Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Tobique—Mactaquac.
Like many, I have become increasingly concerned over the last couple of weeks as we watched the escalating dispute and violence in Nova Scotia. As members may be aware, the Crown signed peace and friendship treaties in 1760 and 1761, and this of course included a right to fish, hunt and gather in pursuit of a moderate livelihood. These rights were affirmed by the Supreme Court in the Marshall decision of 1999, and there was further clarification on November 17, 1999, that this right was not unlimited and regulations could be introduced if it was justified for conservation or other important objectives.
It is important to note that history, and I know many have repeated it. This is a right that has been around for many long years and has been reaffirmed. The Sipekne’katik fishers in southwestern Nova Scotia launched a moderate livelihood fishery last month and protestors were concerned about this. Protests have become increasingly violent, with tensions rising. We have all been witness to some very dramatic footage over the last few days in particular, and of course we are very concerned.
This current dispute is a failure of the Crown, and in this case the Liberal government, which had promised to do better. Five years ago the Liberals were elected and had a majority government. They promised to do better. I have been in conversation with the member for West Nova for many weeks, knowing he has been very concerned and has been calling for serious action.
What do we have instead of serious action? We have four ministers taking the unprecedented step of calling for an emergency debate. Do they not realize that they are government? They have the ability to resolve this crisis and they have the responsibility to be on plane, rather than being in the House. Lives and livelihoods are at risk and they matter.
The minister has said there is a pandemic. The intergovernmental affairs minister can have an exemption to do a meet-and-greet with the new Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. I would suggest this is much more important. Not everything can be done by Zoom. Sometimes people have to be there and put that energy and time into saying that this is going to be resolved. They have to put some urgency to it. Let us not just talk about it in the House. The government is asking for a domestic debate on an issue it has the ability to resolve.
Canada must fulfill its obligation under the Marshall decision and a negotiation around what a moderate livelihood means is probably one of the important steps. The Minister of Public Safety must ensure Nova Scotia has the resources it requests to effectively manage the escalating tensions, fully investigate criminal activity and keep everyone safe.
We all know Canadians have a right to peacefully demonstrate or protest. That is constitutionally protected. However, we are also a country of rule of law and those laws must be respected. Anyone who has crossed the boundary from peaceful protest to criminal activity must be held to full account.
Failed policies and unfinished business of successive generations truly is our shame and the results for indigenous people across Canada have been catastrophic for too many. We must do better. With realizations and court decisions, there is an understanding from Canadians from coast to coast to coast that we have much work to do toward reconciliation. Since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I have seen a real understanding from Canadians that we must do better.
As we are working toward reconciliation and correcting the injustices of the past, we cannot create new injustices. The government needs to have a process that includes third parties in the conversation.
I will go back to the treaty process in British Columbia in the 1990s. It was a very flawed process, but one of the things they did right was that they had five tables of people who had a special interest. Whether it was hunting and fishing or other areas, they had a special interest in terms of what was at the table. They created a win-win-win as opposed to a win-lose.
That is certainly something that the government has not done. The Liberals go out to meet with the Wet'suwet'en and they do not bother to include the elected chiefs in the conversation. There are many examples where their failure to have a conversation with third parties, to let them know what was happening, why it was happening and perhaps seek some advice, has been to the detriment of communities that have worked and lived side-by-side for generations. Certainly I am very concerned with the current government's failure. In the past, there was a Liberal government that had a better process.
The conversation tonight is very difficult and is very concerning. As I go about my work, there is something that I am very proud of and that I reflect upon often. It was that some of the first nation communities, when I was first elected, had me read something called the “Memorial to Sir Wilfrid Laurier”. This was in the early 1900s, but the sentiment is something that we all need to look at. In B.C., we did not have treaties. There were many unresolved issues and they went to the government at the time. Some of the words that stand out in my memory are to the effect that:
We have no grudge against...the settlers, but we want to have an equal chance with them of making a living.... It is not in most cases their fault.
They have taken up and improved and paid for their lands in good faith.
There was very clearly a recognition that it was not the people living side-by-side in communities; it was the government that had been the failure. The other piece that stands out very importantly in these comments is that, when the white settlers arrived, it was said:
...These people wish to be partners with us in our country. We must, therefore, be the same as brothers to them, and live as one family.... What is ours will be theirs, and what is theirs will be ours. We will help each other to be great and good.
If we look at those sentiments, we know that government has important work that it must do. We need to be great and good together, and that is only going to be through sitting down at the table, having those difficult conversations and coming to a resolution.