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Opinion

MPs agree to use of Indigenous languages in Commons, positive step

On May 4, 2017, rookie Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette decided to deliver his one-minute MP’s statement in Cree about the violence committed against Indigenous and, although he had given the Parliamentary Interpretation Service 48 hours notice, he was told it could not provide the translation in time. On June 8, 2017, he said his MP’s privilege had been violated because other MPs and Canadians listening to him could not understand him and the lack of simultaneous interpretation from Cree to English and French “effectively silenced” him, according to the House Affairs report. He also asked that Parliament provide the resources for translation. House Speaker Geoff Regan later ruled that Mr. Ouellette’s privilege had not been violated, but said the lack of simultaneous interpretation in languages other than French and English “may not be seen as ideal by some MPs” and asked the House Affairs committee to look into the right of MPs to use Indigenous languages in the House, according the House Affairs report. The committee presented its report to the House on June 19, 2018, and last Thursday, MPs concurred in it, but not without an emotional and important debate in the House. That means the House wants to be able to provide Indigenous languages in House proceedings. This is a positive and significant step for Indigenous people.

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