The three big things that make or break success in the Northwest were the three elements federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was looking to learn more about during his three days here this week.
“Though we’ll be visiting lots of different businesses, and local community leaders, and Indigenous community leaders … we’re just going to get a little glimpse of it. But I’m really excited to learn more about the region, all the elements whether it’s the economy, issues that impact the economy, the environment, the First Nations and the issues the First Nations have to deal with, I want to get a sense of the area, the community,” said Singh as he and a fair-sized crowd basked in the sun at Bugwood Bean on a warm Monday in Smithers.
Getting the environment, resource development and First Nations’ rights to harmoniously co-exist for the benefit of all who live in the Northwest has not always worked, and the prospect of a lucrative liquefied natural gas industry in the near future has some in opposition right now. Singh was asked how he as a potential future Prime Minister would approach these type of situations, with his B.C. liaison Skeena-Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen sitting nearby and nodding agreement.
“First is acknowledging that is his responsibility as a leader, is to bring all three together: Understand that we do live in a resource extraction country, and that is an important element for jobs for people. But the reality is if we don’t act as stewards and as protectors of the environment, there won’t be a place for us to have that economic activity,” answered Singh.
“So that’s vitality important that we keep a lens on those realities, and then finally that none of this can happen without a strong relationship without a strong relationship of respect for the first people of this land. These are all integral elements of a functioning Canada.”
Jagmeet Singh helps with Witsuwit’en Wednesday
All well and good, but how would this be done is what The Interior News asked him next.
Singh said the NDP private member’s Bill MP from Romeo Saganash passed in the House of Commons to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was an important step in this direction.
“Our perspective is that we’ve got to make sure everything we do at the federal level has to respect that declaration, which includes free, prior and informed consent, which includes a principle of treating with First Nations as sovereign nations. That’s the way it’s got to be,” he said.
Without consensus from all communities, First Nations and otherwise, Singh said legal action and opposition would keep projects from often happening anyway.
He was also asked how places like the Northwest could rely on more than resource extraction. His answer: high speed internet.
The federal government currently has a program in place to connect remote communities, which is benefiting Northwest villages and First Nations. Singh agrees this will allow businesses to operate anywhere, with housing costs and lifestyle attracting people to places in remote and northern areas of Canada.
It might be all business while he was here, but Singh made sure to have some fun while doing it. He was set to do some river rafting on the Kispiox River and do some touring while meeting with people.