Updates on Key Legislation pertaining to First Nations
Please note: LEGISinfo, a website maintained by the Library of Parliament, provides comprehensive information on all legislation: http://www.parl.gc.ca/LegisInfo/Home.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&ParliamentSession=41-2
Bill C-32: Canadian Victims Bill of Rights Act
- Passed 3rd reading in the Senate on April 22, 2015, Received Royal Assent on April 23, 2015.
- The Bill creates a Victims Bill of Rights that outlines specific rights for victims of crime, including accessing information about the criminal justice system and programs and services, information about the status of investigations and criminal proceedings, protection from intimidation and retaliation, right to have views considered, the right to present a victim impact statement and to make a restitution order.
- The Bill amends sentencing principles in the Criminal Code, including s. 718.2(e) that directs consideration to the unique circumstances of Aboriginal offenders. There is concern that this proposed amendment would be confusing and would interfere with the intention of flexibility in sentencing for Aboriginal offenders particularly coupled with recent introduction of mandatory minimums.
Bill C-33: First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act
- Passed 2nd reading on May 5, 2014. The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development announced that the bill will be held pending clarification of the position of First Nations. The pre-study initiated by the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples has also been put on hold.
Bill C-46: Pipelines Safety Act
- Completed 2nd reading in the Senate on May 14 and has been referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources for study. Regional Chief Cameron Alexis will present to the Committee on June 2, 2015.
- The AFN provided a written submission to the House of Commons Committee outlining impacts on First Nations’ rights (available on www.afn.ca).
- The Bill introduces absolute liability for all NEB-regulated pipelines, meaning that companies will be liable for costs and damages irrespective of fault — up to $1 billion for major oil pipelines; companies continue to have unlimited liability when at fault or negligent; provides the NEB authority to order reimbursement of any cleanup costs incurred by governments, communities or individuals; and provides the NEB authority and resources to assume control of incident response if a company is unable or unwilling to do so (i.e., in exceptional circumstances).
Bill C-51: Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015
- Currently at 3rd reading in the Senate.
- Small amendments at the House of Commons committee included removing the word “lawful” from the greater certainty clause under the Definitions in Part 1, which now reads: For greater certainty, it does not include advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression.
- National Chief Bellegarde presented to the committee on March 12, 2015 and a written submission has been provided to the House of Commons and Senate committees. These are available on www.afn.ca.
- Under Part 1 of the ATA 2015, an “activity that undermines the security of Canada” includes: (a) interference with the capability of the Government of Canada in relation to intelligence, defence, border operations, public safety, the administration of justice, diplomatic or consular relations, or the economic or financial stability of Canada; (b) changing or unduly influencing a government in Canada by force or unlawful means; (d) terrorism; (f) interference with critical infrastructure. This definition could be problematic for First Nations who have marched across or set up blockades at the border of the United States and Canada, First Nations who have called for action on a specific file by setting up a blockade along a major highway, or who block access to a road or railway.
- There is also a concern that that Bill C-51 would criminalize speech and intent, not just action; lower the requirement to detain people without due process; and allow security agencies unrestricted access to Canadians’ tax records, online communication, and travel plans.
Bill C-59: Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1
- Omnibus bill to implement provisions of Budget 2015; currently at under study by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance.
- Division 16 amends the First Nations Fiscal Management Act – many of these amendments have been proposed by the First Nations Financial Management Board, the First Nations Tax Commission and the First Nations Finance Authority. An assessment of the impacts of these changes is under way.
Bill S-6: Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act.
- Continues at Report Stage. Notice was given that time allocation will be called on further debates at Report Stage and at 3rd Reading.
- Amends the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act to provide that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 does not apply in Yukon, to allow for the coordination of reviews of transboundary projects, to establish time limits for environmental assessments and to establish a cost recovery regime.
- Yukon First Nations have assessed that the Bill infringes their Treaty rights and has been imposed without Crown consultation and accommodation.
Private Member Bills
Bill C-628: An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and the National Energy Board Act (oil transportation and pipeline certificate)
- Defeated at 2nd reading in the House of Commons on April 1, 2015.
- Would amend the National Energy Board Act to ensure that consultations must take place between the Government of Canada and First Nations whose lands or waters will be affected by a pipeline.
