Ontario Legislator Makes History at Queen’s Park with Speech in Oji-Cree

Ontario Legislator Makes History at Queen’s Park with Speech in Oji-Cree

By The Canadian Press

A First Nation legislator has made history by addressing Queen’s Park in his own language, marking the first time a language other than English and French has officially been allowed in Ontario’s legislative chamber.

Historic Speech in Oji-Cree

New Democrat Sol Mamakwa spoke to the Ontario legislature in Oji-Cree, a significant milestone for the province. This event marks the first instance of the Ontario legislature allowing, interpreting, and transcribing a language other than English and French.

The Change Sparked by Mamakwa

Mamakwa initiated this change after convincing Government House Leader Paul Calandra to permit him to speak in the language his parents taught him. This historic moment was witnessed by about 100 supporters, including Mamakwa’s mother, siblings, friends, and First Nation leaders, who gathered in Toronto to celebrate.

A Step Toward Reconciliation

“Today, I am speaking my language, Anishininiimowin, for the first time in the Ontario Legislature. Join me in celebrating Indigenous languages and our ways of life,” Mamakwa wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. Mamakwa, from Kingfisher Lake First Nation in northern Ontario, emphasized the importance of this milestone as Indigenous people are losing their languages. His speech and question in the legislature represent a step toward reconciliation.

Legislative Changes and Interpretation

Calandra amended the standing orders on languages spoken in the legislative chamber to include any Indigenous language spoken in Canada. The legislature brought in interpreters to translate Mamakwa’s words in real time to English, which were then translated into French. Additionally, Mamakwa’s words will be represented in syllabics, an Indigenous writing system, in Hansard, the official record of proceedings at Queen’s Park.

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