Good afternoon to everybody back east, and greetings from Haida Gwaii. My name is kil tlaats ‘gaa Peter Lantin. I am the president and official spokesperson for the Haida Nation.
Generally, the Haida Nation supports Bill , but we propose changes to strengthen the bill to protect Haida interests and rights. I'll begin by providing some context to our submissions.
In the Haida language, Haida Gwaii means “the islands of the people”. Haida oral traditions tell the origins of these islands and our origin from the oceans of Haida Gwaii.
Our territory includes the islands and the surrounding waters, which include the entire Dixon Entrance; half of Hecate Strait, north and south; Queen Charlotte Sound halfway to Vancouver Island; and westward into the abyssal ocean depths, including the 200-nautical mile limit of the exclusive economic zone.
The Haida Nation has worked with Canada and the Province of B.C. to protect sensitive areas within the Haida territory. This includes the Gwaii Haanas marine area, which has been called and “one of the world's great ecological and cultural treasures.” Other protected areas include Sgaan Kinghlas - Bowie Seamount marine protected area, jointly designated with the Government of Canada. As well, we manage marine areas with the Province of B.C. under both the Haida Gwaii marine plan and land use plans.
The Haida protected areas protect a diversity of habitats and numerous species, including marine mammals, seabirds, fish, invertebrates, and microalgae. These areas are essential for the health and well-being of Haida citizens and Haida culture and are vulnerable to shipping, underwater noise, and the introduction of aquatic invasive species and oil spills. The Haida territory and Haida protected areas are well-known to the Government of Canada.
For those reasons, the Haida Nation joined other indigenous nations and environmental organizations to oppose the Enbridge northern gateway pipeline project that would have seen the transport of crude oil through Haida territorial waters. Together we overturned the federal approval of the project.
The proposed moratorium is an important first step towards achieving long-term protection from the risks of oil tankers and oil spills. We propose the following changes that could help strengthen the proposed bill. I will provide some proposed amendments from the Haida perspective.
First, there are plans to construct oil refineries and to transport refined oil products on the north coast. In the event of a spill, these projects carry great risk to ecosystems, communities, and the economy. The moratorium must be expanded to also ban the transport of large quantities of refined oils, such as gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel oil.
Second, further measures are required to keep large vessels at a safe and sufficient distance offshore from the west coast of Haida Gwaii. At a minimum, the area of the moratorium must apply to the current voluntary tanker exclusion zone.
The risk of harm to Haida Gwaii is largely driven by the absence of emergency towing vessels. A dedicated tug located in Haida Gwaii to provide emergency towing to vessel traffic transiting Haida territorial waters is therefore our third proposal.
Fourth, we urge the federal government to pursue international marine organization sensitive area designations to apply to all shipping to complement regulatory measures.
Fifth, the Haida Nation and Transport Canada must prioritize and complete our work of updating the Pacific places of refuge contingency plan.
Sixth, we have negotiated with Canada and B.C. collaborative management agreements covering the entire terrestrial and portions of the marine areas of Haida Gwaii. These agreements, upheld by the Federal Court of Canada, provide the federal government the unique and powerful opportunity to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in a way that genuinely respects and implements reconciliation.
Seventh, a broad power to set limits or conditions on tankers, coupled with timely and sufficient access to information, will allow the management bodies under the Haida agreements to regulate the transport of essential oil products for communities through Haida territorial waters. The Heiltsuk Nation will speak further about this amendment.
We support West Coast Environmental Law in requesting an amendment to limit ministerial exemptions to the moratorium in case of emergencies. We also support the submissions of the Sierra Club of B.C. regarding expanding the moratorium to include decreased tonnage thresholds and to ban the transport of oil products, not just the loading and unloading.
In conclusion, the Haida Nation understood that the federal government had committed to ban crude oil tankers transiting and transporting oil products through the north coast. As drafted, the bill does not go nearly far enough to protect the Haida and other communities of the north coast from the devastating impacts of an oil spill. Our proposed amendments will help strengthen the moratorium to provide real protection to Haida Gwaii and the north coast.
