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Results: 1 - 100 of 160
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
Mr. Chair, it's an honour to rise in this place to present two petitions today.
The first is from a number of constituents and others who have signed the e-petition calling for the federal government to examine the need for a permanent federal funding mechanism for public transit. The petitioners note that the current 10-year transit plan will end in 2027 and that having low-emission public transport is very important for meeting long-term climate goals. They ask that the federal government provide a permanent federal funding mechanism to go well beyond the 10-year transit plan and to work with all levels of government to provide sustainable, predictable, long-term and adequate funding.
The second petition speaks to the issue that gripped the country so much just months ago, but is not forgotten, which is the conflict on Wet'suwet'en territory over the Coastal GasLink and the need for the Government of Canada to uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action. They call for the RCMP to stand down and note that the RCMP has violated the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I present two petitions this morning.
The residents of Saanich—Gulf Islands are calling on the government to simplify the process for protection of marine protected areas. It's a multi-layered communication process. The marine protected area first proposed in the 1970s for the southern Strait of Georgia, now called the Salish Sea, has been awaiting designation for so long that it was originally endorsed by Jacques Cousteau. That gives us a sense for why petitioners are calling for a simplified and more rapid process.
The second petition is from petitioners who are very concerned about our obligations under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and our commitments under the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action. They specifically reference the RCMP violation of UNDRIP in its actions on Wet'suwet'en territory and ask the government to commit to actually living the principles embodied in UNDRIP.
View Paul Manly Profile
GP (BC)
Mr. Chair, it's an honour and a privilege to present a petition on behalf of the constituents of Nanaimo—Ladysmith.
People are concerned about gas fracking and the use of methane and the destruction that methane causes to our atmosphere and with climate change. They're calling on the government to commit to upholding the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action by immediately halting all existing and planned construction of the Coastal GasLink project on the Wet'suwet'en territory, and by ordering the RCMP to dismantle their exclusion zone and to stand down. They also call on the government to schedule nation-to-nation talks between the Wet'suwet'en nation and the federal and provincial governments—which is something that we're happy to see has been happening and I commend the government for that effort—and to prioritize the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
Mr. Chair, I rise to present two petitions on this anniversary of the massacre at Tiananmen Square.
The first petition is from petitioners concerned about human rights in the People's Republic of China and the detention of practitioners of Falun Dafa or Falun Gong. They call on the Government of Canada and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to impress the importance of universal human rights upon the government of the People's Republic of China and to allow swifter accommodation of human rights within the People's Republic of China.
The second petition pertains to human rights within Canada. It calls on the Government of Canada to follow and be accountable to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to fulfill the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and to move forward swiftly to meet the expectations of justice for the Wet'suwet'en people.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
Mr. Chair, it's an honour to rise to present a petition today from a number of constituents calling for the government to act to uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action. There is a call to respect the Wet'suwet'en territory and to dismantle RCMP exclusion zones.
This petition came some time ago. Some of these issues have been dealt with. I am particularly pleased to note that the nation-to-nation talks called for by petitioners between the Wet'suwet'en and the federal and provincial governments have taken place. I will take this moment if I may to thank the honourable ministers involved in that effort.
Thank you.
View Karen Vecchio Profile
CPC (ON)
If we're talking about being a feminist government, I have one single question. Yesterday the minister was not willing to answer the question, so I will ask the Minister for Women and Gender Equality.
How can a feminist government support the Wet'suwet'en First Nation women whose titles were stripped from them?
View Maryam Monsef Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Chair, it sounds like my honourable colleague wants to compare their record on advancing equality with ours. We are happy to do that, and the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations has been working very hard to move this historic agreement forward.
View Karen Vecchio Profile
CPC (ON)
These women have lost their titles, and the decisions were made with the hereditary chiefs and not the elected chiefs. Why is this government not standing up for these women hereditary chiefs who were stripped of their titles?
Sara Bennett Fox
View Sara Bennett Fox Profile
Sara Bennett Fox
2020-05-28 12:51
Mr. Chair, I think the honourable member knows that the route to self-determination is to have first nations, Inuit, and Métis determine their own governance and abide by their own laws. Right now the Wet'suwet'en nation is in that process of determining what kind of governance they would like.
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Chair.
According to Vaughn Palmer in an editorial in the Vancouver Sun regarding the secret Wet'suwet'en deal, Palmer writes:
The hereditary chiefs calculated the two governments would sign despite the objections from the elected chiefs. They likewise got the terms they wanted in the MOU while giving up “absolutely nothing.” Just as they figured governments would keep the contents secret from the public.
Can the minister describe another situation in which the federal government negotiated a secret deal of this magnitude with unelected people?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
I thank the member for his ongoing concern and I want to remind him that actually it is in keeping with the Supreme Court decision of 1997 that we were to now begin those conversations with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs who took the case to the Supreme Court.
