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The West Block, Season 8, Episode 40

Watch the full broadcast of The West Block from Sunday, June 9, 2019 with Mercedes Stephenson.

THE WEST BLOCK

Episode 40, Season 8

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Host: Mercedes Stephenson

Guest Interviews: Minister Carolyn Bennett, Parliamentary Secretary Sean Fraser, Minister John Brassard, Minister Rachel Blaney,

James Lewis

Location: Ottawa

Marion Buller, Chief Commissioner for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls: “This is genocide.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “Difficult, challenging and uncomfortable.”

Marion Buller, Chief Commissioner for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls: “We don’t need to hear the word genocide come out of the Prime Minister’s mouth. Survivors have told us their truths.”

Doris Bregolisse, Global News Anchor: “The federal government’s proposed bill to ban oil tankers off the northern coast of B.C. is proceeding.”

Mike Pence, U.S. Vice-President: “We consider Huawei incompatible, and with the security interestsof the United States of America or our allies.”

Benjamin Howes, Vice-President of Media Affairs at Huawei Technologies: “The allegations against Ms. Meng are baseless.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “There is much to work on with China. We are reflecting now on whether or not we go directly and have a conversation with Xi or not, to stand up for Canadians.”

Mercedes Stephenson: It’s Sunday, June 9th. I’m Mercedes Stephenson, and this is The West Block.

“Genocide”: That’s how the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls described their death and disappearances. The Prime Minister says that he accepts the report’s findings and now the organization of American States wants to investigate the allegations of genocide. The final report included 231 recommendations to address violence against Indigenous women and girls. So, what is the government going to do about it?

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Joining me now is Carolyn Bennett Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations. Thank you for joining us, Minister.

Minister Carolyn Bennett: It’s good to be here.

Mercedes Stephenson: This is a report that reallystruck a chord with a lot of Canadians and it used some very strong language, including the term “genocide”, which your government has accepted. Do you believe that the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in the country, and what’s happened to them is a genocide?

Minister Carolyn Bennett: I think that, as you know, we’ve accepted the report and we respect their findings. They spent a long time listening to families and survivors, and this was their conclusion and we accept that conclusion. We think that their finding of genocide needs to be respected.

Mercedes Stephenson: So does that mean that your government believes that it is a genocide if you accept those findings?

Minister Carolyn Bennett: I think that what we—we are accepting them and I think that what we are saying is that there are, as you know, many people debating this now. But I think that we have to accept that we have to get on and do what we were asked to do by the families and survivors. Concrete actions to stop this terrible tragedy, and that’s what they’re asking us to do and that’s what we’re going to do.

Mercedes Stephenson: I think part of the reason why people are so focused on the term genocide is because it has such a strong meaning, including in the United Nations, where they talk about, and this part of the definition I’m reading, that is “An intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national ethnic racial or religious group, such as killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group, conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction in whole or in part of the group. There are still women disappearing today and being murdered, so if we’re using the term genocide, would that mean that is an ongoing genocide in Canada?

Minister Carolyn Bennett: I think what we’re saying is that from the Indian Act, to residential schools, to all of these things, where government took actions that were killing people. This—in “Clearing the Plains”, [James Daschuk’s book—I would recommend to anybody in terms of the actual actions that people took. Dr. Bryce’s report in 1906 that showed that children were dying in residential schools and the government buried the report and did nothing. So there is very clear evidence throughout government’s policies that governments knew what was happening. Sometimes they caused it, but sometimes they found out and did nothing about it.

Mercedes Stephenson: When you talk about the involvement of government institutions, I think that’s particularly interesting because that in particular is where the government has responsibility. Do you believe the past Canadian governments, and in particular government institutions like the RCMP were complacent in a genocide.

Minister Carolyn Bennett: I think that right from the beginning when there was a decision by our—the first prime minister to starve the Indians. Absolutely, that there were—there are actions—direct actions that were taken and then actions not taken when the truth was revealed that people were dying.

Mercedes Stephenson: So if there was a genocide, would your government support the call by the OAS to have a body that will actually look into this and investigate if it’s still happening in Canada?

