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View Mark Strahl Profile
View Mark Strahl Profile
2020-02-20 10:30 [p.1291]
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 Prime Minister. 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 Prime Minister's 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 Prime Minister, 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister, 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister stand up and say that the court injunctions should be enforced and the rule of law should be enforced and upheld.
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