That the House stand in solidarity with every elected band council on the Coastal GasLink route, the majority of hereditary chiefs, and the vast majority of the Wet’suwet’en people, who support the Coastal GasLink project, and condemn the radical activists who are exploiting divisions within the Wet’suwet’en community, holding the Canadian economy hostage, and threatening jobs and opportunities in Indigenous communities.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
Today is about the voices of the Wet'suwet'en. Over the last 14 days, we have heard that a lot of people are standing in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en. Today we are bringing the real voices of the Wet'suwet'en to the floor of Parliament to ensure that the other side of the story is being told.
I could stand here and talk about the 900,000 tonnes of product that is shipped every day on our railways or the 88.1 million passengers who are moved annually on our railways. I could talk about the fact that Canada is a trading nation and our economic prosperity is predicated on our ability to produce good products and get them to market.
I could mention that over the last 14 days we have seen a lack of leadership. We have seen zero leadership from the . I could talk about how this has damaged our economic standing in the global market.
However, today I am going to focus on the voices of the Wet'suwet'en, the voices of the 20 first nations, the elected bands and the hereditary chiefs. Over 85% of the Wet'suwet'en voted in favour of the Coastal GasLink project, voted in favour of economic prosperity.
I live in northern British Columbia adjacent to the territories that the Coastal GasLink project is going through. I have many friends who are Wet'suwet'en. I have many friends who are Tsilhqot'in. My family is from the Tsilhqot'in First Nation. We are in northern British Columbia, where our economic opportunities are few and far between. Our forestry industry is in dire straits. We have seen job losses in the tens of thousands and 25 mill closures in the last year. When we see groups sign on to hope and economic prosperity, we want to make sure their voices are heard.
The Wet'suwet'en, whose voices have not been heard so far, are being vandalized and harassed. As a matter of fact, three of the hereditary chiefs were kicked out because they supported the Coastal GasLink project.
Today is about the 875 million dollars' worth of contracts that have been let on this project so far. Many of them are joint ventures between first nations and non-first nations. Today is about the 400 indigenous and first nations people who are employed by the Coastal GasLink project. That is over one-third of the employees. Today is about the over $1 billion of economic opportunity and partnerships the first nations have signed on for with the Coastal GasLink project.
I know that my colleagues across the way will say that we do not stand with hereditary chiefs and that we are failing to recognize the hereditary chiefs who voted against this. I will remind the House that all 20 elected bands signed up for the Coastal GasLink project. Eight of the 13 hereditary chiefs signed up for the Coastal GasLink project. There were five hereditary chiefs and their families who said no to the project.
This is a Wet'suwet'en issue. It has been said before by members on all sides of the House and by the media that this is a Wet'suwet'en issue. I agree with that. The Wet'suwet'en have to sort their house out; they have to figure this out.
What is the result of inaction? The result of no action is exactly what we are seeing today. The jetted all over the world for 14 days, 13 days or nine days, however long it was, and hid overseas. He is refusing to acknowledge that we are in a crisis.
If the blockades were removed today and our goods and services all of a sudden opened up, it would take not days, not weeks, but months upon months for us to recover. We are already seeing job losses with CN and VIA Rail. Yesterday VIA Rail announced 1,000 job losses, layoffs. In making that announcement, the CEO said that in its 42 years of existence she had never seen a service disruption of this magnitude.
Those lost jobs are not just non-first nation jobs. They are first nation jobs too. These workers are employed as truck drivers. They are the folks laying pipe. They are working to do whatever they can to make a better living for their families and put a roof over their heads.
In the three minutes I have left, I want to bring forward the voices of the Wet'suwet'en.
Robert Skin, who was elected to the council of the Skin Tyee First Nation, said, “With the benefit agreement that [the Skin Tyee] did sign, I see us being in a better place even within the next five years.”
He also said:
These protesters are getting one side of the story. They want to stand up with their fists in the air, but I say come and listen to us and get the other side of the story before you go out there and stop traffic and stop the railroad. All you are doing is alienating our people who are trying to put a roof over their heads and food on the table.
This is a voice I want to bring to the floor today.
I have a constituent who works at CN as a locomotive engineer. He was the first to go west from Smithers out to Prince George on a 12,000-foot coal train last Friday when the blockade came down. He asked me a question: If all these other groups are supporting the Wet'suwet'en and the Wet'suwet'en have agreed to remove the blockade to facilitate the dialogue, why did the federal government not do the same thing as the B.C. government and agree to have dialogue but only if the illegal blockades were removed first?
Chief Larry Nooski, of the Nadleh Whut'en, said:
Coastal GasLink represents a once in a generation economic development opportunity for Nadleh Whut'en First Nation. We negotiated hard...to guarantee that Nadleh people, including youth, have the opportunity to benefit directly and indirectly from the project, while at the same time, ensuring that the land and the water is protected.
First nations chiefs and leaders are on record saying that during the six years of consultation, they would go to Coastal GasLink if they had questions. They walked the lands and decided together what this project meant. Their concerns were met with answers and the company listened. These are the stories that are not being told, which is what today is all about.
Hereditary Chief Helen Michelle of Skin Tyee First Nation of the Wet'suwet'en has stated, “A lot of the protesters are not even Wet'suwet'en.... Our own people said go ahead” to Coastal GasLink. She also said, “We talked with the elders.... We talked and talked, and we kept bringing them back.... We walked the very territory where CGL is going.... We are going to give it the go-ahead.”
Hereditary Chief Theresa Tait-Day of the Wet'suwet'en nation said, “In the case of Coastal GasLink, 85% of our people said yes, we want this project.”
Marion Tiljoe Shepherd, the descendant of a hereditary chief, said, “All of these protesters don't have the right to close down railways and ships. It's not right. Go away. I want them to leave.”
Shepherd also stated:
People are starting to speak the truth about what they feel. People want to work. The chiefs are supposed to talk to the clans and the clans are supposed to make the decisions. It's not going that way.
Those are the voices of the Wet'suwet'en and they are the reason we are here today.
Madam Speaker, this might surprise some of my colleagues, but this is my first speech in this Parliament. Therefore, I want to take a moment to thank my family, volunteers, staff and the people of Chilliwack—Hope for returning me here to the House of Commons for the third time. I thank them for that honour.
We are here for an important debate today. We have a motion calling on the House to stand in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en people, the majority of whom have indicated their support for the Coastal GasLink project.
I want to start with a quote from the . When he was in opposition, he went around the country and stated, “Governments might grant permits, but only communities can grant permission.” Of course, he has not lived up to that. One can ask many communities along the way. In this case, the Government of British Columbia has granted the permits. After an independent, robust scientific review, it has agreed that this project can go forward. The government of John Horgan and the NDP in British Columbia have supported this project. The community that will be affected has also granted its permission. The 20 elected band councils, which is every band council along the route, have voted and indicated that, after many years of consultations with the company and the Crown, they are on board with this project because of the economic opportunity it presents, the respect that has been shown to them by the company and the process that has been undertaken over a number of years. The 20 elected band councils support the project. That is not in dispute.
My colleague from Cariboo—Prince George quoted a hereditary chief who said that 85% of the people in the Wet'suwet'en territory support the project. The majority of the hereditary chiefs support the project. The hereditary chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en Nation obviously have some matters they need to resolve in their own house. There has been conflict among the families. That is never something we want to see, but it is the reality. We are in a situation now where the hereditary chiefs disagree on how we should move forward. I believe the reporting on this is inaccurate. There are constant references to protests in support of the hereditary chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en people, but not all of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs. The majority of them are in support of this project. There are three hereditary chiefs who are women and other hereditary chiefs have tried to strip them of their title for supporting the project. Obviously, there is an internal debate and dialogue that needs to continue with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and their families. However, to suggest that somehow all the hereditary chiefs are opposed to this and are in conflict with the elected band councils is simply incorrect.
The motion also calls on the House to condemn the radical activists who have tried to exploit those divisions and tried to use the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs to advance their own goals. Sometimes people do not like that kind of verbiage. They do not like terms like “radical activists”. However, when a group of people go to the home of the democratically elected premier of the Province of British Columbia, blockade his house and threaten to take him hostage, I would say they are radical activists. When there are people who look a court injunction in the face and say they do not care about the court and ignore its decision, where does that stop? That is the real concern here. To me, that is the difference. In Canada, we all agree that when we have disputes on matters of law, the arbiter is the court. There are times when I do not agree with the decisions of the court. Sometimes I do not agree with the decisions of the highest court in this land.
I live in Canada. I am a citizen of this country. As a society, we all have that unspoken agreement that we will abide by the decisions of the courts. We cannot have a situation now where we pick and choose which court decisions we will follow and which ones we will ignore, and nor can the government. That is what has happened here over the last two weeks.
We have had numerous court injunctions granted against protesters who are blockading rail, who are causing harm to our economy, who are quite frankly threatening the health and safety of Canadians. It is-22°C with the wind chill here today. It is not too warm across the country except in my home province of British Columbia. There is a shortage of propane. There is a shortage of home heating oil. There is a shortage of chlorine and chemicals that we use to keep our water systems clean. These are all at risk, and yet the government is ignoring it.
I noticed how the tone changed quite a lot yesterday after he saw the public opinion poll and heard from his own caucus members. He finally admitted that the blockades were illegal, because the courts have declared them illegal. The law is being broken with the illegal activities that are taking place, such as trespassing on the rail lines, etc. Now we have contempt of court injunctions.
When a government refuses to state in the House of Commons, or anywhere, that it believes the court is right, that it believes that court decisions should be followed, that it believes that court injunctions should be upheld and enforced, we see why more and more protesters choose more and more sites.
The , through his inaction and his weak leadership, is emboldening these protesters to do things, like show up at the home of the B.C. premier and threaten to take him under citizen's arrest, like blockade propane, home heating oil and chlorine for our water cleaning systems. All of this is apparently not worthy of condemnation by the Prime Minister.
The has created this situation. He has repeatedly said there is no relationship more important than our relationship with indigenous Canadians, and then for four plus years he has failed to get the job done. In fact, he sent quite different signals to indigenous Canadians, particularly indigenous British Columbians.
