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 Prime Minister'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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister himself who goes to Wet'suwet'en territory to sit down and meet. I am very pleased that the Minister of Indigenous Services 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 Prime Minister there.
Fourth, I would say that the Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister, 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 Prime Minister.
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.