Bill C-639: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of critical infrastructures)
- Introduced December 3, 2014 by Wai Young (Vancouver South)
- Act would create an offence of damaging any part of critical infrastructure, with a minimum fine of $3,000 and maximum imprisonment of 10 years. If such damage is deemed to cause a danger to life, it could result in life imprisonment.
- Critical infrastructure is very broadly defined as: “privately owned facility, network, service or asset that provides or distributes services for the benefit of the public, including services relating to energy, telecommunications, finance, health care, food, water, transportation, public safety, government and manufacturing, the disruption of which could produce serious adverse economic effects or endanger the health or safety of Canadians.”
- This Act could be used to target First Nations engaging in civil disobedience, lawful protest or blockades.
Bill C-641: United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act
- Defeated at 2nd reading in the House of Commons on May 6, 2015.
- Would require the Government of Canada to take all measures necessary to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and for the Government to table a report on its progress between 2016 – 2036.
- Requires the Government of Canada to take all measures necessary to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and that the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs must prepare an annual report to Parliament for the next four years reviewing progress in implementing this law.
Highlights in the House of Commons
May 25, 2015
Question No. 1076–
Ms. Linda Duncan:
With regard to Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) activity category “Economic Growth Acceleration Opportunities for Aboriginal Peoples (First Nations, Inuit and Métis)”: (a) how does WD define this category for the purposes of a project application; (b) which sectors does WD deem to be included or excluded in this category; (c) how many applicants were successful under this category and what are the details concerning these applicants; and (d) have applicants under this category faced any particular challenges in submitting successful applications and, if so, what are the details of these challenges?
Hon. Michelle Rempel (Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification), CPC):
Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), aboriginal economic growth projects must address one or more of the following: supporting greater aboriginal participation in natural resource development opportunities and increasing capacity to capitalize on these opportunities; strengthening aboriginal business development and entrepreneurship; and involving aboriginal groups and partners to increase skills development, technical training and trades training.
With regard to (b), WD does not exclude any industry sector in this category.
With regard to (c), six aboriginal economic growth projects were approved in the initial call for proposals intake. The successful applicants include not-for-profit organizations, aboriginal community-led organizations and educational institutions.
With regard to (d), WD reached out to aboriginal communities regarding the program availability and was not made aware of any particular application-related challenges faced by aboriginal economic growth project applicants.
May 27, 2015
Violence Against Women
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today to end violence against women. The signatories to the petition wish to draw the government’s attention to the following facts: that women are 11 times more likely than men to be victims of sexual violence and three times more likely to be victims of criminal harassment; that indigenous women in Canada are seven times more likely to be murdered than non-indigenous women; that nearly 1,200 indigenous women have gone missing or been murdered in Canada; and that Canada has clear domestic and international obligations to address violence against women, including the United Nations’ call for all countries to have a national action plan to end violence against women.
Therefore, the signatories call upon the Government of Canada to create a coordinated, comprehensive national action plan to address violence against women and to launch an independent national inquiry into the deaths and disappearances of first nations, Métis, and Inuit women.
Violence Against Women
Mr. Speaker, violence against women is a fundamental barrier to reaching equality. We all know the statistics. We know that one in three women will experience sexual assault in her lifetime, and we know that few will report it. We know that 70% of women’s shelters say that a lack of government support is their greatest challenge. We know that indigenous women and girls are four and a half times more likely to be murdered than non-indigenous women and girls. We know that these numbers only tell part of the story.
All of us here in this House know women who have experienced violence, who are survivors, and we know women who are looking for change. That is why we need Motion No. 444, a national action plan to end violence against women.
I hope that every parliamentarian recognizes that it is within his or her power right now, today in fact, to make a difference and to give women hope for a safer future.
Let us not turn our backs on Canadian women. Today, let us make history, or “her story”, and make a difference. It is time.
Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General has shown that the nutrition north criteria are not fair or accessible. They are not even based on current needs.
Forty-six isolated fly-in northern communities are out in the cold, without access to nutritious and affordable food. Will the government commit today to working with all northerners to develop a sustainable solution to food insecurity?
The minister can start by including these 46 communities in the nutrition north program.
Mr. Speaker, I cannot help but add that if they were able to impose this carbon tax, it would be even colder. The cost of food would go up, and the cost of hunting everything in the north would go up.
