Madam Speaker, it is an honour to stand here this evening on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people.
First I want to thank the member for New Westminster—Burnaby for calling for this important debate this evening.
It is important for us to be able to discuss the issues and possible solutions here in this place no matter what our party lines are.
Canadians are upset. As the Prime Minister expressed so eloquently this morning, Canadians expect us to work together to get through this together. Young people have tearfully expressed to me how upsetting it has been for them to see the images and hear from their friends of being arrested for standing for what they believe in. This happened a year ago and then again earlier this month.
As we heard in the heartfelt words of the Minister of Indigenous Services, we believe we have learned from the crisis at Oka, but also Ipperwash, Caledonia and Gustafsen Lake. Last year, we said that we never wanted to see again the images of police having to use force in an indigenous community in order to keep the peace.
Canada is counting on us to work together to create the space for respectful dialogue with the Wet'suwet'en peoples. We all want this dispute resolved in a peaceful manner. We want the Wet'suwet'en peoples to come together and resolve their differences of opinion.
We want absolute clarity and a shared understanding of the Wet'suwet'en laws.
We are inspired by the courageous Wet'suwet'en people who took the recognition of their rights to the Supreme Court of Canada in the Delgamuukw case in 1997. Since 2018, we have been able and proud to invest in their research on specific claim negotiations, negotiation preparedness, nation rebuilding and the recognition of rights tables, as well as their contributions to the B.C. Treaty Commission processes.
Two years ago, I was proud to sign an agreement with hereditary chiefs of the Office of the Wet'suwet'en on asserting their rights on child and family services. Since then, our government has passed Bill C-92 so that all first nations would be able to pass their own child well-being laws and no longer be subject to section 88 of the Indian Act, which gave provinces laws of general application for things other than where Canada was explicit about the rights of first nations on health and education.
Across Canada, over half of the Indian Act bands are now sitting down at tables to work on their priorities as they assert their jurisdiction. From education to fisheries to child and family services to policing or to their own court systems, we have made important strides forward in the hard work of, as Lee Crowchild describes it, deconstructing the effects of colonization.
In British Columbia, we have been inspired by the work of the B.C. Summit, as they have been able to articulate and sign with us and the B.C. government a new policy that will once and for all eliminate the concepts of extinguishment, cede and surrender for future treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.
We have together agreed that no longer would loans be necessary for first nations to fund their negotiations with Canada. We are also forgiving outstanding past loans, and in some cases paying back nations that had already repaid those loans.
We have worked with the already self-governing nations on a collaborative fiscal arrangement that will provide stable, predictable funding that will properly fund the running of their governments.
This new funding arrangement will provide them with much more money than they would have received under the Indian Act.
The conditions are right to move the relationship with first nations, Inuit and Métis to one based on the affirmation of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership as written in the mandate letters of all ministers of this government.
It has been so exciting to watch the creativity and innovation presented by the Ktunaxa and Sto:lo nations in their negotiations of modern treaties.
We were inspired to see the hereditary chiefs and the elected chief and council of the Heiltsuk nation work together to be able to sign an agreement with Canada on their path to self-government. Many nations have been successful when elected and hereditary chiefs have worked together, and I look forward to having these conversations with the Wet'suwet'en nation.
It is now time to build on the historic Delgamuukw decision. It is time to show that issues of rights and title can be solved in meaningful dialogue.
My job is to ensure that Canada finds out-of-court solutions and to fast-track negotiations and agreements that make real change possible.
After the Tsilhqot'in decision, we have been inspired by the hard work of the Tsilhqot'in national government to build its capacity as a government, to write its constitution and its laws, and establish its government.
I look forward to hopefully finding out-of-court processes to determine title, as we hope for Haida Gwaii. There are many parts of Canada where title is very difficult to determine. Many nations have occupied the land for varying generations. I will never forget that feeling on the Tsilhqot'in title land at the signing with the Prime Minister, looking around, the land surrounded by mountains, where the Tsilhqot'in people have lived for millennia. It seemed obvious that anyone who stood there would understand why they had won their case at the Supreme Court of Canada.
We are at a critical time in Canada. We need to deal effectively with the uncertainty. Canadians want to see indigenous rights honoured, and they are impatient for meaningful progress.
