Most Winnipeg Jets and Bomber fans know it by heart, as do city councillors and most students.

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This article was published 13/5/2021 (414 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Most Winnipeg Jets and Bomber fans know it by heart, as do city councillors and most students.

It’s an Indigenous land acknowledgement that’s said before most important gatherings in this province — except for daily proceedings at the Manitoba legislature.

That may be about to change.

The house will consider a resolution later today — a day after Manitoba Day — to include an Indigenous land acknowledgement at the start of proceedings. That would be in addition to the daily opening prayer, which begins "O eternal and almighty God, from whom all power and wisdom come…." The prayer has been recited by the Speaker before the beginning of each day’s business since 1937. It was adopted by the legislative assembly on April 13, 1937.

The private member’s resolution, which was introduced by northern NDP MLA Ian Bushie, says "in an era of reconciliation, it is imperative for the legislature to acknowledge and honour the Indigenous communities" and that the province is on traditional territories of the Anishinaabe, Dakota, Cree, Anishininew, Dene and Inuit people and the homeland of the Métis.

Bushie is hopeful the resolution will pass unanimously today and a discussion can begin with the house rules committee.

"We’re not asking for a budget, just to proceed along a path toward reconciliation," said the Indigenous affairs critic and former chief of Hollow Water First Nation. If the resolution passes, the wording of the acknowledgement needs to be worked out, he said.

Before the rules can change, house leaders would have to agree to call a rules committee meeting, Speaker Myrna Driedger said. "The decision would have to have consensus of all parties," she said in an email.

"Government is always open to these discussions and in fact has been calling for discussions on Manitoba Legislature Assembly rules for months," a spokesman for government house leader Kelvin Goertzen said Wednesday. "We would encourage the opposition to engage in these discussions."

Inclusion of a land acknowledgement has been mentioned on few occasions in the legislature: by NDP leader Wab Kinew in 2017, NDP MLA Matt Wiebe in 2019, and last month by NDP house leader Nahanni Fontaine, as she announced Bushie’s resolution.

"The last time I surveyed other jurisdictions in Canada about this, there were no jurisdictions that had a land acknowledgement in their daily proceedings," the Speaker noted.

"Done with sincerity, it’s a first sign of respect of the history and unique relationship with Indigenous people," said Kevin Chief, the former MLA for Point Douglas and a senior adviser on community development with True North Sports and Entertainment.

If he’d heard it at the start of daily proceedings when he was a member of the legislative assembly, it would have bolstered his pride as an Indigenous person and "it would’ve led to important conversations among all the elected representatives," said Chief, who held a cabinet post.

Since Oct. 13, 2016, the Winnipeg sports team says before every Jets home game that they play "on Treaty 1 land which consists of original territories of Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and the homeland of the Métis Nation." Bushie remembers hearing that at a game for the first time.

"It took my breath away a little bit." Five years later, it’s had a positive impact on everyone, the MLA said.

"You have people who don’t understand culture or treaties who started asking questions," Bushie said. "It has people talking, and they have more information, and can form an educated opinion rather than a biased opinion." Chief agrees.

"I think it makes us all better," he said. "For the first time, a generation of young people knows more about this part of history than their parents and grandparents. They understand the importance of making sure we never have a generation of young people who don’t get to build relationships with one another," Chief said.

"For them to be able to hear that acknowledgement that no matter who you are, or where you come from, you belong in this space — we underestimate the opportunities that creates."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.