We have accepted the recommendations of the Auditor General, and we are currently examining eligibility criteria. We are collecting data from the communities in the north, and we will review the eligibility criteria.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have another opportunity to address this important issue.
As people may know, one of the many challenges remote first nation communities face is substandard health care services. The success and well-being of the community is actually largely dependent on the quality of health care services and how easy it is to access them. Unfortunately, for too many remote and northern first nation communities, the quality and availability of health care services cannot come close to matching those that most Canadians receive.
In these locations, the government has failed the first nations, despite a clear constitutional responsibility to provide health care for those very communities. The problems are straightforward, mostly that nurses are not adequately trained and some communities are isolated from any service at all. In addition to that, building regulations can be completely ignored for many of the nursing stations currently in use.
This spring’s Auditor General’s report focused on health care in communities like these and brought many problems into focus. According to the report, only one in 45 nurses had been properly trained. In most cases, they do not have the qualifications to provide the most basic of care for these communities, let alone the resources or manpower shortages that only compound the problem. On top of that, nurses are often required to do things outside of their legislative scope of practice.
Health Canada is aware of this and yet nothing has been done to provide appropriate supporting mechanisms for these situations. In one community, two four year olds died because of strep throat-related conditions. Penicillin could have saved them. If they had had access to proper health care facilities, two four year olds could still be alive today.
I understand there is rhetoric on the other side of the House, but this is a serious issue.
Is this the quality of life we want for anyone in Canada? No community should be forced to worry that an entirely preventable and treatable disease can take the lives of its members, but that is the case for too many remote and northern first nations.
There is yet another example of how the Conservative government misses the mark on anything to do with the first nations. It is quick to bring in regulations but slow to invest. However, if we want to help these communities face their challenges over the long term, we need to invest. The government is doing the bare minimum, and it shows.
If the government really wanted to improve the quality of life for the people in first nation communities, it would provide properly trained nurses and take into account the specific needs of each community when allocating nursing staff levels.
In addition to that, the quality of clinic buildings is also a problem. Many buildings were not inspected on time according to Health Canada’s 2005 framework for capital planning and management requirements. If they were, most deficiencies related to health and safety requirements or building codes went unaddressed. Of the 30 reviewed deficiencies, only 4 had been taken care of. This disregard for building quality puts patients and nurses on staff at risk and could limit access to health services in remote communities.
The government brags about its balanced budget. Inaction on problems like these is one way this has been done. The budget has been balanced on the backs of those who need it the most. Why are the Conservatives abandoning remote communities?
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to address the comments of the hon. member with respect to health care for first nations and Inuit.
Certainly our government ensures that first nations communities have access to health care providers. Guided by the Canada Health Act, provinces and territories deliver hospital, physician, and public health programs to all Canadians, including first nations.
However, as I have previously noted, in order to support first nations in reaching an overall level of health that is comparable to other Canadians, Health Canada supplements provincial services by providing or funding the delivery of effective, sustainable, and culturally appropriate services in first nations communities. This work is done in a collaborative manner with our first nation partners. We also work with the provinces and territories to address the pressing health issues and provide the appropriate access to health services.
It is important to note that over $2.5 billion is invested annually by the government in first nations and Inuit health, in the form of primary care; non-insured health benefits; and a broad range of public health programs, such as the aboriginal diabetes initiative, the national native alcohol and drug abuse program, and maternal child health programming.
Non-insured health benefits include medical transportation so that when first nation people living on reserve need to access health services that cannot be obtained in their community, and this includes emergencies or routine doctor appointments, Health Canada provides coverage for transportation. This, of course, includes emergency transportation for those living in remote and isolated communities.
On the primary care side, Health Canada directly delivers primary care services in 53 remote and isolated first nation communities in four regions: Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. We also provide funding to first nations to deliver primary health care services in 27 remote and isolated first nation communities, and that includes 12 in Saskatchewan region.
We are working closely with first nation communities and have transferred programs and services to varying degrees in over 400 communities. I am also proud of the agreement that we have in British Columbia, covering more than 200 communities there.
It is important that we continue to work collaboratively with our provincial and first nation partners to improve delivery and the integration of health services.
Again, Health Canada’s programs and services rely heavily on nurses. Registered nurses and nurse practitioners are predominately the first point of contact, and they are valued members of the community.
