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Motion to Authorize Committee to Study the Cumulative Impacts of Resource Extraction and Development

Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources

Motion to Authorize Committee to Study the Cumulative Impacts of Resource Extraction and Development—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator McCallum, seconded by the Honourable Senator Loffreda:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources be authorized to examine and report on the cumulative impacts of resource extraction and development, and their effects on environmental, economic and social considerations, when and if the committee is formed; and

That the committee submit its final report no later than December 31, 2021.

Hon. Scott Tannas: Honourable senators, I rise to speak to a motion put forward by my friend and colleague, Senator McCallum. The motion would provide an order of reference to the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources to:

 . . . examine and report on the cumulative impacts of resource extraction and development, and their effects on environmental, economic and social considerations . . .

I have some reservations about this relatively new initiative that we have seen, where there have been attempts to have the chamber dictate to committees what they ought to study when they’re not tasked with legislation. In this case, I’m further uncomfortable that the motion is proposed by a member of the committee. It seems to me that it would further diminish the principle that committees are their own masters. That said, I accept that we have in the chamber passed a few of these unsolicited committee references, so I will turn to the motion and its wording and then close with a small amendment.

While not always, but often, the word “impacts” has a negative connotation. That said, Senator McCallum was clear in her speech that we all have biases which would be brought to the study, and that the committee should not shy away from doing the work in producing a balanced report, and I agree with her. For added clarity, I will propose the addition of the words “positive and negative” to “cumulative impacts” in order to highlight her transparent — through her speech — desire for balance, and mine as well.

Before I do, I want to apologize to Senator McCallum for the time that has passed since I took the adjournment of this motion. These are unusual times. The motion has been called fewer than a handful of times in six months, which is a symptom of the number of times that we have actually met. I wanted to say that I meant her no disrespect, and I hope we can deal with this motion relatively quickly.

Motion in Amendment

Hon. Scott Tannas: Therefore, honourable senators, in amendment, I move:

That the motion be not now adopted, but that it be amended by adding, before the word “impacts”, the words “positive and negative”.

Hon. Mary Jane McCallum: Thank you to Senator Tannas for bringing up the amendment. I do support it. I wanted to talk about the chamber dictating an order of reference.

The reason I brought this forward was that, when I arrived in the Senate I noticed that there were very few Indigenous issues brought to the floor, and that I had to start raising my concerns, especially around resource extraction. I want to quote from my speech:

. . . I feel it is up to us as senators to take an unencumbered, neutral look at this massive issue to try and make sense of it all.

When the Energy Committee met, 80% of the witnesses were from industry and 4% were from Indigenous peoples, so there wasn’t a fair distribution of views with C-69.

Honourable senators, it is with this in mind that I’m hopeful that a balanced neutrality and mutual respect will rule when considering this order of reference. My hope is for a final report that will be fully reflective of all points of view. My final hope would be for a resulting balance, equity and understanding in public policy moving forward. Problems dealing with natural resources and land remain the top issue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups and people, resulting in confrontation and fraught relationships. If we who are here to be representative of our regions and the people within them will not undertake a balanced and thorough study on this subject matter, then who will?

As I said, I support Senator Tannas and the amendment he has made. Thank you.

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