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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

‘They don’t even know squat about our territory and meanwhile they’re putting on roadblocks ...they’re hurting my people and my kids’

Gary Vidal, Conservative MP for the riding
of Desnethe - Missinippi - Churchill River

A minority government should not mean that we have no government

Our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, had what he must have felt was a busy day, actually attending to the people’s business in the House of Commons. After all, he has over the past few weeks once again been traveling the globe – this time, in search of votes from dictators to allow him to have a ‘temporary’ seat on the Useless Nations Security Council ... and before that a sunny vacation (once again) ... along with storm watching on the B C coast ... and ... and ... and.

He doesn’t spend much time in the House? Does he? But I digress ...

Yesterday according to information from the Prime Ministers Office, Trudeau attended, "... the Cabinet Committee on Operations to address the ongoing infrastructure disruptions caused by blockades across the country"... and was then in the House of Commons for Question Period.

I looked over the Hansard transcript for yesterday, after being referred to it by the office of Kamloops – Thompson – Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod, when I asked a few questions about the Conservative Parties position on the disruptions being caused by multiple blockades in BC, and across Canada, and how they felt it was impacting the First Nations peoples along the pipeline route ... as well as everyday British Columbians.

The following is what, at least to me, articulated the issue and problem. These words were spoken in the House of Commons last night, by Conservative MP Gary Vidal, from the riding of
Desnethé – Missinippi - Churchill River:


 
Madam Speaker, I rise tonight to support the Wet'suwet'en people. Over the past weeks, news organizations from coast to coast have mobilized to every blockade and every protest, vying for sound bites and clips to share on the morning news and on their social media. Who has been forgotten in all of this? It seems to me it is the people of Wet'suwet'en nation.
    
Politicians across Canada and in this House have taken it upon themselves to speak on behalf of the people. I do not want to even pretend to speak on behalf of these people, because I think that would be foolish for me to claim to do so. It would lack credibility and integrity. Let me be clear, however. We are at a very important point in our history, and I intend to be on the side of the Wet'suwet'en people tonight, who have the right to self-determination and to control their own destiny.
    
Wet'suwet'en nation member Vernon Mitchel speaking with regards to opposition of the Coastal GasLink pipeline:
“They don’t even know squat about our territory and meanwhile they’re putting on roadblocks...they’re hurting my people and my kids.”

The elected leadership of all 20 first nations whose territory runs along the pathway of Coastal GasLink, eight hereditary chiefs and over 80% of the people are in favour of getting this pipeline built.

I was the mayor of the city of Meadow Lake for eight years and I know just how difficult it is to get 80% support for a project. It is nearly impossible. That is why I appreciate the hard work that the elected chiefs have put in to negotiate an extremely successful deal with Coastal LNG on behalf of their people.
    
There is over $1 billion in commitments to indigenous workers and to indigenous-owned firms because of this project. These dollars could be used for important investments in these communities such as housing, mental health, education, recreation and many other things. However, it is not just about the dollars being invested in these communities; it is about the creation of well-payed, sustainable jobs.
    
I represent a riding that has a population that is over 70% indigenous. During the election campaign and in the months since, I have had many opportunities to talk to people about my vision for northern Saskatchewan, to talk to people about the opportunity to have well-paying, sustainable jobs. It is a very similar theme to what we talk about tonight when we consider this project.
    

Kamloops Thompson Cariboo Conservative MP Cathy McLeod:
We have a crisis. We have a lack of leadership. The current government has allowed something to fester. It has not paid attention to it and it has grown into a crisis in the country. It lays at the feet of the government.


The benefits I have spoken about over and over again are threefold.

First ... there is an obvious economic benefit that comes with having a good job and being able to take care of oneself and one's family.

Second ... there is an innate need in each of us to be fulfilled, to feel valued and to have a sense of self-worth. There is nothing greater than the feeling one experiences after coming home, having put in an honest day's work.

Third ... the most important benefit that I have been talking about over the last several months is the hope that comes from the opportunity of having a good job.
    
Youth suicide in northern remote communities is very real, and it is a heartbreaking crisis. 

I have spoken many times about how the suicide crisis in northern Saskatchewan is due to a lack of hope. When young people can look up to those they respect and admire, such as their parents, their uncles, their brothers and sisters, or maybe their older cousins, and see them succeed by being part of the industry in northern Saskatchewan, they have hope. They have hope for a better future and they no longer have to consider suicide. I realize that a good job does not solve every problem, but it sure is a good start and it goes a long way.
    
The question becomes how we create these jobs.

I have spoken consistently about creating partnerships between indigenous communities and private industry. These partnerships create opportunity for people in remote northern communities to fully participate in the economic well-being of Canada as a whole. 

This project is a perfect example of that model at work.
    
We simply cannot allow a minority of protestors to stand in the way of the will of the Wet'suwet'en nation. These protestors have taken extraordinary measures to hold Canada hostage, compromising the safety of our rail infrastructure, blocking and intimidating people attempting to go to work and in some cases physically assaulting elected members of a provincial legislature.
    

