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View Jaime Battiste Profile
Lib. (NS)
[Member spoke in Mi'kmaq]
[English]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the Algonquin territory which we meet on today. Many of us have acknowledged the traditional territories of indigenous nations on whose land we meet. Some of us go as far as to say we are on unceded land. How many of us give a thought to what that acknowledgement means?
To me, as a Mi'kmaq person, as an indigenous person, it means that we recognize that another group of humans cared for the land, protected the land and maintained it for future generations. We do so out of respect. Maybe we do so out of part of a journey of reconciliation too. While it is an easy thing to say, it is much harder to practise reconciliation.
Growing up Mi'kmaq, we are raised and taught that we are born with responsibilities to our family, to our community and to our nation, but also responsibilities to the ecosystem. We call it netukulimk in my language. When I think about that responsibility, I think about what actions I am willing to take to ensure the quality of life for future generations.
I was a protester, or a land protector, as my colleagues have reminded me. I too was out there on the streets frustrated during the Idle No More era of protests under the Stephen Harper government that saw environmental cuts and indigenous cuts. I was out there with them.
It was only when a new government was elected that I believed that Canada had reached a turning point, where Canada could look to a new relationship with indigenous people. It was with this in mind that I entered politics.
Because of the work that this government has done to advance reconciliation, I believed that a Mi'kmaq advocate would be welcomed into government. I still believe this today. I believe that reconciliation is possible.
I believe that reconciliation is not a destination; it is a journey. Just like any relationship we hope to improve and foster, it is only possible when we listen. It is only possible with respect. It is only possible when we find common ground. We have reached a moment in Canada like we have many times before. This will not be the first time that Canadians have called for police action, even military action, in the face of civil disobedience and protest.
If the civil rights movement in the U.S. has taught us anything, it is that violence, police or the army will not stop a political movement. It will only lead to more political action, escalation and turmoil.
Communication is the only way forward. Good faith negotiation is what the Wet'suwet'en are asking for. I will not go into the comments that my colleague just made about the Wet'suwet'en people in their determination and their fight at the Supreme Court of Canada for recognition of aboriginal title, but they believed it was a victory for them. Many indigenous nations across Canada believed it was a victory.
As many have stated today, section 35 of our Constitution, the supreme law of Canada, recognizes aboriginal and treaty rights. Further to that, section 52 states that the Constitution is the supreme law of Canada, and that any other laws that are inconsistent with them are of no force and effect. Therefore, the rule of law is important, but we must ensure that the rule of law is applied equitably among all peoples.
We have a crisis, but this crisis did not unfold in 12 days. This crisis did not unfold in 12 years. It has been unfolding for more than 150 years.
For more than a decade, I worked for the hereditary chiefs of the Mi'kmaq, as my father did for 30 years before me. They were called the Sante' Mawio'mi. The difference was that they were at the table with elected chiefs while they talked about negotiations moving forward. While it was not always easy, they always found ways to work together.
It is important that both Indian Act governments and traditional governments work together just the same as we in a minority government must attempt to work together.
I ask today for leaders in Canada, leaders of both indigenous and non-indigenous people, to commit to making our relationship work. Political action, not police action, has the ability to decrease tensions. It is the only way. Political discussion and negotiation is what is needed, not inflammatory rhetoric. We need to inspire hope. If nothing else during this speech, I want to make sure to say that there is still hope. The politician in me believes that and the protester in me believes that too.
We are still here. We have been debating all night, but more importantly, we have been listening all week. We are still listening. I promise we will not stop listening. Reach out to us and let us get back to negotiating and let our families from coast to coast to coast get back to work.
Like any relationship between families, between partners, when we sit down and talk about the issues rather than taking extreme positions that is when we have the ability to grow. We have a chance for growth in our country. We have the ability to take strides and take actions that have only been dreamt about by indigenous leaders in this country in the past. When we say that we are focused on reconciliation, let us show it in all of our actions.
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