As we've said many times, this is not an agreement; this is an MOU that establishes the path forward for the substantive discussions towards a final agreement, which would describe the future governance and the implementation of Wet'suwet'en rights and title.
It is about a shared commitment.
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Chair, if it is a shared commitment, why on the eve of the signing ceremony did the four elected chiefs denounce the hereditary chiefs for keeping them in the dark?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
Again, it's really important that the member understand that there was a process for the hereditary chiefs to go back to their communities and discuss with them. Any agreement after the good work that will happen now would have to go back and seek the approval of all of the communities.
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Chair, the Burns Lake Band members are openly wondering if they're still a band or if the few unelected hereditary chiefs will control everything now.
Minister, can you assure them that going forward you will honour their concerns and take the time to listen?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
Actually, the honourable member knows that the next steps include the further and ongoing engagement by the Wet'suwet'en in their house groups and that will include the six elected chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en nation, their community members and many others. This is about going forward and making sure that any—
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Chair.
Cynthia Joseph, a chief councillor with the Hagwilget First Nation says the MOU between Ottawa, the province and the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs was only shared with her community members on May 9, two days after it was published in the media.
Is this part of the open and transparent government all Canadians can expect of the Prime Minister?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
Walking the path of reconciliation means that we work with our partners and there is a way that they do the work within their communities. It is going to be an agreement to begin the work, but any final agreement is going to have to be approved by all members of the nation in terms of developing a consensus for the agreement—
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Chair.
Does the minister have any concerns regarding claims by several former female hereditary chiefs that they were stripped of their hereditary status because they didn't agree with the men?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
Again, it is going to be really important that the work take place within the Wet'suwet'en nation to determine their future governance, to determine their way of working with Canada and to make sure—
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Chair.
For some reason it seems to be a problem to stand up for these hereditary female chiefs who had their titles taken away.
Does the minister plan on recognizing band council resolutions denying the authority of hereditary chiefs to sign any future agreements without consent of the elected chiefs and the 3,000 members within the Wet'suwet'en they represent?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
I think the member must understand that, as we begin the work, the nation will do its work and then we will come to the table to determine what the governance would be. Will it be a hybrid model like at Heiltsuk, like Ktunaxa, like some of the communities developing their constitutions, developing their laws and deciding how they will determine their own governance and that partnership with Canada?
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
Mr. Chair, it's an honour to present a petition on behalf of my constituents in Saanich—Gulf Islands. Of course, this petition has taken some time to reach the virtual floor of our Parliament, given the pandemic.
The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada and the House of Commons to uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's calls to action in relation to UNDRIP. They call for the immediate halting of all existing and planned construction of Coastal GasLink projects on Wet'suwet'en territory. They also call for the scheduling of nation-to-nation talks, which we can acknowledge has commenced, but they also further call on prioritizing the real implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
View Gary Vidal Profile
CPC (SK)
Madam Chair, the March 1 news release announcing the MOU says, “If ratified, Minister Fraser and Minister Bennett have agreed to return to Wet'suwet'en territory to sign.”
Why did the minister, when she knew that the elected chiefs and Wet'suwet'en people were not consulted and there was in fact no ratification process, proceed with signing this agreement anyway?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
Any agreement going forward would have to be taken back to all the Wet'suwet'en people for approval through a process that must clearly demonstrate the consent of the members of the nation. It was important that we begin, and with the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak it was impossible to do that in person.
View Gary Vidal Profile
CPC (SK)
I appreciate that, Minister, and that's my whole point on the Wet'suwet'en issue.
At committee, we have been consistently shut down for discussing this issue, and you just used the reason that due to the pandemic, the consultation process was not allowed to be carried out appropriately.
Again I ask why you signed this agreement when there wasn't proper consultation.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
I think the member misrepresented what I said. Because of COVID, it was impossible to go back to do the signing, but we believe the work of the hereditary chiefs and the work that will happen now with the elected chiefs will go forward because of the MOU that was signed.
View Paul Manly Profile
GP (BC)
Mr. Chair, I have a petition today sent in by members of my constituency of Nanaimo—Ladysmith.
It calls upon the House of Commons in Parliament assembled to commit to upholding the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's Calls to Action by immediately putting a halt to all existing and planned construction of the Coastal GasLink project on Wet'suwet'en territory, ordering the RCMP to dismantle its exclusion zone and stand down, scheduling nation-to-nation talks between the Wet'suwet'en nation and the federal and provincial government—something that has already happened, and I'm sure that the petitioners would be pleased that the government has taken that action—and prioritizing the real implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
View Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
Absolutely. I have an old friend I used to work with who heads up the local friendship centre. It's absolutely great for the youth, and trying to get the youth to that next step and to a great life.
