It may very well turn out to be a happy new year for the Trudeau government but also one that comes with two big challenges regarding proposed new laws for Indigenous people.
There is the Indigenous Languages Act and recently announced plans for new Indigenous child welfare legislation.
However, time is not on the government’s side.
Both bills need to make it through the House of Commons and the Senate by June and before summer break. Then it’s campaign time for federal parties leading up to the October election.
“This is all systems go,” said Marc Miller, parliamentary secretary to Crown-Indigenous Relations on Nation to Nation.
Miller admits time is tight.
“We’ll have to push hard,” he said.
But did it really need to be this hard? Why leave the both proposed bills to the last few months?
Miller said both required proper consultations and meetings with Indigenous people and groups.
“We’ve undertaken to do this and co-develop this with First Nations, so there is a time period, and a lag that it creates, but we couldn’t do it otherwise,” he said. “It isn’t ideal but it’s the only way forward if we are going to have a true nation to nation relationship.”
For both to move quickly and be successful all parties will need to support them.
“We only have 14 weeks left,” said Cathy McLeod, Conservative shadow minister for Indigenous Services.
McLeod said Conservatives support the concept of the two bills but the devil is in the details – until the bills are tabled (likely the last week of January or early February) they can’t be certain of their support.
“The Liberals certainly have left this to the last minute,” said NDP MP Nikki Ashton.
Ashton said the Trudeau government wasted too much time on the Indigenous rights framework that was promised before December but is now stalled. The framework’s goal was to figure out a way out of the Indian Act.
“I am not sure why they’ve been pushing the Indigenous rights framework that has been opposed, significantly, for such a long time and instead actually going through with the legislation on child welfare and Indigenous language,” said Ashton.