Mr. Speaker, that is a difficult act to follow, but I will do my best.
Motion No. 533 is very specific in what it requests. It talks about how the federal government, in exercising its jurisdiction, should be submitting natural resource development projects to a broader consultation with first nations and citizens in communities and urban areas. That is the breadth of what is being proposed here. It makes a very broad yet very succinct request of this House.
In addressing the motion, I would like to talk about the nature of public participation, the nature of environmental assessment processes and the aboriginal issues relating to that, and finally about projects in British Columbia that are before us today, namely the Enbridge northern gateway and the Kinder Morgan projects, a lens through which I hope to examine the failure of a credible public participation process—not only, as the motion said, for first nations, but also for citizens in our various communities.
There is a vision for a new energy future that the Leader of the Opposition has articulated in the Policy Options magazine in September and October last year. It is quite interesting, because in that article he starts by talking about the crossroads we are at when it comes to aboriginal involvement in development. He talks of the Supreme Court of Canada's watershed case in the Tsilhqot’in matter that has driven home the fact that resource development will simply not happen without proper first nations consultation and accommodation.
I stress the word “proper” because it is not a “nice to have”, as the government treats public participation; it is a constitutionally required activity, a consultation that is not just about counting boxes and putting little ticks beside them to confirm we have had a chat. It is about a genuine good faith engagement with first nations when resource development affects either their rights or aboriginal title. When I say “title”, of course that is the burden of the Tsilhqot’in case that has been such a watershed development in our part of the world and across Canada.
Let us remember that in the Haida decision, the Supreme Court of Canada said:
Prior to establishment of title, the Crown is required to consult in good faith with any Aboriginal groups asserting title to the land about proposed uses of the land and, if appropriate, accommodate the interests of such claimant groups.
In comparison, the court was clear in Tsilhqot’in that after aboriginal title has been established, the default focus is consent:
After Aboriginal title to land has been established by court declarations or agreement, the Crown must seek the consent of the title-holding Aboriginal group....
What has the Government of Canada done in response to that? What has it done in response to the excellent report by its hand-picked appointee, Mr. Douglas Eyford, who worried that projects are failing because industry has been left alone to navigate the consultation and accommodation process? The government has done nothing. It has left us with a vacuum. It has left us with projects that may or may not be in the public interest but will never proceed, because first nations have not had the constitutional rights accorded to them by the current government.
The government first tried to download it to industry, which pushed right back and said that it was the honour of the crown that was at issue and that industry was not the crown. That has been a bit of a dead end, and it is tying up development that may be in the public interest across this land. It is simply shameful.
The ultimate form of consultation in our province is called the treaty process. This past week we heard that the Government of British Columbia is essentially walking away from the BC Treaty Commission. It cannot seem to find a person to appoint to that process.
Has the Government of Canada been yelling from the rooftops that it is committed to this process, that it has spent billions of dollars trying to engage first nations in unceded land and that through the process of good faith negotiations, it is trying to address those land claims? The answer is no. I have not heard the government say one thing about the crisis facing the BC Treaty Commission. I have heard Chief Sophie Pierre say it and I have heard Jerry Lampert, the federal appointee on the commission, say it, but I have not heard the Prime Minister or a single parliamentarian address that crisis.
It is a crisis not only because billions have been spent, but because that is the way in which we truly engage with first nations to achieve resource development that is meaningful and in the interests of not just the first nations communities but the people of Canada. It is a crying shame the Conservatives seem to have let that wither on the vine.
Douglas Eyford, whom the government appointed after the debacle of the Enbridge process, recommended a special fund for consultation with first nations. That dies this year. The government will not bring a budget forward and we do not know whether it will be continued and, if so, to what degree. That is another example of the lack of concern the Conservatives have for engaging in what the courts have termed “nation-to-nation consultation” with our first nations communities.
It is no wonder this motion was brought forward to demand that this occur. It is not only in the interest of first nations, it is in the interest of all Canadians that the process of reconciliation, which the Supreme Court has demanded of us, be finally addressed, and it is not.
I could spend time on first nations and more so, but I want to talk about the environmental assessment process.
Everyone knows that Bill C-38 gutted the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. We heard that loud and clear in the travesty of the Enbridge northern gateway consultation process. Over 130 first nations across British Columbia announced their opposition. Nearly 10,000 Canadians told the joint review panel that they opposed this project. Towns and cities across Canada oppose it. The community of Kitimat, in a referendum, told the people of Canada that they did not want any of this. Was it approved? Yes. The Government of Canada did not seem to care. So much for consultation. The level of cynicism that the Conservatives have engendered in the people of my province is absolutely tangible.
When we talk to younger Canadians about their engagement in the process, they say “Why bother?” The Conservatives create these little processes and ignore them. It does not matter how many people speak out because it does not seem to make any difference.
If we get into a protest, for example on Burnaby Mountain, and Grand Chief Stewart Philip is arrested, he tells us that under the new and improved national security legislation, his advocacy, protest and dissent will not be in that context lawful because it is subject to an injunction and that he will somehow be on a terrorist list. So much for participation in that project.
What the Conservatives do not seem to get is that they cannot proceed with resource development that may well be in everyone's interest unless they get a social licence. People in our province are having none of these projects because they realize the process by which they are being reviewed completely ignores the consultation that is required.
That is why I was so proud to stand in this place and support a bill introduced by my colleague, the MP for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, Bill C-628. It would, among other things, absolutely improve the level of consultation that this motion would require us to do. One of the things that bill would do would require a report to be submitted to a joint review panel or National Energy Board, as the case may be, that would include a summary of those positions taken by municipalities, first nations and individuals and specify how the board took each position into account in deciding whether to recommend the issuance of a certificate for a pipeline. Accountability is about that. It is ensuring what people say actually matters. That is why they would be unable to ignore the 10,000 people opposed to the Enbridge northern gateway pipeline proposal. Yet the government has the audacity to simply say no problem going ahead.
Closer to home, in my community, we have another proposal coming forward, and that is the famous Kinder Morgan project, in which Trans Mountain's application to double its pipeline and radically increase the number of tankers on our coast is being considered. How can the proponent ever achieve the social licence required when so many people have said that the process of consultation is broken?
The former head of BC Hydro, in a scathing letter, withdrew, saying it was a joke. Standing is being restricted to those “directly affected, reducing the number and diversity of interveners and limiting the participation to a single letter”. That is of course is subject to a charter lawsuit claiming it violates freedom of expression.
Consequently, that is another example of why the motion is so desperately required that government can begin to take consultations seriously so it would improve the life of not only first nations, but all Canadians.