I have to interrupt my question. I have a motion to table, Mr. Chair:
That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs, adopt the following motion, that, in the light of COVID-19 pandemic and how it has negatively impacted on the governance of Indigenous communities, including the postponement of elections and gathering of traditional decision making bodies, that the committee call the Wet’suwet’en elected Chiefs to provide testimony on how the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected their ability to enter into open and transparent negotiations regarding land rights and title with the federal government.
View Paul Manly Profile
GP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
This petition was signed and sent in by constituents of my riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith.
It calls upon the House of Commons to commit to upholding the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada by immediately halting all existing and planned construction of the Coastal GasLink project on Wet'suwet'en territory, ordering the RCMP to dismantle its exclusion zone and stand down, scheduling nation-to-nation talks between the Wet'suwet'en nation and the federal and provincial governments—something that has already happened, thankfully—and prioritizing the real implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Chair.
The Wet'suwet'en elected chiefs and community members have been excluded from negotiations on a memorandum of understanding affecting land rights and titles. Only a few hereditary chiefs have been part of these secret negotiations.
The elected chiefs have issued a press release asking for the government to halt the joint announcement scheduled for May 14 on the MOU until the community has had a chance to look at and understand how the MOU will affect them.
Will the minister agree with the democratically elected chiefs and the Wet'suwet'en people they represent and delay any announcement until proper consultation can be completed?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
I want to reassure the member that communication is ongoing with and between our partners on how to go forward on implementing the Wet'suwet'en rights and title with a Wet'suwet'en-led solution. We encourage the leaders to continue their ongoing, necessary and important conversations with their community on how they want to proceed on a path toward implementing their rights and title.
As we work to rebuild Canada's relationship with the Wet'suwet'en, we need to give them space for these important discussions.
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
Minister, is that a “yes” that the signing will be delayed until the elected chiefs have a chance to look at the agreement?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
I believe the elected chiefs have had a look at the agreement. These are very difficult conversations on complex issues around rights and title. This has been outstanding for a long time—
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
The current health crisis should not be used as an opportunity to sideline the Wet'suwet'en people and their elected chiefs. The federal government should be bringing the community together rather than actively excluding Wet'suwet'en members. The chiefs are so concerned that they are now calling for the resignation of the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations for failure to engage in proper consultations, which has stoked divisions within the community.
Will the minister reconsider and put in place a consultation process that honours both their traditional house system and the governance responsibilities of elected chiefs and councils?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
Yet again, it's very important the member understand the engagement must take place and be led by the Wet'suwet'en nation. That means the elected chiefs and the hereditary chiefs need to work with all clan members as they determine how they wish to work with Canada and the Province of British Columbia to implement the rights and title of the Wet'suwet'en people.
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
I agree that the Wet'suwet'en should have the opportunity to look at the proposed agreement, but we are still seeing news coming out of the elected chiefs and the people they represent that they have not had a thorough chance to look at this proposed agreement.
Will the minister delay the signing?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
I think the member will agree that there's a lot more work to do with all the parties. I believe, in terms of the kind of engagement that has taken place in the feast houses and the notification that took place even before COVID-19, that the work is under way and it will have to be Wet'suwet'en-led in terms of what eventually will be their choice as to how they implement their rights and title.
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Chair, for two weeks now the Liberals on the indigenous affairs committee have shut down Conservatives and witnesses every time we mention the word Wet'suwet'en. They don't want to talk about the issue, an issue that is very much aggravated by the COVID-19 crisis.
The Liberals profess to be the advocates for indigenous communities and the champions of reconciliation. Can the minister tell us why the Liberals are determined to shut down discussion and public debate?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
I would have to disagree with the member. I don't believe that there's, at any time, an interest in shutting down discussion or debate. I think, though, that at the COVID committee the issues facing indigenous communities, first nations, Inuit and Métis around COVID-19 are very important to them. We need to work with them to make sure they can keep their communities safe.
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
I would argue with the minister and challenge her to talk to her committee members. Each time Conservatives have brought up the topic of the Wet'suwet'en and the situation happening with the elected chiefs and the people they represent, we have been shut down every single time.
When will the minister allow the public debate to happen?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
Again, in a committee, it is the work of the committee and the decision of the committee. I believe the chair and all members want first nations, Inuit and Métis to be able to keep their communities safe during COVID-19.
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you.
I was going to ask this of the minister, but since we ran out of time, I'll ask the people within the department.
We've been hearing some disturbing news coming out of the Wet'suwet'en territory, with some very concerning statements from the Wet'suwet'en elected chiefs. This news was released last night, raising alarms about the MOU reached between hereditary chiefs, the province and the federal government.
I think everyone understood that after the agreement was drafted, the Wet'suwet'en people would have the opportunity for full and informed engagement on the document. Unfortunately, this hasn't happened, and due to COVID-19, the Wet'suwet'en elected chiefs have asked that this be put on hold until the people of the Wet'suwet'en can be safely included in this important dialogue.
