When Melanie Mark was sworn in to the British Columbia Legislative Assembly following her by-election victory in February 2016 her family brought her into the assembly in a good way.
Melanie was the first First Nations woman elected as a MLA and the first First Nations woman appointed to Cabinet.
Today she announced that she will be stepping down as an MLA and I provided the following comments regarding her announcement.
It is a sad day in the BC Legislature, to use a metaphor Melanie used often, we have one less paddler in our canoe.
I just want to take a moment to raise my hands to my relative, the MLA for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant, and just to acknowledge the accomplishment, the incredible work that you’ve done here on behalf of British Columbians. On behalf of our relatives across the province, I want to raise my hands to your family, to the Matriarchs, future Matriarchs and the Elders that are here in the room today.
You brought your family member in here in a good way, a way that I don’t know that these walls of the Legislature had ever experienced before. They’re really heavy marble, but I’m sure that they felt the weight of being brought in here with your drums and your songs and your beautiful cultures, the first to be able to do that. I think that it changed this place.
It created a better place for me to be brought in here when I was brought in here by my relatives as well. It wasn’t quite so new. I just want to acknowledge that and to acknowledge the staff here and the government — the opposition at the time — for making sure that that was a part of our colleague’s experience in being brought into this chamber, which has so often not been so friendly to our families across the province.
I was going to say that the member for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant was a trail-blazer. Then I quickly looked up what “trail-blazer” meant, and it said the definition is a pioneer, or a person who makes track through wild country, and I thought: “Ahh.” [Laughter.]
I know that the member is at home in the country and comes from a place that’s very deeply and well rooted in territory and in place. Something that I think this Legislative Assembly could experience more of, frankly, is being rooted in this place — a deep sense of knowing who you are and where you’re from, having connections that are so deeply rooted that, even as you’re being pulled out, we’re wondering just how far those roots are going to go into the ground.
So I won’t say that the member is a trail-blazer — well, I just sort of did — but just acknowledge the first First Nations woman elected here, the first First Nations woman to hold a seat at the cabinet table, to really know what happens at the cabinet table. At some point we can have that conversation.
It’s important that our grandmothers, our mothers, our aunties, our sisters, our nieces and our cousins have a place in this House and that the experience here be a welcoming and safe experience for Indigenous people, and for Indigenous women in particular. That’s the job that we all have here as legislators and colleagues: to ensure that there is a place here for our grandmothers, our mothers, our aunties, our sisters, our nieces and our cousins.
Today I’m sad that the space that’s created is from someone who has a voice that is so deeply necessary in this House. I know that the member is on her own journey, but I just wish that I didn’t have to be standing here today, wishing you the best in all of your future endeavours and everything that you do.
I will think back to those times. My colleague from Cowichan Valley talked about and reminded me of your unbridled enthusiasm as the Minister of Advanced Education. I remember that as well. We will all remember that. Thank you for bringing that passion to this House, and let’s ensure that this place is open and welcoming and safe. HÍSW̱ḴE SIÁM.