People in my area remember well Canada's first indigenous justice minister being turfed out of cabinet and the Liberal Party for daring to stand up to the , and his callous remarks during a Liberal fundraiser where donors paid $1,600. When a group of protesters arrived from Grassy Narrows, he said to a young indigenous woman “thank you for your donation”. That is the relationship that he has fostered with indigenous people in this country. He is reaping what he has sowed.
We have a who spent the first 10 days of this crisis out of the country, spending taxpayers' money, going around Africa and meeting with people who do not share the values that he trumpets here at home, trying to get their votes for a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council. He promoted the oil and gas industries in Africa while at the same time he talked about phasing out ours. Then he bowed and scraped to the Iranian foreign minister, bowing a couple of times, smiling and shaking hands with someone whose regime is responsible for shooting 57 Canadians out of the sky.
The cancelled his trip to Barbados, so I guess we should give him kudos for that. He finally realized the crisis we have here, but he has not done anything about it. He will not even call these blockades illegal. He will not even stand up for the court injunctions.
We have to decide here today whether we are going to stand with the forces that ignore court injunctions or whether we are going to stand up for the rule of law and demand that the stand up and say that the court injunctions should be enforced and the rule of law should be enforced and upheld.
Madam Speaker, the young indigenous people whom I met with in the office of the were not radical activists. They were sensitive, young indigenous people expressing the importance of the land, water and air.
One young woman, who had slept in the ' office for over 10 days, tearfully expressed to me how upsetting it was to see the images and hear from the people being arrested for what they believed in, friendships that began a year ago and then having to witness their new friend being arrested earlier this month.
I believe we have learned from the crises at Oka and Ipperwash, in Caledonia and Gustafsen Lake. I believe the police also understand its role in that. Last year, we said that we never wanted to see again the images of police having to use force in an indigenous community in order to keep the peace.
Canada is counting on us to work together to create the space for respectful dialogue with the Wet'suwet'en peoples. We all want this dispute resolved in a peaceful and durable manner.
The rhetoric and divisive tactics from the other side are irresponsible. We want the Wet'suwet'en peoples to come together and resolve their differences of opinion. We want to work with both the elected chiefs in council and the hereditary chiefs toward a future outside the Indian Act, where, as a nation, they can choose the governance of their choosing, write their own laws and finally be able to have their rights affirmed, as they take decisions with respect to their land, water and air in the best interests of their children and seven generations out.
We are inspired by the courageous Wet'suwet'en people who took the recognition of their rise to the Supreme Court of Canada in the Delgamuukw case in 1997. However, we need to be clear that the court did not at that time grant title to their lands. It affirmed the rights of the Wet'suwet'en, but said the question of title was to be determined at a later time.
It has been more than 20 years, through many federal and provincial governments, and the Wet'suwet'en people are understandably impatient for the question of title to be resolved. I look forward to working together on an out-of-court process to determine title.
The Wet'suwet'en have worked hard on those next steps within the B.C. treaty process and more recently, since 2018, on specific claims, negotiation preparedness, nation rebuilding, with funding from the government for research.
Two years ago I signed an agreement with the hereditary chiefs of the Office of the Wet'suwet'en on asserting their rights on child and family services. At the signing, there was some overlap. Some of the hereditary chiefs also hold or have held office within their communities as chiefs and/or councillors.
Across Canada, over half of the Indian Act bands are sitting down at tables to work on their priorities as they assert their jurisdiction. From education to fisheries to child and family services to policing to court systems, we have made important strides forward in the hard work of what Lee Crowchild describes as “deconstructing the effects of colonization.”
In British Columbia, we have been inspired by the work of the B.C. summit as they have been able to articulate and sign, with us and the B.C. government, a new policy that will, once and for all, eliminate the concepts of extinguishment, cede and surrender for future treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.
This new B.C. policy is transformative. It represents years of hard work that has eliminated so many of the obstacles that impeded the treaty process. It will be an essential tool as we are able to accelerate the progress to self-determination. I believe the B.C. policy can provide a template for nations from coast to coast to coast.
We have together agreed that no longer will loans be necessary for first nations to fund their negotiations in Canada. We are forgiving outstanding past loans and, in some cases, paying back nations for loans that had already been repaid.
For over two years, we have worked with the already self-governing nations on a collaborative fiscal agreement that will provide stable, predictable funding, which will finally properly fund the running of their governments.
This new funding arrangement will provide them with much more money than they would have received under the Indian Act.
The conditions are right to move the relationship with first nations, Inuit and Métis in Canada to one based on the affirmation of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. It has been exciting to watch the creativity and innovation presented by the Ktunaxa and Stó:lo nations in their negotiations of modern treaties.
We were inspired to see the hereditary chiefs and elected chief and council of the Heiltsuk Nation work together to sign agreement with Canada on their path to self-government.
We are also grateful to the B.C. government for its important work on reconciliation, including the passage of Bill 41, implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
I would like to thank Murray Rankin for his important work for B.C. on lands and title with the Wet'suwet'en nation and Nathan Cullen for his work with all those involved in the current impasse.
We have see that real progress can be made when hereditary and elected leadership come together with a shared vision of nation rebuilding and work together on a clear route to self-determination.
I look forward to having these conversations with the Wet'suwet'en nation.
We have an obligation to move beyond the good work we are doing on child and family services to a meaningful discussion on reconstituting the Wet'suwet'en nation.
It is time to build on the Delgamuukw decision, time to show that issues of rights and title can be solved through meaningful dialogue
My job is to ensure that Canada finds out-of-court solutions and to fast-track negotiations and agreements that make real change possible.
I hope that shortly we will be able to sit down with the hereditary chiefs of Wet'suwet'en and work together on their short and long-term goals.
There are many parts of Canada where title is very difficult to determine. Many nations occupied the land for different generations. There are other areas like Tsilhqot'in's title land and Haida Gwai where there is clear evidence that the land has been occupied by one nation for millennia.
We are at a critical time in Canada. We need to deal effectively with the uncertainty. Canadians want to see indigenous rights honoured. They are impatient for meaningful progress. Canadians are counting on us to implement a set of rules and processes in which section 35 of our Constitution can be honourably implemented.
Passing legislation and implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, or UNDRIP, is one way to move forward.
Canadians acknowledge that there has been a difference of opinion among the Wet'suwet'en peoples. As was said, 20 elected chiefs and councils have agreed to the project in consultation with their people. Women leaders have expressed an opinion that the project can help eliminate poverty or provide meaningful work for their young men and reduce domestic violence and incarceration
Crystal Smith, chief councillor for Haisla nation, is in favour of the pipeline. She eloquently said this morning on Ottawa Morning that the solutions would be found within the Wet'suwet'en nation and that the outside voices were not helpful.
There needs to be unity and consensus within the community, and today's debate is not helping.
Some have expressed that in an indigenous world view providing an energy source that will reduce China's reliance on coal is good for mother earth We are hoping the Wet'suwet'en people will be able to come together to take these decisions together, decisions that are in the best interests of their children and their children for generations to come.
We applaud the thousands of young Canadians fighting for climate justice.
We know that they need hope. They want to see a real plan to deal with the climate emergency. We believe we have an effective plan in place, from clean tech, renewable energy, public transit and protection of the land and water.
We want the young people of Canada and all those who have been warning about climate change for decades to feel heard.
They need hope, and they need to feel involved in coming up with real solutions.
As I mentioned Tuesday night, we have invested in and are inspired by the work of Val Napoleon and John Burrows at the Indigenous Law Lodge at UVIC. They will be able to do the research on the laws of many nations, so they are able to create a governance structures and constitutions in keeping with their laws.
It is so important to understand the damage done by colonization and residential schools that has led to sometimes different interpretations of traditional legal practices and customs.
We think that, one day, Canada will be able to integrate indigenous law into Canada's legislative process, just as it did with common law and civil law.
We are also striving to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action and to increase awareness of our shared history.
We need all the indigenous leadership to know that we are serious about rebuilding trust and working with respect, as the and the have expressed in such a heartfelt way.
Following up on the repeated and public personal commitments by the and the B.C. premier and our letters of February 16 and yesterday, I and the B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation continue to offer our commitment to a process based upon trust and mutual respect to address the urgent issues of concern to the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en nation.
We wrote to them on February 16, offering an urgent meeting with us, and we were willing to meet in Smithers if that was agreeable to them. In an effort to exemplify our commitment and recognizing the urgency of the situation, both of us travelled to Victoria on Monday to allow for short-notice travel to Smithers if that was their reply.
While we have not yet been able to meet in person, we have continued the dialogue through multiple conversations with some of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in order to clarify a path forward. That was an important step, and we thank them for coming to the discussion with the same commitment for a peaceful resolution. We understand that they have urgent issues to resolve and require dedicated attention from both levels of government in working with them to chart a peaceful path forward.
We are committed to finding a mutually acceptable process with them and the Wet’suwet’en nation to sit down and address the urgent and long-term issues at hand. We wrote again yesterday to arrange an in-person meeting. We hope that the Wet’suwet’en will be able to express to those in solidarity with them that it is now time for them to stand down and let us get back to work with Wet’suwet’en nation with its own laws and governance and work nation to nation with the Crown. I am hoping to be able to return to British Columbia as soon as possible to continue that work.
In closing, I have to say that as a physician, I was trained to first do no harm. I believe today's debate is harmful to the progress we need to make in order to get to a durable solution.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my 20 minutes with my very honourable and esteemed colleague and friend, the hon. member for .
I want to take this opportunity to try to sum up the situation because it is not really clear. The news reports are all over the place and contradictory. Nevertheless, it is important for everyone to be on the same page to find solutions.
I would also mention that the idea of leadership has been getting a lot of attention lately. Leadership is mostly a question of attitude. Again, I saw a few ministers attend the meeting with the . One minister said that the government wanted to have a dialogue, because it did not want to not have a dialogue. I was deeply moved by that profound statement. Another minister said that the government was going to move quickly and I saw the Prime Minister come in basically saying that he was coming in.