Again, I will put this to the department. Since we're here to talk about COVID-19 and the government's response to it, is there anyone in the department who can at least relieve the fears of the Wet'suwet'en people and confirm that the department, the government, will not move forward on this until the Wet'suwet'en people and elected leaders have a chance to ratify and safely discuss the impact this document has on their lives and their community? Hopefully, someone might be able to provide a comment.
Daniel Watson
View Daniel Watson Profile
Daniel Watson
2020-05-01 15:26
Thank you very much for the question. This marks the 33rd anniversary this coming week of the launching of Delgamuukw trial. That obviously was a very important one for the Wet'suwet'en people.
One of the things that has never been concluded between Canada, British Columbia and the Wet'suwet'en is how to ensure that the proper conversations happen within that nation. One thing that will absolutely happen as a part of this process is that we will conclude how best to have the Wet'suwet'en nation have its wishes and will expressed fully and completely in relation to the implementation of any of its rights.
The process of engaging others is one that we have been involved with in many other negotiations across the country. It will be very similar. The standards that have been set by the courts and the expectations for everybody around the durability of those agreements rely exactly on what you're pointing out. I can assure you that will happen over time and that the implementation and conversations about any substantive issues will very much require the full consent of the nation.
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Watson, I just want to confirm this. The last time we met, the minister had travelled to British Columbia and had met with some of the hereditary chiefs, although not all, but met with none of the elected members. Have the department or any of the minister's staff that you're aware of reached out to the elected officials to talk about this agreement?
Daniel Watson
View Daniel Watson Profile
Daniel Watson
2020-05-01 15:28
Yes. In fact, shortly after that meeting, we did have a meeting with one of the chiefs, and the minister is on the record as being willing to travel to the area and to meet with elected chiefs as well. Obviously, she's willing and happy to talk to any chief in the country, very much so.
We will again, during the upcoming negotiations that flow from this, ensure that one of the topics is precisely that question of how to ensure that the full nation is engaged and involved.
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
Chair, I think this is where it's relevant. According to the news reports that have come out and according to the chiefs who have released the statement, the fear is that the government is moving forward on this during a crisis, the COVID-19 crisis. I just need to assure these elected chiefs that there is a proper process in place. That's where the link is.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It's a pleasure to be back before this committee for the first time in the new Parliament, especially with so many new faces on this truly important committee for Canada. I, too, want to begin by acknowledging that we are on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin people.
I am pleased to be here with my honourable colleague the Minister of Indigenous Services, Mr. Marc Miller, and our deputy ministers.
We understand that we've been asked to talk about the recent blockades and protests across the country, but I think I'm here mainly to talk about the complex underlying issues at their core. Our government understands that the recent rail blockades have had real impacts on Canadians, businesses and people across the country who rely on a working rail service to get to work, transport goods and keep their businesses running successfully, and also on indigenous peoples.
I think, as you know, that across all government departments, we're working around the clock to resolve this in a peaceful and lasting way. We welcomed the news last week that the remaining rail blockades had been removed and that regular rail service is resuming.
I think we understand that Canadians have been frustrated as they saw the impacts of the recent rail blockades continue, and some opposition politicians, we worry, were unfortunately focused on, as I think I said in the House of Commons, exploiting divisions within a community, which is not going to get us to lasting solutions and the kind of healing needed.
As the Prime Minister said so eloquently, Canadians expect us to work together to get through this together.
Marc and I are here to answer questions you may have because we believe it's really important that all of us truly understand the complexity and sensitivity of the situation and the danger of some of the inflammatory rhetoric we have heard in recent weeks.
As a physician, I am reminded that it's also the obligation of all parliamentarians to firstly do no harm. We need a lasting solution so that nations can take decisions together to achieve the certainty required for first nations, Métis and Inuit to ensure that their communities are healthy and vibrant.
The issues at the heart of this situation extend beyond a particular project, and deal with complex matters of indigenous governance, rights and title.
Over the past several weeks, my B.C. counterpart and I have been in ongoing communication with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs to try to de-escalate the situation and find a path forward to deal with these issues in a substantive way. While policing decisions are made independently and free from political influence, we were pleased that the RCMP in B.C. worked with the Wet'suwet'en to make operational changes to de-escalate the situation and make room for the in-person talks between the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and the federal and provincial governments.
We were also encouraged that Coastal GasLink independently agreed to pause work on the project during in-person discussions to help make that possible, and we were very grateful for Nathan Cullen's work in the de-escalating of the situation among all parties.