Minister Carolyn Bennett: Absolutely that it—there is—we welcome a rules based international system, and so once this report has been tabled, if anybody wants to come and look, we believe that we are putting in place the concrete actions to stop this national tragedy. We believe that everything we have been trying to do as a government is addressing this issue of missing and Indigenous women and girls, and the two-spired particularly. This is—this is a—this is about—about us wanting to do better. This is about us wanting to do better.

Mercedes Stephenson: Everyone agrees that what’s happened has been tragic, that there’s a history of misogyny and racism here. But people like Irwin Cotler who’s an expert in genocide; people like Romeo Dallaire have said that they think it’s a misuse of the term in this report. What do you say to them?

Minister Carolyn Bennett: I say that the scholars are going to debate this. We have to act on the findings inthe report and we will do that, and we are doing that.

Mercedes Stephenson: There’s been frustration in the Indigenous community because your government did make a lot of big promises to them. Obviously, it’s a very complicated file, but if you look at things like the Truth and Reconciliation commission, you said you were going to implement all of those recommendations. Your government’s nowhere close on it, on this particular report, 231 recommendations. How many of these honestly are likely to be implemented before the election?

Minister Carolyn Bennett: Well I think, again, that many have said that this isn’t a checklist. This is—this is about a whole of government, across all government departments in all sectors. So even with the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I think we’re pretty proud that we have completed or have made significant progress on the 80 per cent of the ones that were—had the federal government’s responsibility. But there are many other areas where we know we’ve got to—to go further.

Mercedes Stephenson: There was an implication when Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned that there were a number of people in the Indigenous community who felt that your government was a lot of talk, but not a lot of action. What do you say to them?

Minister Carolyn Bennett:  I think that it’s quite—that the, the First Nations Inuit, Métis are—are always going to—to us to do better and do more, but I am hearing coast-to-coast the people are very grateful that this is a government that has actually been changing the relationship from one of denial of rights to the recognition of rights and that the investments over $20 billion that we have made, as the national chief says, “For Kelowna’s,” that we are making a significant difference.

Mercedes Stephenson: Okay. Minister, thank you very much.

Minister Carolyn Bennett: Thank you.

Mercedes Stephenson: Up next, the House is set to rise in just two weeks. We’ll take a look at two controversial environmental bills that have the West up in arms. MPs will be here to debate.

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Mercedes Stephenson: Welcome back. MPs only have a few days left to tackle two of the most controversial bills introduced by the Trudeau government. They’re back after being pummelled in the Senate. The first is a tanker ban on the West coast, followed closely by Bill C-69 which overhauls the environmental assessments for the energy sector. The bill, the Senate sent back to the House has over 100 amendments. Will the House sign on to these changes?

Joining me now are three MPs: Sean Fraser who is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment, John Brassard for the ConservativeParty and Rachel Blaney for the NDP.

Welcome to all of you. One of the big discussions we’ve had on Parliament Hill this week has been looking at the tanker ban and also about C-69, which is the bill that would change the rules around natural resource products. Both of these got a pretty rough ride in the Senate, Sean and we’ve talked about this before. Looks like the tanker ban’s going to go ahead and go back to the House, so is C-69 but with some significant amendments. What amendments are you willing to accept?

Parliamentary Secretary Sean Fraser: So first, if you’ll allow me just on C-48. I think one of the things that was important to note was the measures contained in that bill were supported by Canadians during the last election. They were part of our campaign platform to prevent the unique eco-systems on the north coast of British Columbia. The Senate, in my opinion, did the right thing by rejecting the Senate committee’s approach. It’s not for me to tell them what to do, but I am glad that they’ve taken to heart the need to recognize the priorities that Canadians signalled in the 2015 campaign.

When it comes to your question on bill C-69, I believe there’s 188 amendments that came through just last night, the largest number of amendments from the Senate in the history of Canadian politics. The review is underway. I don’t want to prejudge the outcome. We’re going to consider them in good faith, to the extent that they can actually improve and strengthen the bill and don’t undermine the spirit of the bill. I expect that some will be supported. Those that seek to undermine the environmental protections, the ability of the public to participate or the certainty for industry, those are ones that I expect will be looked at with greater scrutiny before getting any approval from the government.

