It appears that Hon. Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation believes the long-standing conflict over the Coastal GasLink pipeline currently being built in the Wet’suwet’en territory, is the result of “tension and division” among the Wet’suwet’en people.
Let’s be clear, the fully-armed RCMP are violently arresting Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan people in their own territories to enforce a policy decision made by the BC NDP government to support the development of the LNG industry. The RCMP are not there to sort out a breakdown in relationship between the Indian Act Chiefs and Councils and hereditary Chiefs.
Perhaps Minister Rankin cannot see, from his position of privilege, the impact of the Indian Act on the governance of Indigenous Nations. I see no other way that he can pretend that it is he, and his BC NDP colleagues, who are the ones that are burdened.
The conflict in the Wet’suwet’en territory has been simmering for years. BC NDP senior staff acknowledged it to me, and promised it would be resolved. Even as Minister Rankin stands and provides a long list of actions he has taken, the conflict remains as dangerous today as it ever has been. Minister Rankin’s attempts to find resolution have failed. Court injunctions and armed conflict is not resolution.
This B.C. NDP government knew of the fierce opposition to the Coastal GasLink pipeline. The blockades caused by this pipeline have shut down highways, ferries, railroads and this Legislature. It was no surprise. The Premier’s chief of staff acknowledged it and told me personally that this situation would be resolved.
Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan people are being violently arrested by fully armed RCMP. Two journalists arrested last week sat in jail all weekend — so much for the freedom of the press. Two members of this House, from Stikine and Oak Bay–Gordon Head, were previously on the provincial payroll, paid to sort this out. They failed. When they got elected here, what was the reward of that failure? They became ministers.
Our Minister of Public Safety Minister has consistently hidden behind the court injunctions and police enforcement. The court’s message was clear this summer. Get them out from the middle of these political conflicts.
My question is to the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General and the Deputy Premier. His government knew the conflict was brewing in the Wet’suwet’en when they approved LNG Canada. Their chief of staff stated it would be taken care of. When will his government take responsibility for the policy decisions that have led us to this armed conflict on the Coastal GasLink project?
Hon. M. Rankin:
I’d like to thank the member for Saanich North and the Islands. It’s true. This has been a very difficult conflict. It’s true, as well, that there has been tension and division within the Wet’suwet’en Nation.
Our government is committed to sorting this out, in the words of the member, through negotiations with the federal government and the Wet’suwet’en Nation. We’ve been struggling to do so in the face of disunity. There has been — it’s no secret — conflict between the elected and the hereditary system. But we continue to do this historic work.
For the first time in history, we are trying to figure out, on the land, what Aboriginal title means in negotiation. In other cases, the courts have told us what it means — in the Tsilhqot’in case, in the Delgamuukw case. We know that there is such a thing. But no court has ever told us in that yintah, the territory of the Wet’suwet’en, just what it means. So we are doing the hard work that that requires.
I have met with Chief Wass, the Hereditary Gitxsan clan leader, on many occasions and spoken with him. We have retained Mr. Miles Richardson, a highly respected Indigenous leader and former president of the Council of the Haida Nation, to serve as an interlocutor to get the conversations going so that we can get on with this work. It will be done when unity can be achieved. It will be done when the federal-provincial government and the Wet’suwet’en Nation come together to do this historic work and complete the work that has been started only in the last two or three years.
Member for Saanich North and the Islands, supplemental.
If this is sorting this out, then we are a long way away from the reconciliation that this government has promised Indigenous nations. Disunity? Conflict between Hereditary and elected Chiefs? They have been sowing the seeds of this disunity. We’ve been witnessing it all summer, here on southern Vancouver Island. Figuring out title? The Premier stands up and talks about Indigenous title like it was figured out.
It is completely unacceptable, the response from that minister. He has spent long enough as a lawyer in this province, in this country, to know far better than to stand up and say that. This government promised a new relationship with Indigenous people, but instead, they’re acting in bad faith, intentionally deceiving British Columbians by exploiting divisions in our communities, created by the Indian Act…
Member, withdraw that, please. Nobody is intentionally deceiving anybody.
All right. I withdraw.
Members, please keep your comments to yourself. Let your Chair do his work.
The member will continue.
This government has been exploiting divisions in our communities — created by the Indian Act — and they know it. This government soaks in the accolades of passing the declaration act, but then is unwilling to change the racist government structures that have created the conflict that we face today. Instead of the much-assured reconciliation, what we have from this B.C. NDP government is more of the same divide-and-conquer tactics gift-wrapped in meaningless political rhetoric and empty promises.
Some of the members might be feeling offended by these sharp and direct comments. However, what they are feeling is nothing like what my relatives felt in residential and day schools; languishing in the child welfare system; and watching their unceded territory devastated by this Crown government. My question is to the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. These relationships are his responsibility, and he suggested last week that it was months since he talked to the people up there. In the last month, what specific actions has this minister taken to address the long-standing conflict over the Coastal Gaslink pipeline in the Wet’suwet’en territory?
Hon. M. Rankin:
I find the harsh rhetoric absolutely unhelpful in this important historic work. To talk about bad-faith — to suggest that we have done nothing…. I have spoken with Chief Wass on several occasions. I have talked to my federal counterpart. I have engaged Miles Richardson. I have been in the territory to meet the elected and the Hereditary leaders in early September. I continue to work with a non-Indigenous group of people in the community who are likewise committed to getting on with this historic work.
We have provided $7.22 million to get the unity work done, which the Wet’suwet’en Nation itself acknowledges is critically required. We have provided $1.23 million to create a seat of government for the Hereditary nation — the Wet’suwet’en Nation at Lake Kathlyn School near Smithers. To suggest that that we have been idle, it seems to me, greatly deceives this House. I reject that this government is responsible for sowing the seeds of disunity when everything we have done is to try to achieve that unity.
Minister, please withdraw that.
Withdraw that word that you used. “Deceiving” — the word you used. Withdraw that.
Hon. M. Rankin:
I apologize for that. But I also reject that there’s any bad faith on the part of our government.
But I withdraw that word.
Okay, Members. He withdrew.
Thank you Adam for your honesty. I feel your struggle with your colleges in Parliament as it is obvious from what is not being said how disinterested this government’s commitment to resolving Indigenous issues.