Madam Speaker, I thank all my colleagues for giving me this opportunity to speak about this emergency situation that confronts us all with the reality of injustice and the challenge of reconciliation.
This is a very important debate and this is a very important moment. During the constituency week when I was home in my riding, we discussed the blockades, the inconvenience, what it means for settler culture Canadians to face inconvenience when indigenous people have had their land, children and culture stolen from them, and efforts to annihilate who they are as people. We have to weigh our inconvenience against the challenge of the moment. One of my constituents, Priscilla, said that we should focus on the opportunity of such a rich conversation.
Listening to some of the words of my colleagues, the leader of the official opposition reminded me of something. On May 4, 1877, General Oliver Otis Howard spoke of the frustrations he felt in dealing with the Nez Perce and their chiefs as they discussed what mattered to them. He stated that, “Twenty times over I hear that the earth is your mother. I want to hear it no more, but come to business at once.” This is not simple and it will not end overnight because it is based on a century and a half of injustice, oppression and colonialism.
It is also based on the reality that since 1997, the Wet‘ suwet‘ en have had every reason to believe that based on a Supreme Court of Canada decision, the federal government would come and talk about the title for the Wet‘ suwet‘ en, which could be 22,000 square kilometres, and about what it means that the Supreme Court of Canada has said that their title and indigenous form of government, which predates Canada by thousands of years, has status in Canadian law.
We must not ever set out the notion that there is a rule of law on one side and indigenous people on the other. Indigenous people have the law on their side. When the leader of the official opposition referred to “a small group of radical activists”, perhaps he meant the nine judges of the Supreme Court of Canada. They are the ones who said that title is title is title and that indigenous title is collective and intergenerational. Acknowledging that will explain why we stand in solidarity with the Wet‘ suwet‘ en hereditary leadership.
My colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith went up on January 19 and met with the hereditary leadership of Wet‘ suwet‘ en. The Green Party has been trying to appeal to the federal government from the beginning to not let the RCMP arrest people. The huge encampment cost Canada a whole year of a remote location of RCMP detachment encampment on the edge of Wet‘ suwet‘ en territory. It is very remote. My colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith went up there and found that they had offered an alternative route. This was acknowledged in the injunction case that granted an injunction to Coastal GasLink. The Wet‘ suwet‘ en hereditary chiefs had offered another location that would avoid the Kweese trail, but according to the court, Coastal GasLink unilaterally rejected the alternative.
The federal government has to step up. I am glad the federal government is stepping up. It is true that on February 5 in this place, the Prime Minister said that, “This is an issue that is entirely under provincial jurisdiction.” That is true insofar as the pipeline goes. It does not cross a provincial border, but it is massively untrue. We talk about indigenous rights, the Delgamuukw decision of 1997, the Tsilhqot’in decision of 2014. The big question to ask when first nations win in our courts is this: What is the statute of limitations on us doing anything about it?
The Wet‘ suwet‘ en have been enormously patient and the Unist’ot’ en camp has been sitting there for 10 years.
It should come as no surprise to see resistance from indigenous peoples across Canada. It is clear in all the agreements.
The indigenous leadership across Canada has been saying for quite some time that if someone marches on that territory, they will respond as if someone had marched on their territory. This is an aspect of solidarity. For the solidarity of indigenous people across Canada and their allies, people like me who are settler culture Canadians recognize that this is a turning people for this country, where we actually mean what we say.
When I heard a comment from the brilliant senator and former justice Murray Sinclair from the other place, who said, as in Paul Simon in The Boxer, “For a pocket full of mumbles such are promises.” We must set aside our pocket full of mumbles. We must be serious in our intent. This is a land issue. This is a title issue. This is a justice issue. It is only very incidentally a pipeline issue.
It is now clear that we must face the reality of injustice and the great promise of reconciliation. Now is the time to say yes to indigenous peoples and to reject the notion that they are a radical group, because they are not. This is a group that is committed to the grand project of justice.
Now is the moment for Canada to face its moment of truth, justice and reconciliation.