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Mercedes Stephenson: John, are there any of those amendments that are must-have’s from your perspective?

Minister John Brassard: Well, I mean, we’re clearly looking at the amendments today. Obviously, they came in late Thursday night. So we’re still monitoring this, but I think if you go back to looking at, for example, with Jason Kenney said, if the bill passes with the 180 amendments, then there are many measures within those amendments and the bill to support. But it’s also important to understand as well, Mercedes, that, you know, the Senate went across the country. They went literally from coast-to-coast, listening to Canadians and those that would be affected with this piece of legislation and that’s the reason why they came up with so many amendments because it accurately reflected what Canadians were telling them as they held those Senate hearings across the country. You know, it’s not—those amendments are going to come back. The bill will still be in place, but it’s still a flawed piece of legislation and it’s going to have a significant impact on our natural resource sector if the government in fact rejects many of those amendments that the Senate has proposed and so we’re still monitoring the situation. We’re—we’re looking at those amendments closely and seeing how they have significant impact to that bill and whether there’s any of those amendments that we can support.

Mercedes Stephenson: Rachel, is there a reasonable middle ground here in terms of accepting some of the amendments but not all?

Minister Rachel Blaney: Well we’re definitely looking at the amendments. And during the process within Parliament on our side, you know, the NDP proposed 100 amendments to this bill and really looked at someof the concerning issues and I think, you know, one of the issues that has come up again and again is the relationship with Indigenous communities and rep—respecting their rights and title. And, you know, when we talk about what’s happening in the Senate, another bill that’s being held up is bill 262, which is around UNDRIP and making sure that legislation is screened through that filter. So when you look at the history of Canada, you see that again and again, we’re going to the court systems because that part is not being addressed. So, we have to look at that. We have to make sure that if we’re going to be developing our resources, we’re doing it properly, that we’re doing it in an environmentally sustainable way and these things really need to be addressed because if they are not addressed, we’re going to continue to see the divisiveness that we’re seeing in communities right now. So, we’re going to look at those amendments and we’ll definitely be supporting similar ones to the ones that we have already proposed.

Mercedes Stephenson: Sean, there is going to be tremendous anger in Alberta over, in particular, the tanker ban bill, westerners who say they’re being discriminated against that they can’t get oil to water. But on the east coast, you can bring oil in. What do you say to those Albertans who think the federal government does not hear them?

Parliamentary Secretary Sean Fraser: Well, it’s—it’s really important. I actually spent about five years working out west in Calgary and a lot of my practicing law in politics did touch on the energy sector as well. This is not a ban on the export of Canadian energy products. In fact, of course, you know, we’re coming down to the June 18th date where we will be looking at the fate of the TMX project.

Mercedes Stephenson: But it makes it really different to move it via tanker off the west coast.

Parliamentary Secretary Sean Fraser: But it’s—I think one of the things really important is that we recognize under the current system, there wasn’t public buy-in on the—the environmental assessment process that existed previously.

That’s why we continue to see major projects tied up in litigation. With the new environmental—layer of environmental considerations and engagement with Indigenous populations, the Trans Mountain project can go ahead in the right way that’s actually going to get Canadian project—projects to market other than the United States. This is really important for Western Canada. In fact, it’s important for Eastern Canada, too. There’s a lot of people from my community that still fly in and out of Western Canada, work in the energy sector and it’s important that we move forward, but that we do it in the right way that involves the voices of Indigenous communities and takes inter account the environmental concerns as we move forward with growing the energy sector.

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Mercedes Stephenson: Well there’s a lot in the oil sector who say they’re concerned this could kill it, but I do want to move on to our next topic because it certainly was something people were talking about as well on the Hill this week and that is one of your Conservative MPs, Michael Cooper. He was on the Justice committee. He was dealing with a witness who had said that mass shooters are listening to people like Conservative commentators, Neo-Nazi’s and he objected to that. But the way he objected was to read part of the manifesto from the New Zealand shooter and his name into the record. That has since been expunged, but many are calling for him to be kicked out of the Conservative caucus. Do you think he should be allowed to remain in?