I want to remind members that there have been other major crises in the past that have affected Quebeckers and Canadians. I will speak about three of them. In 1998 we had an ice storm. Quebec's premier, Lucien Bouchard, delivered an update about the situation every day in the late afternoon. I can still picture it. It was an act of leadership intended to maintain public confidence in light of the magnitude of the problems.
Then there was the terrible Lac-Mégantic disaster, when the then Quebec premier, Ms. Marois, did essentially the same thing. I was the environment minister at the time and that is what we did. We provided people with the most up-to-date information on what was happening. My esteemed colleague was also involved on the public safety side.
Just last year flooding affected many Quebeckers. The Quebec government and the premier provided a detailed daily update about what was happening. This morning, the Prime Minister blew in, took off his toque and then disappeared. I believe that we are all in need of clearer and stronger leadership.
Another aspect of the motion is problematic. The motion claims that the majority of the Wet’suwet’en people, and in some cases all or at least most people in the nation, support the gas pipeline. I do not know where that number is coming from. I do not know where that claim is coming from. I do not know how that was calculated. That nation controls its own institutions. What is more, some sources say that there are five hereditary chiefs, others say there are nine and still others say there are 13. It is a bit vague, but that is their prerogative. Would the Conservatives say that the Prime Minister of Canada cannot govern because he got fewer votes than they did? No. They may not like it, but they recognize that Canada has its institutions, as we should recognize that the Wet’suwet’en nation has its own institutions. Who are we to interpret that to make it fit our political agenda?
Our job must be to first recognize this nation and its institutions. We need to ask the nation to choose one or more representatives who are prepared to meet with us, and we must do the same in order to open a discussion. That is how we must manage this supposedly nation-to-nation relationship, without ever losing sight of the fundamental objective, which is the immediate lifting of all blockades throughout the country. That is what we must do.
We can accomplish that through a series of actions that will show Quebec and Canadian businesses and workers that the government is doing something.
The Premier of Quebec said this morning that he was looking into alternatives to rail and transport trucks. Something is getting done in Quebec. Quebec says its options are limited and that its only recourse for putting an end to the crisis would be to request police intervention, although that would not be its first choice. I think that sounds reasonable and proactive, unlike what I am seeing here in Ottawa, at least in some cases. I am starting to see some movement.
I also want to point out that an indigenous blockade on indigenous territory is one thing. A blockade organized by indigenous people on non-indigenous territory is something else. A blockade set up for fun by college students on Montreal's south shore is a third thing. The third thing is unacceptable. The third thing is obstructing rail traffic on Montreal's south shore.
I have something to say to my constituents. There are two train stations, one in McMasterville and one in Mont-Saint-Hilaire, where traffic has been blocked because people who are not indigenous thought it would be fun to get in on the action. I thought of the people who blocked the Jacques Cartier Bridge not so long ago. I felt the situation was serious and needed to be resolved in a serious way, with the right people at the table, to avoid another college strike.
One possible solution would be daily reports. Everyone seems a little confused about the RCMP. Does the RCMP take orders from the government or not? When it suits the government, the government says that the RCMP is independent and it cannot be told what to do or not to do. The RCMP said that it would move its command centre. The government cannot not boast about that move because the RCMP is independent. It was faster and smarter than the government. If this helps meet the demands of the Wet'suwet'en, that is a positive first step. I remind members that not too long ago the RCMP had snipers pointed at Wet'suwet'en protesters. That is certainly not how to defuse tension. This is positive.
There have been other demands, but I think that we need to take initiative and do something so that we are not simply responding to demands. It could be never-ending. The second step would be to create a forum for important, fundamental, serious, sustainable and credible discussions to convince them that something will happen if they sit down at the table. This second gesture would be significant.
The third step is a sensitive subject in a Parliament that, with few exceptions, is decidedly pro-oil. I suggest suspending work on the project temporarily as a way of extending an olive branch, because I personally believe that work on infrastructure designed to increase the amount of fossil fuel we transport and consume is bad in general. My suggestion to temporarily suspend construction is a compromise, one that the Wet'suwet'en nation itself may not be making. Let's temporarily suspend the work.
That is not within federal jurisdiction, but I would imagine the of Canada, who thinks he is the boss of the provinces, could pick up the phone, call the Premier of British Columbia, and tell him to ask the company to put the work on hold for a bit.
Taken together, these three steps—creating a forum for discussion, withdrawing the RCMP and temporarily suspending work on the project—will probably, but not definitely, be enough to remove the blockades and get the right people to the table. Once that happens, we can resume relatively normal economic activity throughout Canada and Quebec and engage in serious discussions. Without serious discussions, the same thing will just keep happening again and again.
I think solutions are within reach. They have to be implemented in good faith with clear leadership that can build consensus in Parliament. We need to show first nations that we are serious, committed and credible, and that although we will not give in, we are acting in good faith. The government needs to keep its election promises and prove those things are true.
Madam Speaker, there is a proverb that says, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. I am starting from the assumption that our Conservative friends had good intentions in moving today's motion. Nevertheless, we need to realize that the last thing we need today is a tone that leads to confrontation. I think what we need instead is a tone that leads to collaboration, discussion and negotiation.
We absolutely cannot subscribe to the Manichaean view on display in the Conservatives' motion, implying that there are good guys on one side and bad guys on the other. Who are we to determine or judge that sort of thing? I think we do not have all the information to make that kind of call.
I sense some sordid partisan motives behind today's motion, and I do not like it. We really do not need that kind of motive in a situation like this one. On the contrary, we need to work in a spirit of collaboration, as I was saying earlier. That is the only way to arrive at a peaceful solution to the conflict that is happening right now.
On the other hand, we cannot condone the current lack of leadership on the part of the and his government. The government is needlessly letting the situation drag on and, as the saying goes, “the longer we wait, the worse things will get”.
On Tuesday, we were treated to the Prime Minister's mollifying words when he delivered a statement filled with platitudes. There again, I would say that the perfect is the enemy of the good. This speech was filled with platitudes and we saw how effective it was. In fact, it was so persuasive that instead of convincing the protesters to end the blockades it resulted in new ones being erected yesterday, whether it was out west or, as pointed out by the leader of the Bloc, on the line linking Mont-Saint-Hilaire to Montreal. Stations in his riding and mine were closed.
In Saint-Basile-le-Grand and Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, users of public transit were surprised to find out that they were also being taken hostage by this conflict even though on Tuesday the Prime Minister had called for it to end. Suddenly, they could no longer use public transit. What is happening is of great concern.
I have to say that the 's many tearful displays of contrition over the past few years, while entirely justified, do not bring us any closer to reconciliation. To achieve true reconciliation, the government needs to make good on the lip service it has been paying for many years now.
In 1982, in the aftermath of the iniquitous repatriation of the Constitution at Quebec's expense, the current Prime Minister's father entered into constitutional negotiations with first nations. Those constitutional negotiations were never concluded, and now here we are today. What we are experiencing today is the result not only of the government dragging its feet since the 1980s, but also the totally unacceptable treatment our first nations have endured for centuries.
It is time to stop paying lip service and actually walk the talk. In that regard, it is important to note, as the leader of the Bloc Québécois pointed out a few minutes ago, that our party is the only one that has put forward any concrete proposals for dealing with the crisis.
These are solutions that go beyond lip service and do not require forceful interventions that could potentially make the situation much worse. I urge the government to stop seeing the members opposite as a monolithic group who are all of the same mind, since that is not the case, and to be receptive to the proposals that have been made so far. I think there are still some people on the Liberal government side who have not yet realized that they are a minority government and that we have to work together and take the best ideas from all sides. The Bloc Québécois has proposed some concrete ideas. The Bloc leader referred to those a few minutes ago. I urge the government to take action.
It is important to recognize that the government's procrastination is forcing the provinces and Quebec to act in the federal government's place, and they will end up getting the blame for the actions they take. We have even heard ministers, including the , suggest as much. This shows a lack of leadership and a lack of courage from the Liberal government.
The Quebec National Assembly adopted a motion on February 18. I want to read it out.
THAT the National Assembly reaffirm its adherence to the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
THAT, accordingly, it invite the governments of Québec [and] Canada to maintain egalitarian nation-to-nation relations with the indigenous peoples of Québec and Canada....
The next part is important to our Conservative friends.
THAT it acknowledge that the current conflict, which stems from the Coastal GasLink pipeline project, is having an undesirable impact on railway network users and on the economy [of Quebec];
THAT the National Assembly call for a negotiated, peaceful political solution to the current crisis, in order to prevent violence.
The consequences are so dire for the Quebec economy, the Canadian economy and mass transit users that Quebec's premier was forced to seek an injunction and consider the possibility of intervening. What is the federal government waiting for?
The federal government claims to want to avoid the kinds of crises we have seen in the past, but its procrastination is leading us straight into a potential crisis. What is it waiting for?
I would appeal to that desire for social peace and urge the protesters at the blockades to consider that their protests and actions have gotten society to pay attention to their demands and hopes for next steps. I hope that this will lead us to sit down and finally negotiate with first nations.
That said, the protesters must realize that if they continue, the us-versus-them mentality will persist. That mentality certainly does nothing to foster understanding, negotiation and co-operation.
If everyone is serious about negotiating a solution, then actions need to be taken by all sides.
That is what we expect from a government, even a minority one.
Madam Speaker, as always, I am extremely honoured to stand in this House, the people's House, to represent the people of Timmins—James Bay on unceded Algonquin territory. Let us just reflect on that a moment. This is not just some nice thing we Canadians now say, when we do the land recognition. It is a statement of understanding that there are outstanding historical rights and land issues running across our country, and we need to acknowledge that. That is one of the reasons we are here today.
We are at an unprecedented moment in Canada's history, a moment when we can all come together and rise up to meet the challenge, or we can give in to our lazier base motives of political machismo and spite. I believe we are now dealing with a crisis that has moved from Wet'suwet'en territory out across Canada, and it requires leadership. It requires us, as parliamentarians, to recognize it and be honest with each other. This is bigger than all of us, but if we do not rise to the task, the risks to our nation right now are very serious.