My name is Marilyn Slett. I am the chief councillor of the Heiltsuk Tribal Council, which is the elected leadership for the Heiltsuk First Nation.
Heiltsuk would like to thank the committee for this opportunity to talk about the proposed oil tanker moratorium act. Heiltsuk people have lived on the central coast of B.C. and harvested marine resources for thousands of years. Archeological evidence dates our fisheries back 14,000 years. Harvesting is central to our health and well-being, and it lies at the heart of our culture. We depend on the fish and the health of their waters.
A recent spill of 110,000 litres of diesel and lubricant oils into the waters of one of our major harvesting sites has been devastating for the Heiltsuk. That was only the bunker fuel from the tug, and not the cargo of the attached barge, which thankfully was empty at the time.
The consequences of a larger spill, especially in a major harvesting area, are unfathomable, given the harm caused by the recent spill.
Heiltsuk supports the tanker moratorium act and recognizes the importance of protecting the coast from oil spills. However, speaking for indigenous communities that will be most impacted by a large oil spill, the measures can and should be strengthened.
Heiltsuk has two propositions for the proposed act, and a third concern, about the breadth of the ministerial power to exempt tankers under section 6, is set out in our brief.
First, we understand that the bill has to allow for international traffic through Canada's territorial waters. As people who live on the sea, we understand the safety concerns that explain why the sea traffic would prefer the more sheltered waters of the Inside Passage. However, some of these areas in the internal waters are vital ecological areas that would be among the worst possible places in terms of oil spill impacts.
Heiltsuk proposes that the bill create a power of government to create regulations that could restrict where tankers of different sizes may go, or set limits or conditions on their travel. This would allow the government, after proper study and consultation, to decide where traffic should continue for vessels of different sizes and cargo, and where regulation should restrict traffic for safety reasons or to protect sensitive ecological areas.
This regulation would allow for a flexible approach to tanker traffic controls as the oceans protection plan develops, as environmental regulations are put in place or improved, and as spill response technology advances.
Heiltsuk proposes that the power be a broad one, so that the regulations may include financial obligations on tankers and owners that elect to use certain passages.
Heiltsuk proposes wide powers because its experience with the Nathan E. Stewart spill has highlighted gaps in the law, which Heiltsuk hopes these regulations will eventually fill. These gaps include the lack of any duty of a “cruder” to perform or pay for impact assessments that are necessary for anyone to actually measure and understand how the spill has affected a complex ecological system.
The financial risk should be borne by the business that choses to conduct their business in our waters, not by indigenous communities and B.C. taxpayers. The context of any no-go zones and any limits or conditions would be for later study and consultation. Heiltsuk is only proposing at this point that the bill include a wide power for the government to regulate tankers along the north coast.
Second, Heiltsuk proposes that the coastal first nations have access to tanker information required by this bill. It proposes a power of government to create regulations that may address access by first nations or the public to information about tankers that sail in our traditional waters.
Again, the content of such regulations should be for later consultation in a nation-to-nation approach, which the government has affirmed would make information-sharing appropriate, but for now, Heiltsuk proposes that only the bill include such a power. It would be a good step forward around shared marine management.
This bill is an opportunity for Canada to implement its commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to the 10 nation-to-nation principles. In the big picture, this is one step towards reconciliation, but for Heiltsuk, this bill has the potential of being a part of a family of marine legislation that prevents another devastating oil spill in our territory.
Giaxsixa. Thank you.
Good afternoon, committee members. Thank you for inviting me to present to you. I also thank the indigenous nations whose territory we are standing on.
My name is Reg Moody-Humchitt, and I am a member of the Heiltsuk Nation.
You have already heard from Heiltsuk's chief councillor, Marilyn Slett. I am not here to repeat what Chief Slett has already said on behalf of our people but to focus on one particular issue of great importance to the Heiltsuk that is relevant to your inquiry: the Heiltsuk aboriginal right to harvest herring spawn-on-kelp, SOK, for social, food, and commercial purposes, and the potential devastation of our rights in the event of an oil tanker disaster.
