Third reading of Bill C-51, Self-Government Treaty Recognizing the Whitecap Dakota Nation / Wapaha Ska Dakota Oyate Act

By: The Hon. Marty Klyne

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Hon. Marty Klyne: Honourable senators, on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg, and with tremendous pride, I rise to speak to Bill C-51, An Act to give effect to the self-government treaty recognizing the Whitecap Dakota Nation / Wapaha Ska Dakota Oyate and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

I rise not just to speak to a bill but to celebrate Whitecap Dakota reclaiming their legal rights to self-determination.

Chief Darcy Bear and I have talked about this moment for some time now, so it is with great pleasure I salute Whitecap Dakota Nation on this historic achievement, one which will serve as another step on the long road to reconciliation.

It comes on the heels of other achievements of reconciliation, including the recent passing of Bill C-45, an Act to amend the First Nations Fiscal Management Act, to make consequential amendments to other Acts, and to make a clarification relating to another act; not to mention this week’s Action Plan for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is another such milestone; as is the announcement of a site on Parliament Hill for a monument to residential school survivors and victims.

In the case of Whitecap Dakota, I make no mistake that before we can celebrate, we need to get this bill across the finish line, so I’ll keep my remarks short.

We should take a moment to reflect on the context of this legislation and discuss how we came to this point. Historically, Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples has been stained with injustice and discrimination. We still see the effects of the residential school system, the underfunding of community services, the outstanding specific claims to the fulfillment of historical treaties and other agreements and the misappropriation of lands. Yet today, I am filled with tremendous optimism and growing confidence that brighter days lay ahead.

The story of Whitecap Dakota Nation adds to my positive outlook. Senator Cotter gave a wonderful overview of their history in his speech yesterday, so I am satisfied that part of the story has been told. I expect that Senator Cotter will further complement his speech shortly.

Suffice it to say that, in facing the many challenges and betrayals over the last two centuries, Whitecap Dakota has endured with resilience and courage. They began to push back and take charge of their own social, political and economic affairs with great determination and the courage to make the right choices, with perseverance in goodness over time and with lasting effort and patience when things were tough. Today, Whitecap Dakota First Nation has attracted over $160 million in capital investment — and they are just getting started!

Colleagues, rather than provide an overview of the numerous economic achievements of Whitecap Dakota, I refer you to my inquiry speech of May 2 launching the inquiry celebrating Indigenous-led businesses and economic development organizations, a speech in which Whitecap Dakota Nation’s was the economic success profiled.

That said, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the efforts of my friend Chief Darcy Bear and his council and elders, who, for the past three decades, have led the people of Whitecap Dakota with honour, humility and dedication. He has spoken about their success:

We can’t change the wrongs of the past . . . but certainly going forward we can all change the future by working together in partnership. We have that attitude that we don’t believe in the word “can’t.” There’s always a way to moving something forward.

Whitecap Chief and council should be recognized on our national stage for their many achievements to date and, soon, this significant achievement.

As I said, the self-government agreement between Whitecap Dakota and Canada represents another step on our federation’s path towards reconciliation. It’s a positive step forward, and I’m thrilled that we, as legislators, can play a part. This is the first self-government agreement signed in Saskatchewan, and I hope that more will follow.

Let’s take a moment to discuss what the impact of this legislation will be. Why should Canadians pay attention and support this agreement? It matters because self-government restores Dakota Whitecap’s legal right to self-determination, realizing their underlying inherent rights. It recognizes them as a First Nation under section 35 of Canada’s Constitution. It matters because this agreement means an opportunity for Whitecap Dakota to reclaim what was taken or withheld from them generations ago. Despite being some of Canada’s most committed allies, this is what they’ve been fighting for ever since, with truth and justice on their side. It matters because this is an opportunity to enhance prosperity and pride of place in Canada for this great people.

This agreement means Whitecap Dakota can continue to grow and that the hope that endured was hope well placed to bear fruit. It means positive change that will benefit everyone as they create wealth and contribute to the prosperity and the well-being of this country.

As honourable senators know, we will not achieve true reconciliation until Indigenous peoples are empowered to take advantage of their full economic, social and political potential. This agreement gets us one step closer. Let us speak with one voice in our vote for Bill C-51, and let’s get this done.

Thank you. Hiy kitatamîhin.

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