PM Trudeau speaks to media after convening the Incident Response Group
Thank you for joining us today.
Our country has faced some significant challenges since the start of the year.
First, the tragedy of Flight 752, which was shot down near Tehran. Second, the coronavirus epidemic and all the Canadians who have been affected. And, most recently, the rail crisis.
Earlier this morning, we reconvened members of the Incident Response Group for an update on these issues.
I will start with the Flight 752 tragedy and the coronavirus, before addressing the blockades that are paralyzing rail service.
Regarding Flight 752, the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ team gave an update on the status of consular assistance being provided to families.
Minister Champagne held another meeting with the International Response Coordination Group last week in Munich. I also announced that Canada was working with its international partners on a safe skies initiative that will ensure that such a tragedy should never happen again.
The Minister of Transport also talked about the latest developments regarding the investigation and reiterated the need for a transparent analysis of the black box data.
We continue to work closely with grieving families to make sure they have all the support they need during this extremely difficult time.
Our government will not rest until justice is done and accountability is achieved.
With respect to the coronavirus, the 129 Canadians who had been aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, and were not showing symptoms, arrived in Canada earlier this morning.
The passengers who have been hospitalized in Tokyo are receiving support from Canadian personnel.
In addition, 218 Canadians who had been quarantined in Trenton were able to leave the military base.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the local, provincial, and territorial public health authorities for their work in this situation.
The government and Canadian authorities are continuing to work closely with our partners at home and abroad to ensure that Canadians are protected, as well as to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Now, on the blockades that are paralyzing key infrastructure.
Let's be clear: all Canadians are paying the price.
People who can't get to work. Others who have lost their jobs.
Essential goods - not just for our economy, but for our communities - cannot get through.
The situation as it currently stands is unacceptable and untenable.
Everyone involved is worried.
Canadians have been patient. Our government has been patient.
But it has been two weeks and the barricades need to come down now.
The issue we face today began with a disagreement over a provincial natural gas pipeline in British Columbia.
What was a matter of provincial jurisdiction has since turned into a broader question on the nature and extent of Indigenous rights, resulting in blockades across the country.
That’s why the federal government had to involve itself directly, and a week and a half ago, both to address these underlying issues and restore rail service, we engaged.
From Day 1, our ministers have engaged directly with Indigenous leaders, and premiers.
Our work was always focused on finding a peaceful and lasting resolution in a way that builds trust and respect among all parties involved.
That focus does not change.
This is a complex issue and the situation we now find ourselves in is a delicate one.
History has taught us how governments can make matters worse if they fail to exhaust all other possible avenues.
When some urged us to use force immediately, we chose dialogue and mutual respect.
When others urged us to give up, we extended a hand in good faith.
The Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, the House Leader, and the Minister of Indigenous Services have been reaching out to concerned parties, including representatives from the Mohawk and Wet’suwet’en Nations and others.
At the same time, the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Finance are fully seized with the economic impacts of the blockades on workers, businesses, farmers, travellers, and families right across the country.
We have engaged rail carriers to use temporary alternatives to prevent the most severe shortages and economic impacts.
The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness has also been working with provincial counterparts and liaising with law enforcement across the country.
I have been in close contact with premiers, including Premier Horgan, since the very beginning, to coordinate our efforts and our response as we work to find a peaceful resolution.
I want to assure Canadians that we are engaging at all levels to resolve this quickly and mitigate the very real impacts of these blockades on people.
When I addressed the House of Commons on Tuesday, I sent a clear message to the Wet’suwet’en and Mohawk Nations, as well as Indigenous leaders across the country.
I said that our government is listening.
I reiterated our commitment to a peaceful resolution.
I expressed our desire to work in partnership with all parties concerned.
That was four days ago.
In the time since, our government has kept engaging at all levels. We repeated our calls for collaboration. We showed respect. And in parallel, the RCMP is standing down their command post at the 29-kilometre mark along the Morice West Forest Service Road, one of the specific demands of the Wet’suwet’en.
But Canadians who are feeling the very real impact of these blockades are running out of patience.
I have found it useful in these situations to reflect on two different types of protest.
One is grounded in deep and lasting negative relations, historic wrongs, historic marginalizations, grievances that are legitimate, in that they have not been listened to, not been engaged with, not been respected, over decades, and indeed centuries. Those are things that we need to address as a country, and something that we have worked very hard to address over the past years, to show respect and partnership for voices, Indigenous voices, that have not had their fundamental rights respected by the governance structures of this country.
And then there are other protests that use, or engage with, Indigenous protests to call out a particular project with which they disagree, to advance a particular point of view that is often deeply felt and important but not anchored in the deep wrongs that have been done in ignoring and marginalizing Indigenous leadership and Indigenous voices in this country.
Earlier today, I once again convened a meeting with the Incident Response Group to address the blockades.
And here’s the reality.
Every attempt at dialogue has been made, but discussions have not been productive.
We can’t have dialogue when only one party is coming to the table.
For this reason, we have no choice but to stop making the same overtures.
Of course, we will never close the door on dialogue, and our hand remains extended should someone want to reach for it.
In fact, Ministers Miller and Bennett just got off of a call with a Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief just minutes ago.
But the fact remains: The barricades must now come down.
The injunctions must be obeyed.
And the law must be upheld.
Let me be clear: our resolve to pursue the reconciliation agenda with Indigenous peoples is as strong as ever.
There are historic wrongs to right. There are gaps to be closed.
There is a relationship to be renewed and new relationships to be built.
Canada is ready for this. Canadians want this.
But hurting Canadian families from coast to coast to coast does nothing to advance the cause of reconciliation.