As was mentioned by Chief Slett, in 1996 in R. v. Gladstone, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed what the Heiltsuk have always known, that our right to harvest SOK and to utilize it for all purposes, including commercially, is an integral part of our distinctive culture and has been since time beyond memory. The court said our right is second only to conservation and takes priority over all other users.
Gladstone is a landmark decision. It affirms one of the very few commercial aboriginal rights in Canada, and it is constitutionally protected under section 35.
To the Heiltsuk, Gladstone is real. It is not just a court case. I am here as a negotiator for the Gladstone Reconciliation Society. I work with William Gladstone, who is the chief negotiator on behalf of the nation. With our team, we are attempting to achieve final resolution of the matters still outstanding more than 20 years since the Supreme Court of Canada decision.
For William and his late brother Donald, the struggle goes back even further, to 1988 when they were arrested and treated as common criminals for exercising their aboriginal right.
The Heiltsuk Nation has benefited from the Gladstones' persistence. The economic circumstances of Indian reserves in Canada is well documented, and our village of Bella Bella is no different. For many of our people, engaging in the SOK harvest is their only source of income. To be able to earn a living on the water harvesting a traditional resource just as our ancestors did is a source of cultural pride that is immeasurable.
An oil tanker mishap on our waters would render the Gladstones' hard-fought battle and our constitutionally protected aboriginal right meaningless. To be clear, our concern is not just with potential economic loss. The Heiltsuk depend on SOK for spiritual, cultural, physical, as well as economic well-being, and all of this would be irreversibly impacted in the event of an oil spill. No amount of compensation could account for the loss to us as Heiltsuk people. This is a matter of food and cultural security.
Some of you might not be familiar with SOK and how we harvest it, and I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have during the question and answer period.
SOK has always been of critical significance to us because it's the first fresh food of the year and highly nutritious. The Heiltsuk have always collected and preserved vast amounts of SOK, and we engaged in large-scale trade with our neighbours, trading literally tons of SOK for other foods that we didn't have access to, such as eulachons. This trade going back to pre-contact times is well documented and formed the key evidence before the court in Gladstone. Our harvesting today follows ancient Heiltsuk practices.
Our fishery is environmentally sustainable because only a small percentage of the spawn deposited by the herring is harvested, and the fish themselves swim off again. In other words, it is a no-kill fishery.
So here we are today. For many reasons, full implementation of the Gladstone decision remains unfulfilled. We continue to work with Canada to achieve this objective on behalf of our people.
Despite all our efforts, the Heiltsuk might never truly reap the benefits of Gladstone if an oil spill destroys the marine ecosystem that the herring stocks rely on. Oil tanker traffic in our waters brings unacceptable risk to the Heiltsuk, and we call on Canada to take the opportunity to address the risks in real and meaningful ways as was set out by Chief Slett in her submission.
As we have expressed many times over the years to countless representatives of Canada, there is more in our canoe than SOK. The Heiltsuk people will not allow further infringements on our way of life. Time and time again we have been the ones to bear the burden and we paid the ultimate price to our way of life. The ongoing impacts of the sinking of the Nathan E. Stewart is only the most recent example.
As Chief Slett already pointed out, to the world at large that was considered a small spill, yet the effect on our people has been, and continues to be, devastating. What causes me concern is that a vessel the size of the Nathan E. Stewart wouldn't even be captured by the proposed oil tanker moratorium. Oil tanker traffic on B.C.'s coast poses countless risks to our continued existence and well-being as a distinct people and threatens the destruction of the resources that we continue to rely on, the same as our ancestors did. This means not only SOK, but all of the foods from the land and sea. The Heiltsuk are pursuing a fundamental change in the relationship with Canada—
I think one of the witnesses told us, Madam Chair, they were in support of Bill , but I thought I heard there were some concerns you had with it, or some conditions on that support.
Chief Marilyn Slett: I could speak to that, too.
Mr. Peter Lantin: Is that to either of us?
Hon. Michael Chong: Yes, go ahead, Mr. Lantin.
Welcome to our friend here and to Marilyn and Peter, so far away.
Marilyn, I'll be in town next week. I hope you're around. We can have a coffee in beautiful Bella Bella.
