Canada has ‘two official’ languages, but neither one is one of the original languages of this land. As an Indigenous parliamentarian who speaks Cree, the author believed it was important to be able to make substantive statements in parliament in this language. This language informed the principle of his worldview and the worldview of some of his constituents. In 2017, the existing standing orders and policies of the House of Commons prevented his address in Cree from being translated to his fellow MPs. Despite receiving advice to use one of Canada’s two official languages, the author decided to continue with his speech as planned. Subsequently, he raised a prima facie case that his rights as a parliamentarian had been violated and worked with the Regulations Committee (PROC) to change the standing orders. In this article, he explains his thoughts about this issue and reveals how he came to a decision to challenge the status quo in an effort to be true to himself and his people.
Robert-Falcon Ouellette, MP