Two Dalhousie University students made the most of a selfie with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday, by posing questions on indigenous rights rather than just posing with their pearly whites.
Alex Ayt and Kathleen Olds, both involved in the university’s environmental group Divest Dal, asked Trudeau for a selfie during a photo op at Java Blend coffee shop in Halifax. But instead of getting a snapshot, they had the camera rolling to press him on a campaign promise they feel he’s broken.
“Are you planning on implementing UNDRIP?” Olds asked, referring to the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“Absolutely, yes,” Trudeau answered then quickly tried to move on. The women continue their questions as he moves through the crowded shop.
“Does that mean requiring consent for natural resource projects?”
“Absolutely,” he said. “We need to engage with a broad range of voices and as we’ve seen the indigenous communities have positions on both sides of every different project.”
The students say they chose to pose their questions during the coffee shop stop, rather than at Trudeau’s public town hall in Dartmouth that evening, in hopes of getting a more honest answer.
“I was watching the videos of town halls he’s done previously, and he almost talks around the question, he talks around the issue in a way where he doesn’t, kind of, give a direct answer,” Olds said Wednesday.
“I just thought that bringing it up with him like this, we’d be able to get something more direct and more honest hopefully, which is something that I feel may have been lacking in his policy so far.”
Why questions about UNDRIP?
The students said they wanted to question the prime minster on UNDRIP in light of the recent approval of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline. They say the government didn’t get proper consent from indigenous groups before approving the project.
When asked whether she was happy with his answer, Ayt said “No.”
“When we asked about consent for projects, he said that they have gotten consent for natural resource projects, and to that he’s referring to the 39 consenting nations for the Kinder Morgan project, but he consulted 120 nations,” Ayt said.
“Out of that, only 39 consented, which isn’t a very good stat.”
Olds added that, being from British Columbia, she’s seen first-hand the opposition to the Kinder Morgan project, and says many indigenous groups weren’t properly consulted before the decision was made.
“I feel that a lot of the time indigenous consent can be looked over,” she said.
Divest Dal is a group that pushes for the phasing out of fossil fuels, and is pushing for Dalhousie University to pull their investments in fossil fuels.