A northern Saskatchewan MP is on a quest to speak Dene in the House of Commons in Ottawa.
Georgina Jolibois is the NDP Member of Parliament for the Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River constituency and is a fluent Dene speaker from La Loche. She recently presented her case to speak her language at house proceedings to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
Jolibois has spoken Dene in the House before, however, a live translation has never been available. She’s hoping that can change.
Jolibois presented her request to the committee in Dene with Julius Park on hand to offer live-translation. Park is a fluent Dene speaker from La Loche, who currently lives in La Ronge.
“It was an honour to be the first person to have the Dene language translated for parliamentary business,” said Jolibois. “And I want to thank Julius for being a part of this history.”
Jolibois is confident the committee will approve her request.
She says a Dene translation in the House is overdue.
“For reconciliation, it is very important that we as Canadians contribute to the strength of our Indigenous languages,” said the northern Saskatchewan MP. “Since Indigenous people were the original people of Canada they should be able to speak their languages in the House of Commons.”
Currently, only two Indigenous languages are spoken in the house with live-translation available. Those are Cree and Mohawk.
Jolibois believes Indigenous languages should be as respected in the House as English and French, Canada’s two official languages.
If her request passes, Jolibois plans to speak Dene specifically when matters arise that affect the Dene people in the far north.
The committee’s decision isn’t expected for some time, as they are still hearing testimony on the matter and will need time to review all of the presentations.
(PHOTO – NDP MP Georgina Jolibois, NDP MP Sherri Benson, and Dene translator Julius Park. Photo courtesy Georgina Jolibois)