Madam Speaker, it is my privilege, and I am proud, to represent all the hard-working men, women, and families of Lakeland, including indigenous people across Lakeland in the Saddle Lake Cree Nation, Whitefish Lake First Nation, Kehewin Cree Nation, Frog Lake First Nation, Onion Lake Cree Nation, as well as the Kikino, Buffalo Lake, Fishing Lake, and Elizabeth Métis settlements.
I will speak about the motion put forward by the NDP today from the perspective of indigenous involvement with energy development in Canada. I can only conclude that the motion involves the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion as a way to advance the narrative that indigenous people in communities are opposed to responsible natural resource development, and to oil and gas in particular.
Of course, indigenous views of oil and gas and pipelines are not homogeneous. There are a variety of different experiences and opinions within and between indigenous communities, like all Canadians. Therefore, I will take the opportunity to shed some light on the other half of that narrative which is often not discussed in the House or in the media.
I was very proud when the previous Conservative government became the first one in Canada to officially apologize for the residential school system. It launched the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to recognize factors behind socio-economic challenges that indigenous people disproportionately experience, and to start working toward greater awareness, understanding, and deeper knowledge between Canadians.
Part of the path to reconciliation includes economic reconciliation. JP Gladu, president of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business said:
First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities must have the resources to drive their own business endeavours and choose their own path toward economic growth, without prejudice.
He also said:
Aboriginal communities are going through a demographic boom, often in areas that face labour shortages and lack suppliers for local development projects. Canada cannot afford to lose the next generation of aboriginal business talent. The cost of inaction will be heavy, and not just for aboriginal peoples.
The reason I want to speak to the motion is not just because I want to reaffirm my support for truth and reconciliation, but also to let the indigenous communities in Lakeland and across Canada know that I and the Conservatives support them in their pursuit of economic development and prosperity. I represent a riding that includes eight first nations and Métis communities in northern rural Alberta. As a person who happens to be part Ojibway myself, which is complicated in my family, as it is in many, it dismays me that the left often uses first nations as pawns in their anti-energy rhetoric, implying that all first nations and Métis people are against oil and gas.
In Lakeland, and certainly across Alberta, it is very common for first nations and Métis people to be business owners and workers in energy and pipelines. Even the AFN chief, Perry Bellegarde, confirms that 500 of the 630 first nations in Canada are open to pipelines and support petroleum development. I am inspired that first nations, especially across western Canada, are increasingly agitating publicly for themselves that they want more pipelines, because that infrastructure is as crucial to the lifeblood of their communities and to opportunities for their young people as it is anywhere else.
Let us talk about economic prosperity and what it really means. Around 32,000 Métis and first nations people work in Canada's natural resources sector, which is the biggest employer of indigenous people in Canada. In Lakeland and around Alberta, first nations are very active in oil and gas across the value chain, in upstream exploration and production, and in service supply and technology in the oil sands, heavy oil, natural gas, and on pipelines. In Lakeland, a Cree community of about 1,200 people, the Frog Lake First Nation, wanted to reduce poverty in its community. It started its own oil and gas exploration company. Today, Frog Lake Energy Resources Corp. extracts over 3,000 barrels of oil per day, which has brought millions of dollars into its community. It has over $30 million in cash flow. The chairman of its board, Joe Dion said:
Together, we have to make reconciliation a priority, given the economic risks and gridlock that continues to impede the resource sector nationally, and Alberta's energy sector in particular. I believe that reconciliation can be realized right here in Alberta's energy sector. It is time for bold action. Alberta is not at the cross-roads, it’s in the ditch.
The story of Frog Lake is the story of Albertans and people across Canada. It is about aspirations, ambition, entrepreneurialism, and taking ownership of opportunities.
Sometimes I think my colleagues in the NDP would have us believe that communities like Frog Lake do not exist, that all indigenous peoples in communities are opposed to oil and gas. That is just not the reality. The Fort McKay and Mikisew Cree bands have invested $545 million to buy nearly half the shares in one of Suncor's storage facilities. There are 35 first nations working together, right now and for the past five years, to build an indigenous-owned pipeline from Alberta to northern British Columbia, an initiative that would have the support of every single indigenous community and two provinces along the road if it can go ahead.
