Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Why settlers should support Bill C-15

In my last article I discuss some of the mistakes that settlers regularly make when trying to understand and help with policies that impact Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island.

With regards to Bill C-15, I am most concerned that some settlers have read emotional statements made by a subset of Indigenous individuals that are justifiably upset with Canada for the ongoing genocide against Indigenous peoples. These settlers will then incorrectly believe that it is helpful to protecting the rights of indigenous people to also be angry at Canada and oppose Bill C-15 and any other activity Canada might take relating to changing Canadian law to conform with UN human rights declarations.

While I respect and understand Indigenous people who simply want Canada to get out of the way and allow them to live their lives in peace, I do not believe settlers should allow themselves to think the same way.  Whether settlers support Canada or any of its institutions, they are still part of and uphold that system. Duty demands that they participate in helping to dismantle it.

Justified Anger



Given the reality of what Canada continues to do to Indigenous peoples, there is obviously no reason for them to trust Canada, or any of its institutions (parliament, courts, law enforcement, political parties or their leaders, etc).  This extends to a mistrust of institutions which Canadians incorrectly think of as Indigenous such as Indian Act "band councils", or even other groups recognized by the Canadian government such as the Assembly of First Nations.  I discussed in the last article about Canada sending in the RCMP to depose democratic governments that are responsible to their citizens and installing "band councils" which are responsible to the Canadian Crown.

Building on this anger against Canada, the analysis of UNDRIP as adopted by the General Assembly on Thursday, 13 September 2007 will be coloured by the fact that what I call the Axis of White Supremacy (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States) voted against it.

I don't call these countries the Axis of White Supremacy merely because they voted against this declaration, but because these are four self-called "Nations" created by Europeans outside of Europe as an act of White Supremacy. Their colonization projects have been so "successful" (IE: so horrible and genocidal) that foreigners greatly outnumber Indigenous peoples.

Unlike immigrants given permission to live in a country by a domestic government, these foreign created governments (Canada, USA), and thus the foreigners and their descendants, aren't honoring the treaties that allowed them to be on the land. This makes these inhabitants more appropriately thought of as illegal aliens.  Indigenous peoples have an inherent right to be here, and to decide who else they wish to invite to be here.  The rest of us do not.


The legislative process

Some of the anger has been based on the fact that the declaration that passed the General Assembly is not the identical text of earlier drafts.  This is part of the legislative process, whether at the United Nations or within the Canadian parliament.  An assembly doesn't simply vote yes/no on a single draft tabled before them, but study and debate the draft, propose amendments, and then eventually an amended document is passed.


That resolution being passed by the General Assembly is also not the end of the process as far as the United Nations is concerned, and there is quite a bit of work expected in upcoming decades.

What is currently numbered C-15 also had multiple numbers over the years since it was first tabled by Tia Keeper in June 2008 (Less than a year after UNDRIP passed the UN General Assembly).  Most people agree it is now a better draft, even if there are specific clauses that they would prefer were reverted to an earlier version.  There is special support some people feel for the draft of the bill that passed the House of Commons and was stalled in the Senate prior to the 2019 election.

The legislative process will often not result in exactly what any specific individual will want the result to be.  However, opposing legislation because it isn't your favorite wording isn't logical if the legislation will still improve the systems the legislation is intended to impact.

While I have heard many people indicating ways in which UNDRIP and the Canadian legislation to affirm UNDRIP in Canada can be changed in ways that they would prefer, I have yet to read a document that passes a basic scan for logical fallacies documenting how UNDRIP (as passed) or the Canadian affirmation (any draft) makes the status-quo worse.

Association fallacy, and Straw Man arguments

The simplest way to understand the analysis which leads to opposition is to understand the Association fallacy:

An association fallacy is an informal inductive fallacy of the hasty-generalization or red-herring type and which asserts, by irrelevant association and often by appeal to emotion, that qualities of one thing are inherently qualities of another. Two types of association fallacies are sometimes referred to as guilt by association and honor by association.
(Source: Wikipedia)

In my last article I discuss two ways this actively plays out in this discussion.

Honor by Association

Anyone following Indigenous issues will know that various groups of land defenders and "Idle No More" are at the forefront of Indigenous activism in Canada.  This is not something that can legitimately be questioned.

A document is being published by Defenders of the Land, Idle No More, and the Truth Campaign is being granted "Honor by Association" with people assuming that since these individual organizations are doing amazing work, that there is no need to apply any critical analysis to the document.  The document states that "UNDRIP Bill C-15 deeply flawed and must be rejected say indigenous networks and land defenders", and thus many settlers will write letters to their MPs and otherwise advocate against UNDRIP and Bill C-15 based on this.

