Canada’s first Mi’kmaw MP made history on Thursday as he used his language in Canada’s House of Commons.
Jaime Battiste, Liberal MP for Sydney-Victoria in Nova Scotia, used his first statement in the House to speak the Mi’kmaq language.
He asked Marc Miller, minister of Indigenous services, about the government’s support for Indigenous languages and implementing the Indigenous Languages Act.
Miller responded in Mi’kmaq, thanking Battiste for his question and replying that the government will contribute $337 million over the next five years for Indigenous languages.
The Indigenous Languages Act was introduced earlier this year as a collaboration between the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Assembly of First Nations and the Métis Nation. It’s meant to help protect and promote Indigenous languages.
Battiste was born in Sydney and grew up on Cape Breton’s Chapel Island 5 reserve, now known as the Potlotek First Nation. He graduated from Dalhousie University’s law school in 2004 and has served as chairman of the Assembly of First Nations Youth Council and as a regional chief with the Assembly of First Nations.
Battiste is also known for his work with the Mi’kmaq education authority.
Battiste’s bid for public office was almost derailed when a series of racist, sexist and homophobic posts on his Twitter account surfaced.
The tweets, all about seven or eight years old, included a reference to Battiste’s desire to find a woman to take care of his “cleaning, folding, cooking.”
Another tweet mocked the broken English of Chinese waiters in a scene from the film A Christmas Story.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the posts as unacceptable and Battiste issued an apology about his “crude jokes.”