We can come together and try to untangle this extremely complex Gordian knot, or we can play to the usual base in this House of division. I find this opposition motion from the Conservatives to be very telling of their political tactics. This motion has us standing in this House today to “condemn the radical activists who are exploiting divisions within the Wet’suwet’en community”.
It is our job to recognize that there needs to be a conversation not only with the Wet'suwet'en people, but also with indigenous people across this country. It is not for us to say that if they support a gas line we will support them and to have Parliament come down in the middle of a very tense motion.
I point to the other motion the Conservatives brought forward. They were willing to use this national crisis to try to bring down the government and save the 's political career, who has been rejected by his own party. That is not leadership. That is more of the same kind of joker chaos politics that we do not need at this time.
This past weekend, I joined thousands of young people in the streets of Ottawa. People were also marching in Montreal, Halifax and Vancouver. It was extremely inspiring to see these young people, young indigenous leadership, stepping forward at the front of the march. I spoke to many of them and asked where they were from. They were from places such as Kanesatake, Kitigan Zibi, Fort Albany and Barriere Lake.
I think of the who told these young indigenous people to check their privilege. I know he was not serious. I know he was just doing it as a dig, a slur, a spite, but that is not leadership. The message it is sending to this young generation is that this Parliament is in opposition to their hopes and dreams, and that is not Canada.
I think of the young woman I met from Fort Albany, and the Conservatives would tell her to check her privilege. Her grandparents were at Federal Court this week for the St. Anne's residential school crisis, where some of the worst crimes in history committed against children happened. Her grandparents in Fort Albany are still fighting, and Conservatives would tell this young woman to check her privilege.
I think of Kanesatake and the Mohawk people who have been there since long before us and who will be there long after us, and the is telling the woman I met to check her privilege. Of course he has a $900,000 slush fund for treats and perks. That is quite privileged.
I also think of the amazing young woman I met who spoke up from Barriere Lake, Quebec. Barriere Lake's territory has been stripped of forestry and has been flooded out time and time again by massive hydro dams, and the people have received nothing. Her parents, grandparents and great-grandparents have fought just to stay on that land. To tell her to check her privilege is not on.
Then there is Kitigan Zibi. There are so many young people from Kitigan Zibi. Kitigan Zibi is not very far from Ottawa. It is an incredible Algonquin community right beside Maniwaki. Maniwaki has clean drinking water, but Kitigan Zibi does not. The Conservatives tell the world that they can drive a bitumen pipeline through the Rocky Mountains, but we cannot get clean water to a community that close to Ottawa. This is why people are marching.
What we need to do here today is to not play games with these kinds of motions that the Conservatives are using to divide the Wet'suwet'en people.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Charlie Angus: We need to say we have a much bigger crisis. We need to start to untangle this and find a way to de-escalate, because—
Madam Speaker, I do not lose any sleep over angry Conservatives heckling and shouting. They are the same kind of people who are on Twitter, and they probably have their own troll farm giving them messages.
We need to deal with a way to end the railway blockades. I want to talk about how we move forward on that, because I am very concerned that this issue could spiral out of control very quickly. To see the language from the Conservatives about the mob and the radicals and the professional protesters and the eco-terrorists is putting us on more and more dangerous ice.
I was absolutely shocked that Peter MacKay would post a tweet of an ugly confrontation of some guy in a truck shouting at young indigenous people and telling them to drop dead, and that Peter MacKay would promote that vigilantism. That is not what we do in Canada and we cannot allow that to happen.
I would urge my Conservative colleagues to remember what happened at Oka and Elsipogtog. I remember with Ipperwash Mike Harris standing up and saying, “I want the g.d. Indians out of the park.” Dudley George died and an OPP officer's career was ruined.
Never again would the OPP take those kinds of orders from a government, and I am very pleased today to see that the RCMP is offering to step down in Wet’suwet’en. That is a good first step.
I would like to take a minute here to recognize two important people whom I have come to know. One is the late Wayne Russett of the RCMP who I negotiated with many times. He was an incredible diplomat in defusing situations on blockades.
I got my political start on a railway blockade. The Conservatives make it seem like it is just people who are lazy and do not want to go to work, but when people are on a blockade it is because they have no other choice. They have been betrayed by a process and betrayed by a system. It took the people of northern Ontario standing up on a railway blockade to get the issues of environmental protection on our land recognized, and it brought Canada to a better place.
One of the key negotiators besides Wayne Russett was officer Jim MacDonald of the OPP, who came in with the subpoena and the injunction. Officer Jim MacDonald is a big man with a big voice. We became very good friends because he knew what we were doing was right, and he knew that the OPP was being put in a very difficult position.
We need to start looking at how to defuse the situation. The 's plan to replace the RCMP with indigenous police is showing a continued lack of leadership. The Prime Minister needs to move beyond saying we are here to talk and here to listen. I appreciate the minister's talk about how we are going to move things forward over the next number of years, but we have a crisis now.
When I see young indigenous people walking in the streets with signs saying that reconciliation is dead, it is heartbreaking, but it is something I have heard again and again in the communities as their frustrations grow. That frustration is real and it is up to us to say that reconciliation is not dead because it is the obligation of the government and settler state.
Indigenous people have nothing to reconcile. It is their lands that were taken, their children who were taken, and it is their rights and their rules of law that have been undermined time and time again. When they are walking in the streets saying that reconciliation is dead, it is up to us to raise the bar.
The has said he is willing to listen. That is a good sign, but he needs to be willing to listen and to meet. He needs to show leadership. What is happening in the Wet’suwet’en territory now has touched off something much bigger, much more tense and much more complex. The possibility of something going wrong at one of those railway blockades is very real. There is the possibility of someone getting hurt. The possibility of some idiot driving a truck through a crowd is very real.
That is why the words we say in this House matter. We have to be able to de-escalate this. These blockades are putting enormous economic pressure on our country right now. That is why we need to be able to put an offer on the table. In order for people to step back from a blockade they need to know that something is going to change.
This morning, the RCMP said that they were willing to step out of the Wet'suwet'en territory. I think that is a very good step.
To do that then we cannot just, as the suggested, replace it with indigenous police and have life carry on. We need a time for discussion. We need to ask Coastal GasLink to suspend work and suspend moving into the territory while this negotiation takes place. It is not that radical a thing to say, because nothing is going to happen in that territory until this gets decided anyway.
Third, it needs to be the himself who goes to Wet'suwet'en territory to sit down and meet. I am very pleased that the met with the Mohawks in Belleville. I think that is a very positive step, but it is the Prime Minister who needs to show leadership. He needs to put on the table that we will deal with these issues between the hereditary chiefs and the elected band councils.
I have nothing negative to say about the people who signed the agreements. I have nothing negative to say about the political leaders and business people who moved forward believing they had an agreement. However, clearly, within the indigenous community, there is a deep divide that needs to be addressed, and we need the there.
Fourth, I would say that the needs to meet and appoint a special emissary to start building trust. I cannot speak for Senator Murray Sinclair, and I have spoken with him on this issue, but it should be someone like Murray Sinclair or someone of a stature that is respected. Then we would agree that nothing happens until we go through this. Are we then going to say that the pipeline just moves ahead? No, we are going to sit down and talk with the Wet'suwet'en people and find out where we go next.
Then I would ask the , following an agreement, to set up those meetings to reach out to the Mohawk people who are on the blockades, because we need to get the trains moving, and urge the Mohawks to recognize that there will be huge impacts on all of us. However, they are going to want to see good faith, because they are not just going to walk away at this moment.
There is a fifth issue, which is probably the most difficult for the government to agree to. We need a coherent plan to deal with the catastrophic climate change that is coming. The days when it was just business as usual, and we could keep pumping up greenhouse gas emissions without any credible plan, have hit a brick wall.
I was out on the street seeing young people marching everywhere. They get it. They get that the promise of getting another pipeline, planting some trees and then getting another pipeline and planting more trees is not cutting it. They want to know why our carbon footprint is getting bigger and bigger every year.
We need to have a credible plan, and certainly that is going to be a discussion about Teck Frontier right now, because Jason Kenney has put that front and centre. This has become the Conservative proxy war, which I believe is destabilizing the issues that we need to address in order to get this blockade issue dealt with.
On the October Thanksgiving weekend in 2000, when I had never dreamed of becoming a politician, I was standing at the blockade when the OPP came at night and set up cars to come and arrest my neighbours who were farmers and miners, Algonquin and Ojibwa people standing to defend the watershed of the region.
I got a call from the Crown prosecutor's office. I will not say who it was in the office, but someone called to say that they had just gotten a call from Mike Harris and he wanted 100 people arrested.
I asked the person from the Crown prosecutor's office what they were going to do. He said that there was not a judge within 300 kilometres who would sign a mass warrant for arrests, because they knew this was a tense situation. All they were asking the demonstrators to do was to not escalate.
We actually had this dance of negotiations between police and the protesters, who both understood that we needed to find a way out of this without it spiralling, because it could have spiralled very fast.
Having that experience of negotiating with police, I understand the tensions they are put under in this situation, so it is very unhelpful to have the Conservatives speak again and again about enforcing injunctions. There are so many rail crossings across this country. There are so many ways that people can rise up, and they are rising up.
This is a moment when Canada could recognize that this crisis could have been the LNG project, it could have been Teck or it could have been any number of things. This crisis has been 150 years in the making. This young generation of indigenous people is going to be heard.
It is up to this Parliament to say that we have to find a way to rise to this challenge, to recognize that it is bigger than all of us, to recognize the dangers of allowing this thing to spiral, because if it spirals and someone gets hurt then there will be no trains running. The impacts and the divisions between Canadians would be enormous.
I have been talking with some of the young indigenous people. I have to say that, when they were marching in Ottawa, a number of people waved and showed support. That is what Canada is.
Canada is a country that is coming to terms with a colonial past that we never understood we had, but we have it. It is there. It is real. It is being lived in the lives of young generations of first nations children.
I saw a sign that one young person posted. It said, “First you tried to take us off our land, and now you are trying to take our children.” The Conservatives might think that is apples and oranges, but we have a $10-billion class action lawsuit being brought forward by the AFN. We have a government that has spent millions of dollars fighting the principle that there has been systemic and reckless discrimination, not historical but ongoing, against first nation children.
