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 Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.
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 Prime Minister, 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 Prime Minister 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 Minister of Indigenous Services 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 Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, 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—