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Rights of Indigenous Women - Federal Responsibility

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

I would like to begin by registering my disappointment upon hearing yesterday that our Prime Minister, in high-level leadership meetings to discuss the Wet’suwet’en protests, did not include the Leader of the Opposition in those discussions. All voices have the right to be heard equally.

The exclusion of First Nations throughout history is one of the underlying issues in this crisis today. Dini ze’ Smogelgem, hereditary chief of the Laksamshu, Fireweed and Owl Clan, said the Wet’suwet’en’s application for judicial review of the Coastal GasLink pipeline certificate extension highlights, in part, a connection between this project and threat to women’s safety.

“My cousins are listed among the murdered and missing women and girls,” he said in a statement announcing the case. “B.C. must not be allowed to bend the rules to facilitate operations that are a threat to the safety of Wet’suwet’en women.”

Caily DiPuma, legal counsel for the Wet’suwet’en with Woodward & Company, said the request for judicial review is about questioning the integrity of the environmental assessment process.

Coastal GasLink requested the Environmental Assessment Office grant them a permit extension since the company hadn’t started construction within the five years of its environmental certificate being issued in 2014. When considering a permit extension, the Environmental Assessment Office did not properly conduct an assessment of risks to Indigenous women from the Coastal GasLink pipeline project, nor did they properly consider their compliance under the initial certificate.

We know there is a correlation between . . . ‘man camps,’ and violence against Indigenous girls and women and queer people,” DiPuma said, adding that the Calls to Action from the National Inquiry direct decision-makers “like the EAO to undertake an assessment of gender-based harms for these kinds of projects.”

The article goes on to say:

Coastal GasLink has also been found out of compliance with the conditions of its initial environmental certificate in more than 50 instances, according to the Environmental Assessment Office’s compliance program . . . .

Despite these many instances of non-compliance, the Environmental Assessment Office decided the company’s permit should be extended, DiPuma said.

What will the federal government do to protect the safety and security of Indigenous women as per the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Specific to this case, what action is the federal government taking to uphold their duty to protect these women who fall under the unceded traditional territory of traditional hereditary chiefs — an area which the provincial government assumes they have jurisdiction — for this does not absolve federal responsibility? Canada itself must remember that it operates under a hereditary chief of its own, the Queen.

I respectfully request a written response from the government at their earliest convenience.

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for the question.

You’ve raised so many important issues. I will be happy to request and provide a written response.

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