Trudeau Defends Pipeline Decision, Lectures Project Opponent at AFN Chiefs’ Assembly
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lectured a Trans Mountain pipeline opponent on respect and “process” yesterday, in an unscripted exchange during the Assembly of First Nations special chiefs’ assembly in Ottawa.
In a statement from the floor, Chief Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith Band applauded the federal government’s work in other areas, but asked why the government failed to apply the principles of self-determination and consent with all the communities along the pipeline route.
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“There was no consent on that, and you can’t count a few [impact benefit agreements] that you’ve done with some of the communities as consent, because it’s the proper title-holders of those nations that hold the title,” she said. “It’s the bands that might have been under duress—or whatever reasons they did that—but it’s not a proper process at all.”
“I appreciate those words very much, Judy, thank you,” Trudeau responded, but “I would be careful about minimizing or ascribing reasons for people who take positions that disagree with you.
“I think there are lots of reasons, and I think we should respect people’s choices to support or not support different projects, and I don’t think we should be criticizing them, just because they disagree with you, Judy.”
National Observer reports applause from participants for Wilson’s question, a quieter room for Trudeau’s response. He told the conference the controversial project is a “process”, and “the process of respect and partnership means engaging in real, substantive conversations, listening to concerns, and responding to those concerns.”
Observer says Trudeau drew a distinction between unanimous and majority support for decisions, with comments that “provoked laughter” from the AFN assembly. “I am prime minister not because 100% of people in this country voted for me—that’s what happens in North Korea,” he said.
Closer to home, “we know the only way to move forward as a country on resource projects, big and small…is in true and genuine partnership with Indigenous peoples. That doesn’t mean we’re going to be able to get everyone to agree all the time. I know the AFN manages to get everyone to agree all the time on all sorts of things.” That latter comment earned a laugh, as well, writes Observer’s Carl Meyer.