Evidence of meeting #80 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was consultation.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Peter Lantin  President, Council of the Haida Nation
Marilyn Slett  Chief, Heiltsuk Nation
Reg Moody-Humchitt  Assistant Negotiator, Gladstone Reconciliation Office, Heiltsuk Nation
Chief Stewart Phillip  President, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs
Cameron Hill  Elected Councillor, Gitga'at First Nation

4:40 p.m.

President, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

On to Mr. Hill.

4:40 p.m.

Cameron Hill Elected Councillor, Gitga'at First Nation

Thank you.

Gitga'at First Nation congratulates Canada for introducing Bill C-48, the oil tanker moratorium act, and thanks the committee for the opportunity to provide testimony regarding the bill.

Before I continue, I was made aware that everybody had our submission. Is that correct?

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

We have a variety of them here, Mr. Hill. I would assume if you've submitted it, it's been translated in both official languages for us.

Please continue.

4:40 p.m.

Elected Councillor, Gitga'at First Nation

Cameron Hill

Once passed, the oil tanker moratorium act would be an important step towards Canadian law being consistent with Gitga'at customs, laws, norms, beliefs, and values, adawx and ayawwx with respect to the responsible use of our territories, our waterways, and our resources, on which our people and our entire nation rely.

Gitga'at territory includes all marine waterways between the ports of Kitimat and Prince Rupert, and outside waters. Gitga'at have always used and continue to use our territory to fulfill our traditional and contemporary culture, economy, and community well-being. Tankers could not travel to and from these ports without passing through our territory, and that would have an immediate effect on us. Tankers travelling to and from Kitimat would pass directly in front our village of Hartley Bay, which is located on the Douglas Channel.

Gitga'at have carefully studied how oil tanker traffic and the risk of oil spills and actual oil spills impact our rights and interests. Those studies were conducted by numerous independent experts practising western science. A bigger factor was our elders, many of whom have since passed away. They have passed their wisdom and the intergenerational teachings of our ancestors to the next generations. We have concluded that tanker traffic, and the risks they introduce, would have a devastating and even irreversible impact on the environmental health of our territory and on the cultural, social, human health, and economic well-being of our people and our nation. As a result, the Gitga'at people have been steadfast and consistent in our opposition to oil tanker traffic in our territory, ever since this realization became known to us.

For us, the moratorium is long overdue. For example, 40 years ago, in 1977, the Gitga'at people blockaded the cruise ship Princess Patricia as it passed through Douglas Channel near our village of Hartley Bay. On board that vessel were industry experts intending to show how safe the transportation of their crude and their oil and their industry would be. All we wanted then and all we want now is to make sure that our voices are heard. Our chief at the time, Wahmoodmx Johnny Clifton brought people ashore and explained to them why this proposal would never work in our territory.

Gitga'at further demonstrated our resolve to protect our territory from oil tankers when Enbridge proposed the northern gateway project. Much time, effort, energy, and money was spent pursuing our objective of making sure our area was going to be looked after, not only for us but for all Canadians.

That process took 10 years, 10 years out of our lives that we should have been able to enjoy learning from our elders, learning from our hereditary system, and passing that knowledge down to our children.

Gitga'at will continue to be unwavering in our protection of our people and our territory from the risk of oil tankers. No one has been able to credibly guarantee us, and I don't think ever will, that an oil spill would be able to be cleaned up within our territory without further impacts.

Although Gitga'at support the federal moratorium on oil tankers in our territory, we have some concerns. Some concern the recent refinery proposals. Our neighbours to the south, the Heiltsuk people, had to endure a spill just last year. Our people continue to endure the effects of the Queen of the North spill upwards of 10 years ago. Also, we've had to endure the effects of the Zalinski, which sank in the lower Grenville Channel at the end of World War II.

That being said, we are encouraged that Canada, through the measures of the oceans protection plan and the tanker moratorium, is taking important steps to work with the Gitga'at and other first nations communities to find solutions that protect our coasts while allowing us to benefit from the sustainable use of our oceans.

I'll stop there.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you very much, Mr. Hill.