The Fort McKay band, near the Athabaska oil sands, has an unemployment rate of 0%, and financial holdings in excess of $2 billion. Its band members have an average annual income of $120,000.
Goodfish Lake Business Corporation in Lakeland employs 150 Albertans through three dry cleaning and laundry services, which contract with oil and gas, one of which is located in White Fish first nation. A sewing and garment company in Fort McMurray, called Protective Clothing Supplies Ltd., produces petrochemical workwear for businesses in the oil sands.
All of these communities provide jobs for their members and employ people outside of their communities too.
Chief Archie Waquan, of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, said:
I used to challenge industry in my previous years. Now I look back at it and say, “What I have done in the past maybe I shouldn't have done it.” There's a balance between the environment and industry. They have checks and balances for both sides and we'd like to be a part of it.
There are significant indigenous opportunities, investment, and involvement in oil and gas. That is why it is vital that indigenous communities be welcomed to participate and why thorough consultation with indigenous communities about new energy projects is so important.
The left often implies that there is currently no or insufficient consultation in Canada, but that is not and has never been true. In fact, the 2014 WorleyParsons study confirmed that Canada maintains the highest level of environmental stringency and compliance, the highest level of regulatory transparency, life-cycle analysis, and notably, “thorough consultation and collaboration with indigenous peoples, in the world.” The exhaustive benchmarking of major oil and gas jurisdictions explicitly noted the incorporation of traditional knowledge as one of Canada's world-leading strengths in indigenous consultation on energy.
The uninformed and persistent attack on Canada's regulatory track record has both undermined Canada's reputation globally and emboldened anti-energy activists who are fighting to shut down Canadian energy and exports, which, in turn, hurts indigenous communities.
Canadian oil and gas developers have also long been world leaders in best practices of indigenous consultation on their projects, constantly improving early engagement and relationship development. Sometimes it has actually been the government that has had to catch up.
Kinder Morgan, which was prepared to invest $7.4 billion in the Canadian economy, consulted with over 133 aboriginal groups and communities, along with two non-boundary-specific aboriginal groups and nine associations, councils, and tribes. All 43 first nations along the route, 33 of which are in B.C., signed mutual benefit agreements valued at over $400 million, and about 85% of the owners or occupants on the pipeline route raised no issues or concerns during the consultations.
Chief Ernie Crey of the Cheam First Nation talked about the impact Trans Mountain has on his community:
In my opinion, if [Trans Mountain] doesn't proceed, hundreds of millions of dollars will be foregone to first nations all the way along the pipeline route.
Why I say this is that, taking my own community as an example, we negotiated really hard. It was really my young council— they're a little over half my age—that negotiated this agreement....
My young council negotiated for a year and a half or more, night and day in some instances, with a pretty tough team on the other side, Kinder Morgan's team, and yet we reached a mutual benefits agreement. I want to stress mutual benefits: benefits to the proponent and benefits to our community....
...the jobs that result [from the expansion] are not one-shot jobs that are there for a year or two and then are gone when the pipeline is concluded. That is a terrible misrepresentation of things. What we've negotiated will be lasting training and lasting jobs and...over the entire life of what I hope will be the new pipe that will come from Alberta to tidewater in British Columbia.
Already our community is alive with excitement.... our young people every day come to me and say they want to get trained, they want a job, and they want to say goodbye to welfare....
To us, it means millions of dollars to my band alone, a community of approximately 540 people. I know that it also means a lot to many other first nations who haven't stepped up and spoken out, but who also have agreements that are perhaps comparable to ours.
Arthur Bird, of the Paul First Nation, said:
We have to support the development of the country and its economics, because the economics of the province affects all of us in one way or another.
