Madam Speaker, never have we seen so much economic damage done by so few people in such a short period of time. In the absence of leadership, our nation is paying a heavy price. The worker, the farmer, the small-business owner, the traveller, the voter and Canada's reputation on the world stage are the victims that lay in the wake of this calamity, the blockades holding our Canadian economy hostage. The politicians who refuse to denounce the illegal actions of those who seek to intimidate our nation have only further emboldened the protesters' resolve with their silence.
Canada's job and our economy are at risk. Grain cannot be moved, products cannot be shipped and passengers are left without a train. Those are the consequences when the rule of law is shelved and the democratic will of voters is ignored.
I stand in solidarity with every elected band council on the Coastal GasLink route, for it is the people they represent who are being silenced by those who cover their faces and partake in illegal activities. In a democracy it is the votes that count, not the decibels or hijinks of those who do not get their way.
We must ask ourselves if we are not setting a precedent by allowing the illegal actions to carry on. If people resort to illegal activities when they are opposed to a decision, are we not at risk of making decisions based out of fear? As elected officials, the only fear we should heed is that of a ballot box, not a handful of people who operate outside the bounds of the law.
In Parliament, the very place that has for generations been the heart of democracy, we have the shared responsibility to defend the democratic will of the Wet'suwet'en voters and elected band councils. No one in the House was elected to cherry-pick the laws of the nation that we expect to be enforced. If one wants to change the law, then table it, debate it and vote on it. That is how Canadian democracy works.
It was indigenous voters who voted freely to select their leaders, and they are now being shunted aside. There is not a member in the House who has questioned the validity of those elections and those who hold office. We must stand in solidarity and defend the democratic will of the Wet'suwet'en people. We can never waver, for if we turn our backs now we have only given credibility to those who are openly and willingly breaking the law.
In Canada, when we oppose the decisions of our elected leaders we have the democratic right to replace them. In those elections, the charter protects the right to protest and speak freely without repercussions. However, we do not have the right to partake in illegal activities.
The appalling behaviour of some, such as the barricading of the premier of British Columbia's home, is not acceptable. Using intimidation tactics and bullying fellow Canadians is not democratic. Preventing people from going to work is not, and should never be, acceptable in Canada. However noble they feel their cause is, it does not absolve them from the law.
As elected officials, we must continue to guarantee the very rights these protesters hold dear: the freedom of conscience, the freedom of thought, the freedom of expression, the freedom of peaceful assembly and the freedom of association. The pillars that protect these rights, all our rights, are built on the foundation that Canada is a nation of the rule of law. Unfortunately, it appears as though these protesters are only interested in respecting the rule of law when the courts side in their favour. This is not how a functioning democracy works. The rule of law must go both ways.
To those who are currently blocking roads, highways, ports and railways and infringing the rights of ordinary hard-working Canadians, I ask that they think for a moment of the suffering they have caused. People have been laid off, paycheques have stopped and orders have been cancelled. Families who work hard, play by the rules and pay their taxes are the ones feeling the brunt of these blockades. Farmers cannot fill grain orders and cannot get paid. Countries around the world are now looking at Canada as an unreliable supplier. The consequences of these illegal blockades will do irreparable harm. Canadians cannot be held in economic hostage or be used as a bargaining chip.
While our nation is far from perfect and election results may not go one's way, we must remain committed to the very principles that have protected our rights throughout the years. To those who try to justify the illegal blockades, no argument could persuade or convince me they are just. Not only is Coastal GasLink in possession of a valid environmental assessment certificate and permit from the BC Oil & Gas Commission, but the project is supported by every elected indigenous band along the pipeline's path.
It must also be said that most hereditary chiefs along the pipeline's path are also in support of this, and the vast majority of first nations community members themselves support this project because it would create jobs. It would create opportunities. It would improve the livelihoods of many. It would lead to investments in local communities. It would help, as my colleague just finished saying, reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
While environmental organizations and indigenous groups opposed to resource development opportunities often turn to the courts to delay and prevent resource development, they must also respect the decisions of the courts. They must allow these economic opportunities to proceed. The democratic will of the Wet'suwet'en people cannot be ignored.
The process of approving this project was done accordingly. There is no legal argument that this project should not proceed. I encourage these protestors to continue to make their voices heard, but to do it in a way that does not impede upon innocent bystanders, who are being hurt through no fault of their own.
My message to those currently engaged in the blockades is to get politically involved, run for office and get elected, go out and knock on doors, organize petitions, protest and march as they see fit. However, they should not hold the Canadian economy hostage to advance their cause and should not purport to speak for people who have not given their blessing. Most of all, they should not hurt their fellow Canadians, who are being targeted through these blockades.
It must be said that opposing these illegal blockades does not contravene the reconciliation efforts throughout the country. It is the easily foreseeable consequence of ignoring a court order. More than ever, we need to better improve the economic and education opportunities of indigenous people in Canada. Those conversations must happen.
In this Parliament I expect solutions to be discussed and meaningful engagement with indigenous Canadians to occur. Improving the standard of living and the quality of life of indigenous Canadians must be a top priority. We know those conversations are not always going to be easy. People will agree or disagree, which is to be expected in a robust democracy.
We also know that in the weeks and months ahead, there will be other choices that elected leaders will have to make on resource projects. We cannot let our economy be brought to a halt every time a decision needs to be made or is made. We cannot set the precedent that it is acceptable to erect blockades in response to decisions that people disagree with.
Canadians sent us to Parliament to speak on their behalf and work together to implement solutions to the challenges we face. Those are the same reasons why the Wet'suwet'en voters went to the polls to elect their councils. It is irresponsible for us to turn our backs on these duly elected councils. A decision was made, and regardless of whether we support or oppose their wishes, we cannot condone the actions of people who are exploiting divisions within the Wet'suwet'en community to advance their own agendas.
This is a difficult and challenging issue. I implore those who are currently engaged in the illegal blockades to relent and allow the movement of people and goods. They can protest, make their voices heard and stay involved, but they should do so within the bounds of the law.
The country is watching and, more than ever, people are looking for leadership. Let us speak as one and pass the motion with unanimous support.