KAMLOOPS, B.C. — Arrests at a blockade this week show the government needs to properly engage with Indigenous Peoples and build a different relationship than it has had in the past, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday.
Trudeau said he was pleased to see tensions had eased between police and First Nations outside a construction zone for a natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia.
“I know that there will be questions asked and required to answer over the coming weeks about what exactly was done, what could have been done differently,” he said at Thompson Rivers University’s industrial training and technology centre.
It’s time to figure out how to make sure there is proper engagement with more respect when projects are built, something governments haven’t done in the past, Trudeau said.
“I think we can all agree that is the way we need to move forward as a country, in a more respectful, more thoughtful, more engaged way. There are going to be moments when that doesn’t work out as well as it should and we’ll need to learn from those moments.
“But there is no question that the goodwill that is shared by all Canadians who want to see better respect and partnership with Indigenous Peoples, while at the same time we make sure we are continuing to grow the economy.”
The RCMP and hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation met in Smithers, B.C., on Thursday to work on details of an agreement reached a day earlier that would allow access to crews from Coastal Gaslink to work in the area that was behind the blockade.
The company says it has signed agreements with all the First Nations along the pipeline route, including the Wet’suwet’en, but non-elected hereditary chiefs in one house of the five Wet’suwet’en clans oppose the pipeline.
The pipeline would run through the territory to Kitimat, B.C., where LNG Canada is building a $40-billion export facility.
Trudeau said he “deeply respects” the concerns and the issues brought forward by a people on both sides of the debate.
“The way we are doing resource development, construction, exporting of our resources is changing in this country,” he said.
“We know we cannot do it without creating partnerships and engaging with Indigenous Peoples who are the traditional custodians of these lands, without thinking deeply about the environmental consequences and the long-term impacts of the choices we’re making.”
At a town hall meeting in Kamloops on Wednesday night, Trudeau was interrupted and shouted down by some Indigenous people in the crowd who were angry over the arrests of 14 people on Monday.
Trudeau said Thursday that Canada is a country where people are encouraged to speak out and share their opinions, but also to listen to one another respectfully.
“If someone disagrees with what I’m doing or has questions about where we’re going, I want to be able to hear from them,” he said.
Trudeau also visited a seniors centre Thursday in Kamloops where he sat and chatted with people and posed for pictures.