[Member spoke in Cree language]
Mr. Chair, I come here as an indigenous person and as a Canadian, someone who believes in the goodness of people, especially when we can get them away from the Internet.
This is a great day, when we have seen our Prime Minister make an announcement on indigenous rights and the self-determination of indigenous peoples within Canada.
Over the past two years, we have seen a tragic chain of events that has demonstrated the divide that exists within our nation. Racism does exist. It is an ugliness in the underbelly of our state.
One of my responsibilities, one of our responsibilities, is to live together in a good way. There is, though, a divide in places like Battleford. Battleford is representative of what goes on in our nation. I hear it from my relations and cousins who see racism in the lower expectations in the education system and in schools when we tell children that they are not suited for that type of work or that course. We cannot do that.
We see the racism in child services, the racism in health care services, when even my father could not obtain cancer care when he was dying from lung cancer. We see racism when people go shopping in malls and are followed around, or racism when we have interactions with the police and are carded. Do we always trust the police? Many do not in our society.
Battleford represents a chance for us to look within ourselves and ask what type of nation we desire for ourselves, and especially our children. We can choose to be consumed by hate, by division, and by rage, but if we have the courage to extend our hand, we will gain so much more.
On Sunday, I said that I felt sorry for the Stanley family. Many may express disbelief. Some have said that I have betrayed my people, that I am a traitor, that I should die.
The taking of a life is wrong, either accidentally or purposely. Mr. Stanley will need to live with that for the rest of his life. He took a life, and his life is forever changed. If it were me, my conscience would weigh heavily, and I feel sorry for that situation.
A young man has lost his life, and I feel the greatest and deepest sorrow for the Baptiste, Boushie, and Wuttunee families. The dreams of a young man are gone forever. All the dreams of his family for his future are gone. He was a young man full of hope. He cared about his friends. He loved his mother, his uncles, and his sister. He had a great potential to make a positive contribution to his community. He was a man who should not have died, a man who deserves justice.
In January and February 2017, I walked on the traditional territories of 41 first nations, from Battleford to Winnipeg. I walked many, many miles, and I talked to many people. The land I walked on has seen the feet of my ancestors. It is land that was full of the spirit of my people. It also contained the spirits of others, farmers who have tilled the soil for over 100 years. I met with farmers and heard about their concerns in places like Cochin, Shellbrook, Prince Albert, Weldon, Melfort, Humboldt, Muenster, Melville, Esterhazy, and Fort Qu'Appelle. I heard about their love of the land and how they worked hard, about their dreams and their needs.
As indigenous people, we do not live here by ourselves. We live side by side with others. They will not be leaving any time soon. We signed treaties, such as in 1817, when Lord Selkirk and Chief Peguis worked together to save the Selkirk settlers who had arrived in Red River, near Winnipeg, in -40 degree weather, feeding them, clothing them, housing them, looking after them, caring for them.
I was told by an elder, Winston Watnee, that if I cry, my children will die. I remember hearing him by listening to a cassette tape. He sang those words as my mother drove her car across the Prairies, coming from Calgary, where she could not find work and we could no longer afford an apartment and where we were living in a car from May until October. We arrived at a powwow in Battleford, the traditional territory of my people. We met Winston and bought his cassette.
I listened to those words and that song, See the Arrow. That vision is engraved in my memory. It is the model I try to use with my children, to always keep a smile on my face and to always be happy, but to face reality nonetheless.
The young man who died, pun, is a representative of many in this country. His story talks of the ills of our society, a justice system that is broken. From his needless death comes a chance at reform, at building a better and more inclusive structure of the state. My message is this: If we let the rage consume, can we have the future we need? If we yell, will the people listen to us or will they tune us out? Once we have salted the earth, will we be able to feed our children?
I call upon leaders in our heartland, in all municipalities across this country, in churches, in communities, and in first nations, to extend a warm hand of reconciliation, to take the time to meet and learn how we can work together.
One can never convince a man of one's point through rage. How many municipalities have met on a regular basis with first nations chiefs and councils? Not very many have. There are some, but not enough. How many have common projects, where they work together on things of local importance? How many first nations invite local municipal leaders and provincial leaders to their community and band meetings, or even to celebrations? What is our common project at the local level?
The new Premier of Saskatchewan has offered many solutions. What role can we all play to build the bridges to ensure that justice and the rule of law are paramount, to ensure that we live together in a good way?
It is easy to attack and to fight, but is that the legacy we need in our society? I would say to church leaders and religious leaders that we need to find a way to start conversations in our parishes and in our churches. We need to attend the sun dance, to see and to understand indigenous peoples. We need to attend the churches so that we may understand other people's perspective. We also need to attend mosques to understand all perspectives that make up this great nation.
In 1994, I was in South Africa. As a young man, I had the chance to see up close the great work of Mandela during the first free and fair elections of South Africa. I heard him speak. He put aside division and the rage that he had, and worked with those who had stolen decades of his life. He wanted a better future.
I am certain that the imperfect justice system will move forward even tomorrow, but we must find that common ground. The question should not be only about obtaining justice for a young man, but about how to prevent this from occurring in the future. How do we create a society where people do not feel they need to reach for a gun because they feel the state has been absent?
We do not live in a lawless society. We live here with our values, our common values. We just need to find a way of expressing them so that we can both understand those values.
I would ask the leaders of all communities and especially those people online, how do we create a society where all citizens have equal opportunity?
In closing, I have a challenge for people to invite someone from outside their regular community and network over for a meal, someone they would not normally invite; make it a meal of reconciliation; break bread together; learn, and especially extend that hand of reconciliation, which we need so much in this time.