The weekend before last, when I met in Smithers with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and the B.C. government, we had very frank and substantive discussions, guided by respect, on issues around Wet'suwet'en rights and title. We were also pleased that the members of the Wet'suwet'en Matrilineal Coalition participated in the first night of the meeting, and we were able to hear their very important perspective directly. These talks focused on two separate issues: the recognition of Wet'suwet'en indigenous rights and title throughout their territory and the issues arising out of the Coastal GasLink project. These topics were discussed separately, and with respect to rights and title, the parties focused intensely on the commitments to an expedited process to implement Wet'suwet'en rights and title.
The result of these discussions was a draft arrangement that will be reviewed by the Wet'suwet'en clan members in their clans and in their houses through the Wet'suwet'en governance protocols for ratification. I believe that over these two weeks...that they need that space to have those conversations independently of outside voices. I believe that the removal of the remaining rail blockades last week and the resumption of rail service provides the Wet'suwet'en nation with that space to have this important conversation of rights and title within their territory.
Out of respect for the process, Canada has agreed that the Wet'suwet'en Nation would have the time to consider the details of this arrangement before it was made public. If ratified, Minister Fraser and I have agreed to return to the Wet'suwet'en territory to sign it, and the parties have agreed to implement title on an expedited basis and to coordinate how we will work together. We are inspired by the courageous Wet'suwet'en people who took the recognition of their rights to the Supreme Court of Canada in the historic Delgamuukw-Gisday'wa case in 1997. 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 that the question of title was to be determined at a later time and then implemented.
I believe that this arrangement with the Wet'suwet'en people will now be able to breathe life into the Delgamuukw-Gisday'wa decision so that future generations do not have to face conflicts like the one that they face today. As the late chief Wah tah Kwets said in the Delgamuukw case, “It is up to us to create a new memory in the minds of our children.”
While work remains, these talks have been an important step on reconciling complex matters of rights and title.
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”.
Over the past five years, we have been moving away from the parameters of the Comprehensive Land Claims and Inherent Right policies.
Our government's approach to negotiating rights-related agreements is being developed through lessons learned from the over 150 recognition of indigenous rights and self-determination discussion tables across Canada. These negotiations involve almost one million indigenous people from 480 first nations, 44 Inuit communities and seven Métis organizations. Since 2015, we have been advancing interest-based discussions and ensuring that co-development is the core of any negotiations with indigenous groups.
In 2019, the governments of Canada and British Columbia and the First Nations Summit co-developed the recognition of reconciliation rights policy for treaty negotiations in British Columbia. This new policy eliminates the concepts that were the barriers to future treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements, including extinguishment and cede and surrender. It demonstrates Canada's commitment to working collaboratively with indigenous and provincial partners, based on the affirmation and implementation of indigenous rights and in accordance with the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Together we are committed to resolving the issues we face and to implementing Wet'suwet'en rights and title. We understand that we are in a critical time together, and we are committed to building a new path together with indigenous peoples across Canada.
Meegwetch.
View Marc Miller Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Chair.
I want to start by acknowledging that we are gathered here today on the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin peoples.
I know that this directly impacted many of you in the room today, as it impacted the communities you represent, and the lives of your constituents.
The conversations that happened in Smithers with Minister Bennett are a positive and vital step, but there's no doubt that there's more work to do, work that many of you in this room know well as members of this important parliamentary committee. There's a lot of work to be done in addressing the underlying concerns of the Wet'suwet'en and the resulting solidarity actions that took place across the country.
However, I'm glad that together we can demonstrate a peaceful, achievable resolution. I believe the easy way is not always the right way. Sometimes using force is a sign of weakness. Over the past few weeks, we've seen the result of ignorance, fear and lack of understanding in vitriolic messages and comments online, through stories of individuals being targeted in public and private, and we saw that not far from here in Ottawa. An indigenous youth group had to move their planned weekly gathering due to the receipt of a death threat.
I think this shows that we have a long way to go when it comes to learning the dark parts of the history of this unreconciled country and its peoples, and truly making an effort to learn from one another and listen.
I've said this before and I'll continue to say it: When we don't have an open and honest dialogue, we simply can't move forward together.
Consistent, open and respectful dialogue is paramount to achieve peace, cooperation and prosperity in this country for all peoples.
It's in this spirit of peace and co-operation that I gathered with members of the Kanyen’kehá:ka along the rail tracks in Tyendinaga, as members will know. We pursued an open dialogue and made concerted efforts to move towards a peaceful resolution. Modest but important progress was made through this dialogue.
However, there was an immense amount of suspicion towards my presence—fear it was a ruse and that the police would move in. It's not every day that people are surrounded by police, and the reactions are normal. Parts of the conversation with the leadership of the community, elders and community members, including women and children, were very difficult, very painful and very personal. Upsetting stories were shared about this country's troubling treatment of indigenous peoples.
These are very serious issues which demand our attention, and have demanded it for hundreds of years, and there's no place in this discussion for rhetoric and vitriol.
The question I have found myself asking in the last few weeks is this: are we going to do things the way we have always done them, which has brought us to this point in our relationship, or do we take a new approach that engages in a true government-to-government relationship?
