Potential Impacts of Implementing UNDRIP on the Duty to Consult

Last June,  An Act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Bill C-15) officially became law in Canada. The Act gives the federal government and Indigenous peoples two years to develop an action plan to implement UNDRIP. But what impact could Bill C-15 have on Canadian law when it takes effect?

Edmonton lawyer Meaghan Conroy recently appeared on The Duty to Consult, a podcast produced by the University of Alberta’s Centre for Constitutional Studies, to share her thoughts on Bill C-15’s potential to change how the Crown and industry interact with Indigenous governments.

When it comes to the duty to consult, Meaghan said Bill C-15 could lead to more consensus building between industry and Indigenous groups, particularly in the resource and infrastructure sectors.

“If it wasn’t clear before that you need to engage with communities very early on in your project planning, this certainly adds an additional pressure to do that,” Meaghan said.

While the Prairie provinces opposed Bill C-15, the implementation of UNDRIP at the federal level could nevertheless increase existing trends toward Indigenous and Crown co-development of plans and activities on lands that Indigenous rights-holders rely on.

Meaghan noted this is already happening in British Columbia, a province that legislated UNDRIP when it passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act in November 2019. In March 2021, ‘Namgis First Nation signed a land use agreement with the B.C. government consistent with UNDRIP. ‘Namgis is currently negotiating a forestry agreement with the province.

“I think we can safely say [Bill C-15] will strongly encourage resource developers and infrastructure developers to consult more deeply and accommodate more deeply,” Meaghan said.

Listen to the Episode 4 of The Duty to Consult below for the full interview with Meaghan.