I have asked, but have not been able to determine the process used to generate that document.  Did it have peer review?  Were multiple authors involved building consensus?

The only individual that has stepped forward in online discussions and quite a few interviews to indicate they were actively involved in authoring is Russ Diabo of the Truth Campaign.  I've tried contacting the other groups indicated to be involved, but have received no reply.

(Please let everyone know if you know more about how the document was drafted!) 

For all I've been able to determine, the support of this document by these groups is entirely built on trust people have for Russ Diabo. It is not a diminishment of his critical activist contributions to recognize that he is human, and that strong emotions can lead to errors in analysis.  Critical analysis is needed no matter who the author of a policy document is.

Guilt by Association

Many other Indigenous individuals and groups have been promoting this bill, including many that have been involved in the process leading up to the declaration and this Canadian affirmation since the 1970's and 1980's.

The "problem", according to the opponents, is that all of these individuals and groups have some direct or indirect connection with Canada.  They are or have been members of the Canadian parliament, they are or have been members of a "band council", or they are or have in some ways worked in the Canadian system as lawyer, etc.

The suggestion is that all of these individuals are tainted by having ever come in touch with the system.

I've found this part of the discussion confusing as Russ Diabo ran for AFN National Chief in its 2018 election. Had he won that election, it would have put him into the same category of Guilt by Association. I find it interesting that in one of the articles written about his candidacy he appeared to be focused on Justin Trudeau, which I consider to be an example of the association fallacy. I think Russ Diabo's dislike for Justin Trudeau has clouded his evaluation of a bill which Trudeau doesn't want, and is only being tabled by the current government because they are receiving international pressure to do so.

This type of ad hominem argument will be particularly problematic if you are discussing on social media, as people will demand you justify your opposition to their alleged association. You won't recognize their association to be remotely related to UNDRIP or Bill C-15, and will feel attacked for things which you have never said or thought.  Any desire to not address the incorrect association is claimed as somehow being proof of a problem with the argument of those who have not fallen victim to this fallacy.


Some common examples of fallacious statements, fallacious associations, or ad hominem statements. Some of these can feel like personal attacks, so be prepared when you engage in this area of politics.

  • You aren't Indigenous, so you shouldn't say anything.  This has even been expressed as "It is not our job as non-Indigenous people to judge UNDRIP or to judge Canada's implementation of it. That is the job of Indigenous people."
    • This is intended to be a Traitorous critic fallacy but is particularly problematic given it is actually our duty, obligation, and not merely our job as part of (and benefiting from) the problem to put energy into being part of the solution.

      Leaving all the heavy-lifting to non-Canadians (or non-settlers, or non-Whites) to amend Canadian law is, in my opinion, quite offensive. There is a common anti-racist critique of those who claim only those directly harmed by racism and White Supremacy should be fighting against it.
  • "I see you've transferred your political affiliation from red to orange. That's fine."
    • There is a generalized version of this, but that is a unique quote from someone who knew and disagreed with me from my advocacy on electoral reform where I strongly oppose systems which grant political parties and their unaccountable leaders more power.  In this case I was supporting ideas presented by Leah Gazan and Romeo Saganash who happened to sit as NDP caucus members . We were discussing a bill tabled by both NDP (Orange?) and Liberal (Red?) caucus members, and which was currently a government bill (Speaker's chair is green with a carved oak and ebony screen behind?).  It isn't clear which of Orange or Red I was allegedly affiliated with, but the answer has always been neither. When I was young and partisan in the 1990's I was affiliated with very different and less partisan Green Party.
    • The generalized version is the belief that what Canadian political party a person is from is relevant on this policy.  This is not an Liberal, NDP, Green, Conservative or Bloc bill, but a bill that affirms that an international human rights instrument applies to Canada. The instrument already applies, but this bill affirms it and sets up a process to force the government of the day to make progress in correcting existing laws which violate human rights.

      Partisans in BC blame the NDP for provincial violations of UNDRIP after they passed a provincial version of this bill, and partisans federally blame the Liberals for violations of UNDRIP.  If the Purple Party was in Power, Partisans would Pronounce them the Problem.

      Hyper-partisans believe that party affiliation has to do with everything, but in this case it is clearly another fallacy.

