Politics Briefing: Trudeau says ending pipeline protests won’t be easy



Demonstrations in support of the Wet’suwet’en Nation protesters continue to cripple Canada’s rail networks. Via Rail has cancelled all service across the country and CN says it is winding down operations in Eastern Canada until a blockade in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory ends.

The protests started because some members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation have opposed the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in their unceded territory.

Political leaders – including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and B.C. Premier John Horgan – say they are reluctant to resolve the disputes through force. Federal and provincial cabinet ministers are meeting or signalled openness to meeting with demonstrators in B.C. and Ontario.

Mr. Trudeau acknowledged to reporters that the protests are about more than just the one pipeline. “You need to know we have failed our Indigenous peoples over generations, over centuries. And there is no quick fix to it,” he said, adding that they are trying to achieve a balance between the right to protest and the enforcement of the rule of law.

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The Hamilton regional coroner’s office has ordered an inquest into the death of Devon Freeman, a teenager who died by suicide at a group home. (Read more on Devon’s life and death.)

Much has happened in the world of Huawei this week: the U.S. Justice Department has laid new charges against the Chinese telecom giant, accusing the company of stealing more trade secrets from competitors; U.S. Senator Rick Scott says his country could limit the intelligence it shares with Canada if the Trudeau government goes ahead with allowing Huawei into the 5G mobile network; and, even though the federal national security review hasn’t been completed, Telus says it’s going ahead with using Huawei equipment in its 5G building anyway.

John Baird will not run for leader of the Conservative Party.

Veteran journalist Anne Kingston, most recently of Maclean’s, has died of cancer at the age of 62.

And a Manitoba woman who had been arrested for uttering threats against Indigenous people says her views have been turned around after attending a restorative justice program. “I uttered the statements out of anger and realized too late that these comments were hurtful,” Destine Spiller said.

Gina Starblanket and Joyce Green (The Globe and Mail) on Wet’suwet’en and the future of Indigenous-Crown relations: “The situation of the Wet’suwet’en is similar to that of many other Indigenous nations in this regard: there are vibrant traditional legal and political protocols in place that lay out each nation’s responsibilities to the land and all in it. Yet, the case of the Wet’suwet’en suggests that Canada and B.C. will completely ignore Indigenous laws and protocols that continue despite colonialism. And the violence that the colonial state is evidently willing to deploy in furthering its economic and political objectives threatens all Indigenous peoples when there is a conflict over the use of the land.”

Ken Coates (The Globe and Mail) on who the protesters speak for: “The impression given by these protests – that Indigenous peoples are uniformly opposed to the pipeline or energy development – is simply wrong. There are certainly committed and energetic Indigenous backers of the protests, but they do not represent all Indigenous peoples and communities.”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on why the energy-environment debates are becoming more difficult to resolve: “For the nature of respect, that universal human desire, is that it does not admit easily to negotiation, or half-measures: You either respect me, or you do not. You either satisfy my demands, therefore – the conditions of my mollification – or you are not fully respecting me (and anything less than full respect is disrespect). Indeed, the closer you approach respect – reconciliation is another word – as an objective, in haste to atone for past sins, the faster it recedes. For without grievances, there is no leverage.”

Max Fawcett (The Globe and Mail) on the economics of the Teck oil sands mine: “But the most imposing obstacle it faces is also the simplest: money. Even with recent improvements in efficiency, oil sands projects still need a fairly high average price per barrel to break even. In 2018, an IHS Markit report said an oil sands miner without an upgrader required a West Texas Intermediate price of US$65 per barrel to break even. Prices haven’t traded above that level for more than a few months over the past four years. Oil sands projects also take a very long time to earn their initial investment back – something that’s particularly nerve-wracking for investors looking out into a future of growing climate action and potentially declining demand for oil.”

Sean Speer (National Post) on a proposal for a Conservative climate policy: “And, so, what’s the right strategy? The next leader should call the Trudeau government’s bluff: he or she should insist that, if we’re going to have a carbon tax, the government must start to repeal the existing panoply of climate-related regulations, subsidies and other emissions-abatement policies.”

Rita Trichur (The Globe and Mail) on changes to the mortgage stress test and orders to the banking regulator: “It’s a ploy to curry favour with millennial voters who, according to real estate industry shills, are being sidelined by the stress test. Trouble is, the Liberal government is politicizing OSFI, and that meddling is bound to create unnecessary risks in the financial system at a time when interest rates are expected to remain low and Canadians are already assuming new mortgage debt.”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on the complexities of the federal government’s upcoming ban on conversion therapy: “A federal criminal law on conversion therapy should go after hucksters and shamans who target LGBTQ people with useless or dangerous therapies. It must protect the rights of transgender Canadians. But the science of sexuality and gender is not settled; good-faith efforts by qualified professionals to help people, especially children, who are unhappy in their bodies must be protected.”

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