First Nations Peoples’ Rights and Freedoms Are Threatened

Toronto council backs fight against Quebec’s Bill 21, calling it ‘contrary to the values of Torontonians and Canadians’

A few hours ago, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard addressed the Ontario cabinet for the first time since Bill 21 (the “Notley Bill”) was introduced in January 2017, announcing he would introduce a motion to ask the Ontario Parliament to enact an amendment to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It’s an important issue for Torontonians and our country. We, like many Canadians, hope that Bill 21 will be repealed. But the legal changes on Bill 21, specifically, the Charter amendments, will have a significant impact on the way governments can interfere with our collective rights, especially when it comes to free speech and expression.

At the same time, Premier Couillard’s announcement that he will introduce a motion in the Ontario legislature is of concern to me, as First Nations activist. There’s nothing that Canada’s Charter says we can’t do to protect our freedoms. We are free to do these things and I’m very proud of the way that we did them.

At the same time though, some of those freedoms are threatened.

For example, Bill 21 clearly violates First Nations’ free speech and freedom of expression rights. That’s because it denies our governments the right to legislate and enforce policies that are in the best interests of First Nations people.

In fact, it also violates the rights of non-Indigenous Canadians to be free from discrimination – like not being able to have equal access to public services on the basis of who they are. The First Nations Peoples’ Rights and Reconciliation Act does not grant the right to be free from discrimination in access to programs and services.

First Nations peoples have a right to determine how the rest of us get access to services.

The Charter also guarantees that all

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