Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to speak in the emergency debate the other night. At that time, I was able to talk about the profound impacts this crisis was having throughout the country. Today, I want to build on my comments from that night. I am really glad this is an opposition day motion, because it is critical to continue that discussion.
I want to unpack some of what is happening with the current emergency crisis taking place.
I will clearly state that the motion is about supporting the Wet'suwet'en community, which, by all accounts, has made an informed and democratic decision about the Coastal GasLink project. As has been stated many times today, every elected chief, the majority of the heredity chiefs and the vast majority of community members are in favour of this project. They have gone through an exhaustive consultation process, lasting many years. Some of the communities have held referendums. These are not my numbers, but the numbers shared by the community to the public and the newspapers.
As Candice George said: Who has the authority to approve this project? The answer, is the Wet'suwet'en people. What we have here is not a classic conflict between indigenous people and resource developers. I agree that for too many years resources were extracted from the traditional territory of indigenous communities with no benefit and very little engagement with the communities that were most impacted. However, from what I hear, from the very start. the consultation process has been thorough.
At the Prince George natural resources conference, I heard one of the elders, who is a hereditary chief, speak. She said that when people first came to the community, she thought “we do not want this project.” However, as she learned about it, as she learned about fracking, as she learned about what this could do for the environment, as she listened, as she talked to my community, her opinion changed. She said that they had been very engaged throughout this process.
Therefore, like with anything, there will not be unanimity. Certainly, there is no unanimity in the House.
We do have a group of hereditary chiefs who are concerned. There is a governance structure in place and it is not up to the House or anyone in it to determine what the governance structure is with respect to how they make decisions.
I want to use an example. They have a structure that has been in place many years. We have the House and the other place. The other place is unelected and we are elected. We have roles to play in the decision-making of what legislation will go forward. Those roles are determined through legislation, our Constitution and convention. In some ways it is similar. We have senators and members of Parliament.
When the government introduced its environmental legislation in the last Parliament, we were opposed. However, it passed through the House and went to the Senate. A group of senators were opposed to the legislation because they thought it would create tremendous damage. However, the legislation passed in the Senate.
The senators who were opposed had to respect the will of the houses that made those determinations. Had they decided to go out and block railways, because they thought the decision of the government was so bad, they immediately would have been subjected to a significant response by the police and others. We have heard about the Wheat Board and farmers taking grain across the border.
I look at the case of the gentleman who decided to take beer from one province in to another province. The law was applied and the person was charged because of that.
A decision was made on which there is no unanimity, but as I say, by all accounts, with the existing processes of this nation it is the best decision it could have made. The federal and provincial agencies have approved this process; the courts issued an injunction and they supported the work that had been done.
Throughout the country, more groups are claiming they are in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs. When there is an extinction rebellion to shut down Canada and a number of other climate groups are behind organizing the protests, I wonder if their motivation is supporting the hereditary chiefs as much as moving their own agendas forward. It seems that a vast majority of the action has been initiated by activists who are willing to engage selectively in the politics of indigenous rights and will actually weaken the people they claim to be supporting.
I will quote Candice George because I truly enjoy her Twitter feed. I recommend that everyone look at it. She is a community member. She said she talked to a number of the elders and asked how they felt about people who are not Wet'suwet'en, who have not asked for their guidance and are out protesting. The answer she said she got was, “Why do they do that? I'm right here. My tongue is not broken.” She is indicating that the elders have told her that these people are certainly not representing their perspective.
There was a big meeting yesterday in Houston and a number of people showed up. I understand there were about 200 people who took three hours out of their day and were clearly in support of the project. They went to the meeting to say they want to see the pipeline built. They said the project is going to create well-paid jobs and economic opportunities for their people. I will read from an article on this meeting, which contains a few quotes:
Among the supporters was Robert Skin, who said he was elected to the council of the Skin Tyee First Nation, which is part of the Wet'suwet'en Nation, to move the community forward.
He said the pipeline will mean a better life for the next generation.
“With the benefit agreement that [the Skin Tyee] did sign, I see us being in a better place even within the next five years,” Skin said.
Speaking to the crowd at the theatre, he said protesters “only get one side of the story” and don't understand the advantages this type of infrastructure project can provide.
Further on the article continues:
The Wet'suwet'en people at the event said they resent the protests because they aren't helping their community, which they say already has fractured governance. They say the protests have amplified the conflict in the community and distracted Wet'suwet'en people from resolving their differences.
Another person who has a job opportunity talked about the “pugnacious and overbearing” impact of these protesters and that they are professional protesters.
The article refers to Marion Tiljoe Shepherd and is particularly poignant. It states:
Shepherd said she's increasingly angered by the protesters across the country. She said they don't speak for, nor represent her community.
“It's none of their business,” she said in an interview following the event. “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.”
In summary, we have a government that has been paralyzed by inaction. It did nothing. When people engage in civil disobedience, they do so knowingly. Even when the Green leader protested at Kinder Morgan. She knew she was going to be arrested. She knew she would be charged. Those were the expectations she had.
I am really concerned with the response of the government. The Prime Minister was missing in action. He was in Africa to get a UN seat. He finally showed up and there are no consequences. There will be increasing problems in this country.
As I said the other night, I see this as a dress rehearsal if there are no repercussions for knowingly breaking the law, which there always have been. People know that if they engage in civil disobedience, there will be repercussions.
We have a problem and it is quite literally at the government's feet. It is the government's fault.