Jagmeet Singh has been leader of the federal NDP party for just over a year and during that time he has seen how First Nations use courts to stop the federal government from trampling over their rights, such as the expansion of the Trans Mountain bitumen pipeline.
Several First Nations believed they weren’t properly consulted on the proposed expansion from Edmonton, Alta. to Burnaby, B.C. and went to court to force the Trudeau government to start over again.
Singh sat down with Nation to Nation to discuss a wide-range of subjects related to Indigenous people and believes there’s a way to achieve a level of predictability.
“We can’t have a Canada that calls itself progressive without ensuring that the nations in Canada, the nations that make up the fabric of the first people of land are not treated as nations and don’t’ have the treaty rights, the land rights, the recognition and dignity that they rightfully deserve,” he said.
“The fundamental principle would be that every piece of legislation should be informed by the free, prior and informed consent principle.”
He said Canada needs to treat First Nations like it would any other country in the world it wants to do business with.
“That’s how we need to look at any agreement that we make with First Nations. They are sovereign nations and should ensure, in a legislative manner, a protection of their sovereign rights,” said Singh.
When Canada doesn’t respect the rights of Indigenous people it just ends up in court he said.
“This would ensure that there is predictability. So if a business wants to invest in a project Canada could ensure this project will go ahead because there is a predictability because the steps will be taken to respect the sovereignty of a First Nation and ensure that the decision will be made in such a manner that it will not be challenged in court,” he said.
Singh had some knowledge of Indigenous people before being named leader of the NDP in October 2017 but learned something he may not have known before.
“The thing that I was able to appreciate the most, as a leader, is Indigenous communities have the solutions,” he said. “There’s just a lack of listening to those solutions and implementing those solutions. I think more than ever we need to listen to the folks who are on the ground.”
Liberal MP Robert Falcon-Ouellette also joined Nation to Nation to discuss his fight to help Winnipeg battle its crystal meth crisis.
Falcon-Ouellette said the meth crisis has always been there but it was a low rumble when he was first elected to represent the riding of Winnipeg Centre in 2015.
It’s now full-blown he said.
So much so people come into his constituency office.
“People have come in, they have assaulted staff, they sit down and literally, when they are on the drug, they’ll start propositioning you to try to sell you stolen goods,” he said. “The issue for me is, when I would call to try and get someone off the streets … there was no services available.”
Falcon-Ouellette discusses the issue at length and how he is trying to help in the video posted at the top of this page.
This is the final episode of Nation to Nation in 2018 but be sure to catch a repeat of special show from Kamloops, B.C. airing again on Dec. 27.
The political panel discusses on Jan. 3 what’s to come in the final months on Parliament Hill before next year’s election in October. As always, Nation to Nation airs on APTN every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. ET.