What is the most important relationship to first nations people? It is not with a pipeline, I can tell members that. It is with their children. They have never seen a commitment to address the fact that the destruction of their children, families and identities is ongoing.
When members on the Conservative side talk about the rule of law, that does not really pass the nod test in indigenous communities that know that, when they sign agreements with the federal government, those agreements last just as long as the government wants them to last and then they walk away.
I saw that in Barrière Lake. There was a beautiful agreement to rebuild that community. The government walked away. I saw that in Kashechewan, where they had a plan to move them off. There was a signed agreement, and the government walked away from that. We had commitments to end the fights on child welfare, and the government walked away from that.
For the government to be nice, saying that it is going to listen and saying, “Take down the barricades and blockades,” is not going to cut it with indigenous people who have been lied to time and time again.
There is an urgency right now to try to de-escalate the situation. I am not saying anything less about the Wet'suwet'en and what is happening in the Wet'suwet'en territories and the discussion that needs to happen. We need to get this thing addressed.
However, we need to get the trains moving and to give Canadians certainty that we are apprised of the seriousness. That is going to come from leadership from the .
We also need to send a message to the indigenous youth who are marching across Canada and their allies that the issue of reconciliation is not dead. We just have not done a very good job on it. The issue of environmental crisis is real. The planet is burning and Canada has failed.
When we address that, then I think we will be moving to a better place because there is nothing better, there is nothing more hopeful in this country than this young generation of indigenous people who will transform this nation for the better.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from . I am very happy to see him with us in the House to discuss this important matter.
We are hearing all sorts of things here this morning. However, we are not hearing enough about the real issues or the motion we have put forward today.
The motion of my colleague from reads as follows:
That the House stand in solidarity with every elected band council on the Coastal GasLink route, the majority of hereditary chiefs, and the vast majority of the Wet'suwet'en people, who support the Coastal GasLink project, and condemn the radical activists who are exploiting divisions within the Wet'suwet'en community, holding the Canadian economy hostage, and threatening jobs and opportunities in Indigenous communities.
That is exactly what we want. We want the conflict to be settled in a reasonable manner with respect for the different rules of law, the injunctions and, above all, the way things are done. The rule of law is important in Canada.
Unfortunately, there is a handful of radicals who are currently doing harm. They are hurting the cause of national reconciliation, they are hurting the cause of the Wet'suwet'en community, and they are hurting the economy of the entire country. That is what I am going to speak to today.
I heard my colleague from the NDP ask us where we get our numbers and whether they are made up. We have heard all kinds of things about the numbers. I will tell you where we get our numbers. They come from the National Coalition of Chiefs, which has said that the majority of hereditary chiefs support the Coastal GasLink project. That is not coming from us, the Bloc Québécois or the Liberals.
In reality, this conflict is being led by a very small number of hereditary chiefs. Two of them are chiefs who ran in legitimate elections in the Wet'suwet'en communities and lost, so they do not have the legitimacy to represent the people of the Wet'suwet'en band council. The vast majority of Wet'suwet'en and all elected band councils on the proposed route of the Coastal GasLink pipeline support the project.
Theresa Tait-Day, one of the hereditary chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en people, said that 85% of her people had supported the Coastal GasLink project.
I am not the one who said that and my colleagues are not either. People from the community itself are telling us that 85% of them support the project. That is the problem. Members on the other side of the House seem unable to hear anything that contradicts what they want to hear.
The fact is that 85% of the Wet'suwet'en people are telling us to support the project. However, the Prime Minister does not want to listen to them. He does not want to talk with them. All they can do is be there and wait for someone to do something.
Unfortunately nothing will ever happen because the Prime Minister has done absolutely nothing for the past two weeks. He is nowhere to be found and is showing a flagrant lack of leadership and unbelievable weakness, while Canada goes through a crisis unlike anything we have seen in a very long time.
The crisis is not connected to the Coastal GasLink project. It goes back a long way. I would say all the way back to the date of the 2015 election.
We all remember the false promises made by this government, the false promises made by this Prime Minister who fails to realize that false promises give false hope. These false hopes have led to major disappointment today, and not just for the indigenous communities who were fooled by the Prime Minister's fine words when he talked about reconciliation and said it was his top priority. Today, five years later, little to nothing has been done.
That is also the case for Canadian taxpayers who were promised small deficits. Today we have huge deficits that are out of control with no end in sight. The same goes for the promises of electoral reform. Hon. members will remember how hopeful everyone was when the Prime Minister promised that the 2015 election would the last one under the current system.
The 2019 election proceeded under exactly the same system as the 2015 election. Everyone who believed there would be electoral reform was very disappointed.
Obviously, that does not seem to bother the . In fact, he is not bothered by much right now because he is absent from this conflict. He talks a good game, but does next to nothing to resolve the situation.
Some of my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois were part of Pauline Marois' government. I am certainly not a big fan of Ms. Marois and I have never been a fan of the Parti Québécois. However, I must say that as a resident and mayor of Thetford Mines, I had a great deal of a respect for Premier Marois when she handled the Lac-Mégantic crisis the way a premier should. She was present and did not leave anyone in the dark. We knew exactly what was happening. It goes to show that sometimes we discover what a person is truly made of in times of crisis.
In this case, we are not learning a thing about the Prime Minister because he is not showing up. He had a chance to rise above the fray and find a solution to the crisis while keeping Canadians informed. Instead he chose to stay away and do nothing. That is why we are now in a very difficult situation. A community is tearing itself apart, Canadian citizens are afraid they will lose their jobs and businesses do not know if they can make it to next week all because nobody knows anything about the government's plan to resolve this crisis.
The municipality of Lac-Mégantic passed a resolution this week because one of its businesses, Tafisa, is in danger of closing. Tafisa employs 330 people and is doing everything it can to stay open, but it does not know what to do with its products or how to run its operations, so 330 families could end up jobless next week or in the near future if the situation is not resolved.
My colleague, the member for , provided me with some information that is truly troubling. Serge Lacasse of Agri-Marché, which is part of Groupe Brochu, and Laurence Couture of Alfred Couture limitée, have said that there are serious supply problems. The silos are almost empty and next week they will be cleaned out. Even if the trains started moving today, it would take at least five days to get the goods that feed Canadians and cattle. That is serious.
To solve the blockade problem, the government wants to be patient, engage in dialogue and wait for the radical protesters to dismantle their barricades. They say that discussions are taking place, but we do not know with whom because the Prime Minister has not told us anything. In the meantime, real businesses are suffering. Next week, supermarkets might not have food on their shelves. Animals may die because there is no propane. Chickens may die next week because there will be no propane to heat the henhouses. These are actual problems and the situation is real.
Today, I believe that we must rise in support of elected representatives and the majority of the Wet'suwet'en and tell them that we support their decision to choose a project that will give them and their children a better future. We must stand with the elected band leaders who have chosen to support a project that will truly improve the lives of these people.
We must condemn those who, at this time, are holding the rest of Canadians hostage for reasons other than to support the Wet'suwet'en community. In fact, a photograph published in a newspaper article about these blockades showed their real motive: #ShutDownCanada. We will never allow a group, as radical as it may be, to shut Canada down. We will not let anyone take all Canadians hostage.
Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for for bringing this motion forward. Being that I am from the other coast, the east coast, I appreciate his personal insight on this issue.
I also want to thank my colleague from Mégantic—L'Érable for his interventions. We are suffering the consequences of these blockades in eastern Canada.
I would like to start at a place where it seems we are all in agreement. These rail blockades are affecting the economy of Canada and need to be shut down. The blockades are illegal. The acknowledged that yesterday in some of his answers during question period. The blockades are affecting the lives of Canadians.
I have no problem with peaceful protests, but they should be done with respect and without hurting anyone. Many times as a provincial MLA we saw people protesting in front of our legislature, asking for representation, asking for changes to laws and fighting for their families, so I understand the representation that it does give to us. So far, on that we can agree.
I have no ill will for the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs in B.C. or the Mohawk in Ontario. They have their convictions. They believe in something and are standing up for it. However, I do have a problem with activists who have no connection to these nations and are using this situation to benefit their cause.
If this had been one protest in one area, I think it might have been resolved in the two weeks that it has been going on. It would have been de-escalated, to use a word that I have heard many times this morning. However, because this has never been truly taken on, other protests have sprung up in support of others. In our area the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island has been shut down. Recently there was the blockage of train tracks in Alberta and the blockage of train tracks in parts of Quebec. All this is occurring because the main problem was not dealt with in a quick fashion, by having a discussion up front and stopping us from getting to this situation. Letting things go before any dialogue began has emboldened others to civil disobedience.
What I find troubling about the situation is that the Liberals have branded themselves as friends of our indigenous peoples. However, where they thought they were doing well, they have obviously failed dramatically and quite honestly have no idea what to do next. This is undermining the process as people are getting frustrated.
Since the government has created the “us against them” narrative dividing our country, let me talk about the effects on Nova Scotia, and more specifically the effects on the beautiful riding of West Nova that I have the honour of representing.
Yesterday, I got to talk about how the blockades are affecting Acadian Seaplants. This company was founded in 1981 by Louis Deveau, a leader in Nova Scotia's Acadian community. The company processes raw seaweed into food products for human and animal consumption. The company has grown since it was first founded. It now has 400 employees and exports to 80 countries.
Louis' son and now CEO, J.P. Deveau, has expressed his concerns on the blockade, due to the fact that Acadian Seaplants is one of the province's largest consumers of propane. They have orders to fill, and in order to do that, they need to convert their 115,000 square foot operation in the small community of Cornwallis to be able to use light oil, or furnace oil, which is a more environmentally sensitive product adding an extra 63% to their fuel bill compared to propane.
Beyond this challenge, Mr. Deveau has concerns about being able to ship his product, as it is normally containerized and shipped around the world. Cargo ships are being diverted from the port of Halifax, causing an interruption in Nova Scotia's connection to the world and its export strength.
When I talked to Mr. Deveau, he was very worried about how long it will take for the industry to get back to normal once the blockades come down.
