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Blake Desjarlais on Coming Together to Forge a New Path

Edmonton Griesbach MP Blake Desjarlais spoke at the Broadbent Institute's Progress Gala in Toronto on December 2. Here is a copy of his remarks.

Tansi Friends, Blake Desjarlais ni see gah soon, Pack-cha-han say et Amiskawaciy Waskagun ot sin e yeah, Otempimisawak et appetagosan ni-ya.

Hello Friends, my name is Blake Desjarlais, I’m a proud Metis and Cree person from the Fishing lake Metis Settlement, and I call Edmonton my home. It is my distinct honour to be here with all of you.

To begin, I would like to ground us and acknowledge that we are gathered here this evening in Toronto, also called T’kronto, a territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples. 

This land has been cared for and nurtured by these nations since time immemorial. Today, this land is covered by Treaty 13 and the Williams Treaty, and is home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. But it is so much more than just land: it is spirit and it is strength. 

I would ask you to take a moment to really connect with this legacy, with this strength. Close your eyes and feel the power that physically supports each and everyone of us in this room. We must always be grateful for this strength. 

I would like to recognize all the Elders and knowledge keepers here with us tonight, especially Ed Broadbent who has worked tirelessly to build better communities, a better country, and a better world. Kinanaskomtin Mr. Broadbent. 

I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate this fine institution’s new Executive Director, Jen Hassum - a young, vibrant, and brilliant leader.

We are here tonight to celebrate the Broadbent Institute and the incredible, tireless work that everyone in this room does. It is a pleasure to acknowledge the supporters, sponsors and friends who help to ensure the Institute may continue to move forward in its crucial work: building a better future.

For 10 years, the Broadbent institute has played a key role in bringing together activists, fellows, and experts from across turtle island and the globe to ensure the ideas of tomorrow are realized. 

Today, our world faces tremendous challenges. From the climate crisis to Indigenous Reconciliation, we are being confronted by this harsh reality and the limits of our past efforts. More than ever, we must have the courage and strength to do more, and to do what is right – especially when it isn’t easy. 

Over the past few years, we have witnessed record setting heatwaves and voracious wildfires across the country. As we speak, major floods have destroyed integral parts of our country, particularly in British Columbia. My heart goes out to all those that have suffered pain and loss from these tragic disasters. We have well and truly entered the age of Climate Consequence. 

For generations, Indigenous peoples have sounded the climate alarm. We have borne witness to stark changes since the onset of colonization - changes that have harmed our eco-systems, our environment and our relationships with one another. Like the fractured relationship between Canada and Indigneous peoples today, we must confront these issues with meaningful, direct action and work together to build an equitable and sustainable future for all.

But my friends, though times may seem dark, we must not despair. As in the ancient stories of my ancestors, there is always hope for we have been gifted with the greatest tools: our present and our future. It is one of those rare moments in our history where the problems we face may just hold the key to solving them.

Canada’s number one relationship must be with Indigenous peoples. Not just in words, but in practice. Through collaborative partnership, understanding, and truth, we can tackle the climate crisis and ensure we centre our path towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. When we restore our peoples’ role in protecting these lands, we protect our collective future. We have long been stewards of these lands and have long protected them. The stories and ceremony passed down from Elders tell us that this is not the first time our world has faced a climate crisis, and it will not be the last. 

We must come together now and forge a new path of justice and equality. We must recognize the rights of Indigenous peoples to these lands and give space for that knowledge and leadership to blossom, grow, and spread. Our very future depends on it. 

I am confident that with the inspiring leadership of folks like Jagmeet Singh, Rachel Notley, Andrea Horvath, and Wab Kinew, we can and will take on this challenge. 

Again, thank you everyone, it’s been my absolute pleasure to join you here tonight. 

Hiy hiy - kinanaskomtinaw my friends,