On Tuesday May 22, I had the honour to be able to speak briefly on a resolution on National Indigenous People's Day on June 21st.
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to this resolution. I join other members of the Legislature in recognizing and celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21st and in celebrating the contributions of indigenous peoples to our life in Manitoba and in Canada and, indeed, globally.
June 21st was originally designated National Aboriginal Day in 1996 during the period when I served as a Member of Parliament, so I remember that time well. It was a Manitoban and Liberal Member of Parliament, Elijah Harper, for Churchill constituency, who led the way in calling for this day dedicated to indigenous peoples
It is important, as we celebrate this day, that we look at what has happened in terms of the past, the problems, the need currently for reconciliation. The historic discrimination and poor treatment of indigenous peoples in Manitoba and Canada is well known. The story of the residential school system is well known. The story of the '60s scoop is well known. The history more recently, in the 2000s, of the apprehension of very large numbers of indigenous children and their placement into the care of Child and Family Services is also well known and [it is now] well recognized around the Chamber, that we have far too many children in care.
It is difficult to celebrate with this past, and it will be difficult to celebrate it adequately until the number of indigenous children in care is reduced dramatically. It will be difficult to celebrate it fully until we have answers from the commission on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, a commission which is doing some important work at the moment, and we hope that it will help us both to understand and to make changes.
It is difficult to celebrate the National Indigenous Peoples Day when there are so many indigenous people in our jails. We need to have a day when there are far fewer, and then it will be possible to celebrate indigenous peoples day in a way which we really should be celebrating it.
It is important to acknowledge the contributions of indigenous people to so many aspects of our life as Manitobans and as Canadians. It's interesting that here we are in the Chamber today, and probably not many recognize that the word caucus is not a Latin word. It is an indigenous word, and it is with origin in North America, and so in the things that we do every day there are aspects which are–relate to our indigenous past and our indigenous history.
There are many people in the indigenous community who we need to recognize. I've already mentioned Elijah Harper. There are many other politicians. I can mention Tina Keeper, who served in Churchill. There are, thankfully, quite a number of MLAs currently in the Chamber. I'm going to mention the MLA for Kewatinook, She is and has been working very hard helping people in her community deal with the meth epidemic and in helping many of the members in their journey, first from the Island Lakes area to Winnipeg and then from the Island Lakes area to Ottawa, to seek help to address the epidemic.
There are national chiefs who've come from Manitoba, Phil Fontaine and Ovide Mercredi. There are chiefs in Manitoba who certainly stand out, and, increasingly, they are women, like Cathy Merrick, who's done an incredible job using modern social media like Facebook, keeping her community up to date with what's happening.
I remember the fires in northern Saskatchewan, it was interesting, it was a woman chief in Lac La Ronge, who was so up to date in the information about the fires in that area that most people went to her website rather than the government website for the most recent information.
We have actors, actresses: Adam Beach; I've mentioned Tina Keeper. We have filmmakers like Lisa Meeches. We have many, many indigenous artists. I would mention as one Jackie Traverse, not only for her art but also because the work that she's been doing to address the meth crisis in recent weeks.
There are warriors, military heroes, like Tommy Prince. Senator Justice Murray Sinclair and the incredible work that he did with the Helen Betty Osborne inquiry, the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report which is being quoted so many times today.
We have a recent indigenous senator appointed from Manitoba, Dr. Mary Jane McCallum. I believe she's the first First Nations dentist, and certainly that signals that it doesn't matter what field that you are in, there are First Nations people who have been leading the way.
I should mention as well the former United Church moderator, Stan McKay, and [the Manitoba Metis Federation President David Chartrand and his team who have done so much for the Metis people in Manitoba. There are many indigenous people in Manitoba to celebrate and that is an important reason why we should be celebrating the achievements of indigenous people on National Indigenous People's Day on June 21st.]