Also in my riding of West Nova, Royal Propane is a wonderful small business. As a matter of fact, it installed the propane fireplace in my mother-in-law's house. It redistributes propane from the same supplier that Acadian Seaplants uses, Wilson Fuels, which is trying its best to get product trucked from somewhere else. Normally, that would come from Montreal, but as we heard from my colleagues, it probably does not exist there either.
I was talking to the manager of Royal Propane earlier this week. She is concerned for the employees she would have to lay off the next day if nothing changed. Forty employees will have to be laid off because there is no propane to provide. She is also concerned about her clients who use propane as a method of heating their homes.
This causes further problems for small businesses in my region, as we do not have natural gas running under our streets. Local restaurants and other businesses will start to run out soon, cascading the problem even worse.
The Eden Valley Poultry plant in Berwick employs 430 people. It processes birds from all over the Atlantic provinces. It is currently still in production, but will run out of propane and oxygen sooner than later. Not only does this directly affect jobs at the plant, but it also affects hundreds of jobs on the farms raising chickens and turkeys for market.
The secondary concern that Eden Valley has is that protests, like the one on the Confederation Bridge, stop and delay the trucks that have live birds inside from crossing over, causing an animal welfare issue.
Speaking of the animal welfare issue, a large amount of feed comes from western Canada for our agricultural sector. Companies like Clarence Farm Services in Truro are trying to get product trucked from Quebec and Ontario, but this will increase the cost, causing financial hardship for our producers and a complete lack of product causing other animal welfare issues.
I would like to read part of the letter that was provided to me from Clarence Farm Services. It states:
We have had some ingredients arrive before CN shut down the national rail service, and others that were shipped from east of Belleville that have made it to Truro. However, CN's space in their Truro yard is now filling and they will not pull empties from our siding to place other full cars that are in Truro—so basically our rail service is ended. As a result of the situation we have been scrambling to bring ingredients in via truck (both sourced locally and from Ont./PQ).
Finally, my friend, Dan Mullen, is a farmer who was hit by market forces in the past few years when the mink industry was decimated. Being a great farmer, he adapted his infrastructure into greenhouses, producing greens and other products for local markets. He heats with propane and either has wrapped up or will be wrapping up his production soon because he can no longer heat those greenhouses.
I know my time is coming to an end, but I thought I would quote a couple of people.
First is the Liberal Premier of Nova Scotia, Stephen McNeil. He was quoted in aIINovaScotia this morning saying that government needs to do what is necessary to protect Canada's economy as protesters bring rail traffic to a standstill. He said, “The laws of this country need to be enforced. All of us need to abide by the laws of Canada, and we believe it is up to the national government to do what is necessary to ensure the economic future of our country and our province continue to move forward.”
Finally, this discussion is extremely important for Canadians. It is probably one of the toughest discussions we will have in the House of Commons, but as John F. Kennedy stated, “We do not do these things because they are easy, we do these things because they are hard.”
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I would first like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin people. We face a crisis in our country. People are hurting. Indigenous peoples feel their voices have not been part of Canada. Canadians worry about layoffs and their livelihood and are forced to confront a history of our country that they were never taught.
We are becoming impatient and are looking for simple solutions, but this is a complex problem. Despite what the opposition says, there is not a simple solution. The rhetoric coming from the Conservatives is both troubling and dangerous. When a front-runner to lead their party supports vigilante action on social media, it troubles me deeply.
The 's speech on Tuesday was shameful and it left me speechless by how tone-deaf it was. The Conservatives' comments only inflame an already precarious situation.
When did we stop perceiving dialogue as action? When did we start to think that listening and understanding were beneath us?
This summer, all members who were elected to this place knocked on thousands of doors and spoke to thousands of their constituents. They listened, because they understood that in order to get someone's support, they had to ensure those people were heard. When did some of us forget that lesson?
I applaud the for his genuine, heartfelt actions, and the for using her experience to seek a way forward. I greatly appreciate the 's work, leading a team to seek open and honest dialogue with all interested parties to seek solutions.
Last night I could not sleep. This crisis has divided Canadians and I fear that too many see it as black and white. It is not. For hundreds of years, indigenous peoples have been seeking mutual respect and open and honest dialogue that informs a meaningful relationship with non-indigenous peoples in Canada. For hundreds of years, indigenous peoples have been calling on the Canadian government to recognize and affirm their jurisdiction over their affairs and have control over their land, housing, education, governance systems and services.
I would like to use this opportunity to highlight some of the steps our government is taking to address these calls.
Our government continues to work on shifting its policies to recognize the inherent right of self-government and self-determination of first nations, Inuit, and Métis, and our commitment is dedicated to recognizing and implementing indigenous rights.
As an example, we are working to support first nations to opt-out of sections of the Indian Act in areas such as land, environment, resource management and elections. This means moving to models of indigenous governance and supporting indigenous communities to assert their rights.
To lead this work, in 2019, our government repealed the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Act and adopted the Department of Indigenous Services Act. This new department, Indigenous Services Canada, is mandated to work toward the transfer of departmental responsibilities to indigenous communities and bodies.
Over time, one fundamental measure of success will be that programs and services will be increasingly controlled, designed and delivered by indigenous peoples for indigenous peoples. Ultimately, the end goal is for the department to disappear. I am pleased to say this work is well under way.
In 2019, the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families was passed. This act is an important step toward comprehensive reform in ensuring indigenous people hold control over their children and toward children being able to stay within their families and communities, We remain committed to pursuing nation to nation, government to government and Inuit to Crown relations based on the recognition of rights, co-operation and partnership with indigenous peoples in Canada.
To continue in the spirit of co-development, we have committed to continuing to co-develop transition and implementation of the act with partners in ways that reflect their needs and aspirations. We are also continuing to work on establishing a new fiscal relationship with first nations, one that moves toward sufficient, predictable and sustained funding for first nations communities.
This includes the use of long-term and more flexible funding mechanisms such as the 10-year grant, which provides increased flexibility to design and deliver services, reduces reporting for communities and enables strengthened accountability of first nations leadership to its members.
Eighty-five first nations communities entered into the 10-year grant in 2019-2020. In addition, 18 first nations have joined the 264 other nations asserting jurisdiction in the area of fiscal governance by opting into the First Nations Fiscal Management Act. This act provides first nations with a legislative and institutional framework to exercise jurisdiction over core fiscal and governance matters, including the financing of infrastructure and economic development projects through the issuance of bonds on capital markets.
Our government continues to work in partnership to build a new fiscal relationship with first nations, which will provide long-term, sustainable and predictable funding.
To support the new fiscal relationship, we are committed to continued co-development of fiscal relationship reforms with first nations. The Assembly of First Nations-Indigenous Services Canada Joint Advisory Committee on Fiscal Relations has provided interim recommendations, and it will engage with first nations on those recommendations in the coming months.
Together, these changes support self-determination for first nations communities and provide better access to lands and financial resources. They also support greater economic prosperity in first nations communities by improving processes, timelines and access to services, and also contribute to assisting first nations institutions in their direct work with communities.
With the support of indigenous institutional partners, we are removing barriers for first nations that decide to opt-out of parts of the Indian Act and participate in alternate legislative regimes to exercise their own jurisdiction and law-making authority. Our government and indigenous institutions are working together with first nations to develop the tools they need to drive local economic development and promote prosperity.
Last week, I met with Tabatha Bull, COO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. We talked about the fact that indigenous business contributed $31 billion to the Canadian economy. We talked about the fact that indigenous peoples were the youngest and fastest-growing demographic in Canada. Indigenous peoples are creating businesses at nine times the rate of non-indigenous Canadians. We must support these businesses but work in partnership to ensure their success.
First Nation Land Management is a government-to-government relationship through which first nations opt-out of 44 sections of the Indian Act related to land, environment and resource development. Under this land management regime, first nations will have full jurisdiction, legal authority and law-making powers to operate as a government over their own lands.
Since 1996, 165 first nations have become signatories to the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management. As of February 1, 90 first nations have full jurisdiction, legal authority and law-making powers over their lands.
The key to supporting first nations communities must also be based on closing socio-economic gaps. To that end, we are working with indigenous partners on including a national outcome-based framework to measure the closing of the socio-economic gaps that exist to this day.
We will continue to work in partnership with first nations to improve processes and supports that provide access to lands and economic development opportunities. We are taking concrete steps toward a comprehensive transformation, which includes new structures and processes, changes to legislation and, most important, new approaches to advancing self-determination and the inherent right to self-government with first nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation.
As members can see, our approach has changed from imposing to co-development, and this is what will bring success. We know there is much more to do, and we are committed to moving forward in full partnership in advancing self-determination for all indigenous nations.
The has said “Too often in this country we have taken the approach that we would pick whatever indigenous view suits our thoughts and processes.” I fear that this motion before us today is doing just that. Therefore I will not be supporting it.
Madam Speaker, let me start by indicating that this is a very difficult situation. No matter where we are in Canada, we understand the principle at stake here, and trying to simplify it does it a disservice. At the end of the day, we recognize how difficult it is for both indigenous and non-indigenous people, whether it is a specific community or the broader community.
The other day, the asked Canadians to continue to be patient as we try to work through this very difficult situation. We need to appreciate that there is a lot at stake. If we were to follow the advice of the Conservatives, we would be rolling the dice. I can say the odds would not be in our favour if we were to take their approach. There is a consequence to an action, and the actions that the Conservative Party has been presenting for a while now are, I believe, irresponsible.
The Conservatives often reflect on what is taking place with the leadership on this side. I like to think that it is not just the leader of the Liberal Party, but that we are also hearing calls for de-escalation from all political parties except the Conservatives. We are hearing from the different stakeholders that we need to de-escalate the situation as much as possible. Are the Conservatives helping or are they becoming a hindrance?
The current leader has said we should send in the RCMP to get rid of the blockades. Peter MacKay, the wannabe leader of the Conservative Party, has tried to glorify individuals who were tearing apart a blockade as if being a vigilante is a good thing. Yes, he has retracted that particular tweet, but I would suggest that the words we are hearing from the current and potential future leadership of the Conservative Party are not helping the situation, nor does this motion, will.
