Madam Speaker, words have meaning. Words particularly have meaning when they are said in this House of Commons. Tone is important, particularly at a time when the country is facing this type of escalation.
There are people who are frustrated. There are many people in my riding who are frustrated, and I empathize deeply with each and every one of them: the commuters who are impacted because they are unable to take the train to Toronto; the small business that is unable to get supplies; those who are facing shortages and need to lay off workers; those workers who are being laid off, and their families; farmers who are having trouble getting goods to market; or those who are worried they may be short of propane or chlorine.
Canadians are worried, but our indigenous people are also worried and concerned. They are concerned that their voices are not being heard, concerned that their treaty rights are being violated, and concerned, in the case of the Wet'suwet'en, if we listen to the press conference that happened in British Columbia today, that the RCMP's police actions have not followed the rule of law. There have been many concerns expressed, and tempers are flaring. When tempers are flaring, calm is important: calm, measured words.
We have all been faced with what has recently happened with our neighbour to the south, in the United States, where some politicians on one side of the aisle have sought to blame identifiable groups for the problems that face society. Some people have blamed Mexicans. Some people have blamed immigrants and refugees. Some people have blamed Muslims. On the other side of the aisle, some people have blamed Wall Street. Some people have blamed millionaires and billionaires.
As we know, there are good people and bad people in every group. There are good millionaires and bad millionaires. There are good Jews and bad Jews, good Christians and bad Christians, and good Muslims and bad Muslims. Whether it is race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or political conviction, we have good people and bad people in every group. My biggest fear is that by using words that are inflammatory, words like “radical” or “anarchist”, we seek to inflame tensions where those tensions are already on the point of being inflamed.
Indigenous Canadians should not be vilified. Indigenous Canadians should not pay the price for illegal blockades. The vast majority of indigenous Canadians never asked for these blockades, and the vast majority of indigenous Canadians are not responsible for these blockades. I am worried that by using language that is inflammatory, we will cause Canadians who are already upset about their own issues and problems that have been caused by the illegal blockades to take it out on others.
I appeal to all of my colleagues. I heard the most eloquent statement the other day from the member for North Island—Powell River, who talked about her concern for her family members who she was afraid were being scapegoated. We have all recently seen, in the case of the coronavirus, how Chinese Canadians have been singled out. We, as members of Parliament, beyond anything else, have the duty to show all Canadians who are affected by this crisis that we empathize with them, that we understand the anguish they are going through and that we are seeking constructive solutions. The worst thing that we can do is inflame passions by using heated rhetoric and language.
It is totally important for us to recognize that negotiations do not happen in the public space.
As the Bloc Québécois leader has acknowledged in his questions over the past few days, we all know that the ministers are in negotiations with first nations on this matter. However, it would be impossible for these negotiations to take place in public.
We know that business owners and lawyers never release the details of their negotiations. That is just not possible.
As an MP, I am very pleased with my cabinet colleagues who are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to build ties with indigenous peoples and everyone who is protesting. I am confident that progress has been made.
Today the RCMP announced that it would leave the occupied road, the one the hereditary chiefs see as the greatest provocation. Progress is being made. We must continue to negotiate. However, we cannot publicly reveal the details of those negotiations.
It is easy to say that the ministers are doing nothing, but we all know that they are doing something, and that they have built relationships with various groups in order to negotiate. I firmly believe we will see concrete results.
I also want to point out two different things. The first is that policing is best left to those who have operational knowledge in the local sphere. We, as national politicians, do not know exactly what is happening at each blockade.
I am confident that the Sûreté du Québec knows how to do its job.
I trust that the Ontario Provincial Police know what they are doing. I trust that the RCMP know what they are doing, far more than I would know as one individual member of Parliament without all of the information about what is happening at every local site.
All police forces have their own protocols that they use to deal with situations like this one. In most cases, the use of force to remove protesters is something of a last resort, not a first resort. It is not something that could never be done or should never be done, but it should wait until all options of negotiation have been exhausted within a reasonable framework.
If people go in and remove protesters when we are talking about an issue as sensitive as this one, I believe the end result would be that a lot more people across Canada would want to create further blockades. The only practical way to fully resolve this issue is to deal with the core issue and achieve results.
However, Canadians cannot wait forever, and rightly so. We cannot be seized forever with illegal blockades that stop goods and services from getting across Canada, grain from getting to market and passengers from getting to where they are going. At a certain time, there is a point where patience will be exhausted. We have not come to that point, but it is rapidly approaching. I beg and plead with the hereditary chiefs and I beg and plead with those people who are blockading to recognize that two wrongs do not make a right. If something horrible has happened throughout history, if Canadians have violated the rights of indigenous people or have not respected those rights, it is not best to plead that cause by illegally blockading and stopping Canadians from going to work or going to their jobs.
Government has an obligation to listen and to dialogue, as do those who are causing the blockades. I hope that we will peacefully resolve this situation very shortly, because that is what all Canadians expect of us.