We also have via teleconference with Danielle Shaw, director of the stewardship office for the Wuikinuxv Nation.

Welcome, Danielle. I understand you don't have opening remarks, but if you have information to offer in the committee's questions, please feel free to let us know that.

We go now to Ms. Block, for six minutes.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Thank you very much, Madam Chair. I would like to thank all of our witnesses for joining us today. I think it's a very important conversation we're having with you folks, and, indeed, all of the witnesses we've heard from over the past number of weeks.

In testimony last week, we heard that the government did not properly consult as per section 35 of the Canadian Constitution with those first nations communities that were here last week.

I will throw this out to both of the gentlemen who have given opening remarks to find out if your communities or the communities you represent, Mr. Phillip, were properly consulted before Bill C-48 was tabled in the House.

4:50 p.m.

President, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip

My response to that is, as Mr. Hill has pointed out, we've been involved in the ongoing struggle to protect our territories from the industrialization, the predations, of the fossil fuel industry for a very long time. These are not new issues.

The Enbridge northern gateway battle was a decade. It attracted 19 lawsuits, similar to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline project, which also is facing 19 lawsuits.

These are deeply emotional, very volatile issues, and we've been very clear in our right, our fundamental right, our fundamental human right, to be able to protect the health, safety, and well-being of our indigenous peoples. That's what we've been doing for a very long time.

We were quite happy with the announcement that Bill C-48 was forthcoming, but again I point out that there are millions and millions of people along the southern coast—the Juan de Fuca Strait, Burrard Inlet, the Fraser River Estuary—who would be absolutely devastated by a catastrophic tanker spill or pipeline rupture.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Okay. I think you have answered my questions.

Mr. Hill, can you tell me if your community was properly consulted before this bill was introduced in the House?

4:50 p.m.

Elected Councillor, Gitga'at First Nation

Cameron Hill

I would say that the consultation was definitely better than the consultation we would have faced with northern gateway and Enbridge, but I have some lingering questions about how that consultation looks in the future. What are our next steps going to be?

We want to have meaningful consultation. In my mind, that's what's happening right now. It's not consultation through emails. It's not consultation through letters. It's me being able to talk with you representing my nation and telling you our concerns.

I think another way we need to properly consult one another is for us to be able to set up avenues and times for us to be able to talk with our neighbours about this specific project. We need to do our due diligence and talk with our neighbours about what exactly this tanker moratorium means to them. We haven't been given the opportunity to do that.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

I really appreciate that point. I know one of my colleagues asked the question that was on my mind in terms of whether first nations communities come together, because, obviously, there are different points of view on the moratorium.

There are some first nations communities that see it as putting a stop to some economic development in their communities, and others like yours that would say you are pleased with the moratorium.

Is there a way that first nations communities' neighbours come together to have these conversations to understand the different points of view that would be represented?

4:50 p.m.

Elected Councillor, Gitga'at First Nation

Cameron Hill

I would say that as far as the Gitga'at Nation goes, we followed our own due diligence in respect to—if I could throw the F-word out there—fracking. Before we delved into negotiating with anybody about LNG and what that would mean, we went to, talked with, and invited the people from the northern interior and those communities that were going to be impacted at such a huge level as far as fracking goes to come [Technical difficulty—Editor] about that.

We did that on our own dime, we did that out of our own time, and we did it out of respect to make sure that our neighbours were going to be well looked after and weren't going to be pushed aside by what Gitga'at was proposing. We're at a very busy time within all of our nations, and it's a very difficult thing to do, but I think that having that little bit of courtesy and respect before you go out and say your stand...you do need to talk with your neighbours.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Thank you.

Really quickly—you can answer this later, perhaps—what is the role of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs and is there a role there to make some of these conversations happen? AFN.... I would like to know a little more about how some of these conversations can take place.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

I don't think you can answer that—

4:55 p.m.

President, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip

Very quickly, in terms of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, it was first established in—

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Chief Phillip, Ms. Block got the question in, but we have gone way over the time to get the answer out, so as you—

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Vance Badawey Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

Let him go.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

All right. Please go ahead. It's important. We'd like to hear the answer.

