BC Assembly of First Nations Strongly Opposes Bill C-53, Urges Rejection of Unconstitutional Act Threatening Section 35 Rights

  • Statement

September 20, 2023

News Category

(Lheidli T’enneh Territory/Prince George, B.C.) – The BC Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN) unequivocally
supports the Chiefs of Ontario, together with First Nations leaders, communities, and individuals across the
country, in resolute opposition to Bill C-53. This legislation, introduced by Canada without proper
consultation, poses a grave threat to First Nations’ inherent, constitutional, and human rights, as well as to
the integrity of Section 35 rights and title for all Indigenous Peoples.

The Métis Government Recognition and Self-Government Implementation Act would grant Section 35
rights to so-called “Métis” groups, setting an alarming precedent for unsubstantiated claims to rights and
title in the future. If passed, Bill C-53 would facilitate baseless claims to First Nations’ lands, waters, and
resources asserted by illegitimate “Métis” groups across the country. Even prior to the introduction of Bill
C-53, the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO), the Métis Nation of British Columbia, and other parties have
been asserting that they hold equal claim to First Nation lands under the Constitution, a stance that we
find deeply concerning and unwarranted.

At the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Annual General Assembly (AGA) in July 2023, Chiefs in British
Columbia joined their counterparts coast-to-coast in unanimous support of Resolution No. 44/2023,
Protect First Nations Rights and Interests from Unfounded Métis Rights Assertions. This resolution
demonstrates the shared concerns among First Nations leaders and communities regarding baseless
“Métis” rights claims within their traditional territories. These false assertions hold extremely harmful
repercussions for First Nations’ rights and title, undercutting vital laws, legal systems, systems of
governance, and jurisdictions.

The BC Assembly of First Nations supports recognizing Indigenous groups with honest, well-founded claims
to pre-existing rights and title. However, the MNO’s assertions fall significantly short of this standard.
Extensive expert reports submitted to Canada provide compelling evidence that six of the alleged
“communities” recognized by the MNO have never existed historically. Furthermore, the majority of MNO’s
claims lack a factual or legitimate basis. Bill C-53 threatens First Nations’ inherent, constitutional, and
human rights and title.

Canada alleges that the bill will not adversely impact First Nations’ rights and title and that the MNO
should be able to claim Indigenous rights independently; however, this statement is profoundly flawed
and untenable. Granting Section 35 rights to illegitimate groups undermines the integrity of rights and
title for all Indigenous Peoples, including legitimate Métis communities.
The BC Assembly of First Nations stands in full solidarity with First Nations Leadership, technicians, and
individuals, as well as allies and partners, gathered today (Wednesday, September 20, 2023) on Parliament
Hill. Together, we firmly oppose Bill C-53 and urge Members of Parliament and Senators to reject this
reckless and unconstitutional act.

We call upon Canada to conduct a comprehensive, transparent, and public investigation and engage with
First Nations Leadership to understand the facts and issues. Additionally, we call on Prime Minister Trudeau
to demonstrate his commitment to reconciliation and good relations with First Nations by meeting with
First Nations Leadership to address and remedy this pressing matter to the satisfaction of First Nations in
British Columbia.

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