We take the recent recommendations of the Auditor General very seriously and are already working to address the recommendations in the report. Notably, to address nursing vacancy rates, Health Canada has implemented a recruitment and retention strategy, and is already receiving more than 250 applications per month.
On recruitment and training issues, having been a nurse who has worked in small remote aboriginal communities, I know that changeover is a real challenge in ensuring that we keep the training going for every new person. However, rest assured, we are committed to having highly educated, qualified individuals, and that everyone has been trained and certified to be a health care provider.
There are many other things that are important in terms of where we go in moving forward. I think there are enormous opportunities with telehealth. However, again, rest assured that we are taking the recommendations very seriously.
Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General’s report provides proof that the Conservative government is not making first nations a priority. The findings of this report are horrifying but not surprising.
The NDP has been stressing the challenges that too many first nations are facing throughout this entire Parliament. Proper nurse training, staffing, and building inspections would make a huge difference for these communities.
Each and every nurse that is sent to remote first nation locations needs to be adequately trained. Nurses should be equipped with the knowledge and experience it takes to handle the situations that will arise in these locations. In addition, each community should be properly examined to discover their unique needs when it comes to health care services.
If we are spending money to send nurses to these locations, it makes sense to ensure they are given every opportunity to do the best job they can. However, the state of health care services in remote first nation communities reflects the attitude of the Conservatives toward first nations as a whole.
First nations’ lives matter. When is the government going to address the problems with health care services in northern and remote first nation communities?
Mr. Speaker, our government will continue to provide front-line services to first nation communities while also ensuring that medically necessary care and services are available for all first nations and Inuit in Canada.
Our work on first nation and Inuit health care services is collaborative. We have reached a comprehensive deal in British Columbia that contributes to the development of healthier and more sustainable first nation communities. It is one we hope will be implemented across the country.
We are investing in nursing stations and building new ones. We are working with first nation communities and other important partners to address the issues of prescription drug abuse and mental wellness. Budget 2015 would provide annual funding of $2 million to support mental wellness teams in first nation communities.
Again, we are dedicated to improving the health of Canadians, including our first nation and Inuit communities.
Mr. Speaker, it is so sad when someone starts to become more and more incompetent in a particular job.
There is yet another failed Conservative program. The first nations market housing fund was created eight years ago but has produced less than 1% of the 25,000 homes it was supposed to produce by 2018.
Is that the Conservatives’ response to the housing crisis in aboriginal communities—an ineffective program that has done little more than finance one more bureaucracy?
Mr. Speaker, the purpose of that program is to increase private home ownership for first nations people on reserve. We want to see first nations individuals being able to have the pride, the security, and the financial stability that come with owning their own home.
We always review programs to ensure that they meet the goals required, but we think it is important that first nations individuals can own their own home on reserve. That is why we created this fund.
Mr. Speaker, the minister should know that the government cynically promised to build 25,000 homes in this $300 million market fund. Now, seven years later, they have built 99.
The government’s own estimates confirm a housing crisis on reserve, with severe shortages of 20,000 to 35,000 new units and 5,200 replacement units.
Building sufficient and safe housing on reserve builds local economies and creates jobs. The government has failed miserably.
Where are the 25,000 homes that the government promised?
Mr. Speaker, the member does not understand what the program is designed to do. It is to encourage and to enable individuals to choose to build their own home and own it on reserve.
It is no surprise coming from the opposition, which voted against and does not believe that women should have their own property rights on reserve. It seems that it does not agree that aboriginal individuals should have their own homes on reserve.
We believe that they should. That is why we created this program. We always review our programs to ensure that they are meeting the goals that we set out.
May 28, 2015
Violence Against Women
Mr. Speaker, yesterday this House had the opportunity to take a substantive leap forward toward ending violence against women. Sadly, all Conservative members but one chose to vote against my motion to create a national action plan to end violence against women. In doing so, they sent a clear message, a shameful message, to the women they represent: “Your safety is not a priority for this government. Your equality does not matter to this government. Your rights are not something that this government is willing to stand up for.”
Why is ending violence against women a partisan issue?
For the NDP, this is about answering the call made by women in our ridings and across the country, including the voices of the most vulnerable: indigenous women, racialized women, disabled women, LGBTTQ women, and refugee and immigrant women.
We will continue to fight for them. We will continue to fight for a national action plan, even when their Conservative representatives do not.
