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Blockade Protests—Rule of Law

Hon. Mary Jane McCallum: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

As we all know, the situation on the West Coast and across Canada continues to boil over as the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and their supporters continue their protests over the construction of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline, which would run through their traditional territory.

In 1997, the Wet’suwet’en chiefs won a transformational decision in the Supreme Court of Canada known as Delgamuukw. This decision indicated that lands in B.C. were capable of having Aboriginal title being held by a First Nation. The court ruled that a further trial would be required to determine the extent to which that judgment applied specifically to Wet’suwet’en lands.

According to a recent release of access to information documents, it has come to light that the federal and provincial governments went to extreme measures to prevent any such litigation from being filed, and consequently, the long-awaited litigation has yet to take place.

This federal government prides itself on supporting the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which has articles that include a requirement of the state to provide protection and redress from any action that has the aim or effect of dispossessing Indigenous peoples of their lands, territories and resources.

With that in mind, will the federal government publicly assure the people of Canada that it will immediately invoke its own ministerial litigation directive with the intent of reaching an agreement as to how to resolve these matters outside of the courts? Will the government commit to this action to reassure its citizens and the world that the Canadian government respects the rule of law?

As this is a matter of serious national consequence, I will respectfully request a written response from the government at its earliest convenience.

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question and for raising what it is an important and challenging dimension that has occurred too frequently in our history with Indigenous communities. I will certainly communicate your request to the government and request a written answer as quickly as they will provide it. Thank you again for your question.

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