A new session of the Manitoba legislature will begin with an Indigenous land acknowledgment.
"Its time has come," Premier Kelvin Goertzen said Thursday.
A legislative assembly committee on the matter will be headed by former Indigenous relations minister Eileen Clarke, he said.. She and two other PC MLAs will consult with Indigenous groups and others to come up with the wording for the acknowledgment.
"We need to get the wording right," Goertzen said, adding Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman has been consulted about the land acknowledgment that is recited at the start of city council meetings.
Once the province's acknowledgment is formalized, it is expected to be a part of daily proceedings at the legislature, in addition to the traditional prayer. It will also be included in annual reports. That would occur once the matter is brought to the house rules committee after Oct. 22 and approved for the next session.
"This is timely, and long overdue. It is imperative that land acknowledgments need to take place in the legislature," said Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Garrison Settee. "It is an incremental step on the path to reconciliation, in line with the calls to action."
Several grand chiefs met with Goertzen two weeks ago to impress the need for land acknowledgments in the legislature, Settee said, noting he hopes chiefs will remain involved in the development of the acknowledgment. He also hopes Indigenous leadership will be present in the legislature the first time the acknowledgment is read.
NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine told reporters Thursday caucus members had submitted wording for a land acknowledgment in 2018, but discussions quickly fell by the wayside.
"So to hear today the premier announce a consultative process that is going to be led by three non-Indigenous people is pretty disingenuous," said Fontaine. "I would suggest to everyone that it is an attempt to mitigate some of the horrible comments that both the former premier and the current minister of Indigenous reconciliation have stated in the last little bit."
Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand said the government's decision to develop a land acknowledgment signifies the government is ready to turn a new leaf.
Under former premier Brian Pallister, Chartrand said an "outright race war" between Indigenous peoples and the premier held ministers back from launching initiatives such as the land acknowledgment.
"We're starting to see a different approach being taken by this government," Chartrand said, adding Goertzen had asked the federation for feedback before the working group was publicly announced.
The legislature's current session resumes Oct. 6, and the house will sit for two weeks, Goertzen said.
During that time, his government expects to receive the unanimous consent required to withdraw five contentious bills, including Bill 64, which would have scrapped elected English school boards. Bill 72 (the Disability Support Act) and budget implementation legislation are expected to pass.
Goertzen's term as premier ends after the Progressive Conservative party elects a new leader, who will serve as premier, on Oct. 30.
Julia-Simone Rutgers is a general-assignment reporter.
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After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.
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