Let's pick up on the Simushir, Peter, if you don't mind. It's been about a year now since the government announced its national oceans protection plan. One of the things that was revealed by this Russian ship that went adrift off Haida Gwaii—just over your right shoulder there—was the lack of capacity to do anything about it...that the coast guard sent out. It's been a year since that plan was announced. Part of that plan was to provide more protection for the coast in general. Where are we a year out since the money and the plan were announced? Has protection increased? Has it been enhanced? Is it the same, or is it less?
Thank you, Madam Chair. I have to say that from the past few sessions we've held on Bill , one of the biggest concerns that has been brought to my attention is the impact on economic development for individual areas. I'm going to try to concentrate on those areas.
As evidence was presented to the committee, witnesses from Aboriginal Equity Partners and the Eagle Spirit Energy Chiefs Council expressed great concern about the high rates of poverty in many first nations communities. In their view, the proposed moratorium would deprive their communities of the economic benefit offered by the oil transportation projects, and undermine their efforts to become more prosperous and less dependent on federal government, or any level of government support for that matter.
My question to the folks here today presenting is, one, what are the main barriers to economic development in your community? What are you facing presently? Two, what role, if any, do you consider economic diversification to play in securing the future economic well-being of British Columbia's first nations communities?
Fair enough. You can be for or against Bill and still have some legitimate comments about the consultation regarding when it should take place.
It seems to me that further consultation might have taken place on the schedule itself. You mentioned in your comments that diesel fuel, gasoline, jet fuel, and so on will be allowed. If I know industry, the tankers that will carry diesel fuel, for example, are going to start to get a whole lot bigger.
I understand that you want to have comments and consultation on the regulation of it all, but shouldn't that all be put in the bill itself? When it's presented in an upfront way, a transparent way, you can have your comments beforehand on diesel and the fact that it's going to be unlimited. What are your thoughts on that?
I've been a member of the indigenous caucus here in Ottawa, as well as part of the government. One of the things we've been doing through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is trying to add the word “resurgence”. With that, I want to follow up on a line of questioning I had earlier with respect to developing the economy.
As you may know, last year the minister introduced the national transportation strategy and, with that, the trade corridor strategy, with the five pillars attached to the same. Unfortunately, we were stopped by the opposition in making travel a priority to go out and talk to you folks about the methods of developing your economy. That is still our intent, and we are going to make that attempt in the very near future.
With that said, do you have individually, within your communities, an economic strategy—I'm assuming you do—and where can we be of assistance to you to further those desires to ultimately satisfy the recommendations contained within your strategies?
We are reconvening our meeting.
Welcome to our new witnesses. Thank you very much for joining us this afternoon.
By video conference, we have Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, and Cameron Hill, elected councillor from the Gitga'at First Nation.
We'll start with Mr. Phillip, for five minutes, please.
Good afternoon to members of the committee.
On behalf of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, I'd like to read a brief statement.
Heavy crude oil pipeline and tanker projects pose an unacceptable risk to the health, safety, and livelihoods of indigenous nations throughout British Columbia and contribute to the negative environmental and health impacts experienced by indigenous peoples downstream of the tar sands, and of all people throughout the world, as a result of accelerating global climate change.
The Supreme Court of Canada has held that the crown's legislative power can and should be used to uphold the duties to indigenous peoples, and that both the federal and provincial governments have an obligation to uphold the honour of the crown.
My recommendations are as follows.
One, the UBCIC, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, has stated its strong support for the passage of Bill .
Two, the UBCIC supports the proposed amendments from West Coast Environmental Law concerning clause 6, ministerial exemption. It is the position of the UBCIC that the provision allowing exemption orders should be removed from Bill , or at the very least circumscribed, for example, through engagement with indigenous peoples that satisfies the minimum standards laid out in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, on time limits, public notice requirement, and opportunities for public comment.
Three, the UBCIC recommends that the committee seek further information from Transport Canada regarding the rationale for the 12,500-tonne threshold for the bill's prohibitions and consider whether the threshold ought to be lowered.