If the Conservative Party wanted to contribute to the debate, we could have talked about the issue of reconciliation today. Different parties have different perspectives on it. I rather enjoyed the parliamentary secretary's most recent speech a few minutes ago when she talked about the types of things the government has done to advance us toward reconciliation. Over the last couple of days I listened to members from the Bloc, the NDP and the Green Party talking as well about the ways in which we can not only de-escalate the situation but also broaden the debate to talk about the issue of reconciliation. I truly believe the Conservative Party would do more of a service for Canadians if its members adopted the same attitude.
We understand the impact that the situation is having on the Canadian economy. We have representations in all regions of this country, including western Canada, an area I represent personally. I understand the economics just as well as the Conservatives, who proclaim they are concerned about the economy. Need I remind the members opposite of the so-called LNG project? By working with the Wet'suwet'en, the NDP provincial government in British Columbia, the national government, business and the private sector, we were able to accomplish the greatest, most significant capital infrastructure commitment, which was billions of dollars to create the LNG project.
Today we heard often from the Conservatives that the majority of the members of the Wet'suwet'en community support this economic adventure. That took a great deal of effort, not only in the community itself but also in gaining support from the government in British Columbia, the national government, the private sector and more.
We even have the Bloc recognizing that the federal government has a role to play in issues of this nature. Whether it is economic development for the betterment of all Canadians, when we have issues of this nature from time to time, it is the way we deal with those issues.
To try to give the impression that nothing has been happening for the last couple of weeks is just false. Casting aspersions on a lot of fine work that has been done, whether by the government of B.C., the Wet'suwet'en community leaders or the national government and the role that we have played is wrong. To try to imply that nothing is happening is false.
We could all give some encouragement and a vote of confidence to our RCMP. We tend to differ from the Conservative opposition in that we believe and have full confidence in our RCMP, in our law enforcement agencies, and we believe that political parties do not have the right to direct them to arrest that person or that group of people. It is not our place to do that.
People should be concerned when the official opposition members who hope to be in government someday say that they would give specific direction to the RCMP. I refer to Peter MacKay's quote from his twitter account. We should be concerned about those types of knee-jerk reactions coming from Conservative leadership.
In the broader picture, I would have liked to have seen a discussion or debate on those types of issues. There is a great deal of interest in the issue of reconciliation. When I listen to the New Democrats and the Green Party, I often hear we are not doing enough. I would suggest that we have accomplished a great deal, and there is still more to do. I think of some of the actions that we have taken in a relatively short period of time, such as dealing with heritage language, dealing with the tens of thousands of children in foster care or in the welfare system with the shifting over and empowerment that is taking place in indigenous communities as a result, or statutory holidays, or the issue of citizenship, or the 94 calls for action, many of which required action by the federal government, and which we have responded to. There has been debate as well on the former private member's bill, Bill , on the UN declaration, so we have seen many measures in the last number of years that reached out and took active steps toward positive reconciliation.
That was completely foreign to the previous government. When the Conservatives were in power, we did not see anything of that nature.
I believe if we want to continue to see the economy moving forward as it has, with over one million jobs over the last four years, we need to recognize that working with different stakeholders and working with indigenous communities in the economy and the environment is absolutely essential. It is not an option. As the has indicated, we need to have patience as we try to work through this very difficult situation, realizing that it does cause a lot of frustration for all of us here in Canada.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to share my time today with my friend and colleague from .
Canadians do not ask for much. They really do not. We are honest, hard-working, polite people. At a minimum what Canadians expect is peace, order and good government.
Over the last 14 days, we have seen anything but that. We have seen a situation turn into a national crisis, with railway blockades right across the country affecting the movement of goods and people. VIA Rail, as we know, has cancelled its train service to the better part of eastern Canada for the last seven days. Since it made that announcement, there has been a significant impact on the movement of people.
As CN has cancelled its entire rail system and the movement of goods, it is having a devastating effect on our economy. We are hearing that millions and millions of dollars are being lost every day within the supply chain. The agriculture community has not been able to get its products to market. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the manufacturing association and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture have all said that this situation needs to be resolved.
However, it is very difficult to resolve, when we look at the history of this situation. Over the last four and a half years, the government has become weak and the has become weak and complicit. We have an activist government that has fed into the very situation that is going on across this country today. It should come as no surprise that we are seeing activists act out because of the weakness and complicity of the Prime Minister over the last four and a half years. He is doublespeaking almost everywhere he goes, saying one thing to one group and another thing to another group, saying one thing in one part of the province and something else in a different part of this country.
We have heard a lot of discussion today, and we have been debating this for the better part of two and a half hours, so I want to remind the House what the motion is all about. It is not about a certain individual; it is about a group that is using this situation as a lightning rod, a template, for not just the insurrection that is going on today but the potential of future insurrection in this country. This group is using it as a template, and we are simply asking the House to denounce what is going on and stand up for the Wet'suwet'en people.
The motion says, “That the House stand in solidarity with every elected band council on the Coastal GasLink route—”
Madam Speaker, I will remind the House what the motion says:
That the House stand in solidarity with every elected band council on the Coastal GasLink route, the majority of hereditary chiefs, and the vast majority of the Wet'suwet'en people, who support the Coastal GasLink project, and condemn the radical activists who are exploiting divisions within the Wet'suwet'en community, holding the Canadian economy hostage, and threatening jobs and opportunities in Indigenous communities.
On the issue of jobs for the Wet'suwet'en community, there is a long history of negotiation, of talks among CGL, the Wet'suwet'en community, the 20 first nations communities of elected band leaders and the hereditary chiefs. They have gone on for a long time. Every single one of those 20 communities is in favour of the CGL gas line. They are in favour of it because of the opportunity and prosperity it is going to provide them now and into the future. Many of them will be receiving jobs, and many of them have received jobs, as a result of the CGL pipeline. Revenue will be coming into their communities.
If we talk to members of the House who are part of northern B.C. communities where opportunity is thin for many first nations communities, this is exactly the type of project they have been looking for. It is the type of project they have negotiated and agreed to, because they know it is going to provide opportunity, not just for them today but for young people for generations to come. We, as a Parliament, must be supportive of the independence and autonomy of these first nations to negotiate the type of arrangement they want with CGL.
The challenge exists because there is an anti-pipeline, anti-government movement going on in this country. These people are piggybacking off this issue to raise their issues and their anti-natural-resource agenda. They are doing it right across the country. They are using this situation, this lightning-rod issue, as a template to create illegal blockades. The motion is speaking to them: that the House condemn this anti-government, anti-reason, anti-resource movement that is using this as a lightning rod.
When we speak to members in the Wet'suwet'en community, they talk about their support of this pipeline and the reasons they support it. They have certainly publicly put this out there.
Chief Larry Nooski, of the Nadleh Whut'en First Nation, said:
Coastal GasLink represents a once in a generation economic development opportunity for Nadleh Whut'en First Nation. We negotiated hard...to guarantee that Nadleh people, including youth, have the opportunity to benefit directly and indirectly from the project, while at the same time, ensuring that the land and the water is protected.
Heredity Chief Helen Michelle, of the Skin Tyee First Nation of the Wet'suwet'en, said, “A lot of the protesters are not even Wet'suwet'en people.” That is the point. “Our own people said go ahead [to Coastal GasLink].” She also said, “We talked with the elders.... We talked and talked, and we kept bringing them back.... We walked the very territory where CGL is going.... We are going to give it the go-ahead.”
If a majority of the Wet'suwet'en people agree with this, why are we pandering to and accepting the type of protests and illegal blockades that are going on across this country? Many of the people doing this are not even affiliated with the Wet'suwet'en people. The activists see this as their template, their opportunity to speak out against the natural resource sector, to speak out against government, to speak out against peace, to speak out against order in this country. That is precisely what they are doing. For the House not to condemn that makes us complicit, as complicit and weak as the government has been throughout this crisis.
I want to talk about the police. There have been a lot of inflammatory comments with respect to the authority of the police. Governments legislate; we pass laws. The courts interpret those laws and it is up to the police to enforce those laws. None of us believes that we live in a police state where the government has the authority or the direction to direct the police on what to do, but when the police receive a court order or a court injunction, the expectation is that they are going to act. There is also an expectation on the part of government and those who are elected in this country at all levels of government that when the police act, we support their action because they are fulfilling their legal obligation to make sure that the rule of law is maintained in this country, as directed by the courts and legislated by Parliament across this country, as well as provincial and municipal bodies.
The police are in an extremely untenable position on this and they have shown extreme patience. However, the bottom line is that we need to maintain peace, order and good government in this country and the rule of law must always be followed.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this debate in support of the Wet'suwet'en community and in support of everyone who believes in economic development created in harmony and with the support of all first nations that are directly affected. Unfortunately, the reason we are have to stand here today and affirm that support is that Canada is being run by a government of neglect.
This government bears sole responsibility for the crisis that has plagued the country for the past two weeks. For 12 days, the government did absolutely nothing to slow the momentum of those who oppose this project and want to spread discord across Canada.
What is this about? This is about the Coastal GasLink pipeline project. This project did not come out of left field, and it was not decided on overnight. It has taken six years for the project to go through all the steps and be agreed on and approved by all the relevant authorities. For six years, the proponents worked closely with the first nations that would be directly affected by the project. As a result, the 20 first nations directly affected by this project agree with it.
To my NDP colleagues, who keep saying that we are pulling numbers out of thin air, I can say that we are getting these numbers from the Assembly of First Nations. If they want to attack the Assembly of First Nations, I wish them good luck. We believe the assembly. They speak on behalf of all first nations.
The Wet'suwet'en community is in favour of the project. It is not the Conservatives saying so, it is the Assembly of First Nations. Hereditary Chief Theresa Tait-Day said that in the case of the Coastal Gaslink project, 85% of her people said yes. The members of that community are not the only ones who agree with this project.
I also want to cite Chief Larry Nooski. He said the project represents a once-in-a-generation economic development opportunity for our first nation. He also said that they negotiated hard to guarantee that their people, including youth, have the opportunity to benefit directly and indirectly from the project, while at the same time ensuring that the land and the water are protected.