In 2016, when the Trans Mountain expansion was waiting for approval, Mike LeBourdais, the former chief of the Whispering Pines/Clinton Indian Band, said:
I want the money from our resources...so that we can pay for our health, so that we can pay for our education, so that we can pay for our elders, so that we can pay to protect our environment, so we can build better pipes, we can build better bridges, we can build better railways.
The Peters First Nations said:
We are concerned that among all of the well-funded and highly publicized opposition to the project, the voice of Indigenous nations that support TMX has been lost....
Peters First Nation has lived with the original pipeline that was built over 50 years ago seated at the base of our mountain and above our homes with no worries or incidents. We believe that the TMX pipeline is the safest way to transport the needed natural resources out of our country for the benefit of all Canadians.
Kinder Morgan provided more than $13 million to indigenous communities to conduct traditional land or marine use studies and to participate in traditional ecological knowledge studies and other types of community-designed research.
Kinder Morgan did due diligence and consulted with indigenous communities impacted by the expansion and established economic partnerships. Therefore, it is frustrating to see activists outright oppose economic opportunity and security for dozens of indigenous communities that desperately want it.
To put all this in context, the fact is that seven first nations, which are not directly crossed by the expansion, are challenging it in court, which they have a right to do. While they have a right to do it, and a recent motion opposing the pipeline at the AFN made big news, the reality is that it was backed by distant communities in other provinces not directly impacted by the pipeline. Should the hopes and work of 43 indigenous communities be completely destroyed as a result? I do not think so.
While I and my Conservative colleagues believe that pipelines and other energy projects should be paid for, built, maintained, and operated by the private sector, Alberta indigenous groups are saying that they want a stake in the Trans Mountain pipeline now that the government is negotiating its ownership.
Pipelines and major energy projects should be and are rigorously examined and debated. Environmental stewardship is, and must be, continually improved in energy development. I believe that all Canadians want to protect the environment for future generations.
I am glad that indigenous people who are partners in energy development are speaking out that they have been keepers of the land and water for millennia and that they ensure exceptional environmental management as they pursue economic opportunities. It is mind-boggling that anti-energy activists do not see their own patronizing, demeaning implications when they ignore or trample on the rights of those indigenous communities to self-determination on energy development.
Both the Prime Minister and the left-wing coalition have, of course, been totally complicit in the indigenous anti-energy myth for their own ideological and political reasons. The Conservative-approved northern gateway pipeline was supported by more than 30 indigenous groups with $2 billion in mutual benefit agreements, including training and employment opportunities.
This Prime Minister had a choice. He could have instructed additional scope and time for consultation, as he did before Trans Mountain was approved and as the Supreme Court said the government could. Instead, he outright vetoed it completely.
Chief Elmer Derrick, of the Gitxsan Nation, said that the Prime Minister had no interest in hearing from first nations who supported northern gateway. He said, “The fact that the Prime Minister chose not to consult with people in northwestern B.C. disappointed us very much.”
Dale Swampy, of the Samson Cree Nation, said:
[First nations] weren't asked about the financial effect, the lost employment. They are trying to get themselves out of poverty, the welfare system that they are stuck to, and every time they try to do something like that, it's destroyed.
First nations and Métis communities spent two years and millions in legal fees developing agreements with Enbridge, but all that work and all that hope is now gone because of a purely political decision by this Prime Minister.
Then there is the tanker ban, which was rammed through after little consultation with the indigenous communities most affected by it. There is a $16-billion indigenous-owned pipeline, backed by 35 first nations, that would transport oil from Bruderheim, in Lakeland, to northern British Columbia, but the tanker ban is the obstacle. The Prime Minister never stopped to listen to the bands who oppose it.
Eva Clayton, president of the Nisga'a, in northwestern B.C., said:
Our government is committed to creating an economic base that meets the requirements of our treaty. We owe it to our people and their futures to preserve the opportunity to have different economic development options available to us. We will not continue to see our way of life eroded and consign our children and grandchildren to life without meaningful opportunities, based on an ill-conceived policy decision.
