Mr. Speaker, I move that the 66th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented on Tuesday, June 19, be concurred in.
[Member spoke in Cree]
I would like to share my time with the member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River.
I just said in Cree that I am extremely proud to be here and that we are all related. It is a way of saying hello to everyone. This greeting is not only for my fellow Canadians, but for all people with whom I have a connection. It also tells all people and all creation that we are together.
Language and culture are extremely important. They are not distinct. Indigenous languages have been dying now for over 150 years. They have been ignored for generations and actively suppressed by governments, but I am proud to say that we are entering a new age, when this will be no more. We will be getting a fighting chance to ensure the survival of indigenous languages.
When I was first elected to the House of Commons, I had a dream, a dream that a grandmother, from her reserve, could turn on the television and watch the great debates of Parliament in her indigenous language, whether it was Cree, Anishinabeg, an Iroquoian language, Innu or any language across Canada. It is extremely important that the dream be realized, but we face grave difficulties, because there is no central authority to enable that grandmother to have the television on. Even though we have CPAC in French and English, it does not exist in indigenous languages.
In places like Little Pine, Moosomin, Mosquito Grizzly Bear's Head, Sweetgrass, Poundmaker and Red Pheasant First Nation, where my people are from, people have been talking for many years about their desire to see indigenous languages, such as the Cree language, heard and spoken in this place, the people's place. If Canada is to fulfill the dream we have for each other, if we are to fulfill the vision laid out for Canadians in our Constitution and our charter, then the full welcoming of indigenous languages into this House is long overdue. I think every party in the House can agree that if we are to truly be a great nation, all people should know that this is their nation, whether they have been here only one day or since time immemorial, since the rivers have flowed and the grasses have grown.
I would like to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs who spent innumerable hours fighting for indigenous languages in this House, the great hon. members for Yukon, St. Catharines, Halifax, Laurentides—Labelle, Winnipeg North, Brampton North, Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, York Centre and Kitchener Centre and the now Minister of Seniors. These members, who are not indigenous, spent countless hours fighting for indigenous languages. Members from the loyal opposition as well as the third party also spent countless hours fighting for indigenous languages, even though there might be little or no benefit to them, to their families, to their personal histories or to their old vision of what Canada might have been. Nonetheless, they stood up for each and every one of us in Canada.
When I was first elected in 2015, I went to see Annette Trimbee, at the University of Winnipeg. We sat down for a lovely meeting, and she said there were a few things she needed help with. One was funding, but there was also a desire at the University of Winnipeg to expand language training.
When I was a professor at the University of Manitoba, I spent many years trying to increase the amount of language programming. The University of Winnipeg and Annette Trimbee were particularly interesting, because they wanted to combine it with modern technology and data. However, they lacked a large amount of metadata to feed the algorithms to ensure that they had adequate translation so that the computers would actually be able to properly translate indigenous languages. There are a lot of children's books, but they are often not written in a living language.
I would like to thank Wab Kinew who was the previous associate vice-president for indigenous relations at the University of Winnipeg. I would also like to thank Dr. Currie, the dean of arts; Dr. Glenn Moulaison, who also invested a large amount of personal time to learn indigenous languages. I would like to thank Dr. Jacqueline Romanow, who offers credit courses in Cree and Ojibwe. The language instructors in the department include Darren Courchene, Annie Boulanger and Ida Bear.
The department also supports an intensive two-week learn to speak Ojibwe program. The program is designed to teach beginner and intermediate Ojibwe and involves classroom and field work. The field work is held at the Medicine Eagle Camp and includes traditional teaching on medicine, beading and drumming. Funding for this has been provided by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and Indigenous Services Canada.
There is also University of Winnipeg undergraduate student Cameron Lozinski, who is currently developing an app to make his ancestral language, Swampy Cree, more accessible.
Dr. Lorena Fontaine, academic indigenous lead at the University of Winnipeg completed her Ph.D. on aboriginal language rights in Canada. She was working with the Manitoba Aboriginal Languages Strategy, Red River College, with Rebecca Chartrand, the University College of the North, the University of Manitoba and the Manitoba provincial government to develop a certification program for aboriginal language speakers who are not teachers. She has also been an aboriginal language rights advocate for 12 years both nationally and internationally.
The university has also been bringing in faculty, students and the public to learn from, for example, Dr. Anton Treuer, professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University, and Octaviana Trujillo, professor of applied indigenous studies at Northern Arizona University.
Community programming continues to go on at the University of Winnipeg's Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre, which provides options to the community to learn Ojibwe. Weekly classes are held free of charge for all ages, taught by Aandeg Muldrew. Aandeg is a linguistics student at the University of Manitoba, where he is also a sessional instructor for Ojibwe.
This is extremely important. All of these individuals have had a role in trying to get our languages to survive. There is currently no large-scale or government agency which would ensure that there is a central type of standardization, so that when we stand in the House of Commons, we would have an agreed-upon word for what it means to be a member of Parliament, otapapistamâkew. If we can get the Parliament of Canada to allow us to have greater translation, to have interpretation with interpreters from across Canada for the Cree language, working together, coming up with the actual specific terms and making indigenous languages living languages, like the French and English languages are, this would ensure that they can survive into the future so that my children will have the opportunity of actually turning on the television and being proud.
This all started not only with a conversation with Dr. Annette Trimbee, but when I stood up in this House to make a member's statement over a year and a half ago, I spoke only in Cree about violence against women for the Moose Hide Campaign, whose button I wear proudly on my lapel, and there was some laughter in the chamber because no one could understand what I was saying. I raised a question of privilege asking you, Mr. Speaker, whether my rights had been violated. You looked into the Standing Orders to discover if my rights had been violated or not and you determined that it was up to the House to decide. You took the sage decision to ask the PROC committee to investigate and come up with a report to use the processes that we have in this place to come up with the right decision.
As well as thanking other members in this House, I must thank you, Mr. Speaker, for taking that courageous decision to push this issue forward. If you had not done so, Mr. Speaker, I would have been very disappointed. Hopefully, your actions will allow my children's children to have the opportunity of speaking an indigenous language, which I think is the greatest gift you have given to this place in your time as Speaker. I look forward to reading the rulings you have made in the book that will come out once you are no longer Speaker. This decision, I believe, will be the very first one. It will be extremely important to the history of our nation and to what we have demonstrated we are able to do in this place.
I would like to thank you, Mr. Speaker, in Mi’kmaq, wo la la li uk, in Cree xsay, ekosani, in Anishinabe, meegwetch. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
[Member spoke in Cree]