My greatest challenge in the past month in particular, but in the relationship in general, is trust. It prevents the best and most well-thought-out initiatives from moving forward. It is clear that our work must earn that trust over time.
In looking towards building a better future where we earn that trust, I believe it's important to acknowledge the past. For almost 500 years, indigenous peoples have faced discrimination in every aspect of their lives. The Crown, in part, has prevented a true equal partnership from developing with indigenous peoples, imposing instead a relationship based on colonial, paternalistic ways of thinking and doing. This approach has resulted in a legacy of devastation, pain and suffering, and it's not acceptable.
Many of us know where this has gotten us: a broken child and family system where indigenous children up to the age of 14 make up over 50% of kids in foster care even though they represent 7.7% of all Canadian children; shocking rates of suicide among indigenous youth, causing untold pain and hurt that will plague families and communities for generations to come; untenable housing situations where water that is unsafe to drink or even bathe in comes out of the taps; and communities that don't have reliable access to roads, health centres, or even schools.
When we formed government 4 years ago, we made many significant promises including on some of these areas I just touched upon.
We have delivered on much of that but the most important lesson we learned was that everything has to be done in true partnership. That Canada will succeed when we follow the voices of those whom we have ignored and disrespected for far too long, and those who lead communities across this country.
We know that there is no quick fix for the decades of systemic discrimination that indigenous peoples in Canada have faced. But our government is committed to putting in the time, energy and resources to right past wrongs and build a better way forward for future generations.
We do our best to undertake this work in a way that departs from much of our shared history—a history in which the inherent rights, leadership and cultural vitality have not been respected as they should have been.
Our approach is founded on partnership and co-development and is anchored in listening to indigenous leaders, elders, youth and community members and working to support their attainment of their goals based on their priorities.
Since 2016, we've invested $21 billion in the priorities of indigenous partners, priorities that have been set by indigenous partners, and together we've made some progress, but we still have a long way to close the unacceptable socio-economic gap that exists between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples.
For hundreds of years, indigenous peoples have been calling on the Canadian government to recognize and affirm their jurisdiction over their own affairs, to have control and agency over their land, housing, education, governance system and child and family services. Self-determination improves the well-being and prosperity of indigenous communities, and that's something all Canadians should strive to support.
There is no question that self-determination is a better way forward.
Self-governing indigenous peoples have a proven track record of greater socio-economic success. More children are completing high school, fewer people are unemployed, and health outcomes are much better. Indigenous-led initiatives are more successful, as we have seen time and time again.
There is a critical need to support nation and community-led success in every indigenous community in Canada, not just in education, but also in health care, water and resource management, child and family services, in short, in all sectors.
This is why our government continues to work on shifting policies to recognize the inherent right of self-government for first nations, Inuit and Métis. That means moving to novel models of indigenous government and supporting indigenous communities to assert their rights.
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. As an example, we're working with indigenous institutions in first nations to develop the tools they need to drive local economic development, empower their communities and promote prosperity.
Since 2019, nine first nations have begun operating under their community-ratified land codes through the framework agreement on first nations land management and the First Nations Land Management Act. In addition, 18 first nations have joined the 264 other first nations asserting jurisdiction in the area of fiscal governance by opting into the First Nations Fiscal Management Act.
Self-determination is key to unlocking economic potential, creating opportunities for growth and closing socio-economic gaps. We know that with advancing self-determination, the potential for success is enormous—success of indigenous peoples and, frankly, all of Canada.
To get there, we need to understand that recognizing and affirming rights is a first step in finding a way forward. We need to support indigenous partners to identify our challenges and then we need to rise to those challenges. Finally, we need to recognize that the most important actions we can take are to listen to the hard truths, embrace change and welcome creative ideas. A transformation like that will take determination, persistence, patience and truth telling.
The work ahead of us will be difficult. As I mentioned, this path will require a lot from us. We will have to work in true partnership and listen, even when the truth will be hard to hear. We will have to continue to communicate, even when we disagree. We will need to continue to collaborate and look for creative ways to move forward, as well as new paths to healing and true understanding.
We've all seen what happens when we fail to maintain dialogue. This leads to mistrust and confusion, which can cause conflict and hinder our common journey. I want to be clear: it is up to the rights holders to determine who speaks for them about their indigenous rights and title. We will continue to work toward continuing these conversations. Despite all these challenges, I know that the hard work ahead of us is well worth the effort.
Together, we can build a better Canada, and that's what we're going to do. It will be a country in which healthy, prosperous and self-reliant indigenous nations will be key partners. We have the opportunity to learn from our shared history, to share our pain and even our joy, and to do the work that will result in a country where everyone can succeed.
I look forward to working with my colleagues on all sides to realize this essential work and enormous potential. It requires the participation of all Canadians.
