KAMLOOPS (NEWS 1130) – The prime minister is heading to Regina on Thursday, for another campaign-style townhall, following a rocky start to his cross-country tour in Kamloops on Wednesday.
The controversial LNG pipeline project in Kitimat dominated the meeting, with Justin Trudeau facing tough questions and a lot of criticism.
“You’re protecting a dirty pipeline and that is not honourable,” shouted an opponent to the project.
“Everything you benefit from — our oppression and out suffering — you are afraid to lose your comfort,” she accused.
“No I’m not,” Trudeau responded. “I am ready to walk in partnership with you and building the future.”
He said he “understands the anger and passion” and says he respects the issue of protecting First Nations land. “I also know that there are a number of Indigenous leaders who have worked with and supported that pipeline project.”
“It is not for the federal government to decide who speaks for you. That’s not my job. My job is to try and work with everyone — work with all — of you to make sure that you are taking back control of your land, your future, your people, your destiny,” Trudeau said, adding “it is difficult.”
“I want an amends. I demand it on behalf of all my people,” shouted protester. “I don’t want to see your crocodile tears. I don’t want to see your apologizing. I don’t want to hear you say ‘sorry’ … I want you to start making better choices on behalf of everybody living on this land.”
Trudeau later told the protester, “I listened to what you said. I would respectfully submit that perhaps you haven’t been listening to what I am saying.”
RCMP arrested 14 people Monday in northwestern B.C. over a protest against construction of a natural gas pipeline by Coastal GasLink, a key part of the $40-billion LNG Canada project. Trudeau says the arrests are “not an ideal situation.”
“A hundred years ago, when the railroads were laid down, nobody checked with Indigenous peoples. Nobody checked with the people who had lived here for millennia whether or not we could throw a railroad down in a given place. That is not the way we need to do things anymore. That is not how we will continue to do things. We need to figure out a new and better way to do things, a way that is based on respect and dialogue and engagement … and there is going to be turbulence along the way, which we are seeing.”
“The challenge we have … is to be open to listening to people”
In a campaign-style speech at the Liberal fundraiser, Trudeau did not address the arrests but heralded the massive project as one of his government’s key achievements over the past year.
“We move forward on the LNG Canada project, which is the largest private sector investment in Canada’s history — $40-billion — which is going to produce Canadian LNG that will supplant coal in Asia as a power source, and do much for the environment at the same time as we move forward on energy,” he said.
“The challenge we have to have as Canadians, is to be open to listening to people, to understand their concerns and their fears, and work together to try and allay them. We will always have, in this country, perspectives that vary widely from region to region.”
Dozens of protesters on both sides of the pipeline debate gathered outside the hotel where Trudeau spoke. Protesters wearing yellow vests carried signs that read “Carbon Tax Cash Grab” and “Trudeau for Treason.”
A group of Indigenous protesters opposed to the pipeline sang, drummed and held a banner reading “PM Trudeau: Canada needs climate action now.”
The prime minister has said his government has been working on reconciliation but the dispute over the pipeline, a key part of the $40-billion LNG Canada liquefied natural gas project in Kitimat, is “still an ongoing process.”
He says it is important to “leave room for people to express their concerns,” but at the same time this is a country of the rule of law and court rulings must be respected.
Trudeau says it is important to “reduce the temperature” at the blockade site along a remote road southwest of Houston, so he will not visit the scene because “sometimes engaging that way is actually raising the political attention and the stakes.”
The prime minister’s trip to Kamloops was the start of an outreach tour that will expand across the country. He was also scheduled to meet with the city’s mayor, Ken Christian, and two Indigenous leaders.