Canadians are counting on us to implement a set of rules and processes in which section 35 of our Constitution can be honourably implemented. We are often reminded that inherent rights did not start with section 35: They are indeed inherent rights, as well as treaty rights.
The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is an important first step in getting there. We need to properly explain, as have many of the academics and so many of the courts, that free, prior and informed consent is not scary. Consent is not a veto. Bill C-69 means that indigenous peoples and indigenous knowledge will be mandatory at the very beginning of a proposal for any major project.
Section 19 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has really been described as a process for land use planning in which the rights of indigenous people are respected.
As we have learned from the experience in Nunavut, where the land claims have been settled, good projects receive a green light, bad projects a red light, and mediocre projects are sent back to the drawing board to improve their environmental stewardship or cultural protection or employment for the Inuit beneficiaries. Nunavummiut accept the decisions of this process wherein the federal, territorial, and Inuit rights holders have taken the decision together.
Canadians acknowledge that there has been a difference of opinion among the Wet'suwet'en peoples. We have heard often in the House that 20 elected chiefs and council agreed to the project in consultation with their people. Women leaders have expressed an opinion that the project can eliminate poverty or provide meaningful work for young men and reduce domestic violence and incarceration. Some have expressed that in an indigenous world view, providing an energy source that will reduce China's reliance on coal is good for Mother Earth.
However, it is only the Wet'suwet'en people that can decide. We are hoping the Wet'suwet'en people will be able to come together to take these decisions together, decisions that are in the best interests of their children and their children for generations to come.
We applaud the thousands of young Canadians fighting for climate justice.
We know that those young people need hope, that they want to see a real plan to deal with the climate emergency. We do believe that we have an effective plan in place, from clean tech to renewable energy, public transit, and protection of the land and the water.
We want the young people of Canada and all those who have been warning about climate change for decades to feel heard.
They need hope, and they need to feel involved in coming up with real solutions.
Tonight there is an emergency debate because our country is hurting. It is for indigenous peoples and all those who are being affected coast to coast to coast.
Yesterday I met in Victoria with British Columbia minister Scott Fraser, and this afternoon had a call with hereditary chiefs and conveyed that we are ready to meet with the hereditary leadership of Wet'suwet'en at a time and place of their choosing.
Together with the Prime Minister and the premier, we want to support the solutions going forward. We want to address their short- and long-term goals. We want to see the hope and hard work that resulted in the Delgamuukw decision of 1997, to be able to chart a new path with the Wet'suwet'en nation in which there is unity and prosperity and a long-term plan for protecting their law, and as Eugene Arcand says, LAW: land, air, water. We also want to see a thriving Wet'suwet'en nation with its own constitution and laws based on its traditional legal customs and practices.
We want to thank Premier Horgan for his efforts to resolve this problem and Murray Rankin for the work that he has undertaken since April of last year to work with the elected chiefs and council as well as the hereditary chiefs on their rights and title. We want to thank Nathan Cullen for his efforts to try and de-escalate this situation.
I am very proud to work with the Province of British Columbia, and I think all in this House congratulate it on the passage of Bill 41, where in Canada the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is now legislated.
Our government is invested in and inspired by the work of Val Napoleon and John Borrows at the Indigenous Legal Lodge at the University of Victoria. They will be able to do the research on the laws of many nations so that they can create a governance structure and constitutions in keeping with those laws. It is important to understand the damage done by colonization and residential schools that has led to sometimes different interpretations of traditional legal practices and customs.
We think that, one day, Canada will be able to integrate indigenous law into Canada's legislative process, just as it did with common law and droit civil.
We are striving to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action and to increase awareness of our shared history. We all need the indigenous leadership to know that we are serious. We are serious about rebuilding trust and working with respect, as the Minister of Indigenous Services and the Prime Minister have expressed today in such heartfelt ways.
We hope that the Wet'suwet'en will be able to express to those in solidarity with them that it is now time to stand down to create that space for a peaceful dialogue, and to let us get back to work towards a Wet'suwet'en nation with its own laws and governance that can work nation-to-nation with the Crown.
Although I returned to Ottawa for this debate tonight, I am hoping to be able to return to B.C. as soon as possible to continue that work.