by Frank Larue
A year ago, Justin Trudeau was campaigning with tons of promises for Indigenous people. The pipeline projects were to be cancelled and any oil projects that were environmentally in question were to be put on hold. A year later, the honeymoon between native leaders and the Liberal government’s young leader, seems to be coming to an end.
The Prime Minister made several promises to Indigenous people. To his credit, he has implemented the Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and given status to Metis and non-status Indians. Where Trudeau has failed is defending native rights when it comes to land and environmental concerns. Site C, in British Columbia, was protested by native bands because of its environmental risks but yet the work has begun with the federal government’s approval. What’s more concerning is Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, who was strongly against Site C before the election remained silent while her party approved the project.
Government approval for the $36 billion LNG project in northern British Columbia was another political move that might well cost the Prime Minister any native support in British Columbia. Trudeau stated in pre-election, “The Great Bear rainforest is no place for a crude oil pipeline.” Yet he has approved the project in a complete reversal of his pre-election promise. Chief Yahaan of the Gitwilgyoots told the CBC, “All this talk in the past year here and his campaign promises, you know, at least he could have had the common courtesy out of his office to give us an indication that this was coming. But there was nothing.”
Sheryl Lighfoot of the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Rights and Politics was even more critical. “It just confirms people’s deepest suspicions that there actually is no change,” She told the CBC, “And the processes in place have just continued, and that the status quo of the Harper government is the underlying agenda of the Trudeau government.”
Lighfoot is not only critical of Trudeau’s change of direction but his failure to deliver on many of his promises, and especially his commitment to a renewed nation to nation relationship with Canada’s Indigenous peoples. “We’ve seen lots of promises and lots of stated intentions, but we’re not seeing the actions that follow. The honeymoon phase is definitely over.”