialism and injustice.’’ If Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer can’t or won’t control his senators from killing C-262, Saganash said his party is “unfit’’ to win this fall’s election.
The Conservatives are also getting the blame for stalling other private members’ bills:
-supporting Indigenous languages
-adding First Nations, Metis and Inuit representatives to the board that makes decisions on national historic sites and monuments
-requiring judges to take training on sexual-assault law
-prohibiting food and beverage marketing aimed at children
On the latter bill, which came from now-retired Conservative senator Nancy Greene Raine, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor weighed in Friday.
Petitpas Taylor told The Canadian Press she’s “extremely disappointed’’ that the “Senate is really playing with this bill, using procedural tactics to avoid it.’’
The bill on judges and sexual-assault law originated in the House of Commons,with former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose.
By Joan Bryden