Madam Speaker, this evening, on Earth Day, I am debating an issue I raised on February 19 during question period. The essence of my question was to highlight the inconsistency of the government between what it is saying and actually doing when the rights of indigenous peoples are concerned and in the fight against the climate crisis. While these issues may seem different, they are intricately connected.
First, I want to underline that no communities on this land are fighting more for the natural world than indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples are caretakers of mother earth and realize and respect her gifts and her power. They advocate that we must take only what we need, that we must use great care and be aware of how we take and how much, so that future generations will not be put in peril.
In 2015, during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Prime Minister recognized that “Indigenous peoples have known for thousands of years how to care for our planet. The rest of us have a lot to learn and no time to waste.” He said “no time to waste”. Two years later, using public funds, his government bought the Trans Mountain pipeline. The finance minister at the time cited that this project was in the national interest and, furthermore, an investment in Canada’s future. This decision not only will devastate critical ecosystems, such as the home of resident killer whales, but it was also vehemently opposed by indigenous nations whose territory would be impacted.
This history repeats itself again and again. Today it is playing out in the land of the Inuit people. Funding the oil and mining industry, buying a pipeline and sponsoring nuclear energy that will have disastrous consequences on ecosystems tens of thousands of years from now are not the work of reparation or climate leaders. Disregarding the voice of elders and youth, hereditary and elected chiefs, and consulting after the fact are not consequential steps toward reconciliation. Inconsistencies, incertitude, even deception: This is the perspective of so many who live on this land known as Canada when it comes to the government’s decisions pertaining to the climate crisis and reconciliation.
On this Earth Day, it is urgent that the government act with courage and compassion for the planet and all of the people who live on it. For the youth striking every Friday from school, desperate for a response they can believe in, what does the government say to them? Development and surplus will mean nothing when the last ancestral cedar tree is cut down, when the last herd of woodland caribou is extinguished or when every drop of our rivers is polluted. I can hear the inevitable groans from naysayers now, the ones who will dismiss the words of a tree hugger. How have we become so disconnected from the natural world to believe that we are separate and above it?
Honestly committing to respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and fighting the climate crisis is not something we can do intermediately or without conviction. Canadians need a government that will wilfully, without detour or compromise, commit to the future and the future of the generations to come, one where our children have a right and an understood responsibility to the natural world. We must listen, learn and implement the knowledge of the first people, who know the land, its rivers and forests and how to live in harmony and respect with all forms of life.
The government needs to lead this transition, this necessary culture shift, not in 10 years, but now.
Madam Speaker, my hope is that in advancing indigenous rights, we will also move toward addressing the climate crisis as well. We must think about what is truly at stake here, think about our children.
The Minister of Environment and Climate Change has mentioned his daughter many times in his speeches. He has even mentioned how she has urged him to do more. The youth are the ones who bring me hope when I feel defeated. They are the ones who give me the energy to use my voice to be part of the solution. They are the leaders of today because they understand the emergency. Grade three curriculum covers life cycles, biodiversity, endangered species. They get it. Why can our elected leaders not get it?
From young Anishinabe activist, Autumn Peltier, fighting for clean water for all, to the Loïck Thomas in New Brunswick, who by the age of four had personally collected 1,000 bags of litter, they remind me that this willingness to protect the environment and the curiosity about the world surrounding us is inherent in the human spirit.
The government needs to act in the best interests of the youth of our country, the ones who will have to find the solutions to the catastrophic problems our government is not courageous to face head-on now.