[Member spoke in Cree as follows:]
[Member provided the following translation:]
Madam Speaker, and all my relations, I would like to thank the member of Parliament and colleague from Abbotsford and also the dynamic young MP from Kitchener-Waterloo for highlighting the work we do to build a more inclusive Canada and highlight the contribution of the Mennonite peoples.
Mennonite heritage week is important. Here is the motion:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should recognize the contributions that Canadian Mennonites have made to building Canadian society, their history of hope and perseverance, the richness of the Mennonite culture, their role in promoting peace and justice both at home and abroad, and the importance of educating and reflecting upon Mennonite heritage for future generations, by declaring the second week of September as Mennonite Heritage Week.
The very first Canadian Mennonites arrived in the late 18th century, settling initially in Ontario. Today, almost 200,000 Mennonites can call Canada home. More than half live in cities and the largest number in the world live very happily in the beautiful city of Winnipeg, my Winnipeg.
In the 1870s, the Russification or assimilation policies of the Russian government caused 18,000 Dutch Mennonites, one-third of the total in Russia, to leave for North America. There was a promise of land, cultural and educational autonomy, and guaranteed exemption from military service. Almost 7,000 Mennonites came to southern Manitoba. Assimilation is an important word. Mennonites know this word, but others in Canada also have an understanding of this word. Peoples are so different, yet all can understand this word.
Around this time in 1869, my people were also living on the Prairies. Joseph Ouellette and Moïse Ouellette, his son, were farming and hunting bison in the Red River. They were also working with Louis Riel to secure the rights and freedoms of all people living in the Red River. They were proud Métis. They wanted to create a free society with a bill of rights, where it did not matter what religion you were, but you were simply free to live in peace.
The Canadian government wanted to settle the west. The almost free lands in the Northwest Territories attracted Mennonites from Prussia, Russia and the U.S. between 1890 and the First World War. Many of the new immigrants moved to Manitoba and the prairie provinces, and others created Mennonite communities in Saskatchewan and established congregations in Ontario.
Around this time in 1885, the Métis fought together in alliance with the Cree peoples. They battled against the Canadian government and the Canadian Army. Later, the Métis were forced off lands and, as Maria Campbell said, became road allowance people, simple day labourers working as hired hands on local farms throughout the west.
This was also a painful time for Mennonites. They were being forced into assimilation, having their farms seized a world away in Russia. They suffered during World War II. The largest immigration wave occurred in the 1920s when 20,000 Mennonites escaped famine and the effects of the Bolshevik Communist revolution. During the Second World War, more than 12,000 Mennonite “displaced persons or refugees” migrated to Canada from the U.S.S.R. and Germany, and most settled in urban areas.
I guess indigenous peoples, both Métis and Cree, are not too different from the Mennonite peoples. Mennonites fled countries to find freedom and indigenous peoples still fight for their freedom today because they cannot flee anywhere. There is nowhere to go.
I would like to end on a positive note and thank the work of people in the Mennonite community of Manitoba, who have been helpful in building reconciliation. They have done so in a way which is about relationships. “Reconciliation” is not a simple word. It is the bringing back of friendly relations and, in essence, making our views compatible together. This is very difficult and will require work on both sides.
The history of Canada is about a mixing between peoples. As our children live, work and marry together, they will build a society, a vision of president Louis Riel, of Chief Poundmaker, of old Chief Wuttunee. It must be a positive future.