Government defends Indigenous rights framework initiative on Nation to Nation

On Valentine’s Day, the Prime Minister announced a framework initiative to recognize Indigenous rights as the basis for a nation-t0-nation relationship.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett has been travelling the country conducting engagement sessions with First Nations. She was in Saskatchewan last week and Manitoba this week.

Critics say the process has been rushed and will extinguish treaty rights.

“We are the first government to allow for this process. And we make no apologies for being ambitious in our agenda,” said Crown-Indigenous Relations Parliamentary Secretary Yvonne Jones.

She further defended her government’s approach on the N2N political panel.

“We believe what Indigenous people have told us. That they want this change. The want to have more autonomy. They want to be able to govern within their own nation. They want to have a partnership with Canada that is effective and that works. And that’s why we’re removing barriers for them to allow that to happen. It’s the reason we are creating new ways of dialogue. Rights and recognition is the key to how this will advance.”

As well, Renu Mandhane, the chief commissioner of Ontario’s human rights commission, appeared on N2N.

She recently completed a fact-finding mission to northern Ontario. And reported that racism in Timmins, Ont. is pervasive and normalized.

“Like consumer racial profiling. So being hassled when using your status card, or being followed by security in malls and stores,” Mandhane told N2N host Todd Lamirande.

She knows Indigenous people aren’t likely to be surprised by this observation.

“Yet it did seem like a very surprising finding for some of the non-native people in the city.”

And finally on N2N, more on the parliamentary Committee of Procedure and House Affairs. It continued to study if Indigenous languages can be used in House of Commons proceedings.

On Tuesday, NDP MP Romeo Saganash appeared. He has been fighting this battle since first elected in 2011.

Today, it was NDP MP Georgina Jolibois and Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette.

It was his point of privilege to speak Cree in the House nearly a year ago that led to this study. He was dismayed back then that there was no way to translate his words into English and French.

“Nor were my words recorded within the Hansard,” he told the committee. “I have spoken many times in Cree in the House, and it’s not an accurate representation of some of the speeches. It simply says member has spoken in Cree. Yet I might have spoken for over a minute, two minutes, three, four minutes in Cree. But no one knows what I said.”

Jolibois also spoke but used the Dene language. And not only were her opening remarks in that language, she answered all MP questions in Dene as well.

Both said that allowing for and translating Indigenous languages is a step forward. And the House should represent all people in Canada.

“Parliament does have this role to play in trying to demonstrate in a most symbolic way that we are all in this together,” said Ouellette.

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