Four, the UBCIC recommends that the committee expand the moratorium area to include all sensitive marine habitats, especially where increased tanker traffic will bring increased threats to killer whales, in the form of noise pollution and declining marine environment, impacting the survival and well-being of killer whales and other vital aquatic species, including wild salmon.
As part of our package, we have a number of supportive Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs' resolutions that were passed by our chiefs and assembly: resolution 2017-15: protection of water, salmon, and health from diluted bitumen; resolution 2017-04: protection of orca whales and habitat; resolution 2011-54: support for the save the Fraser declaration, the coastal first nations tanker ban, and the indigenous laws banning crude oil pipeline and tanker shipments through B.C.; resolution 2010-11: opposition to the Enbridge pipeline project.
In conclusion, as an editorial comment, again we strongly support Bill , but would suggest that the same level of protection be afforded to the more densely populated southern coast of British Columbia with respect to the same threats, for example, the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline project and the Burrard Inlet and Fraser River Estuary.
Once passed, the oil tanker moratorium act would be an important step towards Canadian law being consistent with Gitga'at customs, laws, norms, beliefs, and values, adawx
with respect to the responsible use of our territories, our waterways, and our resources, on which our people and our entire nation rely.
Gitga'at territory includes all marine waterways between the ports of Kitimat and Prince Rupert, and outside waters. Gitga'at have always used and continue to use our territory to fulfill our traditional and contemporary culture, economy, and community well-being. Tankers could not travel to and from these ports without passing through our territory, and that would have an immediate effect on us. Tankers travelling to and from Kitimat would pass directly in front our village of Hartley Bay, which is located on the Douglas Channel.
Gitga'at have carefully studied how oil tanker traffic and the risk of oil spills and actual oil spills impact our rights and interests. Those studies were conducted by numerous independent experts practising western science. A bigger factor was our elders, many of whom have since passed away. They have passed their wisdom and the intergenerational teachings of our ancestors to the next generations. We have concluded that tanker traffic, and the risks they introduce, would have a devastating and even irreversible impact on the environmental health of our territory and on the cultural, social, human health, and economic well-being of our people and our nation. As a result, the Gitga'at people have been steadfast and consistent in our opposition to oil tanker traffic in our territory, ever since this realization became known to us.
For us, the moratorium is long overdue. For example, 40 years ago, in 1977, the Gitga'at people blockaded the cruise ship Princess Patricia as it passed through Douglas Channel near our village of Hartley Bay. On board that vessel were industry experts intending to show how safe the transportation of their crude and their oil and their industry would be. All we wanted then and all we want now is to make sure that our voices are heard. Our chief at the time, Wahmoodmx Johnny Clifton brought people ashore and explained to them why this proposal would never work in our territory.
Gitga'at further demonstrated our resolve to protect our territory from oil tankers when Enbridge proposed the northern gateway project. Much time, effort, energy, and money was spent pursuing our objective of making sure our area was going to be looked after, not only for us but for all Canadians.
That process took 10 years, 10 years out of our lives that we should have been able to enjoy learning from our elders, learning from our hereditary system, and passing that knowledge down to our children.
Gitga'at will continue to be unwavering in our protection of our people and our territory from the risk of oil tankers. No one has been able to credibly guarantee us, and I don't think ever will, that an oil spill would be able to be cleaned up within our territory without further impacts.
Although Gitga'at support the federal moratorium on oil tankers in our territory, we have some concerns. Some concern the recent refinery proposals. Our neighbours to the south, the Heiltsuk people, had to endure a spill just last year. Our people continue to endure the effects of the Queen of the North spill upwards of 10 years ago. Also, we've had to endure the effects of the Zalinski, which sank in the lower Grenville Channel at the end of World War II.
That being said, we are encouraged that Canada, through the measures of the oceans protection plan and the tanker moratorium, is taking important steps to work with the Gitga'at and other first nations communities to find solutions that protect our coasts while allowing us to benefit from the sustainable use of our oceans.
I'll stop there.
My response to that is, as Mr. Hill has pointed out, we've been involved in the ongoing struggle to protect our territories from the industrialization, the predations, of the fossil fuel industry for a very long time. These are not new issues.