That is what we are talking about. This is a project that is good for Canada, good for the economy and good for first nations. This project has gone through all the steps and has even received the support of the current NDP-led provincial government, in addition to being supported by the Green Party. It is important to remember that.
As with all projects, there will not be 100% support. Yes, there are people who disagree with this project. If we wait until we have 100% support for a project, we can be 100% sure that the project will not go ahead. It is normal. This is called democracy. Some people are in favour, and others are against.
When 20 first nations and 85% of a community agree, action must be taken. When all the necessary political and economic support, as well as first nations support, is obtained, there is a duty to act. If some people are against it, it is not a problem. This is called democracy.
There are a thousand good ways to express opposition. Unfortunately, two weeks ago, disgruntled radical activists decided to flout the law and demonstrate their opposition in an illegal way by setting up a blockade on a railway line.
What has happened since then? Unfortunately, nothing. The government of neglect is led by a man who did not even bother to leave his tour of Africa and return to Canada. During that tour, he unfortunately shook hands with the foreign affairs minister of a country that is implicated in the deaths of over 50 Canadians. He shook his hand enthusiastically, which embarrassed all Canadians.
The government did nothing for 12 days. All across this vast, magnificent country, people inspired by the illegal actions of these fringe activists suddenly developed a passionate interest in a project that they had never heard of before. These activists did not consider the fact that the vast majority of people who are directly affected and the first nations supported it. We saw this in Belleville. There was another blockade in Candiac, Quebec.
In Gaspé, some 5,000 km from the centre of the action, people are suddenly feeling compelled to stand up for this cause. They are forgetting that 85% of the people directly involved and all the first nations agree with the project.
We asked the government to enforce the law. This is a country governed by the rule of law, and the law is clear. Section 5 of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act is clear: the Minister of Public Safety has the power to intervene and direct the RCMP to take action in a given situation, and this is exactly the kind of situation contemplated. For two weeks, the , a man for whom I have tremendous respect and hold in high esteem, has really disappointed me. He said that this is not a federal matter and that it is up to the provinces to get injunctions. That is a dishonourable Pontius Pilate type of attitude, coming from a man as honourable as the Minister of Transport. It is not the right attitude.
I can still see the going to meet with Quebec's transport minister, the hon. François Bonnardel. The House leader said that this is not a federal matter and that the provinces need to take action. Must I remind the House that first nations are under federal jurisdiction? Railways are under federal jurisdiction. Like Pontius Pilate, those people have completely abdicated their responsibilities.
After 12 days, the returned to Canada. He realized that something was going on and that he had to do something. He said that the government would encourage dialogue. Absolutely nothing else has happened since then. No, I forgot. The proudly announced that the government had been in contact with opponents and the hereditary chiefs and that they wanted to meet in 10 days. Canada had been experiencing a national crisis for two weeks, and the government was happy about setting up a meeting 10 days later. The government should have taken action 10 days earlier, but it did not.
Finally, yesterday, after 14 days, the Prime Minister acknowledged the blindingly obvious, namely that a blockade is illegal. For the first time in two weeks, he made some sense. Since our country is governed by the rule of law and the Prime Minister is responsible for making sure that these laws are enforced, we want to know how he will respond to an illegal action, if not by enforcing the law. Section 5 of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act empowers him to order the police to take action.
If in Canada we are currently governed by people who are giving up, elsewhere there are people who are taking action and people who are taking responsibility. This morning, the Premier of Quebec said that he was going to seek an injunction because of a barricade in Saint-Lambert. The Premier of Quebec said that, as soon as the injunction was obtained, the barricade would be dismantled. That is extraordinary. Finally, someone is taking responsibility for the rule of law in this country. The example does not come from here; it is coming from the National Assembly. The operations will take place in a while, I presume, but we know that the head of Quebec's government has clearly said that the law is the law and that he will enforce it.
Earlier, I asked my Bloc colleague from a question, and he said that this situation would make things worse. That is the Bloc's choice; that is its decision. We are on the side of law and order. We are on the side of the rule of law.
We have also seen some very unfortunate and unacceptable situations in a country governed by the rule of law. Yesterday, radical activists surrounded the home of the Premier of British Columbia. That cannot be tolerated. We cannot say it is not serious. As I said earlier, there are countless ways to express opposition to a project. I do not have a problem with that. That is democracy. Why choose the wrong way? Why break the law? Why go after people who do not think like you? It is not the right thing to do.
To those who oppose this project, I say do it with dignity, honour and respect for the law. That is democracy. They must not do it illegally. Unfortunately, these people are taking advantage of the fact that this government is a government of neglect. That is why, now more than ever, the entire House of Commons must show its support for the Wet'suwet'en people, who are in favour of this project, as are the 20 first nations directly affected by it. The Conservatives support the first nations on this project.
Madam Speaker, I would like to start by recognizing that we stand on the ancestral land of the Algonquin people.
There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run
When the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun
Long before the white man and long before the wheel
When the green dark forest was too silent to be real
These words by Gordon Lightfoot are ringing in my head these days, partly because of what is happening across Canada, but also due to the fact that I just read a fascinating story in Maclean's, which is a short history by Stephen Maher about the indigenous people of Canada and the CN Railway. It may help put some perspective on the current situation regarding the blockades.
Mr. Maher writes:
If you study Canadian history, you find similar stories of dispossession and subjugation from coast to coast. The Crown pushed Indigenous people aside, forced them to live in poverty on land that nobody else wanted, destroyed their traditional systems of governance, broke treaties at will, a period that ran from Confederation until 1973, when the courts granted an injunction to the James Bay Cree, temporarily blocking a hydro development.
For most Canadians, the railway has been a great boon, as Lightfoot described it: “An iron road running from sea to the sea, bringing the goods to a young growing land, all up through the seaports and into their hands.”
As Mr. Maher writes:
We can't expect Indigenous people to see the story that way.
When tempers get raw, and politicians talk forcefully about the importance of the rule of law, we would be wise to remember that the rule of law, and the Canadian Pacific Railway, brought ruin and death to Indigenous people.
I don't know how we are going to get through this winter and get the trains running again, but I believe our politicians and police should err on the side of caution, and we should keep in mind that our country only exists because of the lawful crimes our government committed to get the railway built.
This is very poignant. It is very poignant for all of us to consider this when we are talking about what is lawful and what is not.
I want to say that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
Over the past few weeks, people have been troubled by what they are witnessing. Many people across Canada are asking what is happening in this country as they see the protests and the blockades, as they witness the goods not getting to them in Nova Scotia or out west, and as businesses are affected. They are questioning, too, whether reconciliation is still possible. Young people are questioning this. Indigenous peoples are wondering if their rights will be respected and, as they see the protests and blockades grow, they are questioning, “Can reconciliation still happen?”
I would like to say, yes, reconciliation is still possible and that this is a turning point on what I would call that vital path. We need reconciliation. Hundreds of years have gone by without reconciliation and now is the time to do it and get it right.
Many are impatient about climate action and a society that still relies on fossil fuels. Many in the business community and those who rely on jobs in the resource industry to support their families are afraid for their futures as well. There are workers who have been temporarily laid off. There are seniors who are anxious about the timely delivery of their medication. There are business owners who are worried about getting oil and gas to the people who need to fill their furnaces.
There are also protesters standing in the cold in allyship with the Wet’suwet’en people.
On both sides of this issue, people are upset and frustrated. I understand that, because this is about issues that really matter to Canadians, to indigenous people and to me, such as treaties, rights, livelihoods, the rule of law and democracy.
I fully agree that this situation must be resolved quickly. However, we also must be aware that this situation was not created overnight and it certainly was not created in the past four years.
It was not created because we have embarked down a path of reconciliation recently in our history. It was created because, for too long in our history, successive governments failed to do so. Therefore, finding a solution will not be simple. It will take determination. It will take hard work. It will take co-operation.
I have to say that, standing here as a newcomer to Parliament, I am proud to be part of a government that has a true leader, one who will not simply pick up a sword and rush blindly into battle as others here seem to prefer, but who has deep empathy and compassion, who recognizes the gravity of the situation and, as our , is extending his hand in partnership and trust to the Wet'suwet'en people. What our government is attempting to do is create a space for peaceful, honest dialogue with willing partners.
As we heard from the Mohawk leaders, and from AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde last week, we need to resolve this impasse through dialogue and mutual respect. Therefore, we only ask that the Wet'suwet'en be willing to work with our federal government as a partner to find solutions.
They often remind us that trust has historically been betrayed after indigenous negotiations with Canadian governments. I, for one, remember that very well. I tell provincial, municipal and federal leaders that we must keep this in mind and it is why we need to do the right thing.
I was pleased to be able to say to the just this week that I feel he is on the right path. I stand with him. We cannot rush blindly into this. It needs to be done right and with mutual respect. I believe the reason we are facing this situation today is because of the history of broken treaties and lies by many governments and many people in powerful positions who betrayed our first nations people. For that I am truly sorry and very sad.
However, our common ground is the desire to arrive at a solution. We cannot resolve this alone. We need all Canadians to show resolve and collaboration.
Over the weekend, the met with representatives from Tyendinaga, as well as with other members of the Mohawk nation. Now that the RCMP have agreed to step back, it is our hope the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs will meet with the , as she has requested.
This is our opportunity to bring these perspectives together because the alternative, the use of force, has been tried many times and those attempts at colonial control are not the path to reconciliation.
Despite having invested more than any other government to right historic wrongs and to close persistent gaps, we know there is still much more to be done. It is unacceptable that there are people who do not have access to clean drinking water, that indigenous women and girls still go missing and are murdered. It is unacceptable that indigenous people are still denied rights and lands.
We need to keep finding solutions. That can only happen by working together and listening to each other. In this country, we are facing many important and very deep debates. Canadians are impatient to see answers. People are frustrated that there is so much uncertainty. However, the debates in the House are very important. The language that is used is also extremely important. Yes, there is always a place for Canadians to protest and express their frustrations, but we need to ensure that we are listening to each other. We must be open to working together—