  • You want to gain personally as a white person from the rights being taken away by UNDRIP and/or Bill C-15?
    • See above, with this being the angry personal attack version of this fallacious statement
  • You don't consider Idle No More or land defenders (generally) trustworthy?
  • You blindly trust everything said by the specific institutions that happened to have been at the press conference discussing C-15?
  • "person or group X" believe that UNDRIP article Y means something harmful, doesn't that negate UNDRIP in Canada.
    • Actually, it usually indicates an error in interpretation by "person or group X", whether it is a Canadian government official or an Indigenous activist.

  • The legislative process at the UN leading up to the passage of the resolution in the UN General Assembly was complex and involved changes to the draft, doesn't that negate UNDRIP?
    • That is how pretty much all policy works in democratic institutions, and what some call "watering down" others call democratic politics in complex institutions.  Unlike some Turtle Island Indigenous governance systems, the UN does not use a transparent consensus model so the UN model is in fact less complex (or some might equally say "less advanced").
  • BC continued to violate UNDRIP after passing their provincial law, doesn't that negate UNDRIP?
    • It is important to recognize that passing a law, and having a government obey a law, are two entirely different things.

      Canadians get very confused on this as they believe the myth that Canada and it's provinces are law abiding jurisdictions.  Canada and its institutions break its own and international law every day.  That is not a problem with the law, but a problem with Canada!  Canada is regularly caught in courts and tribunals violating laws and human rights, and the fact that Canadians aren't more aware of this is a fault of settler Canadians for not paying attention to the truth about their own country!

  • Canada is passing a bill to make UNDRIP subservient to the constitution, and thus weakling it by domesticating it?
    • This is a basic misunderstanding of how law works, as all Canadian laws are -- well, domestic Canadian laws.

      Passing a law in Canada doesn't "domesticate" international law as certain international law, such as UN Human rights instruments, don't need domestic legislation in order for them to be enforceable within and against Canada.
  • But Justin Trudeau? (Or any other politician you can name)
    • This is policy that received extensive international consultation over many decades, far longer than Justin Trudeau has been a member of parliament or the Prime Minister.

      What Justin Trudeau does or does not think about UNDRIP is largely irrelevant, except if he was opposing UNDRIP or threatening to withdraw from UN institutions.
  • But the Liberal Party? (Or any other colonial federal or provincial party)
    • In Fact Checking the 2019 Liberal platform commitment on UNDRIP I was critical of the use of language that wasn't helpful during the campaign.  While this might be reason to not trust a Liberal nominated candidate during the next election, it is fallacious to believe that mistakes made by the platform team have impact on UNDRIP related policy.  
  • Do you agree with Canada and its provinces ignoring human rights tribunals?
  • What about the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal order against Canada on Jordan's Principle, and Canadian officials indicating they plan to ignore it?
    • This is a duplicate of the general association: Canada is not a law abiding country, but that is not reason to stop passing laws, or courts and tribunals not calling Canada out for its numerous violations.  In fact, it is reason to push forward with more laws that clarify just how unjust of a set of institutions the Governments of Canada really are.
  • "Place the two documents side by side (that is UNDRIP and CanDrip)..."
    • CanDrip is the name that people who have fallen for a series of these association fallacies have given to UNDRIP when it has any connection with Canada.

      In one case someone was comparing a draft of a resolution to UNDRIP as it was passed by the UN General Assembly, and as included verbatim in Bill C-15 (and earlier versions).

      There is no way to compare the text of two different things as there is only a single thing, which is the declaration as passed by the UN General Assembly on 13 September 2007. Other drafts are drafts, and have no relevance to a discussion about UNDRIP applying in Canada.

      The UNDRIP affirmation bills include the text of the passed UNDRIP resolution verbatim within them.
  • "They are proceeding without the Free Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous people by ramming it through using Canada’s imposed band council system."
    • "Free, prior and informed consent" (FPIC) of Indigenous peoples is required when a colonial and/or settler state carry out various activities which impact Indigenous peoples.

      FPIC of the settler and/or colonial state is not required when Indigenous peoples, their Nations, or the United Nations exert pressure on these states to come into compliance with human rights.

      UNDRIP and the pressure for Canada to come into compliance with it, such as through the Bill C-15 process, are Indigenous lead initiatives that have been ongoing for many decades.  These are not Canadian initiatives, and no alleged association with Canada or any of its institutions (including the "band council" system) is a reason to oppose those Indigenous lead initiatives.

      We should all be calling out Canada for continuously delaying initiatives towards coming into compliance, not opposing Indigenous and international pressure being exerted on Canada to come into compliance.