I look forward to answering any questions you may have.
Meegwetch.
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Ministers, for appearing today.
I was encouraged by your appearance, Minister Bennett, but I was disappointed by your words, especially at the beginning when you talked about creating divisions within the community. I think that was extremely unfair. I'm very disappointed by those words, but they don't surprise me given the pattern of this government, where the failures of this government are always someone else's fault, especially the opposition's.
Having said that, using your words about creating divisions within the Wet'suwet'en Nation, did you meet with the elected chiefs during your visit to British Columbia?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
The matriarchs came to the meeting. I did not meet with the elected chiefs. The Delgamuukw complaint was taken by the hereditary chiefs. That is the group that believes they have governance over the whole of the territory. We met with them first.
As you know, the proposed arrangement will go back to the clans and the houses where the elected chiefs will participate. I am more than happy to meet with the elected chiefs at any time.
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
But given that the issue of title has effects on the Coastal GasLink project, as well as the elected bodies within the nation, would it not have made sense to include those elected members at those meetings rather than create divisions within the community?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
I think it was indeed the hereditary chiefs who had raised their concerns. It was the hereditary chiefs who had mounted the support from coast to coast to coast. Therefore, the resolution was going to come with the hereditary chiefs at the beginning. Then we will meet with the elected chiefs.
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
If you're trying to get this project to go ahead, why did you not include the people who are in support of moving this project forward? Why would you only include the voices that were against it—the one side of this story?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
Jamie, as I think you know, the project is a B.C. project totally. It's their processes, their permits, their way forward. My job—
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
My job is to make sure that the nation comes together and heals as a whole, and the concerns of the hereditary chiefs needed to be heard.
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
Given your comment, again, about creating divisions in the community, were all hereditary chiefs included in this meeting, including those who supported the Coastal GasLink project?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
Some of the hereditary chiefs who support the project were certainly there on Thursday night. We heard from each of them individually. They were mainly members of the matrilineal coalition. Then they were able to meet with the other hereditary chiefs. There was a decision taken by the hereditary chiefs in our meeting to take the proposed arrangement back to everybody so that the whole of the nation would take this decision together.
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
Again, Minister, you're blaming the opposition for this, yet you and the provincial government did not invite those who had an interest in supporting this project. Of course, when you're dealing with title, the decision of any agreement affects the project, affects everyone within the community, and yet you are saying the opposition's at fault here. But you did not include the other side of the story—the people who support it, who will benefit.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
As we said, this was a B.C. project. Certainly, the B.C. government had heard from the elected chiefs—
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
—but also, Coastal GasLink had impact benefit agreements with most of them. This was a B.C. project. My job was to carry on from what had been decided in the Delgamuukw decision so that in the future, the whole of the nation would create the kind of governance model and decision-making processes that we are now seeing in Gitanyow and Heiltsuk and Haida. When the elected chiefs and the hereditary chiefs come together in a governance model with their own laws and policies, that is the way forward and that is the only durable solution.
My appearance was not about one project. It's about the future of Canada.
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
It is, but when you exclude the people who are in support of the project, you silence one half, or probably more, of this debate. If you're only hearing from one side against a project, when you're negotiating title, which has impacts, again, you're leaving out the other side.
But I won't dwell on that, because we have only a minute left.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
Jamie, I don't think you heard me. I said the matriarchs were there. I heard from each of them on Thursday—
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
The matriarchs each spoke.
Mr. Jamie Schmale: They were told to leave.
Hon. Carolyn Bennett: Each spoke.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
It wasn't my meeting—
Mr. Jamie Schmale: They weren't there to discuss anything.
Hon. Carolyn Bennett: —but they all had a voice. The process—
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
How do they have a voice if they're not there?
Hon. Carolyn Bennett: They were there, Jamie.
Mr. Jamie Schmale: They were there at the beginning, then they were removed—
Hon. Carolyn Bennett: No.
Mr. Jamie Schmale: —and then they were there the third day.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
No, they weren't removed.
Mr. Jamie Schmale: But we have—
Hon. Carolyn Bennett: There was a half-day meeting between the hereditary chiefs and the people supporting the project for a great part of Friday.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
Well, I started that, and then your divisive language at the beginning derailed me.
Having said that, when you're talking about the title—
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
—when you allow the communities, will you bring this before Parliament after the Wet'suwet'en people...? If they ratify this, will you bring it before Parliament before you sign the deal?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
As you know, these conversations are starting to happen between the hereditary chiefs and the nation. This is an exciting time.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
Most section 35 agreements remain confidential until their ratification by the nation. That's normal in labour agreements and in section 35 agreements. Impact benefit agreements, however, remain confidential.
We are breaking new ground here, Jamie.
