Honourable senators, I rise today to applaud Janna Pratt, a Treaty 4 woman from the George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan. In 2013, she decided to run for council in the George Gordon First Nation election. After giving notice to her employer of 15 years of her decision to run for council, she was surprised to be informed that she might not be granted a leave of absence nor a guarantee of job protection during the course of the election. The reason for that was based on the Saskatchewan Employment Act, which states that participating in municipal, provincial or federal elections are afforded these securities. The provision does not include First Nations or Métis elections.
Janna’s experience identified an unequal application of law regarding employment and running in an election. Thankfully, Janna and her employer were able to come to an agreement that allowed her to participate in the election, but the whole process left her wondering how many Indigenous people were unable to participate in band elections because of this inequitable piece of legislation.
From there, Ms. Pratt was invited to many conferences to talk about her experience. She was both pleasantly surprised and disheartened to find that many others empathized with her situation.
In 2016, Ms. Pratt took the issue to Saskatoon Centre NDP MLA David Forbes, who acknowledged the exclusionary policy within the Saskatchewan Employment Act and sent a letter to the provincial Minister of Labour Relations, Don Morgan, stating that the concern needed to be addressed and consultation was needed. As a result, an amendment to the Saskatchewan Employment Act was introduced in the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan’s October 2019 Throne Speech. The proposed amendment, which is being called “Janna’s Law,” will extend job protection and guaranteed leave of absence to those participating in First Nations or Métis elections. Consultation will be taking place over the winter months, with the amendment expecting to come into force in March, when the bill is most likely to be passed.
Mr. Forbes said:
I think this is all done in the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation. I am very proud of this and very hopeful the government will deliver on this.
Colleagues, I applaud Janna Pratt for her advocacy and persistence in finding a solution to the discrimination in the Saskatchewan Employment Act, with thanks to NDP MLA David Forbes and provincial minister Don Morgan as well. Thank you. Kinananaskomitin.