In general most of the fallacious arguments that are claimed to be against UNDRIP or Bill C-15 are actually arguments in favor.  It is not the statements of these individual facts that are incorrect, but the problematic application of logic leading to the opposite conclusion than these facts support.

Discussing the Analysis of UNDRIP and the bill to affirm in Canada

Leah Gazan is a member of Wood Mountain Lakota Nation, located in Saskatchewan, Treaty 4 territory.  She was elected to the Canadian House of Commons for Winnipeg Center in October 2019, but has been actively involved in promoting the UNDRIP affirmation in Canada for decades.  She was interviewed on a recent episode of One Dish One Mic (Start at 14 minutes if you only want to hear about UNDRIP, but the entire interview is important for context). Like many other analysis of the bill, she directly addresses some of the critiques from fellow Indigenous people and indicates how they interpreted the bill, the UN resolution, and the legal process incorrectly.  Addressing critiques who have coined the term "CanDRIP", she clarifies that is entirely false. As she has been advocating for this policy for decades, she will obviously be voting in support and likely has been doing quite a bit of work within parliament to educate non-Indigenous parliamentarians about this policy. It is also no secret that Romeo Saganash is Leah Gazan's partner.

The Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) has created section of their website focused on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Bill C-15.
  • Understanding Bill C-15 , which goes over the actual text of the bill and includes references to how to interpret the law. Reading this document will help to understand some of the mistakes that people with less legal or political background have made.
  • This is what we fought for: An open letter in support of implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

There is quite a bit of information on The Coalition for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples website.

UBC's Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre (IRSHDC) hosted a Dialogue on Implementing the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples through Canada’s Bill C-15 on February 4, 2021.  Video will be made available soon for those who weren't able to attend virtually.  This included some amazing speakers, and had Dr. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond (Aki-Kwe) give what I thought was the most concise explanation of Bill C-15 I have heard so far.

Click to read thread:

IRSHDC also hosts a set of UNDRIP Papers, including both the policy in BC and the state of the federal bill.

The Yellowhead Institute created a Special Report on the experience so far in BC, and the ongoing work that will be needed once Bill C-15 (or a related draft) eventually receives "royal ascent" federally and in other provinces.


The Assembly of First Nations has allocated the domain name supportUNDRIP.ca for their campaign. The Ahkameyimok podcast included an interview with Chief Willie Littlechild: The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and Bill C-15.

None of these Indigenous lead groups or individuals are opposed to UNDRIP or attempts to have Canada or any of its provinces to affirm UNDRIP or upgrade existing laws to conform to current international human rights norms.  They are all concerned that Canadian governments are dragging their collective feet and taking way to long to do the right thing, both in terms of passing legislation as well as honoring the existing laws and rights.

They all want this policy passed as soon as possible so that we can move onto the next steps. They all recognize that the Canadian governments violate their own law and human rights today, and that they will continue to do so the day after a bill is passed.  They recognize this is not a logical reason to oppose the bill, but is a reason to push hard to ensure that passing the bill (as quickly as possible) is never claimed to be the final goal but only a necessary first step.

So, the opposition?

I am still uncomfortable providing a paragraph by paragraph critique of the position paper by the "indigenous networks and land defenders".  I believe the logic that they used to lead them to opposition is built on flawed logic and/or misunderstandings of the law or democratic processes.

I don't want anyone who might easily fall prey to association fallacies to fail to honour and respect these individuals/groups and the critical work they are doing.  I just don't want anyone incorrectly trusting their opposition to policy when the arguments used in that document suggest we should be strongly supporting rather than opposing.

If anyone has a specific question about a specific paragraph that they feel does not fall into the fallacies I have discussed above, please ask and I am more than willing to do any research necessary to provide an answer. I recommend reading the PDF from the Media Co-op site as you can easily cut-and-paste from that version.


Unknown said...

Not enforceable, good butt, powerless.imo
"Hnr by asntn
Guilt by asntn"
"Colonial indigenous"
Canadien law

Tlingit- humans,all have a collective responsibility to acknowledge TRUTH
1000's of years of occupation trump's, Colonial gobblygook and attempts to legislate fn out of existence.
As we have always said
We are willing to share,butt,our land remains as it were given to us, SOVEREIGN ANCESTRAL HOMELAND OF TLINGIT.

Russell McOrmond said...

See also:

* Indigenous rights bill weak, but necessary co-authored by Khelsilem

* This twitter thread