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National Indigenous Peoples Day

Honourable senators, I would like to thank the Conservatives for allowing me this spot.

As tomorrow is National Indigenous Peoples Day, I would like to pay special tribute to First Nations across the country. I have long enjoyed the privilege of having a close link to community and grassroots people, specifically with the First Nations that reside in Manitoba. It is these very people whom I reference when I speak of the “collective Mary Jane” that I bring with me into my Senate work. It is also they who direct and guide me in the many initiatives I bring forward in both the chamber as well as committee.

As such, this National Indigenous Peoples Day I wish to acknowledge and praise the resiliency and ingenuity of these people, those who are far too often overlooked and underestimated. Colleagues, I often speak of the interjurisdictional gaps that First Nations face, gaps which oftentimes exacerbate the many issues they combat in their daily lives.

Living under the Indian Act and on federal land under federal jurisdiction while simultaneously being subjected to provincial jurisdiction and authority, First Nations face a unique and complex bind that often impedes their progress. However, make no mistake, First Nations are willing and able to rise up, address and overcome the many issues that plague them. I know this to be true because I see their capabilities every day.

First Nations are strong, wise, intelligent, responsible and resourceful. They are lawyers, scholars and doctors. They are the women who are respected knowledge keepers. They are bright-eyed youth who are motivated to become agents of change and create a better future for not only themselves but also the seven generations that will follow.

Yes, jurisdictional gaps and legislative constraints have come together to limit First Nations’ progress in many areas. This is a reality we, as senators, should all continue to be aware of and work towards unbraiding as we debate and vote on future legislation.

Let me tell you, honourable senators, First Nations people are unlike any other on this planet. When met with unimaginable hardships, they have shown they are capable of doing much more than survive. When given the chance to, they have shown that they will prosper and thrive.

Kinanâskomitin. Thank you.

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