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When European explorers first set foot on the lands that are now Canada, they claimed the territory as their own, despite the presence of Indigenous Peoples who had already been occupying the lands for generations. They did this using the “doctrine of discovery,” a policy originally emanating from decrees issued by the pope in the 15th century authorizing Christian explorers to claim so-called “terra nullius,” or vacant lands, based on the notion they had racial and religious superiority. This doctrine has since been repudiated by many official bodies, including many faith organizations. Now, a new landmark piece of legislation will see the Canadian government overtly reject the doctrines of discovery and terra nullius as “racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust.” This language is found in Bill C-15, which passed in the Senate earlier this week. The law aims to harmonize Canada’s laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

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