4:55 p.m.

President, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip

Okay.

Again, as quickly as I can manage this, the UBCIC was first established in 1969 as a direct consequence of the efforts of the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Mr. Chrétien with respect to the white paper policy. Our role is a political advocacy role. We represent about 118 first nations in the province of British Columbia and we support our members in their ongoing struggles to protect the integrity and the well-being of their territories and their people.

In terms of roles and your previous question, I would suggest that the law and policy review can go a considerable distance to deal with the dismal record of consultation from both previous federal governments and provincial governments, and also from industry. The nation-to-nation offer of a better relationship, of resetting the relationship with the Government of Canada, certainly is another avenue to address these issues in terms of having a more comprehensive method of communicating with respect to major resource development.

Finally, again as a consequence of the dismal record of consultation, the drive-by consultation that has been the norm, communities like Tk’emlups and Skeetchestn did an incredible comprehensive environmental assessment on the Ajax mine that featured public hearings. As well, Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish did very detailed environmental assessments on their own dime to fill the gap with respect to the deficiencies in what various levels of government and industry consider and what really represents a minimalist approach to consultation with respect to our constitutional and legal rights.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you very much, Mr. Phillip. You can maybe get a bit more of those answers in as you're going on with some of my colleagues here, since we're way over time.

Mr. Fraser.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Thank you to both witnesses for being here. To the extent that this process constitutes, in a small way, meaningful consultation, I'm very thrilled to take part in it.

Picking up on the answer you just gave, one of the concepts that I'm frankly struggling with greatly is the inherent tension between the constitutional duty to consult and the concept of obtaining consent where multiple indigenous groups are impacted by a given policy or initiative and there's no unanimity.

I'd like both witnesses to comment on this, perhaps on behalf of the union first. I'm curious. With a bill like this, where there is division between different indigenous groups, how can we conduct meaningful consultation when there may not be consent from all groups? Is there a role for the federal government to facilitate conversations between indigenous communities so they can have the opportunity to maybe reach a unified position, or to at least get to a place where there's a common understanding of one another?

4:55 p.m.

President, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip

I can't help but reflect on Prime Minister Trudeau's remarks at the United Nations not that long ago, where he described all of his work. Again I go back to the nation-to-nation promise of the government and the law and policy review as being a work in progress.

Clearly past practices have fallen woefully short, and we need to undertake the challenge of engaging these issues to be able to close the gaps and have a better way of arriving at these decisions that includes all of the parties. Previous governments, unfortunately, refused to engage in these issues at all, and we're paying the price for a decade of that stonewalling. We have a very short window—I would suggest another year or thereabouts—to get to the bottom of these issues that you're describing, through the law and policy review and other such initiatives.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Mr. Hill, do you want to offer comment as well?

5 p.m.

Elected Councillor, Gitga'at First Nation

Cameron Hill

I can't help but go back to the northern gateway hearings and really what a detrimental effect those had on our community. It's no secret that many communities like mine just don't have the monetary means in order to go out and have meetings on our own.

Even still, there are so many other factors at play here that affect our ability to get out and talk about such issues. For instance, Maclean's magazine on two different occasions referred to Hartley Bay as one of the hardest places to get to in Canada. Even when we think we have all of our ducks in a row, sometimes it's just impossible to get out of here to have these face-to-face meetings.

At the root of it all, one of the biggest factors is simply the monetary means to make that happen. People in my community are working. People like me who are in an elected position also have to have a job. I am a principal and a teacher within my school here, and it's very difficult for me to just up and leave.

I appreciate the question, and I think that if we're able to ponder that a little bit more, I'm sure there's an avenue out there through which we could try to do something, much like what we're doing today, where we get not only our elected officials but also our hereditary officials together.

November 7th, 2017 / 5 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

You mentioned, I think, that 118 different groups make up the union. On an issue like Bill C-48 is there dissent amongst the groups and, if so, how do you reach a position as a union? Is it a majority vote? Is it a consensus that emerges after discussion or what's the process?