Adjournment Proceedings – Natural Resources

Elizabeth May:  Mr. Speaker, I was somewhat surprised that my question to the Prime Minister on December 5 just before our Christmas break was viewed by whomever categorizes my late show questions as one relating to natural resources, as I really feel it deals with first nations rights and the responsibilities of the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. The reality is that the question I raised deals with a critical issue in general and a very disturbing issue in particular.

On December 5, I asked my question of the Prime Minister. This was coincidentally the same day the Prime Minister created his own special task force and asked Mr. Doug Eyford to prepare a report on forging partnerships and building relationships with first nations in relation to proposed west coast energy projects.

When that report came out, it made it very clear what everybody already knew. The Supreme Court of Canada had made it abundantly clear that the federal government, provincial governments and corporations dealing with first nations rights and territories have a strong constitutionally protected requirement to fully consult in a meaningful way with first nations before participating in resource development on their land.

Mr. Eyford’s report contained four points. He urged the Prime Minister to build trust, foster inclusion, advance reconciliation and then take action.

What I raised with the Prime Minister was the distressing case of what took place on Elsipogtog First Nation, a Mi’kmaq community near Rexton, New Brunswick. The first nation community was dealing with an energy proposal, the non-conventional issue of hydraulic fracking. The community of Elsipogtog was widely supported by people in New Brunswick and adjacent communities, who were also concerned and did not want fracking. They were concerned about their groundwater.

The protests that led to arrests were against SWN, a Houston-based company, that wanted to do hydraulic fracking and seismic testing. This testing was supported by the New Brunswick premier but not by the people of New Brunswick and not by the Mi’kmaq people. Exploration testing was to be done without consultation with Elsipogtog and Mi’kmaq first nations in contravention of numerous court decisions, most notably the Marshall decision, which dealt specifically with Mi’kmaq first nations’ rights. This first nation has unceded territory. No treaty could possibly be produced that would allow what has been going on in New Brunswick with the pressure for hydraulic fracking on first nations territory.

I will quote my question to the Prime Minister:

In the context of the increasing tensions in New Brunswick in the fracking protests there, does the Prime Minister recognize that he is legally bound by our Constitution to ensure that the Mi’kmaq of Elsipogtog are fully consulted in advance of any fracking on their unceded territory?

The Prime Minister responded by saying he understood his obligations and in fact had just received the report to which I referred moments ago from Mr. Eyford.

I remain deeply concerned about this incident as a representative of British Columbia and the member of Parliament for Saanich—Gulf Islands. There is a tremendous amount of anxiety about what could be coming if there should be, God forbid, a pipeline approved over first nations’ territories where British Columbians and first nations do not want it.

If the example of what has taken place at Elsipogtog were to be played out in British Columbia, I would be deeply concerned. There was neither consultation nor was there an attempt to build trust, good relationships or reconciliation. Instead there were the violent RCMP arrests on what had been up to that moment a non-violent protest. We need an explanation.