The Lax Kw'alaams Band, where the pipeline would end, strongly opposes the ban and the lack of consultation around it and has already launched a constitutional challenge against it.
Calvin Helin, the chairman of Eagle Spirit Energy, and a member of the Lax Kw'alaams, said:
We developed a model, particularly for the ocean, that has a higher environmental standard than the federal government is proposing anywhere else in Canada.
The Prime Minister wants to talk about the importance of consultation with indigenous people. I agree in principle and in practice, but it is cynical and hypocritical of him to ignore the indigenous voices that disagree with his radical anti-energy agenda on a case-by-case basis.
It infuriates me to hear politicians speak of indigenous people as their “most important relationship” and worry publicly about the real crippling poverty and the particular socio-economic challenges and barriers facing indigenous Canadians, while they deliberately use every possible means to block financial opportunities and to undermine all their efforts and work to secure agreements to benefit their communities, elders, youth, and futures.
The text of the NDP motion states, in part (b):
...institutions, like the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs which has said with respect to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline that “No means no—the project does not have the consent it requires”, which is a principled position conducive to achieving the ends of the UNDRIP.
However, in a recent interview on CBC, Chief Robert Chamberlin, vice-president of that union, said, “when we have first nations that are definitely in support of this, that needs to be respected without question.” He went on to say, “we have the divide and conquer of colonialism alive and well in Canada.” Many other indigenous community representatives have said that the words the NDP quote in their motion do not speak for them.
While the left tries to push the narrative that indigenous people oppose resource development, it is simply not true, and it is destructive to indigenous people and to all of Canada. It is our job as legislators to make decisions in the broad best interests of all and to carefully weigh the costs and benefits to serve the public good. Obviously, the opinions, ideals, and needs of indigenous communities are vast and diverse. There are pro-development indigenous groups all across Canada, and there are others that are opposed, for their own reasons. All have the right to express their views and to demonstrate peacefully.
I want to thank my colleague, the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, for his tireless efforts to advance truth and reconciliation in Canada and for this discussion on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I share his commitment to advance truth and reconciliation in Canada.
It is critical that we examine the motion and its potential implications, as should be the case for all motions here. I support UNDRIP's aspirations, and there are many elements that I and Conservative colleagues support, but as my colleague from Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo pointed out last week, even the current Liberal justice minister said, “Simplistic approaches such as adopting the United Nations declaration as being Canadian law are unworkable and, respectfully, a political distraction to undertaking the hard work actually required to implement it back home in communities.”
I do not actually believe that UNDRIP is simplistic. I think it is comprehensive and complicated. My issue is that it is designed as a global, rather than a Canadian, approach to protecting and advancing indigenous rights. Canada is one of the only nations in the world where indigenous rights and treaty rights are entrenched in our Constitution. The crown has a duty to consult indigenous people under section 35, which I assume every member of the House supports.
However, the parameters in UNDRIP for what constitutes free, prior, and informed consent are not clearly defined. As the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo has said, there are various interpretations, and the discrepancy among these interpretations is problematic in and of itself. Some first nations think it is about having a comprehensive consultation process, whereas others have asked for something like veto power when it comes to new energy projects. Obviously, the hundreds of indigenous communities that are owners, partners, and workers in Canada's responsible resource sector should not be at risk of having all their opportunities denied by one individual community that may or may not be involved directly itself.
All 43 nations along Trans Mountain signed agreements with Kinder Morgan. They had, in other words, consented to the pipeline going through their lands. The NEB ensured exhaustive inclusion of indigenous consultation in the regulatory process, and the Liberals added more in 2016.
Article 32(2) of UNDRIP states:
States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.
I want to draw members' attention to the phrase “any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources.” Trans Mountain did receive approval from all nations it affected, so I am not sure why the expansion is included in this motion explicitly, except because of politics, because, of course, the NDP opposes Trans Mountain and pipelines.
Therefore, on behalf of all the people in all the communities in Treaty No. 6 in Lakeland, I appreciate having had the opportunity to speak on behalf of the vast majority of my constituents who value energy development and support pipelines.