View Sylvie Bérubé Profile
BQ (QC)
Ms. Bennett, I also wanted to tell you that the government's attitude during this crisis has been similar to someone who keeps pushing the panic button in the morning. Why did it take so long to act? I know you mentioned this earlier. There are a lot of reminders about the first injunction, the article in The Guardian, the failure of the talks, the first demonstrations, the first blockades, and so on.
What took you so long? It took almost 25 or 26 days to resolve the situation. The so-called indigenous crisis has become an economic crisis across Canada. Hereditary chiefs came to Canada when there was no negotiation between Parliament and the hereditary chiefs, how can you explain that?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
A year ago, the Province of British Columbia appointed Mr. Murray Rankin to begin discussions on the rights and title of the Wet'suwet'en Nation. After the difficulties in December, Mr. Nathan Cullen became involved in the process of resolving the situation.
Initially, there were discussions between Minister Scott Fraser and myself. Then our government proposed a meeting with the hereditary chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en Nation.
We are committed to the process, and with patience, we will achieve a sustainable result.
View Gary Vidal Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Ministers, for your time today.
I want to follow up a little bit on Mr. Schmale's comments.
Minister Bennett, title has primarily been dealt with through treaties, as you talked about. The Tsilhqot’in decision has set out the standards for proving that title exists. I think we would agree on that.
Title claims impact not only the first nations, but also affect the surrounding non-indigenous communities and overlapping first nations' claims. Treaties must be ratified by federal and provincial legislatures, and so to follow up on my colleague's question, not only do I think it's appropriate, but I think it's imperative that you bring this agreement before Parliament before you sign it.
I don't think you answered his question. Will that come before Parliament before it gets signed?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
Yes, I think what I said was that section 35 agreements that Canada and indigenous groups negotiate remain confidential until after the ratification process. With the Anishinabek education agreement, it then came before Parliament. We are very aware that these kinds of agreements, particularly where title is involved, need to come to this place.
View Gary Vidal Profile
CPC (SK)
In all of your public responses to this so far, what I've heard is that once this agreement has gone through this two-week process, as you eloquently referred to today, you and Minister Fraser from B.C. will go back and sign it.
Therefore, where's Parliament in this process?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
As with a collective bargaining agreement or the type of agreements that Canada signs, I have a mandate to be able to sign agreements. This is about an agreement to work to implement.
As you know, the Supreme Court held title and recognized hereditary leadership. It's now our job to do the hard work of being able to implement and work through those things that you are quite rightfully raising in terms of neighbours and private property, insurance and roads, and all of those things. This is a very complex matter, and that's the hard work we're looking forward to doing with the Wet'suwet'en Nation and the Province of British Columbia, but also the municipalities of Smithers and Houston.
This is important work.
View Gary Vidal Profile
CPC (SK)
What I'm hearing from you is that this is an agreement that we're going to keep working together, but you spoke in your comments about this being an agreement about title.
Are we talking about title, or are we just talking about agreeing to continue to work together?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
This is a proposed arrangement that would allow us to move on the important work of implementing the rights and titles of the Wet'suwet'en people.
View Gary Vidal Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you. I'm going to move on.
Mr. Miller, I have a question for you.
In your departmental plan, you say:
Our work supports the self-determination of Indigenous peoples so that in the future, the services we currently offer are developed, governed, and delivered by Indigenous peoples.
Resource development is a great way for indigenous communities to create their own revenue and achieve this noble goal. As my colleague asked, I ask you, why is it that your government seems to only be speaking to those who oppose the economic development?
I would preface that additionally with both Minister Bennett's visit to B.C. but also the transcript I read of your eight-hour meeting with the Tyendinaga people. Again, it seems as though we're only talking to those people who oppose the project development, yet the project development is huge for the success of these communities.
View Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you, Minister. I appreciate that you went out to the Wet'suwet'en community. It's my neighbour to the west of my riding.
I share the concerns of my colleague Mr. Schmale. You talked about exploiting divisions as if it were somebody else other than what you were doing. You talked about being “open and honest”, I think, Minister Miller. That's what you said; you wanted these discussions to be that way.
Are you aware of who elects the elected chiefs and council of the Wet'suwet'en community?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
My understanding, and from the Supreme Court decision, is that the hereditary chiefs...that there is the conversation now about title of the whole community, not just the reserve lands.
View Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
—said to us. We met with him in Prince George three weeks ago now. He said that the elected chiefs are actually elected by the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs as well. They are a true representative of the Wet'suwet'en community of hereditary and community members. Were you aware of that?
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
Absolutely, and that's why now the hereditary chiefs will go back to their clans and their houses and their elected chiefs—
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
I'm going to tell you that they will now go back to their clans and their houses and all members of the nation will determine and ratify this proposal.
View Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
Chief Dan George, who is one of the chiefs elected by the community, has been trying to get a meeting with you, and even wanted to be part of the discussions when you just met with them a few days ago, and said they—the elected chiefs—were shut out of the meeting. Why?
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