June 21, 2016

Honourable senators, I rise before you today on National Aboriginal Day to echo the sentiments that Senator Dyck expressed here today, and I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the other six exceptional Aboriginal youth who appeared before the committee today.

Jenna Burke’s passion is in child and youth care. She is from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, plans to continue to work with youth and promotes the rights of non-status First Nations because in her words, “it is up to our community to decide who is a part of it . . .we don’t go by card systems or blood quantum.”

Mitch Case, from Sault Ste. Marie, is the President of the Métis Nation of Ontario Youth Council and Youth Representative on the Provisional Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario. The past experiences of his people continue to influence his entire world view, causing him to “relentlessly pursue,” in his words, the stories of elders and preserve them in an anthology for future generations. These stories of injustice will inspire Mr. Case to continue strong advocacy for Metis rights.

Kelly Duquette from Atikokan, Ontario, is an artist who has developed a multistep process that is layered with complexity and symbolism and creates beautiful works of art that incorporate intricate beading as a more obvious nod to her indigenous roots. She is currently pursuing a law degree in the hopes of using that along with her art to continue to advocate for the Metis community.

Shelby Angalik is a recent high school graduate from Arviat, Nunavut, who hopes that her story of success and accomplishment will help remove the stigma surrounding indigenous people. She founded the Imagination Destination literacy program and is an active member of her community.

Maatalli Okalik, who is from Pangnirtung, Nunavut, attributes her success to a strong mother who provided her with a safe space to learn and ask critical questions about what it means to be an Inuk. Through her current mandate as President of the National Inuit Youth Council, she is focused on strengthening ties that Inuit youth have to their language and culture through education and empowerment in the hopes of it leading to effective suicide prevention. She is also dedicated to promoting reconciliation between Inuit and Canada.

Finally, but most assuredly not least, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril is a celebrated filmmaker from Iqaluit, Nunavut, who is passionate about the arts and believes it can be an important driver of a sustainable economy and a vehicle for advocacy for Inuit of Nunavut.

Senators may remember my speech at third reading of the “National Seal Products Day Bill,” during which I quoted at length from Alethea’s film, Angry Inuk. That film has gone on to win the Audience Choice Award at the prestigious HotDocs festival this year, the largest documentary festival in North America. It will be privately screened tonight in room 256-S at 7 p.m, and I am pleased to invite all honourable senators to see this powerful and compelling film.

Thank you to all the young advocates for their inspirational statements before our committee today.

Statement – National Aboriginal Day