The Enbridge northern gateway battle was a decade. It attracted 19 lawsuits, similar to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline project, which also is facing 19 lawsuits.
These are deeply emotional, very volatile issues, and we've been very clear in our right, our fundamental right, our fundamental human right, to be able to protect the health, safety, and well-being of our indigenous peoples. That's what we've been doing for a very long time.
We were quite happy with the announcement that Bill was forthcoming, but again I point out that there are millions and millions of people along the southern coast—the Juan de Fuca Strait, Burrard Inlet, the Fraser River Estuary—who would be absolutely devastated by a catastrophic tanker spill or pipeline rupture.
Again, as quickly as I can manage this, the UBCIC was first established in 1969 as a direct consequence of the efforts of the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Mr. Chrétien with respect to the white paper policy. Our role is a political advocacy role. We represent about 118 first nations in the province of British Columbia and we support our members in their ongoing struggles to protect the integrity and the well-being of their territories and their people.
In terms of roles and your previous question, I would suggest that the law and policy review can go a considerable distance to deal with the dismal record of consultation from both previous federal governments and provincial governments, and also from industry. The nation-to-nation offer of a better relationship, of resetting the relationship with the Government of Canada, certainly is another avenue to address these issues in terms of having a more comprehensive method of communicating with respect to major resource development.
Finally, again as a consequence of the dismal record of consultation, the drive-by consultation that has been the norm, communities like Tk’emlups and Skeetchestn did an incredible comprehensive environmental assessment on the Ajax mine that featured public hearings. As well, Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish did very detailed environmental assessments on their own dime to fill the gap with respect to the deficiencies in what various levels of government and industry consider and what really represents a minimalist approach to consultation with respect to our constitutional and legal rights.
Thank you to both witnesses for being here. To the extent that this process constitutes, in a small way, meaningful consultation, I'm very thrilled to take part in it.
Picking up on the answer you just gave, one of the concepts that I'm frankly struggling with greatly is the inherent tension between the constitutional duty to consult and the concept of obtaining consent where multiple indigenous groups are impacted by a given policy or initiative and there's no unanimity.
I'd like both witnesses to comment on this, perhaps on behalf of the union first. I'm curious. With a bill like this, where there is division between different indigenous groups, how can we conduct meaningful consultation when there may not be consent from all groups? Is there a role for the federal government to facilitate conversations between indigenous communities so they can have the opportunity to maybe reach a unified position, or to at least get to a place where there's a common understanding of one another?
I can't help but go back to the northern gateway hearings and really what a detrimental effect those had on our community. It's no secret that many communities like mine just don't have the monetary means in order to go out and have meetings on our own.
Even still, there are so many other factors at play here that affect our ability to get out and talk about such issues. For instance, Maclean's magazine on two different occasions referred to Hartley Bay as one of the hardest places to get to in Canada. Even when we think we have all of our ducks in a row, sometimes it's just impossible to get out of here to have these face-to-face meetings.
At the root of it all, one of the biggest factors is simply the monetary means to make that happen. People in my community are working. People like me who are in an elected position also have to have a job. I am a principal and a teacher within my school here, and it's very difficult for me to just up and leave.
I appreciate the question, and I think that if we're able to ponder that a little bit more, I'm sure there's an avenue out there through which we could try to do something, much like what we're doing today, where we get not only our elected officials but also our hereditary officials together.
I'll probably be splitting my time with Mr. Donnelly who has smarter and better questions than I do.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and Mr. Hill, it's good to see you. I hope your families are well.
Let me start with you, Mr. Hill. In Gitga'at territory there has been some conversation with some of your neighbours about the exemptions that exist within this bill and some concerns that have been raised. There has also been the suggestion that if we could implement this tanker ban in such a way that first nations would play a joint decision-making role, a joint implementation role with the federal government.... Words like reconciliation are thrown around a lot in this town. Do you think this would be a helpful aspect if the committee changed Bill to allow for that, to imagine that, to give first nations a seat at the table in implementing the tanker ban in a meaningful way?
I think that would definitely be a start. When you talk about having meaningful consultation and having our voices heard, I always try to put things into layman's terms, and my way to get across my point is to use examples.