Minister John Brassard: You know, I—Mercedes, spent a lot of time with Michael this week. Michael’s a terrific young man and he’s been a terrific parliamentarian and the work that he’s done on the Justice committee up to this point has been fantastic. Whether it’s related to SNC-Lavalin, one of the private members bills that he had with respect to Wynn’s law, I can tell you that Michael first and foremost has apologised for his remarks. Our leader, Andrew Scheer has dealt with Michael in that respect by removing him from the Justice Committee, but he is—he is a young man who understand that in the heat of the moment, at the time that perhaps—

Mercedes Stephenson: But he did—he did bring it in with him which would suggest that it wasn’t in the heat of the moment if you have that in front of you.

Parliamentary Secretary Sean Fraser: Well there was some question as to whether he actually had a physical paper and I’m not—I’m not going to argue that—that point. I wasn’t there, I don’t know. But I can tell you that he does regret what he said and he’s made it very clear through his apology.

Mercedes Stephenson: Rachel, is it sufficient?

Minister Rachel Blaney: Well, I just first of all, think that it is just devastating that this happened in this place. You know, we are working hard to making the society that we live in more inclusive, and when we look at what’s happened in our country and in other countries in these communities, we have to address hate. We have to address it in a meaningful way and we need to stand up. And that takes a lot of hard work and dedication. I think it’s horrifying what happened. You know, I wasn’t there either, but the fact that he read into the record those words, I think you cannot hold accountability enough and you know what? Even if you’re a good person and you make a mistake like that, you must be held accountable. And it’s not about apologizing to the leader of the Conservative Party. It’s about acknowledging what you did, taking responsibility and apologizing to the people.

Mercedes Stephenson: Final word to you, Sean.

Parliamentary Secretary Sean Fraser: Certainly, I was extremely disappointed when I saw what was written into the record and when I saw the approach, and it seemed to me as though it was planned when they knew who the witness was going to be. One of the things that inspired me to get into politics in the first place was I saw things that deeply troubled me during the last government. I saw the snitch line that then-Minister Alexander and Kellie Leitch were promoting. I saw efforts that—continued commentary around old stock Canadians and it feels like we’re—we’re turning the clock back. It’s disappointing. I know Michael. I don’t think he’s a bad person, but to me, the—I feel as though he was treated with kid gloves to be removed from a committee that had about four meetings left. It seems to me that to demonstrate that he’s taking this seriously. I think there needs to be a more serious way to deal with the behaviour at issue.

Mercedes Stephenson: We are out of time but thank you all very much for joining us, and we’ll see you on the Hill next week.

Minister John Brassard: Thank you, Mercedes.

Parliamentary Secretary Sean Fraser: Excellent, thank you.

Mercedes Stephenson: Still to come, why is the Trump administration so opposed to Huawei building and controlling 5G networks in North America?

[Break]
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Mercedes Stephenson: Welcome back. Russia’s biggest mobile carrier is joining forces with Huawei. The Chinese tech giant will build the 5G network for Russia. Canada is still considering whether Huawei could be a player in its 5G network. Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump has signed an executive order banning American companies from using telecommunications equipment made by firms posing a national security risk, a risk that many claim comes with doing business with Huawei.

Joining me now from Washington is James Lewis, Senior Vice-President and the Director of the Technology program at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. He’s also a former member of the U.S. Foreign Service, who worked on the high tech trade with China. Welcome to the show.

James Lewis: Thank you.

Mercedes Stephenson: So we talk a lot about Huawei and whether or not it’s a national security concern. You worked intimately in this space. What is it specifically about Huawei that makes it such a potential threat?

James Lewis: Huawei is closely linked to the Chinese government and the Chinese security services. That’s been true from the start. It was founded by a PLA member. It gets giant subsidies from the Chinese government to make sure that it can dominate the market. It has a long record of commercial espionage, including against Nortel. One of the reasons Nortel went out of business was because of Huawei spying. It’s just not a company you should trust. And if you use it in your 5G networks, it gives China a greater opportunity for espionage and it gives them the potential to disrupt telecommunication services whenever they want, so all those reasons make Huawei a deeply troubling partner in telecommunications.

