moved that Bill S-219, be read the third time and passed.
Madam Speaker, as always, I want to first begin by acknowledging that I am addressing the House from the unceded territory of the Anishinabe people. At the core of the beliefs of the Anishinabe is a notion of respect. Each element is part of the cycle of life. Each has its purpose and deserves as much respect. Our relationships are what matter the most, and we should cherish them.
I have the immense honour to move Bill S-219 at third reading. I want to thank the member for London West from the bottom of my heart for being my seconder and for all her support and encouragement in making today a reality.
I want to thank my colleagues on all sides of the House for their participation and collaboration. I cannot say enough good things about the members of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs, who studied this bill and helped ensure its swift passage through the House at all stages. INAN is a shining example of how committees should work.
Each member has made a deep commitment to indigenous peoples across this country, coming from a place of respect and understanding. We were the first committee, I believe, in history to conduct a blanket exercise before our first session to properly set the tone. For those who may not know what a blanket exercise is, it is an experiential learning experience about the story of colonialization. It goes through the true history of Canada, deals with the intergenerational trauma and sets the path toward reconciliation.
I would also like to sincerely thank Senator McCallum and her amazing team for their work, guidance and friendship. I will never forget this experience. I had the incredible good fortune to be gifted a ribbon skirt from the senator to mark this special day. Four colours of the medicine wheel don the skirt, a symbol I have drawn strength from since I was a child. Red, yellow, white and black are represented, symbolizing the people of this world, signifying unity and inclusivity.
I am a non-indigenous woman and I have been invited to be a part of this movement, which speaks volumes and goes to the heart of the bill. There are also three cornstalks featured on the skirt. To me, this represents motherhood, planting a seed and raising my two sweet Wolastoqey wassisok, my children. I am incredibly grateful, and I will cherish my skirt forever.
I also want to note that the main colour is red. The red dress is sacred and represents missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. This week we are in collective mourning for the loss of four more indigenous women in Winnipeg. My heart is with their families. I want to honour them today and add my voice to the call for red dress alerts. No more stolen sisters.
I also want to take a moment to acknowledge my colleague from Nunavut for her advocacy for respect and recognition of Inuit women and girls across Canada. Not all indigenous women wear ribbon skirts, and they have their own traditional regalia with significant meaning. This bill is not meant to pan-indigenize, but to speak to anyone who has been made to feel less than or alienated. It is meant to offer strength and positive celebration.
To the member from Nunavut, I say qujannamiik.
In the words of Senator McCallum, this bill is for Isabella Kulak and her family. I look forward very much to bringing our families together to celebrate this bill, and I am so excited for the prospect of January 4 of 2023 being the first national ribbon skirt day in Canada.
At this time, I would like to read some of the testimony we heard at committee to further highlight the importance and significance of this bill. In the words of the senator:
This bill will create a forum for dialogue within which we can explore the dark side of Canadian history in ways that do not dishearten or shame, but rather inspire us to enact a process of reconciliation for ourselves, both within our communities and the wider Canadian society.
Ribbon skirts themselves are meant to be worn, meant to be danced in, each skirt fashioned with uniqueness, a sign of pride, spirituality, taking back our spirit and making ourselves visible, meant to empower us to be seen. The ribbon skirt will continue our healing and will continue to transmit our history. It is a way to give voice. As we collectively wear our dresses, we gather strength.
Marie‑Josée Wapistan said the following:
This is not just a national day; it is also a day for us to say that our identity will no longer be disrespected. We, women, want respect for our daughters and sisters, who express their identity by wearing their skirt. When we wear a skirt, we are also carriers of life. We, women, are directly connected to mother earth and to all her strength and splendour. She is our nourishing mother.
In the words of Christopher Kulak, Isabella's father, something he and his wife, Lana, often told their children, “You've got to stand up for what's right and what you know to be true in life.” He said:
Bella is brave because she's a small little girl who likes to trap rabbits with her dad and wear sweatpants and go into the woods. It was hard for her to put on that skirt. Sometimes she feels like her skin is a little bit pale to be feeling like a native person, but in her heart she's anishinaabekwe. Her culture and her ceremony give her that, and her ancestry.
I told her: “You wear that with pride. That's where you come from. Your Auntie Farrah Sanderson made that for you, and it comes from all the hard work from your ancestors who worked so hard to keep those traditions alive.”
A poem was read into the record by the senator. It is by Vera Wabegijig and is called jingles speak to the healing. It reads:
we carry our stories on our backs
sometimes stories are heavy,
weighing down, curving the spine
like trees bending from the northern wind
sometimes stories are shared
like seeds floating on a summer breeze
taking root wherever they land
becoming medicine from the earth
our stories take root
ground us in the earth
so we can gather the strength
to stand like the trees
and reach for sky
This bill is about standing up to ignorance and injustice and turning it into something positive and powerful.
I want to acknowledge the 2SLGBTQIA+ people across the land. There is a growing movement of two-spirited powwows and celebrations that ensure safe spaces for all.
I give a special shout-out as well to Kieran Davis of Lac Seul First Nation and Treaty 3 territory for wearing a ribbon skirt at this year's Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly and for standing up for gender-diverse voices. I see them, I hear them and I hope to amplify them in the House.
The ribbon skirt is for everyone, and thanks to Isabella Kulak, we can enshrine this reality into law.
To anyone watching at home, keep rocking those skirts and anything else that makes a statement of identity and pride in culture, whether it is moccasin Mondays, traditional Tuesdays, Wolastoq Wednesdays or ribbon skirts every day.