If I could use this as an example, very quickly, there are no weather beacons between Holland Rock and Nanakwa Shoal. We're talking from the very top of Grenville Channel to the very top of Douglas Channel, and all we've asked for a number of years is to be able to have a weather beacon somewhere in between. It has never happened, not to this day, even though we've had people at the table expressing our concerns.
That might seem miniscule to the people I'm talking to right now, but to our nation, who are trying to travel back and forth to urban settings, it's a huge factor when we have a four-hour to eight-hour boat ride and our voices aren't being heard for something as simple as that. If I had a guarantee that the person we were going to put at that table, to make our voices heard, were actually going to be heard, I think it would be a very positive step forward.
It has been horrific, Nathan. Our voices are not being heard.
We still have burps and bubbles coming out of both of the ships that are sunken within our territory. I still have families within my community who have still not gone to harvest in the immediate area, and that is a loss of our language, our culture, and identity of who the Gitga'at people are, because we're not even able to go to our traditional areas to teach our future generations how to harvest properly, how to feed our families. As you can tell, I'm visibly getting upset about it again, because it is truly a recurring theme, again, that our voices are just not being heard.
We were told in no uncertain terms when the Queen went down that, at the very least, we have the technology in this world to suck up all of the diesel fuel and all of the contaminants from that ship, if not to lift the ship and get it out of our territory. To this day, more than 10 years later, we're still going out there and seeing the sheen of the diesel fuel and every other contaminant that was on that ship, still bubbling up to the surface. What does that mean to our people in the next 10 years? What illnesses will we be contracting? It's extremely frustrating, and that's why I'm cautious when I say that I hope our voices will be heard.
I have just another comment on this whole business of consultation. The world has moved on vis-à-vis the Tsilhqot'in decision. We're moving into an era of consent as opposed to mere consultation.
The whole business of joint decision-making is something that has been completely ignored by not only industry but by senior levels of government. It's become more of a reality, more of a practice in order to make better decisions that will protect the interests of all people. I think that once we cross that bridge we'll wonder why it took so long for us to do that.
Certainly the indigenous people themselves, as Mr. Hill has demonstrated, have lived along the coast for hundreds if not thousands of years and know the waters and the waterways intimately. Why wouldn't we be called on to provide that traditional and ecological knowledge to make better resource management decisions? It should have happened decades ago, but obviously it hasn't and we need to catch up with the UN declaration, the Supreme Court decisions, and get on with it.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. Phillip, I'm going to allow you the opportunity to continue, based on some comments and questions I'm going to start off with.
Also, Danielle, we haven't forgotten about you on the phone either, so any time you want to pipe in, by all means, feel free, if you're still there.
As I alluded to earlier on with the witnesses prior to you folks coming on board, there's no question that this government has been very proactive with consultations. We just went through a tax fairness process since late July. On that consultation process, we had the opportunity to really amend a lot of the recommendations that were being looked at and made based on the consultations and discussions we were having, especially with the business community.
That said, just last evening I met and talked about the very issue Mr. Fraser was talking about earlier, which is how to discuss these issues nation-to-nation-to-nation, so that we're all in the loop, so to speak. Also, as I mentioned earlier on, it's not just about truth and reconciliation. It's about truth, reconciliation, and resurgence, and where we are going to be going in the future, nation-to-nation-to-nation.
Going from the discussion Mr. Hardie just left, then, with respect to that consultation in furthering the development of economy, we need to ensure we're in constant dialogue to really take your strategy and the objectives that your strategy identifies and attach action plans to them. Of course, we also need the ability to execute those action plans moving well into the future.
With that, Mr. Phillip, I want you to continue—and I'm going to ask the others to jump in as well—to give us more input, based on the consultation we're having today, on how we can actually do that. We all know what we can do and what we want to do, but we all want to now attach the “how” to that, and that's what I need from you folks. Beyond that—again, if the opposition will allow us, unlike last year—we can also possibly in the future make a trip and meet eye-to-eye and face-to-face to further those consultations. I'll throw that out on the floor to you to give us that input.
Well, again, just for the sake of the committee, I've been blessed with 15 grandchildren.
