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Honourable , MLA Kewatinook
June 20, 2013

National Aboriginal Day

Mr. Speaker.

Tomorrow June 21st marks Summer Solstice and National Aboriginal Day.

Five years ago the Federal apology to the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit survivors of residential schools raised great expectations that a period of reconciliation and transformation was beginning. Sadly this hope has yet to be realized.

Last year we saw the rise of Idle No More in response to the lack of commitment to change. The trauma from the school abuses continues now through another generation but the spirit and resilience continues.

Tonight at the Keeping the Fires Burning annual celebration we salute the grandmothers who have been so important in our culture. They have endured much but have survived and nurtured our youth in often horrific situations.

As the media routinely points out there is seemingly no limit to the list of tragic statistics concerning our people from health, housing, poverty, and involvement in the justice system.

It is too easy to dwell in these statistics of misery and say that there are no answers. That in my opinion is not acceptable.

We all have a responsibility to do what we can to restore the honour of the Crown and to truly live up to the spirit and intent of the Treaties.

We are all treaty people regardless of our status.

I am proud that our government has taken the lead on acting on the issue of Murdered and Missing Aboriginal women and girls. Our efforts have helped make this a national issue something that we have championed as the chair of the Aboriginal Ministers and Leaders of the National Aboriginal Organizations working group (AAWG).

Next month we are hosting the Fourth Annual Wiping Away the Tears gathering for families of victims of the violence against Aboriginal women.

Manito Ahbee now in its eighth year begins August 16th with the lighting of the Sacred Fire at the Oodena Circle at the Forks. Our support for Pow-Wows and other festivals are essential to keeping our culture alive.

The East Side Road Authority with the support of all thirteen First Nations is making real progress in the development of two road networks serving the remote communities of the Province.

Similarly the development of the University College of the North with twelve regional centres nine of them on reserves is bringing opportunities to communities.

Future development in the North is largely dependent on the participation of the First Nations. That is why we have partnered with Nischiawayasihk Cree Nation on the Wuskwatim project and are partnering with several First Nations on both the Conawapa and Keeyask projects.

Our water retrofit project bringing running water to the Island Lake communities is training residents who are doing the actual work. 100 homes were done last year and another 218 homes scheduled for this year. This is genuine progress and to be celebrated.

The First Peoples Economic Growth Fund, the Communities Economic Development Fund and soon the Metis Economic Development Fund are helping create jobs and opportunities on and off reserves.

I am very proud that our government has worked with the MMF to jointly develop a Metis Policy and Harvesting Agreement amongst other unique projects.

Last week we celebrated the AKI Energy project that will convert 100 homes to geothermal heating and cooling in Fisher River and Peguis First Nations. Thirty members of the two communities have been trained to do the conversions, creating both jobs and new business opportunities for band-owned construction companies. I salute all involved in this important project and look forward to further such projects in other First Nations.

Tomorrow amongst a number of important National Aboriginal Day events the University of Manitoba will celebrate becoming the host of the archives of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is a fitting location for the archives and I am pleased that the province is playing a small role in helping this decision.

Other events tomorrow include the World Peace and Prayer Day at Memorial Park and the Aboriginal Solidarity Pow Wow at the Forks.

This Saturday there is a full day of entertainment at the Forks celebrating national Aboriginal Day and the achievements of Aboriginal people. I encourage everyone to take in the many events whether in Winnipeg, Selkirk, The Pas, Churchill or the many communities across this province.

Ekosani, Meegwetch, Muascheeou, Wopida, Mutna, Hei Hei, Merci.

Thank-you Mr. Speaker.