With a pipeline blockaded in northern British Columbia, trains stopped in their tracks across the country, the proceedings of the legislature in Victoria disrupted, and demonstrations in my riding and communities across the country, the past few weeks have been confusing and frustrating for many Canadians.
Despite all the finger-pointing, the current conflict started in the British Columbia legislature when the BC NDP and BC Liberals voted together to support Bill 10, a billion-dollar taxpayer subsidy to induce a final investment decision from LNG Canada.
The BC Green Caucus voted against the subsidy from the beginning and urged other MLAs to do the same. Instead, our colleagues chose to barrel ahead knowing that there were existing long-standing and unresolved matters relating to rights and title in the area. The Coastal Gaslink conflict in the Wet’suwet’en territory has now spilled out across the country.
In Question Period I canvas why government decided to proceed despite knowing it could potentially ignite the deep unresolved issues in our province and I further inquire about why the Select Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs still remains idle.
LNG CANADA PROJECT AND GOVERNMENT RELATIONSHIP WITH WET’SUWET’EN NATION
Last night we heard news that the federal and provincial governments will be meeting with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs. We can all agree that that’s a positive development for all Canadians.
We have to be honest about how we got here. The people in this chamber today are not responsible for 150 years of colonial policies designed to undermine and exclude Indigenous people. But they are responsible for their votes to continue that legacy.
This time last year nearly every member of this chamber voted to provide the ignition point for this conflict. Bill 10 handed billions of taxpayer dollars to LNG Canada, inducing their final investment decision. All members of this chamber, excluding the B.C. Green caucus, voted more than a dozen times, knowing full well of the c rights and title challenges in that territory.
When the B.C. Green caucus was notified of the government’s intention to push forward on the project, I asked whether they had a plan to resolve the situation, the long-standing situation. I was told not to worry about it; it’s taken care of. Well, this does not appear taken care of, does it?
My question is to the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. Why did this government vote to advance LNG Canada before clarity around governance and reconciliation in the territory had been established?
Hon. S. Fraser:
I thank the leader of the third party for his question. I also want to thank him for his continued work on addressing reconciliation issues.
I appreciate the question; however, we have secured meetings with the Office of Wet’suwet’en, the Hereditary Chiefs, beginning this afternoon and tomorrow.
I believe this is a hopeful sign. I’m an optimist, of course, but it is time that we pull together and not reflect on the past.
We have decided that working with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, in cooperation, to find a way forward, we’ll address the rights and title issues of the Wet’suwet’en people and do so with respect. That is what I’m focusing on.
Leader of the Third Party on a supplemental.
ACTIVATION OF ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
Difficult thing, not to acknowledge the actions that got us here — over generations and decades, actually. Now that the on- and off-again talks are on again, it’s my sincere hope that the representatives going to the Wet’suwet’en territory to sit at a table for as long as it takes for a good-faith solution to this Coastal Gaslink conflict, and not just deliver an ultimatum….
It has become painfully obvious to British Columbians and Canadians that this system is broken. It’s not serving anyone well in this country or province. This Legislature has had a Select Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs for the past 30 years. I’m on that committee. It exists in title only, because the government has not empowered it to be effective. That is a fitting symbol, I would say.
We have a tool for all of us here to work together, across party lines, to find solutions to make the systemic changes that are needed to ensure that the people in this chamber don’t just continue the dysfunctional cycle that has been going on here for generations.
To the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation: I’m calling on this government to immediately strike and rename the Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and empower it to better inform the decisions in this chamber. Will they do so?
Hon. J. Horgan:
I thank the member for his question. He will know, as a new member of the House, that committees of this place are struck by consensus. The committee is going to be convened — all committees are going to be convened — and then we decide within this place what we charge those committees to do.
The member will also know that although it hasn’t received a lot of attention, earlier this week, the First Nations Leadership Council was meeting with government officials to begin the work to put in place a work plan to implement the declaration act that was supported unanimously by all members of this House not two months ago.
Work is underway, government to government, and that work will then make its way to the committee so all members can participate in that. But the work has to be initiated before we can get to that step. But I thank the member for his thoughtful question. I can’t wait for the committee to be constituted and do its work.