Romeo Saganash: Trudeau ‘Doesn’t Give A F**k’ About Indigenous Rights

A veteran NDP MP used the most unparliamentary language to blast the Liberal government’s push to complete the Trans Mountain expansion project despite concerns from many Indigenous groups.

“Why doesn’t the prime minister just say the truth and tell Indigenous Peoples that he doesn’t give a fuck about their rights?” Romeo Saganash asked in question period Tuesday, stunning the House of Commons.

Though some NDP MPs applauded, House Speaker Geoff Regan immediately called on Saganash to apologize.

Watch the moment:

The Cree MP responded in French that he was speaking out in anger because what is happening is “so insulting.” He did withdraw the word.

In the preamble to his question, Saganash said the federal government plans to build the pipeline expansion regardless of whether they can accommodate the concerns of all Indigenous groups affected.

“What that means is that they have decided to willfully violate their constitutional duties and obligations. Mr. Speaker, sounds like a most important relationship doesn’t it?” he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in New York City this week for the United Nations General Assembly. Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi responded on his behalf, saying that he had reached out to Indigenous communities on the Trans Mountain expansion even before the Federal Court of Appeal quashed the government’s approval of the project last month.

“There’s no relationship more important to our government than the relationship with Indigenous Peoples and we will move forward with this project in the right way, making sure we are meeting our constitutional obligations to meaningfully consult with Indigenous peoples,” Sohi said.

Saganash a leading voice on Indigenous rights

The Federal Court of Appeal found that the Trudeau government did not meaningfully consult Indigenous communities before approving the pipeline expansion project in 2016. The ruling also found that the environmental review did not adequately consider the impact of increased oil tanker traffic off the British Columbia coast.

Sohi announced Friday that the federal cabinet is giving the National Energy Board 22 weeks to redo its environmental review of the project to take into account what increased tanker traffic means for B.C., including killer whales.

Sohi said last week that details on how the government will restart consultations with Indigenous communities will be announced shortly.

Saganash, who represents the Northern Quebec riding of Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou, has been a leading voice on Indigenous rights since he was first elected in 2011. A residential school survivor, he was among the architects of the landmark United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Saganash’s private member’s bill, which called on Canada to ensure its laws are in harmony with UNDRIP, passed in the House in May.

With files from The Canadian Press

#TrackingTransMountain aims to present a clearer picture of the state of consultation across all of the Indigenous communities affected by the proposed pipeline expansion.

Building from the hundreds of pages of official documents, existing reporting and interviews with leaders and community members themselves, The Discourse, APTN News and HuffPost Canada hope to offer context to help inform discussions about what’s happening:

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article referred to Amarjeet Sohi as the Infrastructure Minister. He is the Minister of Natural Resources.