Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague for Sydney—Victoria.
I will start today by acknowledging that we are standing here on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people. It is also a privilege to serve as a member of Parliament for a riding that includes the unceded traditional territory of the Squamish, Lil'Wat and Sechelt nations.
Our government is committed to advancing reconciliation with indigenous peoples through a renewed nation-to-nation, government-to-government relationship based on recognitions of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. Indeed, this is our most important relationship, and a relationship we have neglected for far too much of our nation's history.
We know that building this important relationship is not a quick fix. We never pretended that the road to reconciliation will be quick or easy, but we vow to begin the journey towards a renewed relationship.
While we work toward this aim, first nations are understandably frustrated by a lack of progress in recognition of their fundamental and constitutional rights. The result is that we are now at a boiling point.
Today, this is particularly true for the Wet'suwet'en, who have spent many decades working to have their rights and title recognized. The Wet'suwet'en have been leaders across this country in advancing reconciliation. This is evident in the landmark Supreme Court of Canada Delgamuukw case where, for the first time, aboriginal title was recognized as an ancestral right protected by our Constitution. In spite of this landmark case in 1997, not enough progress has been made on this critical relationship.
While indigenous peoples have inherent rights and treaty rights that have been affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution, too often they still have to go to court, first to prove that their rights exist, and then to force the government of the day to implement them.
Our government has taken some of the essential and overdue steps required to renew and build upon Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples to ensure that they have control over their destiny. We have made unprecedented investments to repair and upgrade water and wastewater systems in first nations communities. We are investing in families and children. Through the oceans protection plan, indigenous peoples have new opportunities to protect, preserve and restore Canada's oceans.
We have also made fundamental changes in our approach to negotiating modern treaties. This is critical for B.C., where already our province is home to many unsettled land claims, but we have examples of reconciliation being successful in some of our modern treaties, especially up north.
I want to raise two examples from my riding that are poignant examples of how reconciliation can work in practice.
First and foremost, this month we celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This event was a source of immense pride for all Canadians, as we were able to show the world our rich cultural diversity.
This event also allowed us to highlight the incredible history and culture of our indigenous peoples. We did this by partnering with the four host first nations. In this process we allowed first nations to share their languages and to share their culture in celebrations and through new economic partnerships, including through the development of new tourism infrastructure, such as the Squamish Lil'Wat Cultural Centre.
Second, and perhaps because we are speaking about a crisis that was ignited by a natural gas pipeline, I want to mention the Woodfibre LNG project in my riding. This pipeline and export terminal is situated in the middle of Squamish nation lands. The Squamish were concerned that the existing regulatory processes would not adequately engage with and respond to their concerns, so the nation proposed leading their own environmental assessment process and, lo and behold, the company agreed to be bound by this.
This process went ahead and identified additional conditions for the project. The proposal went back to the nation, which put it to a vote, and the nation ended up approving it. The nation subsequently negotiated an impact benefit agreement with this project. This project will now be monitored by the Squamish to ensure compliance with the conditions.
I raise this example because adding first nations voices to the table for resource projects does not mean that these projects will not be approved. Rather, these voices help produce projects that are better for the environment, better for the community and better for Canada.
In fact, this is why we introduced and passed the Impact Assessment Act in the last session. Reforms under the previous Conservative government failed to honour indigenous rights and partnerships, eroded public trust and put our communities at risk. Under the Impact Assessment Act, we create the space for indigenous peoples to run their own environmental assessment process to give first nations a role in the decisions that affect their rights. In addition, early public engagement will ensure reviews happen in partnership with indigenous peoples, communities will have their voices heard and companies know what is required of them, including on issues related to climate change, conservation and environmental protection.
Having meaningful engagement and consultation with indigenous peoples aims to secure their free, prior and informed consent, and this is not optional. Canada has a legal duty to consult and, where appropriate, accommodate indigenous groups if there could be potential adverse impacts on potential or established aboriginal rights and title. Section 35 of the Constitution makes our fiduciary relationship toward first nations very clear. We cannot continue in the situation we are in today, and it is going to take all of us at all levels of government to find a way forward. What we find ourselves in now is the outcome of reconciliation not making progress and Canadians letting each other down, so we must be utterly committed to repair and improve the systems to keep our country functional and capable of providing the services that we all rely on.
The impacts to our transportation systems cannot continue. The transportation sector allows for social linkages. Canadians are feeling the effects of diminished access to family members, community events, education and health services. Railways are a mainstay of rural life in Canada. They offer service, access and connection to more rural and remote places in our country. Rail offers first- and last-mile service, and we cannot fail to connect these Canadians to the services they need.
I know my colleagues share my concern for Canadians in industries right across the country who are facing layoffs and disruptions to their ability to support themselves and their families. Communities rely on the materials transported by those rail lines, not least among them the families in Atlantic Canada, who rely on propane to heat their homes and are facing rations. We move our food staples by rail from fields to homes. Tens of millions of tonnes of food are transported by rail every year. We need to do better for our communities. An economically healthy Canada is able to uplift, empower and constantly strive to do better for all Canadians. The rail transportation losses our country is facing are in the billions every day, and the need for action has never been more urgent.
We have seen the devastating effects of unwarranted force used against our indigenous peoples in Canada. I state in no uncertain terms that force cannot and will not be the resolution to this conflict, nor will our solution be found in endless drawn-out court cases. Together we and our partners need to get out of the courtroom and gather together around the negotiating table. We can find more than resolution; I believe we can find success. We can do better.
We can find processes that work for indigenous peoples, but there is nothing that we can achieve if we do not have a conversation. The divides in this country require dialogue. We need to show that we have a process that will lead us down the path to reconciliation. Where we can show that, we can provide an off-ramp to de-escalate the crisis we are in and get our people, goods and economy rolling again.
Reconciliation happens when we are able to work together. Reconciliation happens in learning, in redress and in dialogue, and I call upon all parties involved to be part of that solution.