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Ontario legislator to make history at Queen’s Park with speech, questions in Oji-Cree

TORONTO — A First Nation legislator in Ontario is set to make history today when he rises at Queen’s Park to speak in his language, Oji-Cree.

For the first time in its history, the Ontario legislature will allow, interpret and transcribe a language other than English and French.

New Democrat Sol Mamakwa sparked the change after convincing Government House Leader Paul Calandra to allow him to speak in the language his parents taught him.

About 100 supporters will gather in Toronto to watch the historic moment, including Mamakwa’s mother, siblings, friends and First Nation leaders.

Mamakwa, from Kingfisher Lake First Nation in northern Ontario, says the milestone is important because Indigenous people are losing their languages and his speech and question in the legislature will mark a step toward reconciliation.

Calandra changed the standing orders on languages spoken in the legislative chamber to include any Indigenous language spoken in Canada.

The legislature has brought in interpreters who will translate Mamakwa’s words in real-time to English, which will then be translated into French.

Mamakwa’s words will also be represented in syllabics, an Indigenous writing system, in Hansard, the official record of proceedings at Queen’s Park.

He will speak for 10 minutes in Anishininiimowin, or Oji-Cree, before taking the lead in the question period.

Mamakwa says he plans to ask a health-related question.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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