No Cree translators: Winnipeg MP tackles Indigenous issues in the House of Commons

Winnipeg MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette called for action on Indigenous issues in Parliament on Thursday in a statement made in Cree, which he had to translate to English himself.

Winnipeg Centre MP condemned violence against Indigenous women, said translation should be provided

Winnipeg Centre MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette made a statement against violence toward Indigenous women in Cree in Parliament Thursday. He argued after that translation of Indigenous languages should be provided in Parliament. (Kaj Hasselriis/CBC)

Winnipeg MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette called for action on Indigenous issues in Parliament on Thursday in a statement made in Cree — which he noted he had to translate to English himself, something he said he shouldn't have to do.

During question period, the Liberal MP for Winnipeg Centre rose and made a statement in Cree, condemning recent violent attacks against young Indigenous women in Manitoba that were recorded.

In an English translation Ouellette provided himself, he said, "The freedom of the violence calls into question our own humanity."

He said it's time to raise Indigenous women "above our current beliefs," and said there should be "additional protections of the law" to deter more violence.

After question period, Ouellette repeated his statement to media — this time in English.

"I'm going to read, in fact, what I actually said, translated, because unfortunately the translators couldn't or wouldn't, according to the rules of Parliament, translate one of our Indigenous languages, which I still believe should be an official language of this country, our Indigenous languages," he said.

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More than 213,000 Canadians speak an Indigenous language most often or regularly at home, according to the 2011 Census. Nearly two-thirds of people who identified an Indigenous language as their mother tongue specified the Cree languages, Inuktitut and Ojibway.

Results on language from the 2016 Census will be released in August 2017.

"In this case here, what Robert is suggesting is that the importance of getting to our culture, the root of who we are, the essence of who we are, our languages, that's where the solutions lie," said Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day, who joined Ouellette after question period.

"So I support that, Robert, and I thank you for your courageous advancement to ensure that it is our language and culture that is at the root of the solution."