NDP MP Romeo Saganash was sanctioned by Speaker Geoff Regan in the House of Commons in September after using unparliamentary language. (CBC) Last month veteran NDP MP Romeo Saganash stood up during question period and used unparliamentary language to slam the Liberal government for its handling of the Trans Mountain pipeline project.
Saganash, a First Nations NDP MP from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of not caring about the rights of Indigenous peoples after the Federal Court quashed approval of the contentious Trans Mountain expansion project. I’ve been watching this government over the last three years. And at times it’s exasperating. And I was fed up. "Why doesn’t the prime minister just say the truth and tell Indigenous peoples that he doesn’t give a f–k about their rights?" Saganash asked the House.
Saganash later apologized and withdrew the word.
Unreserved host Rosanna Deerchild spoke with Saganash about standing up and speaking out in the House of Commons. Here is part of that conversation.
I want you to take me back to that moment. What were you thinking about right before you stood up?
I’ve been watching this government over the last three years. And at times it’s exasperating. And I was fed up.
That morning when I got up, that’s really how I felt.
I had to show to my seat mates … two ladies that I respect very much: Tracey Ramsey [NDP MP for Essex] and Sheila [Malcolmson, NDP MP for Nanaimo—Ladysmith]. I showed my question to them just to apologize in advance to them — to them at least — but no one else knew.
Video: NDP MP Romeo Saganash swears during question period.
You said you were exasperated — you were frustrated. Was there something specific that pushed you to that point?
It’s about everything — the way they do things. They’re all talk and no action.
They use words like "engagement," "dialogue" but not necessarily "consultation" from a constitutional standpoint.
If you take it from a constitutional standpoint then that duty and constitutional obligation to consult in accommodating Indigenous peoples and their rights — you cannot make that decision — say this pipeline is going to be built no matter what, and on the other hand, claim to be consulting Indigenous peoples.
It doesn’t work that way.
This is not the first time, of course, that you have done something a little unexpected in the House. On June 2017 on National Indigenous Peoples Day, you stood in the House and asked the prime minister this question.
Video: NDP MP Romeo Saganash asks the PM a question in Cree. Can you can share what you asked? That was related to where his office was housed. As I said in Cree … his office, which was Langevin Block [was changed in name] … to the Prime Minister and the Privy Council Office.Has he spoken to the Algonquin people or the Anishinaabe? Has he spoken to the family that used to live, hunt, gather fish on Parliament Hill?Ask the Algonquins … any suggestions that they would have [for changing the name of Langevin Block]. It’s also not the first time you’ve spoken Cree. Why is it important for you to stand and speak out? It’s important for me because it’s the only language I spoke until I was seven years old — until I was sent to residential school.I think institutions — if we’re serious about reconciliation, if we’re serious about decolonization in this country — well, we have to start in places like the Parliament of Canada.So when I got elected in 2011 the first time, that was the first […]
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