LNG approval shows Trudeau failing Indigenous campaign promises, critics say
PM campaigned on promises of renewed dialogue, but critics say 'honeymoon phase' appears to be over
At this time last year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was campaigning on promises of a renewed nation-to-nation relationship with Canada's Indigenous peoples, but the federal government's recent approval of the Pacific NorthWest LNG project has critics questioning his commitment to those promises.
For Don Wesley — also known as Chief Yahaan of the Gitwilgyoots, part of the Tsimshian Nation — news of the project's approval was disappointing, though not entirely unexpected.
"We had a feeling this might come," he told CBC Radio One's The Early Edition. "[But] my feelings as a First Nations person were that we were really slapped in the face by the announcement."
"All his talk in the past year here, and his campaign promises, you know — at least he [could] have had the common courtesy out of his office to give us an indication that this was coming. But there was nothing."
Approval confirms suspicions
The federal government has defended its approval of the project by saying the groundwork was laid by the previous government lead by Stephen Harper.
But Sheryl Lightfoot, the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous rights and politics and a professor at UBC, said that argument is damaging the cautious optimism Indigenous voters initially had for the Trudeau government.
"It just confirms people's deepest suspicions — that there actually is no change, and that the processes in place have just continued, and that the status quo of the Harper government is the underlying agenda of the Trudeau government," she said.
Lightfoot said Trudeau's promises and eventual governing mandates have made Canada an international test case for Indigenous rights over the last year, but she said the prime minister has so far largely failed to live up to those promises.
"We've seen lots of promises and lots of stated intentions," she said. "But we're not seeing the actions that follow."
"The honeymoon phase is definitely over."
With files from CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.