Justin Trudeau’s government has quietly issued its first batch of permits for the Site C dam — allowing construction to move forward on the $8.8 billion BC Hydro project despite ongoing legal challenges by two First Nations.
The federal-provincial review panel’s report on Site C found the 1,100 megawatt dam will result in significant and irreversible adverse impacts on Treaty 8 First Nations.
Caleb Behn, who is from West Moberly First Nation, one of the nations taking the federal government to court, says Trudeau has broken his promise.
“It’s 19th century technology being permitted with 19th century thinking and I expected more from the Trudeau government,” he said. “These permits were our last best hope to resolve this.”
“These permits suggest very strongly that, at least these ministries, if not Trudeau’s entire cabinet, are unwilling to engage in reconciliation with indigenous peoples. I thought this country could be more.”
Charlie Angus, MP for Timmins-James Bay and NDP critic for Indigenous and Northern Affairs, echoed those sentiments.
“I think this was a real test of the Trudeau government and they failed the test,” Angus said.
“The Liberals seem to be thinking that if they say the right things, it’s somehow the same as doing the right things.”
Trudeau has emphasized building a new relationship with indigenous peoples since taking office in October. He included the following paragraph in every ministerial mandate letter:
“No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples. It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.”
But with the issuing of the Site C permits, doubts have been cast on that promise.
“We hear from all the key ministers about the nation-to-nation relationship and then they rubber stamp and go ahead with all the big projects,” Angus said.
For Behn, who was the subject of a documentary called Fractured Land last year, the sense of disappointment was palpable.
“What do they care about a backwater in northern B.C. that only has 40,000 voters?” he asked. “If you spent $9 billion on solar panels, geothermal … you wouldn’t have to run roughshod over indigenous rights.”
There’s something about Justin Trudeau and his PR-spinning Liberal Team that reminds me of the Tennessee Williams character Harvey “Big Daddy” Pollitt from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Pollitt famously uttered the line:
“What’s that smell in this room? Didn’t you notice it, Brick? Didn’t you notice a powerful and obnoxious odour of mendacity in this room?… There ain’t nothin’ more powerful than the odour of mendacity… You can smell it. It smells like death.”
Mendacity, for those without instant dictionary access, is a code word for behaviour that is disingenuous, two-faced, deceitful, hypocritical. In other words, a term that more and more Canadians will soon be applying to Mr. Trudeau, whose PR perfume will not be able to cover up the mess he and his team are making in Ottawa much longer.
Case in point is a disingenuous crew who call themselves feminists and tout their gay pride credentials while arming misogyny and homophobic violence in Saudi Arabia, where members of the LGBTQ community face execution by a regime bolstered by $15 billion in Trudeau-approved weaponry. Or perhaps there’s the “we love the environment and Indigenous folks” meme, symbolized by sending lots of Canadians to the Paris climate conference while continuing to do their best to support new pipelines and tar sands expansion, and refusing to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People nor to properly meet the most basic of education funding benchmarks for First Nations youth.
The feminist in the PMO has also done little to eliminate the crisis of violence against women in the military. Indeed, it is a Trudeau-appointed War Minister who has refused to release details about the postings of a Canadian soldier and serial sexual assault perpetrator who recently pleaded guilty in Petawawa to six counts of sexual assault. That information would have been vital in tracking down other potential victims of Derrick Gallagher, a veteran of one tour in Afghanistan.
Like the presidential American cousin with whom an embarrassing bromance has been going on since the election that booted Harper from office, Trudeau has specialized in useless platitudes that, apart from the odd tinkering with the system, has carried on much of Harper’s devastating legacy. It’s particularly evident in Trudeau’s repeated eagerness to whip out his CF-18s and deploy them in eastern Europe and Pacific war games, all the while committing Canadians to a $30-billion outlay in new warships and warplanes while increasing troop numbers on the ground in Iraq.
And as anyone who works with refugees can tell you, after they got their Syrian photo-op, the Liberals have pretty much resorted to the Harper-era level of meanness and pettiness in denying family reunification, continuing to keep refugees and immigrants in jail, refusing to grant ministerial discretion in cases that cry out for such a simple solution, and slowing sponsorships to a trickle.
Here at home, Trudeau’s Justice Department has carried on a legal assault on a number of specific communities. For example, over 400 brave women who are current and former RCMP officers filed a class action lawsuit against the systemic misogyny governing the RCMP while Harper was still PM. Trudeau the “feminist” has failed to withdraw Ottawa’s opposition to the lawsuit, leaving women suffering from PTSD to continue to suffer in a manner documented in the excellent No One to Tell, by former RCMP officer Janet Merlo.
And while Trudeau proclaims himself the King of Multicultural acceptance, his attack dogs in the state security agencies continue to go after targeted communities while enjoying immunity under the provisions of the repressive C-51, which gives them the power to torture, kidnap and indefinitely detain individuals who, for example, refuse to spy on their community or who condemn CSIS’ abusive practices.