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Percy Downe

The Hon. Percy E. Downe, B.A. Senator Percy E. Downe was appointed to the Senate of Canada by the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien. He has served in the Senate representing Charlottetown in the province of Prince Edward Island since June 26, 2003.

Busy times for the Inuit

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Published by Senator Charlie Watt on 18 June 2009

The last two weeks have been very busy here in the Senate.

On June 2, 2009 Mary Simon (President of ITK) came to the Senate as a witness during a special committee of the whole. This was for the follow up to the Residential School Apology which the Prime Minister and Parliamentarians offered one year ago.

I was very proud to speak my language with interpretation in the Senate Chamber. Senator Willie Adams, and I were able to question Mary Simon in Inuktitut, and receive her answers in Inuktitut too. This was the first time that my colleagues were able to listen to simultaneous translation of Inuktitut in the Chamber.

Many Canadians don’t realize that Inuit are full tax paying members of Canadian Society. We conduct our business in Nunavut and Nunavik in Inuktitut, and our children attend school which is entirely in Inuktitut for the early years. Inuktitut is a living language.  By speaking our language (Canada’s arctic language) in the Senate, we are able to bring elements of arctic culture to Parliamentarians, and we demonstrate to our young people that our language is valuable. I would like to thank the Senate Administration for their support in making this possible, and I would like to thank the translation teams (English/French and Inuktitut) for their cooperation which made this possible.

On June 10, 2009 we honoured Senator Willie Adams for his 37 years of service as a Senator. My memories of Willie go back many years, and I was still a child when he left our community of Kuujjuaq (Fort Chimo).

Over the past 25 years in the Senate, Willie and I have been seat mates for the entire time. In the early years, I was his translator and the Jr Inuk in the Senate. Now, after 25 years, I am the most senior Inuk, but I am also the only Inuk in the Senate of Canada! Because of this, I am counting on the Inuit community to continue their letter writing to both members of Parliament and to Senators. There are many views of Canada’s north, and I wish that every Inuk could sit before a Senate Committee to share their views. Letters are a very good way to connect with your Parliamentarian, and I encourage you to keep them informed of your views, and your work in the arctic.

Last week in the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, we continued to discuss the Nunavut Language, and I am still working on a bill to lower taxes in Canada’s remotest arctic communities.

I will be introducing a newsletter this summer with more detailed updates on my work in the Senate, and hope that you will come back to my web page to read about Canada’s arctic, and the issues which concern the Inuit of Canada’s north.

Nakurmiik (thank you in Inuktitut)


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