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Rights of Indigenous Women - Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs

Hon. Mary Jane McCallum: Honourable senators, my question is for the Government Representative in the Senate and deals with concerns of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs regarding the Coastal GasLink project.

In issuing their permit in 2019, the Environmental Assessment Office failed to conduct an assessment of risks this project will pose to Indigenous women. As we know, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to government laws and actions. This includes the actions of federal, provincial and municipal governments.

As the provincial government is equally beholden to upholding the Charter, why are they allowed to shirk their section 7 responsibility to provide “security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof” for these women so that they are not subjected to violence through the presence of these manned camps? Also, what specific actions will the federal government take to uphold these section 7 Charter rights for these women, who exist under the insufficient actions of provincial jurisdiction?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your questions, senator. The role of the federal government in relation to matters within provincial jurisdiction is a rather complicated and controversial one. It’s the position of this government that Charter rights need to be protected at all levels of government and in all respects of state and government action. However, it is not within the jurisdiction of the Government of Canada to intervene in matters that are within provincial jurisdiction, even where Charter rights are implicated.

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