March 1, 2022

Hon. Patti LaBoucane-Benson

Honourable senators, for the past six days, Canadians have watched the horrific, violent attack on Ukraine. We’ve witnessed war being waged on innocent Ukrainians, shocked by this assault on a free, proud and democratic country. There have been marches across Canada this weekend in support of Ukraine and in appreciation of the fear the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian Canadians have for the safety of their families.

Although I am speaking today on the traditional land of the Algonquin and Anishinaabe, I live in the beautiful Treaty 6 territory, where we are all treaty people. Although the settlement of Canada is a history of colonization and disenfranchisement, there are also many stories of kindness, caring and working together for mutual benefit.

As Chief Billy Morin from the Enoch Cree Nation wrote:

Ukrainian Families were some of the 1st families to settle in Treaty 6 territory, before Alberta was even a Province. There are many instances of friendship between Indigenous & Ukrainian peoples that highlight the Spirit & Intent of Treaty 6.

I couldn’t agree more. There were deep relationships between Ukrainian and Indigenous people. There still are today. I can assure you that I am not the only Métis Ukrainian in Alberta. Significantly, Indigenous and Ukrainian settler women forged important relationships. Both understood the experiences of trauma and oppression — whether it was here or in Ukraine — and they were trying to raise healthy children despite these hardships. Indigenous women shared knowledge of local plants and medicines to keep their families healthy. Ukrainian women shared recipes for food that could be made from the food grown on their farms: perogies, holopchi, perishke.

Ukrainian women also gifted Indigenous women the babushkas they wore on their heads. Indigenous women have worn these beautiful scarves in their day-to-day lives for years, and now these scarves can be found across Turtle Island, worn as fashion items or part of regalia at powwows. For almost a week, my social media feeds have been galvanized, not only in deep admiration of and support for the bravery of the Ukrainian people, but also including Indigenous women posting pictures of themselves in beautiful floral scarves with the caption “wear your kokum scarf in solidarity with Ukraine.”

Colleagues, these scarves have become symbols of empathy, relationship, resilience and solidarity. They are symbols of trade and cooperation between Indigenous people and Ukrainian settlers. They are symbols of people sharing resources and wisdom, working together and caring for each other.

Senators, I wear this scarf today not only as a symbol of solidarity but also as a reminder of the trauma of war and pain the Ukrainian people will carry in the years to come. I sincerely hope our government will not only continue leading the effort to end this war, but that it will also be a leader in the effort to rebuild Ukraine and heal the Ukrainian people in the same spirit of friendship that has existed on Treaty 6 territory for many years.

Slava Ukraini. Glory to Ukraine. Hiy hiy.

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