Words are Easier to Say but Harder to Honour

207
The Teepee on Parliament Hill
The Teepee on Parliament Hill

Prime Minister Trudeau Falling Down on Promises

THUNDER BAY – On Tuesday, NDP MP Romeo Saganash expressed frustration with the Liberal government dropping a rare f-bomb in the House of Commons. The clip of that has made the top of the news cycle.

However, it was not just one MP during question period this week who were questioning the Liberal Government over their real commitment to real consultation.

On Monday, Guy Caron (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, NDP), asked “Mr. Speaker, discussion is a two-way street. Testimony given by members of indigenous communities about the Trans Mountain expansion project show that the discussion was not a true dialogue, but rather a monologue in front of a row of officials. Discussing means sharing. It does not just mean sitting down and taking notes while yearning for the meeting to be over. Does the government realize that it has a constitutional duty to meaningfully consult indigenous peoples?”

The Teepee on Parliament Hill
The Teepee on Parliament Hill

Caron was told in response, by Amarjeet Sohi (Minister of Natural Resources, “Mr. Speaker, there is no relationship more important to our government than the relationship with indigenous peoples. I started reaching out to indigenous leaders before the decision by the federal court, and I have continued to do so. We believe that we will engage with them in a meaningful two-way dialogue and listen to their concerns very, very carefully in order to move forward on this project in the right way.”

What seems lost on the Liberals is that consultation, when the end result is already decided, isn’t actually consultation. The Prime Minister who is the author of the statement, “there is no relationship more important to our government than the relationship with Indigenous peoples, as it is in the mandate letters to all his ministers, has already said the Trans Mountain Pipeline will go through.

It is the Prime Minister who is fueling the growing anger.

Again also on Monday, Rachel Blaney another NDP MP asked, “Mr. Speaker when it comes to Trans Mountain, the Minister of Natural Resources said that the Liberals should have engaged in “meaningful dialogue” with indigenous peoples. He is right. He should have, and they did not.

“The Indigenous communities confirmed that there was not a meaningful two-way discussion, and the courts agree. Now, this weekend, we hear that there is no guarantee that all concerns raised by indigenous people will be addressed. How is that meaningful consultation?

“Why are the Liberals satisfied with the bare minimum when it comes to their most important relationship?”

Perhaps Romeo Saganash’s frustration that led him to swear in the House of Commons, while unparliamentary, was the result more of a lifetime of not being heard and not having Indigenous people respected.

For many of Canada’s Indigenous people, when the Prime Minister promised “There is no relationship more important to our government than the relationship with Indigenous peoples, there was a hope that maybe, just maybe this time it was going to happen.

The tough part for Justin Trudeau is that the words are easy to say, but hard to honour.

James Murray