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Honourable , MLA Kewatinook
May 13, 2013

Manitoba Day and Treaty Day

Mr. Speaker: I rise today to acknowledge Manitoba Day, which was this past Sunday May 12th. It was the 143rd anniversary of the province of Manitoba.

There were numerous displays and events that occurred yesterday and over the weekend in recognition of Manitoba Day throughout the Province.

Three years ago this legislature recognized May 12th as Treaty Day.

Earlier today, we again honoured the Manitoba Treaties numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 10.

The day commenced with a sunrise ceremony in Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation. The festivities continued in the Legislative Rotunda beginning with an opening prayer by Elder Charlie Nelson, a song by Young Nation Drum Group, an overview of the pipe ceremony and water song by Elder Peter Atkinson and a water ceremony Sherry Copenance conducted.

We heard presentations from Swan Lake Chief Francine Meeches and Treaty Relations Commissioner of Manitoba James Wilson.

There was also an exchange of gifts among the three parties symbolizing the general format of the Treaty making process.

The Treaty Advocacy Award was presented to Dennis White Bird, former Treaty Relations Commissioner for Manitoba.

Dennis has shown great dedication to the fulfillment of the true spirit and intent of the Treaty relationship and the education of both First Nation and non-First Nation youth.

Seven of the Assembly of Manitoba Chief's Councilor of Elders were presented with the Queen Diamond Jubilee Medals from the TRCM.

I congratulate these Elders Wayne Scott from Swan Lake, Harry Bone from Keeseekoowenin, James Cote from Waywayseecappo, Elder William G. Lathlin from Opaskwayak, D'Arcy Linklater from Nisichawayasihk, Elder Joe Hyslop from Northlands Denesuline and Doris Pratt from Sioux Valley.

Mr. Speaker this Government has previously honoured the Métis, Inuit and First Nations People in the Province of Manitoba.

May 12th is a day we honour the Treaties not only because we recognize that First Nations are the founders of this province but because the treaty relationship between First Nations and Canadians needs to be better understood and acknowledged.

The Treaties have not become obsolete.

Far from it they are living documents that all Canadians need to recognize. Without the treaties between the Crown and First Nations the growth and prosperity of this country would not have been possible. We are all Treaty people regardless of status.

Many of the promises centre to the treaties have yet to fulfilled or widely understood.

It is for that reason that we have been working with the Treaty Commission to have treaties as part of the education curriculum just as we have put the residential school legacy in the school curriculum. In the recent budget speech we also pledged to work with First Nations and the Federal government on a new model to build and improve schools on reserve.

Personally I have been honoured to represent the east-side communities of Lake Winnipeg for nearly 20 years now.

I have seen firsthand the poverty and other challenges many face in our province. The spirit and determination of our citizens despite these obstacles is what makes our province a great place to live.

That’s why our government developed the East Side Transportation Initiative in partnership with 13 First Nations to build an all weather road network on the east side of Lake Winnipeg.

Similarly we have partnered with the Pimachiowin Aki First Nations to protect the largest intact boreal forest on the planet and are working with them on the UNESCO declaration as a world heritage site for that region.

Working in partnership with First Nations on hydro developments are a recognition that future developments will only occur with the participation of First Nations. We cannot go backwards to the paternalism of the past. The Wuskwatim partnership with Nischawayashik Cree Nation was the first such partnership in Canada and is the model for the Keeyask and Conawapa projects.

First Nations across this country are rightly growing impatient waiting for the implementation of the treaties as was promised when they were signed over a hundred years ago.

It is not acceptable in 2013 to accept the widespread poverty and lack of basic infrastructure that so many First Nation residents live with.

Our government recognizes the value and the importance of northern Manitoba and pledges itself to see the north truly achieve its dreams.

That’s why we’ve worked with First Nations on implementing TLE on partnerships in Hydro development, addressing the damages caused by past developments that excluded First Nations, the establishment and expansion of the University College of the North, `putting dialysis renal units on reserves, the creation of the First Peoples Economic Growth Fund, building northern infrastructure, and protecting the boreal forest by investing in a UNESCO World Heritage site amongst other northern initiatives.

Fundamentally Mr. Speaker we are all Treaty People and we must work together to recognize and implement the treaties that are the foundation of this province and country.