Mr. Vance Badawey: God bless you.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip: Quite often when we're going somewhere, the grandchildren are in the back seat asking if we're there yet. I tell them, no, we're not there yet. That's very much a metaphor for where we are in this country and in this province.
We have an opportunity, I would suggest, with the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia, with the incoming Horgan government, to make progress on these issues. Again, we have a short window to get down to the work. I would go back to the law and policy review, to the UN declaration, to the commitments from the on the nation-to-nation relationship. Our organizations, our indigenous communities, are responding and working very diligently for better ways and means of collaborating to come up with a better process.
Last year in British Columbia, as you well know, was the worst wildfire season on record. But when you're in the middle of a crisis like that, it brings people together. We know and understand that we have a very serious duty and obligation to get down to work and resolve these issues in order to better caretake the land and the safety and well-being of all people here within British Columbia and across this country. But we have to get off the proverbial pot, so to speak, engage on the issues, and bring about the change that everybody is so reluctant to do for fear of some critique.
I would go back to the solidarity between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. There's a reason for that: things didn't work in the very brittle, rigid, structured way of the past. I think we're moving in the right direction. We just have to know and understand that there's great urgency attached to this.
I'd just like to reiterate what Grand Chief Phillip stated. I think we are moving in the right direction. Take this very moment, this very day: I'm able to connect with a parliamentary committee through the Internet, which I've never done before. I've never been a part of that. To me, that is a step in the right direction.
Perhaps I could talk a little bit to what British Columbia has tried to do. I believe it's been a couple of years now, if not more, since a couple of days entirely would be taken out of a parliamentary session in which the cabinet ministers would sit down with first nations leaders from all across B.C. and have good, meaningful dialogue about all issues. I think if we're committed to making that happen....
Believe you me, I can tell when somebody is just there giving me lip service. If I'm not feeling trustworthy about the people I'm in the room with, I make sure I voice that opinion. On the other hand, when we really feel like we're being listened to and our concerns are being brought to the forefront, we'll be that much more honest and we'll bring forward how we think this will work in terms of working together to achieve whatever goal it is.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to our witnesses for their testimony. It's been very interesting in the last couple of meetings to hear from aboriginal groups about their concerns and support, or non-support, for this particular legislation.
I want to clarify, Madam Chair, that I do not consider these to be consultations, in the sense of consultations and accommodation required under section 35 of the Constitution and under decisions of the Supreme Court and other courts of this land. This is a legislative committee made up of members of Parliament who are not part of the government. We are not part of the executive branch of government, and we certainly do not represent the crown here. The duty to consult and accommodate with aboriginal peoples rests with the crown, in particular the Governor in Council, the cabinet, the Prime Minister, and the Government of Canada. Since we do not represent the Government of Canada or the crown, I don't see these as consultations as required under Canadian law.
I wanted to clarify that, to make sure that the government understands that they can't hijack this process because they have avoided their responsibility to consult and accommodate with aboriginal peoples as part of Bill . I make that point before I ask the witnesses further questions.
It was interesting to hear the testimony in the last two meetings. We had first nations witnesses who came before us at the last meeting indicating that they were against Bill , and our witnesses today are clearly in favour of it.
I want to take a step back from your particular positions on Bill , and talk instead about the process that led to Bill C-48. I think that's where I and others have concerns. That concern centres around the duty on the part of the government, the crown, the cabinet, and the Government of Canada, to consult and accommodate with first nations bands up and down the B.C. coast, as well as those first nations bands that would be affected along the interior corridors where oil pipelines might be built.
I want to know what consultations, specific meetings, the government held before it introduced Bill on May 12, with each of your groups that were specific to federal legislation introducing this tanker ban?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I just want to state that, although the opposition may have left those who presented today with the impression that your discussion or comments didn't mean anything, this is, in fact, a part of what we're trying to do as this government with consultation, and it did, in fact, mean something.
I do look forward to continuing this relationship so we can bring resurgence to the entire truth and reconciliation file, working with you as partners versus trying to dictate to you as the previous government did.
Thank you, Madam Chair.