June 21, 2022

Hon. Patti LaBoucane-Benson

Honourable senators, my friends, today is National Indigenous Peoples Day, and there is so much to celebrate!

First, I am so grateful for the economic self-determination of Indigenous peoples, especially in my province of Alberta. I want to congratulate the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce for creating an Elder in Residence position. I can think of no better inaugural Elder in Residence than my friend Irene Morin of the Enoch Cree Nation. Her body of work is considerable. She was a powerful advocate for social justice in her work at Native Counselling Services of Alberta, and she was an effective and popular political staffer for the late, great Senator Thelma Chalifoux. There is no doubt in my mind that Irene will assist the chamber in forging new and stronger relationships with Indigenous communities surrounding Edmonton, as well as connect members with the Indigenous leaders, entrepreneurs, movers and shakers in the area. Believe me, Irene knows everyone.

This innovation towards reconciliation should not surprise us. The Alberta Treasury Branch recently published a report on the economic contributions of the 313,000 Indigenous people who reside in what is now known as Alberta. The report found that:

The Indigenous economy in Alberta generated $6.74 billion of GDP in 2019 . . . which is equal to the GDP generated by Alberta’s agricultural sector.

Honourable senators, economic self-determination is a cornerstone of reconciliation and of miyo-pimâtisiwin — the ability to live the good life — and I am celebrating all of the Indigenous-owned businesses across Turtle Island who are contributing to their communities and to our country in meaningful ways.

On a personal note, I am also celebrating the profound importance of our traditional ceremonies. This weekend, I had the honour to Sun Dance — to be part of one of the most sacred Nehiyaw ceremonies that is grounded in the principles of interconnectedness and sacrifice for the healing and well-being of the people. I have immense gratitude for Elder and Sun Dance Chief Fred Campiou and Melanie Campiou for their tireless dedication to this ceremony and for the kisewâtisiwin — the loving kindness — that guides their work.

Honourable senators, ceremonies are where Indigenous languages thrive. All weekend long, I was immersed in the nêhiyawêwin language, listening to stories, jokes and teachings. The preservation of Indigenous languages is indeed bound to the survival of these beautiful ceremonies.

And so, dear colleagues, I hope you have time this week to join me in celebrating Indigenous resilience, self-determination and healing.

Hiy hiy.

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