Mercedes Stephenson: Are you surprised that given all those reasons the Canadian government is still considering this?

James Lewis: Not at all. Many countries have this problem. China’s a big market and so if you look at Germany, if you look at Britain, they don’t want to alienate the Chinese market. And the Chinese will punish you if you ban Huawei. When Australia banned Huawei, they immediately cut Australian coal exports, which are the biggest exports from Australia to China. So you have a punitive customer who will punish you and people say to themselves, I’m stuck. I either open myself to Chinese coercion and espionage, or I keep the China market and that’s a hard decision.

Mercedes Stephenson: Is there any way that Huawei technology can be integrated that wouldn’t compromise national security or is it black and white?

James Lewis: This is the big debate. The British argue that if you keep Huawei to the edge of the network, if you don’t let them in sensitive locations, like you didn’t let them supply around Ottawa, that that is enough to mitigate the risk. The only way to eliminate the risk is to ban Huawei, but the British say this sort of partial ban works well enough. On the other hand, if you talk to the Australians, they say it’s only a ban. The ban is the only thing that works, but this is the big debate.

Mercedes Stephenson: But you have a situation where President Trump is kind of putting Huawei on the table as a negotiating tactic with the Chinese in this trade deal. Does that undermine the national security argument in the eyes of allies if it’s something that the President is willing to negotiate away if he gets the deal he wants?

James Lewis: The Chinese put Huawei on the table from the start and they put Meng, the CFO who’sbeing detained in Vancouver on the table, so these are things that the Chinese want. The American intelligence and defence communities feel very strongly that it would be a mistake to buy from Huawei. Most U.S. companies, the big Telco’s don’t buy from Huawei. But it is a trade topic in part because the Chinese keep bringing it up, and that does make people uncertain.

Mercedes Stephenson: Something Canada has been suffering through recently with China after arresting the CFO of Huawei. They’ve taken it out on canola imports. They’ve been looking at potentially closer inspections on meat which they say may be contaminated. There’s a lot of fear in the agricultural sector here that they’re going to be picked up further by China because Canada is not complying and releasing the CFO of Huawei. What do you think Canadians should expect in terms of Chinese punishment?

James Lewis: You know, look at China’s behaviour towards its own citizens. They are very punitive. They are not bound by the law. They do what they want and they can be—this is a country that has almost 2 million people in re-education camps in northern China because of their religion. They’re a tough partner. For me, I have the luxury of being in a country that can, with some difficulty, say to the Chinese we don’t need your money. But for other countries, it’s a lot harder and I hear this in Europe, I hear this in South-east Asia. I think it’s a legitimate problem.

Mercedes Stephenson: What do you think Prime Minister Trudeau should do next? He hasn’t picked up the phone to call the President of China yet. There are some who say he should do that. There’s others who say that risks escalating it for Canadians who are detained in China. What advice would you give on how to deal with China at this point?

James Lewis: This is the time to pick up the phone and say you know all those Canadians that you’ve detained for no apparent reason, you know, these trade threats, you have to back away. Now Canada, like everyone else, would have to be prepared if they decide to ban Huawei, to face some retaliation. But I think now is the moment of leverage, at least for the Canadians who are being falsely imprisoned. In the long run, people may have to make a choice. This is the choice that faces the British now. We don’t have a readout of the President’s talks in the U.K., but the British, they like to have it both ways. They’d like to sell to China and they like a free trade agreement with America. And increasingly in the U.S., the position is you get one or the other, you don’t get both. And so for Canada, it’s a tough choice. That’s why people hope the partial ban would work; you can give a little to the Chinese, a little to national security. I would probably say you’re going to have to think hard about why you wouldn’t ban Huawei, why you would take the risk of letting them into your networks and it’s something that could make not only the relationship difficult with U.S. but more importantly, Canada’s economic future difficult when it comes to China.

Mercedes Stephenson: Mr. Lewis, thank you so much for your time.

James Lewis: Thank you.

Mercedes Stephenson: That is our show for today. Thank you for joining us. I’m Mercedes Stephenson, see you next week.

The West Block – Episode 40, Season 8 — Sunday, June 9, 2019

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