Mr. Speaker, the housing shortage in first nations is at crisis levels. In communities in northern Manitoba, there are housing shortages of up to hundreds of homes, but the Conservative response, as we saw yesterday, was ideological rhetoric and a failed program.
According to the chair of the government’s flagship fund, the program was actually never intended to provide homes for those who needed them most.
Will the minister admit to the government’s failed policies and will the government redirect funding immediately to build homes in first nations?
Mr. Speaker, our government continues to take concrete steps to support first nations in providing safe housing. Every year significant resources are allocated to first nations to help them meet their housing needs, for which they are responsible.
Since 2006, close to 12,000 new homes have been built and there have been renovations to 22,000 existing homes in first nations. We will continue that good work.
Mr. Speaker, we are talking about redirecting funding, a $344 million fund to provide much needed housing on first nations beyond the rhetoric that we are hearing from the government.
The Prime Minister‘s official apology in 2008 regarding residential schools must be more than just lip service. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission will be reporting its findings next Tuesday, and we will be there. However, the Prime Minister needs to show some leadership. Will he at least attend the event marking the closing of the commission?
Mr. Speaker, the government is delivering on its promises with respect to the agreement that was reached. We will continue our work in close collaboration with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The government will be represented at all of the events held here in Ottawa. We hope the public will also want to take part, because this is another important step in reconciliation between all Canadians and this country’s first nations.
Mr. Speaker, in 2008, the government promised that a $300 million first nations market housing fund would generate 25,000 housing units over 10 years.
The reality is 99 homes in 7 years. In 2011, the government’s own report revealed a shortage of up to 35,000 homes on reserve. The response was not a penny of new money in any budget since. In fact, the government has diverted $500 million promised for first nations infrastructure.
How can the Conservatives continue to ignore the desperate housing crisis in first nations communities?
Mr. Speaker, as I have already said, our government continues to take concrete steps to support first nations in providing safe housing throughout first nations across the country.
Every year significant resources are allocated to first nations to help them meet their housing needs for which they are responsible.
Since 2006, the government investment for on-reserve housing has resulted in the construction of 12,000 new homes, and more than 22,000 homes have been renovated. We will continue in that direction.
May 29, 2015
Mr. Speaker, the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation in northern Manitoba has been waiting 12 years for the approval of their treaty land entitlement.
The minister has given no reason for the delay, which is costing the first nation millions of dollars, money that could be spent to improve the lives of their people. They are among 15 first nations in Manitoba that are simply waiting for a signature from the minister.
When will the minister sign the ministerial order for the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation?
Mr. Speaker, we take the matter of addition to reserve and TLE lands very seriously, as we do improving economic conditions on reserve.
That is why we have continued to invest in on-reserve infrastructure. We have continued to invest in communities across the country. Every time we do, the NDP votes against it. It would be nice to have it on side for once.
Mr. Speaker, for thousands of residential school survivors, next week’s report marks the beginning of reconciliation, not the end.
As former AFN national chief Phil Fontaine said, the Prime Minister’s 2008 apology will be meaningless unless he takes action following the commission’s report. Will the Prime Minister show that he is prepared to act in good faith by attending the final event of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission next week?
Mr. Speaker, the government will be represented at all TRC events. Our government remains committed to a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of Indian residential schools, as acknowledged in the Prime Minister‘s historic apology on behalf of all Canadians in 2008. There is no place in Canada for the attitudes that inspired the Indian residential school system to ever prevail again.
While the TRC is closing, the work to heal the relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians needs to continue. Our government will continue to fulfill its obligations as set out in the Indian residential school settlement agreement.
Mr. Speaker, our question was about the Prime Minister. This is a national, historic event and we want to hear that the Prime Minister will be in attendance.
As for looking forward, reconciliation means not just saying “sorry” but changing behaviour. Twenty years after the last residential school closed, first nations children receive less funding for education than other Canadian children. They receive less funding for health and for social services.
More children now are in state care than at the height of the residential schools. We cannot promise reconciliation and continue to treat first nations as second-class citizens.
What is the government’s plan to make its apology real?
Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister made an historic apology on behalf of all Canadians in 2008, the government recognized that the Indian residential schools caused great harm and had no place in Canada.
While we cannot undo the past, we can learn from it. We have taken the steps necessary to bring in closure to the legacy of the Indian residential schools. We will continue to promote reconciliation between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives’ dismal record speaks for itself.
