Grade 12 student from Saskatchewan drafts federal law on Indigenous languages

Grade 12 student Elgar Pakingan from Saskatchewan is helping make Canada better after winning a contest called Creating a better Canada.

It was originally started by NDP MP Nathan Cullen in 2009.

Ten years since its inception, NDP MP Nathan Cullen’s contest to turn a policy pitch from one lucky constituent into a private members’ bill has been catching on among his caucus colleagues as an innovative way to engage, educate, and excite high school students to help write a federal law.

NDP MP Sheri Benson of the Saskatoon West riding has made this contest available to grade 11 & 12 students in her riding for the second year in a row.

Shortly after winning the contest Pakingan, a student at Bethlehem high school in Saskatoon, headed to the House of commons in Ottawa and got to see up close what it takes to draft a bill.

NDP MP Sheri Benson helped draft a bill based on Pakingan’s winning idea to preserve indigenous languages.

Bill C-443, An Act to Protect, Maintain, Revitalize and Strengthen Indigenous Languages was introduced as a private members bill April 29.

MP’s Romero Saganash and Gerogina Jolibois also helped draft the bill.

Pakingan said he was overwhelmed with his visit to Ottawa.

“The trip to Ottawa was amazing it was real good. I loved seeing all the buildings everything all the historical buildings,” he said.

“Obviously the best part was hearing my name being presented in the House of Commons and have a bill that I thought about be presented in the House of Commons that’s great.”

The experience helped Pakingan learn more about Canadian politics and the Indigenous culture.

He was first inspired to draft the bill after learning about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its Calls to Action in school.

Call to Action number 14 calls on Indigenous languages to be tough in schools.

“This was my first time ever being really involved in politics,” said Pakingan.

“It was great for me to see how they work seeing people in person seeing how they are and seeing how the house of commons actually works.”

Benson said she hopes that his bill is passed or helps improve Bill C-91 the Indigenous Languages Act that was tabled by the Liberal government.

It is currently being studied at a Senate committee.

“We also decided to work with the Senate who’s looking at the governments bill right now and to work with senators on  amendments we made. to see if they can add it to the governments bill to make it better,” she said.

One of the additions that was added to Pakingan’s bill that is different than Bill C 91 is stating specifically that if a languages commissioner is appointed that the person be Indigenous.

 

Reporter / Saskatoon

Priscilla is Cree and a member of Mistawasis Nehiyawak in Saskatchewan. She has worked with APTN National News in the past as a reporter in Winnipeg, host for an entertainment segment, and the 2010 Winter Olympics. Wolf is an alumni of the INCA –Indian Communications Arts Program at FNUC & has a BA of Indigenous Studies from the University of Regina. She brings over ten years of experience working in media across the prairie provinces.