With Justin Trudeau promising the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will go ahead despite fierce opposition from Indigenous land protectors will he authorize the use of force to do so?
That’s a question Nation to Nation put to the political panel Thursday.
Trudeau is now pledging to help finance the project and pass new legislation to ensure the pipeline gets in the ground from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C.
Host Todd Lamirande put the question to each panelist, does that mean calling in the police or army?
“I think we all expect people to abide by the rule of law,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, parliamentary secretary to the minister of environment and climate change.
Wilkinson wouldn’t commit to what government will do to deal with land protectors who have said they refuse to let this pipeline be built.
Tensions are expected to only rise as construction is supposed to ramp up this summer.
There has already been over 140 people charged with breaking a court order to not block the gates of Kinder Morgan in Burnaby.
Kinder Morgan said 43 First Nations and Indigenous groups have signed deals with the company, but a number of others have not, including Coldwater, B.C.
The number of deals were up to 51 but Kinder Morgan said earlier this week eight First Nations didn’t ratify an agreement last year.
Many fear irreparable environmental damage from oil spills and extracting more fossil fuels from Alberta’s oil sands. The Liberal government has pledged $1.5 billion to protect the country’s oceans from the project’s resulting increase in oil tankers along the west coast.
“Lawful protests is certainly part of Canada’s democratic process and the rule of law needs to be respected,” said Cathy McLeod, the Conservative shadow minister for Indigenous and Northern Affairs.
One of those arrested and facing charges is Burnaby South NDP MP Kennedy Stewart who reminded the panel that Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr has already vowed once to use force.
Carr told a group of business people in Edmonton Dec. 1, 2016, just days after the government approved the project, that the army or police could be used to deal with so-called unlawful protests.
Carr apologized afterward saying he misspoke.
However, Stewart said Carr’s comments changed things for him.
“When the natural resources minister threatened to use the army on British Columbians then I realized this hit a different place,” said Stewart. “When you threaten to use the defence forces to push a project through against the will of communities, violating a constitution, ignoring consent then I think it takes the debate to a whole other level.”
Stewart tried to get Carr to confirm a few weeks ago in the House of Commons that the government wouldn’t use police or the army against land protectors.
“Will he stand in the House today and say that he will never do this, that it would never be considered, that he would not use the army and the police forces against British Columbians in their own communities, on the reserves, and in their municipalities?” said Stewart on Feb. 12.
Carr repeated he misspoke but didn’t say the government wouldn’t use force.
“Within a few days of having said it, I realized it would invoke images that were not healthy to the debate, and I apologized to Indigenous leaders,” Carr replied.
“I will say again, as I have said many times over many months, that I apologized and misspoke.”
Watch the full episode of Nation to Nation below:
Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee is studying Bill C-69 that promises to revamp the environmental assessment and regulatory process on resource extraction projects.
But it has sometimes been seen as a battle between jobs and the environment.
Conservative MP Robert Sopuck called the process “toxic” at the committee Wednesday.
But also there was Bill Namagoose, the executive director of the Grand Council of the Crees to give advice from their perspective.
Namagoose said they are not opposed to development as long as their rights are respected.
That means being part of it the decision-making process in their territory.
“We’re not observers, we’re not intervenors, we’re participants and that’s a treaty right we would like protected and recognized by this new legislation,” he said.
However, they are still trying to negotiate with the federal government to see that happen.
As for the committee hearing, Namagoose said he didn’t think the Liberals were interested in hearing much from the Grand Council of the Crees.
“I noticed the MPs didn’t ask me any questions or ask me to comment,” he said.
He said he tried to comment on some issues during the hearing but his microphone was turned off.
“The Liberal party seems to have this in control. They don’t want any Cree participation or that seems to be the objective and was clearly decided for the hearing that we would just read our statement and be ignored after,” he said.
Nation to Nation is traveling to British Columbia next week to dig more into the issues surrounding the Trans Mountain pipeline on both sides of the argument.
– with APTN News files