Romeo Saganash says treaties should be included in new members' oath
'That will change the discourse,' says Quebec MP, who included treaties in oath
NDP MP Romeo Saganash's oath to the Queen last week was a little different than his fellow newly-elected MPs.
When Saganash, the MP in the northern Quebec riding of Abitibi-Baie James-Nunavik-Eeyou, took the oath to the Queen, he added a line of his own: "And I solemnly affirm, that in the carrying out of my duties, I shall honour and respect the treaties signed with indigenous peoples."
Saganash, who is Cree, says the idea came to him after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its final report, which included a recommendation that new citizens swear to respect the treaties when they take their oath.
"I said to myself, if that's applicable or that's fine for new citizens, I think it should be more so for MPs," Saganash says. "So that's why I suggested to the clerk of the House of Commons that we need also to consider changing that oath."
Saganash says he's received a lot of support for his idea, and he put it forward to the other aboriginal MPs in parliament.
<a href="https://twitter.com/RomeoSaganash">@RomeoSaganash</a> devient la première personne à faire son assermentation en cri au parlement canadien. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/decolonize?src=hash">#decolonize</a> <a href="https://t.co/wpdDeBC6qy">pic.twitter.com/wpdDeBC6qy</a>—@MaiteeSaganash
"I wrote a couple of days ago to all of the other nine MPs and suggested an aboriginal caucus and how we can work together multi-partisan," he says.
Saganash believes adding the treaties to the oath will be more than just symbolic.
"When you pledge to honour and respect treaties in this country, when you get up in that House of Commons, you need to remember that," he says.
"That will change the discourse. That will change the way we approach many of the issues on aboriginal questions in this parliament. It will change a lot in the minds and thoughts of many of the MPs."
Oath should be flexible
"I certainly take pride in protecting and preserving and honouring the treaties," he says. "It's something that we use as a basis for a lot of what's going on in the Northwest Territories."
McLeod says Saganash's suggestion would put the treaties in a new light.
"It's also interesting that Romeo has taken this way to bring attention to the treaties, it's a really important document that we all use.
"The oath should be flexible enough to include whatever the MP feels is important to him."