These blockades have had real effects on my constituents. I have heard from farmers in my riding that many are being told they will not be able to deliver the grain they have contracted for February and March.

Canada's reputation as a stable supplier is at risk. Our farmers are risking losing global customers, and they will find other suppliers.
    

Andrew Scheer, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada:
Mr. Speaker, who is he (Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) talking about sitting down with in partnership? These people in Ontario are ignoring the demands of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation. They are using them as an excuse to protest and block projects that they have always been opposed to. Once again, why is the Prime Minister elevating people, activists, who have no connection to the first nations that we are talking about, and elevating them on the same level as hard-working and well-meaning indigenous leaders who are actually interested in reconciliation in this country?


These are people's livelihoods we are talking about. It is how they feed their families. It is what heats their homes. These blockades have to end. If we allow a small minority to succeed in blocking this project, I am concerned that it will be impossible for future projects to ever see the light of day.

(9:45pm)  
    
Canada's courts have been very clear. The standard for meeting the fiduciary duties for consultation and accommodation are very high. These thresholds have been met by the Coastal LNG project and they ought to be respected.
    
My colleague referenced Ellis Ross - in her speech a few moments ago - and I want to do the same. 

Ellis Ross is the B.C. MLA for Skeena, and a former councillor, and subsequent chief councillor for the Haisla Nation. He served in that role for 14 years and had the following to say recently:
    

“The heated debate over who holds authority over the territory of First Nations — be it hereditary chiefs or elected band leaders — may serve the interests of those seeking to disrupt construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, but it does absolutely nothing for the well-being of an average Aboriginal living on reserve”.
    
He went on to further say:
    
“Allowing outsiders to undermine and dismiss years of careful consideration and consultation with elected chiefs who want nothing more than to secure a brighter future for their membership, is quite unacceptable....”
    
I am not naive enough to not realize there are members of the Wet'suwet'en nation who are not in favour of this pipeline. Of note, four of the 12 hereditary chiefs, as well as approximately 15% of the people, would fit in that category.
    
I will always support the rights of those not in favour to protest peacefully, but as with any major decision, indigenous or non-indigenous, total consensus is often unachievable. That is why authentic relationships must be developed so we can have difficult conversations when the need arises.
    
Let me share from my own personal experience and journey in this regard. As I said earlier, 70% of my riding is indigenous. We grew up going to school together, playing sports together, and in general, living shoulder to shoulder.
    
Later in life when I became mayor, I had the privilege of working with and developing strong relationships with four chiefs from Flying Dust First Nation who served with me when I was mayor. We shared the challenges of water supply, policing, development activities, recreation and many other matters. It is my sincere belief that we were able to navigate these challenges because we invested in positive and authentic relationships prior to the issues being put on the table.
   
I truly appreciate the effort the Minister of Indigenous Services has made recently to have dialogue, but unfortunately, the Prime Minister has left him in the unenviable position of having to deal with this in a reactive manner rather than in the proactive manner it deserved.

It is clear that these attempts to have dialogue suddenly in the wake of a crisis are too little and far too late.
    
The government seems to be focused on blaming the Harper government for all of its failures, but the Liberals have had four and a half years and all we hear is virtue signalling and lip service.
    

Andrew Scheer, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada ... after hearing a response from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:
Mr. Speaker, that was the weakest response to a national crisis in Canadian history. I listened to the Prime Minister's word salad just now and at least two key things were missing: a clear denunciation that the actions of these radical activists are illegal and some kind of an action plan that would put an end to the illegal blockades and get our economy back on track. The Prime Minister's statement was a complete abdication of responsibility and of leadership.


In my riding, during the campaign I consistently heard the terms “empty promises” and “unfulfilled commitments” from my indigenous friends. That has been made abundantly clear over the past few weeks, with the choices the Prime Minister has made to prioritize a seat on the United Nations Security Council instead of dealing with the crisis here in Canada. That is not leadership, and right now leadership is what this country needs.
    
We are asking for a common sense approach to this crisis, respect the rule of law, open authentic dialogue on reconciliation and to not allow the minority to overrule the majority.
    
As a former mayor of Meadow Lake, I know how important these development projects are to indigenous communities. It is a real and tangible path to economic freedom, self-government and true reconciliation. That is why I am standing today in solidarity with the elected councillors, hereditary chiefs and the people of the first nation.
    
The Prime Minister said in the House today that patience may be in short supply. It seems that the commitment to reconciliation is also in short supply. The Prime Minister did say something I agree with, which is that we all have a stake in this, that we need to find a solution and we need to find it very soon. I would only add that we should have started looking for a solution sooner.
    
Today in the National Post, Derek Burney wrote, “A minority government should not mean that we have no government.”

In the spirit of collaboration then, I encourage everyone to take a deep breath, refocus our efforts, shut out the radical minority and take earnest steps toward authentic reconciliation.

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