Madam Speaker, I would like to start by saying I am going to split my time with my friend from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
I made a statement in the House yesterday during Question Period that garnered a lot of heckling from the other side. I stated that I, along with my Conservative colleagues, support the Wet'suwet'en people.
I suppose to the Liberals and the NDP it was a funny thing for a Conservative to say, and a funny thing that we would support 20 out of 20 of the band councils that approved the Coastal GasLink pipeline, that we would support economic opportunity for first nations communities, that we would support law and order and that we would support indigenous communities raising themselves up.
Having said all that, the history of humanity is rife with situations where people do not actually understand each other all the time, their motivations, their values or desires. However, we have persevered and found ways to understand each other. We have built civilizations, we have co-operated and we have accomplished great things together.
The key to the complex process of understanding one another, to perceive their intentions and their motivations, is empathy. The neuroscience of empathy is quite fascinating. Humanity, meaning all of us without exception, is egocentric. We are inherently ugly people. We are narcissistic and at times preoccupied with fulfilling our own needs and desires. However, somewhere in our ancient past, we recognized the importance of caring for our children. We realized the benefits of co-operation, and our capacity for compassion and tolerance grew.
There is a part of the brain that recognizes our self-centredness. The right supramarginal gyrus recognizes the lack of empathy and it adjusts our thinking accordingly. Researchers actually found that, when we make rash decisions, this part of the cerebral cortex does not work properly. Our ability to understand others is reduced greatly when we do not take the time to hear the views of others.
Researchers made another interesting discovery. When we are in a state of comfort or in a pleasant situation, we are less able to empathize with another's pain and suffering. They seized upon and verified an important truth: In order for humanity to make effective and compassionate decisions, we must be able to connect to that part of the brain that allows us to recognize our selfish nature. We do that most effectively by taking the time to hear, see and put ourselves in uncomfortable situations, the same situations as those we are empathizing with.
Fortunately for our species, and perhaps a testament to the great accomplishments we have all made together, the human brain is adjustable. Our capacity for empathy and compassion is never fixed. If we put ourselves in someone else's shoes and do unto others as we would have them do unto us, we can reinforce those neural connections and we can move down the road of reconciliation together.
The road will not be easy. Thousands of years of history have taught us that, but they have also taught us that together we can achieve amazing things.
Here we are asking the House to stand in solidarity with the majority of the Wet'suwet'en people who support the Coastal GasLink project. However, there are two sides. Not everyone supports the decisions of the majority of the Wet'suwet'en people or the 20 democratically elected leaders of the indigenous communities along the proposed pipeline route. While we struggle to put ourselves in other's shoes, we empathize with their concerns.
I have to wonder if those activists have put themselves in the shoes of the majority of indigenous peoples who value self-reliance, communication and fiscal accountability, who believe that resources should be sustainable and equitable, and who believe that governance should be based on their collective heritage. The Wet'suwet'en do. Those values are listed in their mission statement along with a powerful vision and purpose declaration stating:
We are proud, progressive Wet’suwet’en dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of our culture, traditions and territories; working as one for the betterment of all.
“For the betterment of all” is a very empathetic statement to be sure, one that should hang from the very ceiling of this place. Is that not why we are here, for the betterment of Canada and Canadians, one and all?
We also need to take a step back. We need to hear each other. We need to see each other. We need time to sort out these issues and to address them, to reconcile our differences and make agreements. This is why we need to end those blockades. It is not in order to punish, but to ease tension and move forward. Let us demonstrate that here, so we can do it there. We have waited far too long to act.
As people in all parts of our country fear shortages of essential goods and as job losses mount, the number of people demanding resolution grows. The Council of the Federation, a group composed of all of Canada's premiers, is calling for an immediate and peaceful end to these protests. Temperatures are rising. Yesterday in Edmonton, counter protesters showed up and dismantled a barricade. Heated words were exchanged. Threats were made. Out of frustration and fear, people are not listening or looking at each other. We are all better than that.
During this upheaval the country is looking for leadership, yet despite calls from the hereditary chiefs for the Prime Minister to get involved, the Liberal government has done everything it could to distance itself from the ongoing conflict. The Prime Minister will now, I hope, start taking this matter very seriously. It is a national crisis that needs the utmost attention.
We ask the Prime Minister to act now, to stand with the majority of the Wet'suwet'en people who want to work as one for the betterment of all. Self-reliance fosters self-determination and this is at the heart of economic reconciliation.
The National Aboriginal Economic Development Board produced its 2016 report, “Reconciliation: Growing Canada's Economy by $27.7. Billion”.
The board found that:
If Indigenous peoples had the same education and training as non-Indigenous peoples, the resulting increase in productivity would mean an additional $8.5 billion in income earned annually by the Indigenous population.
It went on:
If Indigenous peoples were given the same access to economic opportunities available to other Canadians, the resulting increase in employment would result in an additional $6.9 billion per year in employment income and approximately 135,000 newly employed Indigenous people.
If the poverty rates among Indigenous Peoples were reduced, the fiscal costs associated with supporting people living in poverty, would decline by an estimated $8.4 billion annually.
Overall, if the gap in opportunities for Indigenous communities across Canada were closed, it would result in an increase in GDP of $27.7 billion annually or a boost of about 1.5% to Canada's economy.
If we want to have true reconciliation, we must have economic reconciliation. It is good for indigenous communities. It is good for local municipalities and it is good for the Canadian economy.
The $6 billion, 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline, which received approval from the province, the 20 first nations band councils, including five of the six band councils in the Wet'suwet'en nation, is about economic reconciliation. It is ultimately about a shared future, one where government-to-government co-operation benefits all Canadians, both indigenous and non-indigenous.
Bonnie George, a Wet'suwet'en woman, who has been ridiculed and called a traitor, maintains an enlightened view of the world. When asked about how the police and governments were handling this situation, she said:
The authorities, they're just like the rest of us. They have a job to fulfil. They have an injunction in front of them that they have to enforce and they did all possible, you know, to try to de-escalate.
She went on:
As a Wet'suwet'en person, it is really disheartening to see all of this unravel as it has, because our people—our hereditary chiefs and our elders in the past—they've always had discussions.
Let us allow Canadians to get back to work, allow the goods that Canadians need to ensure their health and safety flow and our railways are going, our borders are safe, then, with earnest and swift resolve, meet with the Wet'suwet'en people and take the time to hear and see and to put ourselves in their position.