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  • His favourite word is actually.

Liberal MP for Winnipeg Centre (Manitoba)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 55% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Standing Committee on Health December 11th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, as a member of the Standing Committee on Health, it is a great pleasure to have this motion before us. I am very supportive of studying this. When I was in the military, we knew that physical activity was very important to the mental health of soldiers. It is something that needs to be learned throughout a lifetime.

The member for Newmarket—Aurora mentioned how children walk to school in Japan. My children have the opportunity of walking to school, but most of their classmates, in fact, do not. While many of us might have walked to school in our youth and walked barefoot, it has fallen out of the norm. That is quite sad. We need to find ways of ensuring when we create physical environments and infrastructure and recommendations related to that, and when we actually build schools, that they are built so they are walkable for our children and that we make communities which are walkable.

Only 37.9% of children are physically active and there are a lot who are not. Could the member comment on that?

Health December 5th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, problems associated with the use of methamphetamine in my riding and in the prairie provinces are escalating and affecting many people and their families in various communities.

I am proud to say that the city of Winnipeg has launched a task force to look into solutions to deal with the current situation.

I would like to ask the Prime Minister what steps our government is taking, and plans to take, to address methamphetamine use in Canada.

Committees of the House November 29th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, it is extremely important for people to see themselves in the institutions of the nation-state. I have heard many elders say they are not Canadian citizens. As indigenous peoples, we were only allowed to vote in the 1960s.

It is still very difficult. As politicians, when we go out into the rest of Canada to speak with our fellow citizens, many of whom are indigenous, we hear that they do not feel part and parcel of this nation, and that they feel ignored. The action we are taking in this Parliament today is going to go a long way to ensuring that everyone feels included and that we create the nation that we truly deserve for each and every one of us.

It was mentioned in the debate earlier that there could be a shortage of interpreters. In fact, if this institution of Parliament required more interpreters, it would create an industry where more people would have the potential for employment. They would be looking for employment and would see the opportunity and the value of learning their language to such an extremely high level that they can do interpretation at the same time as someone else is speaking. That is an extremely wonderful development.

With that, I would like to throw out a challenge. Next week, the Assembly of First Nations will be meeting in Gatineau for their annual general assembly. I would like to hear translators at those gatherings as well, not only here in Parliament. I would like to hear all indigenous leaders trying to use our language as much as we can. We have to demonstrate leadership, not only here but everywhere, each and every day, so our children know it is important.

Committees of the House November 29th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, when we saw the report, I was very moved by it. I accept that every party was putting forward their full desire, in a good way, to build the Canada we all deserve. I thank the hon. member for his hard work. I remember being at committee as a witness and having him ask me questions.

There is a certain practical nature to this and we are starting something. This is not utopia, as was mentioned. There are practical issues that need to be delved into as we move forward, such as giving two days or reasonable notice. I understand that. As we move forward, is there an interpreter available? There cannot be a question of privilege, if an interpreter is not available. We cannot waste time at the House.

However, as time moves forward, as these services develop, as perhaps members are elected who have a desire to speak one of the more common indigenous languages, then I suspect as we become more accustomed to how we go about that, as we come up with procedures that work in this place and as customs become unto our own, it will become easier and easier to offer indigenous languages.

This is truly a day to start and, in my heart, is a day to celebrate and rejoice about the work we have done in common cause.

Committees of the House November 29th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, it is my belief that parliamentarians have a constitutionally protected right to use an indigenous language in Parliament. Subsection 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982 states, “The existing aboriginal treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.”

Do languages actually fall within these provisions? Professor Karen Drake has written about indigenous language rights in Canada pre-existing the Canadian state, and that these rights have not been extinguished and are still present. Others, like David Leitch and Lorena Fontaine, have been working toward launching a constitutional challenge, arguing that under subsection 35(1), the federal government not only has a negative obligation not to stifle aboriginal languages, but also a positive obligation to provide the resources necessary for the revitalization of those languages.

There are many sub-steps and different ideas that relate to this, especially within a decision in R. v. Van der Peet case that, “To be an aboriginal right an activity must be an element of a practice, custom or tradition integral to the distinctive culture of the aboriginal group claiming the right.” I believe that indigenous languages meet that constitutional requirement.

It is a very interesting argument concerning French and English, but indigenous languages are in fact the original languages of this land and deserve just as much respect. I understand that there are many people from around the world who have come to Canada and who speak other languages. If we looked, for instance, to other parliaments, such as in New South Wales in Australia—Australia was mentioned by the hon. member—it has introduced aboriginal language legislation to ensure the protection of the indigenous languages there, and the ability to hear those languages within the chamber and the provision of services relating to these languages.

Committees of the House November 29th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, that would certainly help Canadians and indigenous peoples learn their own languages. It would also send a strong message that these languages matter.

This week, we heard debates on the pride that francophones have in their language, especially on this side of the House. The same is true for indigenous peoples, but the resources and teachers are often not there.

That is why it would be good to create a need for translators and interpreters who work in these languages right here, in the House. This would have the effect of spurring the development of university curriculums so that such services could eventually be offered across Canada. Over time, more and more people will want to be trained in teaching indigenous languages. This will give young people a chance to learn these languages as young kids. This would be a great source of pride.

Committees of the House November 29th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, actually, it was quite interesting when the member for Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs gave a speech in Mohawk. It was interesting to note that when I placed my video online of me speaking Cree, no one took much notice at first. A few people were interested. However, when a non-indigenous person took the time to speak Mohawk, people became very excited, and there were hundreds of thousands of views of that video. It made a lot of people quite proud, because it was not just an indigenous person trying to stand up in the House of Commons for his or her own language; it was others doing it for them.

The member has spent considerable hours learning the Mohawk language. He has been taking exams monthly and spending considerable hours on learning the language, not every day, but as much as he possibly can with his duties here in the House of Commons. It is a great thing when other MPs take the time to learn someone else's language, and in essence, the way people see the world and how they think, and to learn a culture. It shows a great openness and truly an open spirit of a nation-to-nation ideal.

Committees of the House November 29th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, the House of Commons only allows translation into English and French. However, it is my dream that one day in the future, when we tune into CPAC on the television, and as we have more indigenous members from across the country who are elected to the people's House, we can watch it in Cree, that a grandmother can watch the great debates of our Parliament. Also, young children will be able to hear that language in the background and know that it is important, that it is not a forgotten language and it is not something which is not worthwhile but is spoken and heard on TV and the Internet, and it has value. It has value to them and their self-esteem, and it will lift our people up and raise them so our young people can be successful and reach their full potential.

Committees of the House November 29th, 2018

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]

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 2 November 27th, 2018

Madam Speaker, it is quite interesting to note that the Conservatives want a balanced budget. Where are they exactly going to cut? I would remind the House that the balanced budget they had when they were in government was made on the backs of veterans, indigenous peoples and indigenous children. Indeed, it was a very dark decade.

The question before us today is this. Do we invest in people today or do we see a long-term loss in health, education, economic potential and the potential of Canadians? This budget is about investing in the human potential of Canadians, ensuring people have the tools to be successful. We we can invest today or we can cut and we will have to pay the costs later on as a Canadian society.