Here are a few of many examples. We have the Conservatives’ refusal to properly fund education for aboriginal youth, their refusal to hold a national inquiry on the fate of 1,200 missing or murdered aboriginal women, and, lastly, their completely ineffective housing program. However, in 2008, the Prime Minister personally made a commitment to reconciliation.
Was his official apology for Indian residential schools just hot air?
Mr. Speaker, it was our Prime Minister and this government that, after decades of waiting, delivered that historic apology on behalf of all Canadians. It was the Prime Minister who did that.
Speaking of shoddy records, the opposition has a lot to answer for because every time we invest on reserve, if we try to give matrimonial property rights to women on reserve, if we try to bring up waste water and water standards on reserve, it is always there to oppose us. Why does the opposition not get on board as we work with first nations to improve conditions on reserve?
Mr. Speaker, it is a matter of respect, to never forget all of the children who did not return home.
My colleagues, my leader and I will be attending the closing events of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which start on Sunday. We will be there to hear from survivors and to hear the commission’s findings.
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister did make the first gesture of reconciliation on the floor of the House of Commons with his apology to residential school survivors, in 2008. We continue to work with first nations across the country, and we will continue to be committed to a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of Indian residential schools. It was the Prime Minister and this government that took that step. We remain committed to that work.
Housing in Manitoba
Mr. Speaker, nowhere has the current government’s failure in housing become more obvious than in the province of Manitoba. While this is bad enough, it is even worse because the junior minister responsible for housing comes from Manitoba. One would think she would pay attention to the problems in her own province. She does not.
In Manitoba, housing for first nations is critical, yet a $300 million fund to produce housing has created just 99 houses. If all the government can show is $3 million per home, it is not indifference that is the problem; it is incompetence
As the minister and her government fail to build housing in communities across Canada, particularly in rural Canada, pressures build in big cities. In Winnipeg, shabby hotels are now being used to house homeless young people. These places are as dangerous as they are dismal. The minister’s response: nothing.
The only real thing the Conservative government is doing on housing is pulling subsidies, and on this file the government is hurting seniors in Manitoba. As mortgages expire, so too do low-income subsidies for Manitobans on fixed incomes.
No wonder the junior minister and her senior minister missed a major housing conference in Winnipeg in her own province. They are missing in action and—
Highlights from the Senate
May 26, 2015
Hon. Douglas Black: Honourable senators, over the spring, I’ve been travelling across the country talking with Canadians about the importance of the energy sector to our economy. In partnership with the Economic Club of Canada, we’ve assembled panels of Canadian leaders from the Aboriginal, innovation, youth, policy and business sectors in a series we’ve called Canada’s Energy Agenda: Getting it Right.
Our panels have focused on the three key issues that are the major challenges to energy projects proceeding — Aboriginal engagement, environmental innovation and market access. Resolving these three challenges is fundamental to our energy future. The three issues are inextricably linked. The reality is that we won’t get — we cannot get — market access for our energy products without Aboriginal engagement and participation. Of course, we won’t get Aboriginal engagement if we can’t develop, through environmental innovation, the ability to clean up oil spills, not just to disperse oil spills.
So far the speaking tour has visited Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal. Ottawa is set for June 4 and Halifax, Regina, Calgary and Washington, D.C., are planned for the fall.
We have learned much already. We’ve learned that there’s no way that resource projects will move forward unless and until Aboriginal peoples are at the negotiating table and, ultimately, at the decision table.
We’ve also learned that it isn’t about the money for Aboriginal peoples, as was demonstrated most recently through the Petronas LNG project in British Columbia. Aboriginal peoples take their role as generational stewards of the land, water and fish as their first priority. We’ve learned that we need to take the risk of oil spill cleanup as the top priority for innovation. Support for energy market access will not happen without this confidence. The recent marine oil spill in Vancouver harbour gives us all pause for consideration.
We’ve learned that market access remains the central concern for Canada to ensure continued growth and prosperity.
Finally, we’ve learned that there are successful models for Aboriginal engagement that we can build on, including the participation of First Nations in energy projects in Alberta and in northern Quebec.
We have an urgent and historic duty to secure our energy future and the prosperity that flows from it. I have seen that by making this conversation about our energy agenda positive and respectful we can end our current stalemate and accomplish nation building together.