Land acknowledgements — a preamble to many meetings, announcements and even sporting events — has been absent from the Manitoba Legislature, but may soon become practice according to interim Progressive Conservative leader Kelvin Goertzen.
Many introductions begin by acknowledging a meeting or event is being held on the traditional territory of the Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis.
“That’s something that I’m very open to. I think there’s a place for it in the Manitoba Legislature. I’d like to see consultations be engaged first,” Goertzen told reporters Tuesday.
Goertzen, who took over from former premier Brian Pallister last week, says the topic of land acknowledgements was part of the more than 30 meetings he’s had since taking the temporary position. The PC party is in the midst of a leadership campaign for a permanent replacement for Pallister.
“I’ll have a bit more say … later in the week, but we are engaging in consultations, but from my personal perspective, I think there’s a place for it,” Goertzen said.
Many Indigenous leaders were critical of Pallister’s leadership and relations with their communities when he was premier.
“It is in the best interests of Indigenous people that we never have to experience a premier like Brian Pallister in our future and for the future generations to come,” said Grand Chief Garrison Settee of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak in a statement last week.
The New Democrats have been calling on the government to add land acknowledgements since 2017, accusing the PC’s of being “out of touch,” and “dragging their heels.”
“There is no excuse to wait another day for a land acknowledgement in the legislature and a Pride flag to be flown on the legislature grounds,” said Ian Bushie, the NDP Critic for Indigenous Affairs.
Goertzen says he’s been talking to house leaders from both the NDP and Liberals about introducing the land acknowledgement at the next sitting of the legislature, and says it may happen in the first week of October.
Pride flag may fly above Memorial Park
Goertzen says there is an effort underway to see if the Pride flag could be raised above Memorial Park in honour of Pride Week, which began last Friday, though this year’s events are mostly being celebrated virtually because of the pandemic.
“I understand that there was a desire to have the Pride flag at Memorial Park. There may be some issues around … flags these days, but I believe that those who are involved the protocol are trying to work that out, and I don’t think that that’s happened before,” Goertzen said.
When asked why there was no acknowledgement of Pride Week from the government on social media in the last few days, Goertzen said that was likely to come soon.
Pallister attended the event in pre-pandemic times. In 2016, he became the second premier of Manitoba to join in the ceremonies.
Barry Karlenzig, the president and chair of Pride Winnipeg, told CBC News the party in power is always given the opportunity to speak at the Pride rally the morning of the parade, and that either the premier or deputy premier have spoken over the years.
“In the last two years, we have not heard from the premier’s office, as well as since stepping into the role of chair I have not received any communication from the premier’s office,” Karlenzig wrote in an email.
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