New Democrat MP Romeo Saganash apologized to the House of Commons on Tuesday for using the F-word to describe Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s approach to Indigenous rights.
During question period, the NDP’s reconciliation critic accused the federal government of “wilfully” violating its constitutional duties and obligations when it comes to its handling of the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline.
“Sounds like a ‘most-important relationship’ doesn’t it?” Saganash said, referring to Trudeau’s repeated characterization of his relationship with Indigenous Peoples.
“Why doesn’t the prime minister just say the truth and tell Indigenous Peoples that he doesn’t give a f**k about their rights?”
The remarks immediately prompted some grumbling inside the chamber before Speaker Geoff Regan stood up and asked for an apology from Saganash over his use of profanity.
Regan said the Quebec MP is an experienced member who knows the word constitutes “unparliamentary language.”
Saganash subsequently apologized but also explained his frustration.
“What is happening is so insulting, that it just makes me so angry,” Saganash said in French. “But I do withdraw the word.”
Regan thanked Saganash for doing so.
Trudeau’s Liberals have been scrambling to find a way to address a summer ruling from the Federal Court of Appeal that quashed the approval for the Trans Mountain pipeline project. The decision cited insufficient consultation with Indigenous communities and a failure to assess the environmental impact of additional oil-tanker traffic off the coast of British Columbia.
Last week, Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi ordered the National Energy Board to go back and conduct a review of tanker traffic. He wants it to provide a new recommendation on the pipeline before the end of February.
The federal government has yet to announce how it plans to re-engage with Indigenous communities.
For his part, Sohi defended his approach Indigenous rights while speaking in the Commons on Tuesday.
In his capacity as minister, Sohi said he had reached out to Indigenous leaders, even prior to the court’s findings.
“I will continue to do so,” he said.
“We will move forward on this project in the right way making sure that we’re meeting our constitutional obligations to meaningfully consult.”
Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press