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In Question Period, I asked the government what steps they took to work with the federal government and with CGL to hold off seeking an extension of their injunction in order to allow more engagement with Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, particularly since the Missing report meant that no construction could take part in the Morice River area anyway?

I followed this with a question for the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation: why did it take the threat of a pending injunction enforcement for a respect table discussion to be struck, especially given how long government has been aware of the outstanding issues related to this pipeline?

Transcript

S. Furstenau: Over the last several weeks, this government has spoken at great length about the work that it has done with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs. Our concern is that this engagement has been secondary to ensuring that LNG Canada and its associated projects can proceed.

Late last month it was reported that a key environmental assessment report that is necessary for construction to proceed in the Morice River Technical Boundary Area, the same area that includes the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre, still needed to be submitted and approved. The ministry was quoted in the media as stating: “This process is part of our work to ensure that industry — in this case, Coastal GasLink — is meeting the requirements of their environmental approval. Environmental assessment office requirements will need to be met for CGL to proceed with construction.”

My question is for the Minister of Environment. What steps did this government take to work with the federal government and with CGL to hold off seeking an extension of their injunction in order to allow more engagement with Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, particularly since the Missing report meant that no construction could take part in the Morice River area anyway?

Hon. G. Heyman: Thank you to the member for the question. As the member knows, the environmental assessment certificate for Coastal GasLink contains 33 legally binding conditions. It was issued in 2014. The first condition — the member is correct — addresses the Morice River Technical Boundary Area, which includes the wilderness lodge and the healing centre.

In November 2019, CGL submitted the required report to the environmental assessment office, and the environmental assessment office is currently reviewing the report submitted by the company. As part of that review, it is consulting and seeking feedback extensively from all parties, including both the hereditary and the elected leadership of the Wet’suwet’en. Since the environmental assessment certificate was granted, the EAO has met directly with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en on a number of times to hear the specific concerns that they raised.

To the details of the member’s question, under the terms of the environmental assessment certificate and British Columbia law, the company, CGL, cannot undertake construction activity in the Morice River Technical Boundary Area until the report has been accepted and that condition is deemed to have been met. They can, however, undertake construction in other areas covered by other terms and conditions, and they can — as has been affirmed by the courts — have access to those areas through that area. That is where the matter currently stands.

Mr. Speaker: The House Leader of the Third Party on a supplemental.

S. Furstenau: As my colleague from Saanich North and the Islands made clear yesterday, the issue that the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs have raised is not new. The immediate issues concerning the Coastal GasLink pipeline have been known for years. The broader territorial rights and title issue has been known for decades.

Even with the injunction, we have had a long lead-up to what is before us. An interim injunction was first granted on December 14, 2018, and it was on December 31, 2019 that the B.C. Supreme Court granted an extension of the injunction to completion. Yet it was only at the beginning of this month that the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation sat down at the respect table to seek peaceful resolution.

My question for the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. Given that almost everyone involved in the respect table discussions has described it as a positive step and constructive in the reconciliation process, why did it take the threat of a pending injunction enforcement for a respect table discussion to be struck, especially given how long government has been aware of the outstanding issues related to this pipeline?

Hon. S. Fraser: I thank the House Leader for the Third Party for her question. As the member notes, the situation is very complex and it’s very long-standing. As a matter of fact, it long predates our government. We’ve been engaging in meaningful government-to-government negotiations with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en since last spring.

I was grateful to have been invited to a smoke feast in the territory by the Chiefs as a first formal step in that process.

As the member also knows, there had been an access agreement in place between the company, the RCMP and the Hereditary Chiefs since last January. But with the B.C. Supreme Court ruling on the injunction, the agreement ended.

Since then, our government made a committed effort to work with the OW, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, to find a peaceful resolution, including the talks at the respect table. Wiggus is the term that was explained by the Hereditary Chiefs when we were there. It was clear from the discussions that all of us came together in good faith, and that good faith continues, and we remain committed to continuing to build that relationship together.

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