Grand Chief Stewart Phillip calls Bill C-38 “fault line” for Canada’s future
The president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) held nothing back today (June 4) as he panned the federal government’s omnibus budget Bill C-38.
“Bill C-38 is absolutely the turning point in the history of this country and the fault line that will determine the future of this country,” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip told reporters at the media conference convened by several prominent environmental groups concerned about the size and scope of the proposed legislation. “I urge all Canadians to go and understand that silence is not an option. We all have a duty and an obligation to our grandchildren and their grandchildren to speak out against this legislation, Bill C-38.”
The UBCIC, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Wilderness Committee, and Ecojustice are some of the 400 or so non-profit organizations, First Nations groups, trade unions, and celebrities that have darkened their websites today in a symbolic show of unity against the federal bill in what is being called Black Out Speak Out.
David Suzuki, speaking as a private citizen and an “elder”, urged any Canadians concerned by Bill C-38, especially with regard to the environment, to write their MPs and make a loud enough noise that the federal Conservatives back down on some of the legislation, which will affect everything from fisheries habitat to the Enbridge Pipeline to the tar sands and the amount of tanker traffic moving through Metro Vancouver.
At the event, former Conservative fisheries minister John Fraser said the bill at the very least should be split into several parts and debated separately. He noted that Prime Minister Stephen Harper held a similar view in 2004 while in opposition ranks when the minority-ruling Liberals introduced their own omnibus bill.
“He said, ‘I could agree with a part of it, but I can’t agree with all of it, and I’ve lost my democratic right to make a decision.’”
C-38 is also a budget bill, and was introduced by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on March 29. Its 450 pages contains numerous sections affecting everything from Canada’s withdrawal from Kyoto to the federal Environmental Assessment process and the Fisheries Act.
“I actually get the feeling that they are a little bit nervous about how the public’s reacting to the gutting of the Fisheries Act,” Gwen Barlee, policy director with the Wilderness Committee, told the Straight after the event at the Olympic Village. “I think that is a good thing.”
Earlier on, emcee Jessica Clogg, executive director and senior counsel with West Coast Environmental Law, told the crowd of reporters, “Today is a profound moment in the history of our nation for those who hold dear this vast, beautiful land and the democracy that binds us together.”
Others in attendance included George Heyman, executive director with the Sierra Club of B.C.
Grand Chief Phillip also said that, “We shall not be intimidated. We shall not be coerced by the Harper’s government’s drive-by smear campaigns, those campaigns that are being mounted by his cronies in industry and big oil. We will stand strongly with other Canadians shoulder-to-shoulder to defend the pristine beauty of this country.”
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, of the B.C. Union of Indian Chiefs, speaks out against federal budget bill C-38.