Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise once more to speak to Bill C-91, the indigenous languages act. I will share my time today with the member for Peace River—Westlock.
Indigenous languages across Canada are certainly diverse, unique and richly intertwined with our cultural mosaic, which makes our country such an amazing place to call home. The promotion of indigenous languages, and indigenous history and culture more broadly, is something we should all seek to promote as part of our national character.
As I mentioned during my speech at second reading of the bill, support for the promotion and teaching of indigenous languages has rapidly grown in my riding of Saskatoon—Grasswood and in particular in my city of Saskatoon.
During my nine and a half years as a school board trustee in the city of Saskatoon, the teaching of indigenous languages to new generations of young people was a priority that was taken very seriously by everyone around our board table. I was very proud to take part in the expansion of the indigenous language training program in the Saskatoon Board of Education, which gave more young people the opportunity to study indigenous languages and connect with the rich and vibrant cultures attached to those languages.
The teaching of indigenous languages enriches our education systems and it gives students a valuable and unique learning experience. As I have previously noted, instruction of indigenous languages is growing in my riding of Saskatoon—Grasswood and in our city of Saskatoon. The expansion of teaching of indigenous languages is certainly enriching the learning experience of more and more young people in our city.
Confederation Park Community School offers language instruction in Cree for about 280 students from pre-K, all the way up to grade 8. They are involved in this learning process. The students benefit from the Nehiyawiwin Cree language and culture program and are able to immerse themselves in the study of the indigenous language as part of their education background.
Additionally, Westmount Community School provides a Metis cultural program that includes Michif language instruction for students there, again from pre-K all the way up to grade 8.
Charles Red Hawk Elementary School offers Cree language instruction from pre-K all the way up to grade 4.
Mount Royal Collegiate, Princess Alexandra School and King George School provide Cree language instruction in our school system.
Saskatoon public schools offer instruction in three indigenous languages: Cree, Michif and Dakota. Furthermore, Dakota language and culture lessons are part of Chief Whitecap School and Charles Red Hawk School.
St. Frances Cree Bilingual School offers Cree education to over 440 students in pre-K to grade 5 and another 150 students in grades 6 to 8. This school has seen tremendous growth in our education system since the launch of its Cree language program, way back in 2009, when, by the way, there was only 133 students enrolled in the program. Look how it has grown since then.
The demand for education in indigenous languages has proved to be incredibly popular. Hundreds more students are now being taught indigenous languages in our schools as a result.
More and more people in Saskatoon are seeking the benefits of indigenous language education and, as a result, St. Frances Cree Bilingual School is now serving students in two different locations, on McPherson Avenue, where they have pre-K all the way up to grade 5, and at Bateman Crescent, where they have grades 6 to 8.
Instruction of indigenous languages is continuing to become available for even greater numbers of students who know the inherent value of indigenous languages for both their learning and for their communities.
At Oskayak High School in my neighbour riding, Cree language instruction is offered in grades 9 to 12, where approximately 70 students are taking Cree language instruction.
Moreover, the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools division offers core Cree language instruction for some 348 students from pre-K all the way up to grade 8 at St. Mary's Wellness and Education Centre.
These statistics bear repeating, because they show just how important indigenous languages are within our current education system.
Young people and their families recognize that the promotion and the revitalization of indigenous languages is something that is incredibly valuable as a cornerstone of indigenous culture and a vital piece of Canada's multicultural mosaic.
We support Bill C-91. The legislation represents a pragmatic, reasonable and necessary approach toward strengthening and supporting indigenous languages across the country.
The bill responds to three of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 calls to action. The promotion and revitalization of indigenous languages is one step in the long path that we all must take toward reconciliation, as we move forward from a dark past.
A former Conservative government created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as part of the 2007 Indian residential school settlement agreement. We recognized the devastation and the terrible harm that was inflicted upon the indigenous peoples of this country. We recognized the profound intergenerational damage that the indigenous language and the cultures suffered as a result of the residential school system. From the dark past, we must grow together in the spirit of reconciliation. The Conservatives know that the preservation of indigenous language and culture is part of the way forward.
On another matter, last night I had the great privilege to see the screening of the movie The Grizzlies. This movie has been talked about in Canada for the last month since it was produced.
I was fortunate to have had the opportunity a couple of years ago to travel up north to Nunavut. However, for those Canadians who do not have opportunity, this movie will give them a snapshot of what life is like for those living in the north and the wonder of the northern landscape.
The movie explores the challenges faced by youth who live in the north. They are straddling the traditional way of life with the modern while dealing with the fallout of colonialism and residential schools. It is an uplifting film about a difficult and sometimes very tragic experience for indigenous communities up north.
Through this film, we experienced how facial expressions, for example, and gestures, traditional storytelling, music, singing and drumming were all vital to traditional language and culture. We are educated by witnessing traditional language and culture in the everyday lives of the characters and we can understand why language and culture are so critical and must be honoured and protected.
I hope each and every MP will take in The Grizzlies. It was shot in Nunavut. It is a story about suicides in Nunavut, which is the highest area of suicides in the country. Sport brought the community together.
However, more than ever, this movie depicts a number of things, such as song and singing. There was an instance where an older brother was singing to a younger brother in their language, putting him to sleep. It is a movie that all Canadians must see. It deals with not only the issue of suicide but language and culture.
A lot of us do not get the opportunity to go to Nunavut. This movie is one that all Canadians should see. It is very moving. I certainly would recommend it.
The movie talks about what we are talking about today: language and about culture. We often do not get a chance to talk about Nunavut in the House, because a lot of us do not have the opportunity to go up there. It is an emotional film. Many members from ITK were in the theatre last night. There was a lot of crying, but at the same time, it brought a great culture to our country, the music and the language.
I am happy to support Bill C-91.