June 2, 2020

12° C, A few clouds

Full Forecast

Winnipeg Free Press


Help us deliver reliable news during this pandemic.

We are working tirelessly to bring you trusted information about COVID-19. Support our efforts by subscribing today.

No Thanks Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Acknowledging a meaningful gesture


If Manitoba MLAs need a bit of inspiration to help them decide whether to begin their daily sittings in the legislative assembly with an Indigenous land acknowledgment, they might want to look to Hollywood.

Actor, writer and director Taika Waititi pleasantly surprised many viewers last Sunday when he acknowledged during the 92nd Academy Awards ceremony that those in attendance were gathered on the ancestral lands of the Tongva, Tataviam and Chumash.

"We acknowledge them as the first peoples of this land on which our motion picture community lives and works," Mr. Waititi said onstage.

It’s believed to be the first time anyone has acknowledged the ancestral lands of local Indigenous people during an Academy Awards ceremony, held in Hollywood. It was fitting coming from Mr. Waititi, who also became the first person of Maori descent (the Indigenous people of New Zealand) to win an Oscar, which he received for best adapted screenplay for his film Jojo Rabbit.

Mr. Waititi’s land acknowledgement drew widespread praise for the respect and relationship-building it promoted with Indigenous communities. Manitoba MLAs should take note.

Surprisingly, Manitoba’s legislative assembly is one of the few public institutions in the province that doesn’t open its proceedings with a land acknowledgement. Winnipeg’s city council has been doing it since 2016. Many school divisions, corporations, arts organizations, community groups and others acknowledge the ancestral lands of Indigenous people (as well as the treaties signed between them and European settlers) at public events.

Since August 2017, the Winnipeg Free Press has included such an acknowledgement on its editorial page. The Winnipeg Jets and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers both honour the ancestral lands of local Indigenous groups before every game. But not the Manitoba legislature.

Land and treaty acknowledgements have been made prior to government throne speeches in recent years. Some MLAs and cabinet ministers honour ancestral land before speeches or during public events. But the legislative assembly itself — which is on Treaty 1 territory and the traditional homeland of the Métis — does not begin its daily sittings with a land acknowledgement.

No explanations have been offered by government or MLAs on why this is the case. The Pallister government has said land acknowledgements are simply not part of the protocol in the legislative assembly and that it would be up to the Speaker and the assembly itself to change that.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew wrote Speaker Myrna Driedger in 2017 about incorporating land acknowledgements into daily sittings. More than two years later, there still seems to be no interest, including from the Pallister government which, through its majority in the house, could influence such a change.

One would think the legislative assembly – arguably the most important public institution in the province – would be among the first to acknowledge the ancestral land of First Nations and the Métis.

Land and treaty acknowledgements are a small part of Canada’s reconciliation efforts, but they are important ones. They remind the public that Indigenous people lived here before European settlement and that treaties were established to promote peaceful and harmonious relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. They are about fostering mutual respect and celebrating the rich culture that existed before colonialism.

If Manitoba’s legislative assembly can’t draw its inspiration from Hollywood when it comes to land acknowledgements, perhaps it could consider that this year — the 150th anniversary of the province — would be the perfect opportunity to make the change.

It would take little effort, but it would go a long way toward building good will with Indigenous communities.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press would like to thank our readers for their patience while comments were not available on our site. We're continuing to work with our commenting software provider on issues with the platform. In the meantime, if you're not able to see comments after logging in to our site, please try refreshing the page.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.