Sydney-Victoria MP Jaime Battiste says he researched proper protocol in advance of rising in the House of Commons while wearing a traditional beaded Mi’kmaq medallion instead of a necktie.
Conservative MP Kyle Seeback of Dufferin-Caledon in Ontario raised a point of order on Feb. 24 related to the rookie MP wearing a Mi'kmaq beaded medallion in the House of Commons rather than a tie. The speaker noted that Battiste was wearing appropriate business attire, with the traditional medallion rather than a necktie, and deemed it appropriate.
Battiste, who is a member of Potlotek First Nation, is the first Mi’kmaq Member of Parliament.
“I don’t think it was a controversy, it’s more of a learning experience for us all, in which different cultures have different things of importance to them,” Battiste told reporters after appearing at an announcement Wednesday.
He noted that the Mi’kmaq people have gone to great efforts to reclaim its traditional crafting, including beadwork.
“We’ve used beadwork for a very long time and this is something that I wanted to showcase to the world, and I knew it was within the rules,” he said.
Battiste said that shortly after he arrived in Ottawa following his Oct. 21 election he began asking questions about what could be appropriately worn in the house.
“This is part of the rules in government and in the House of Commons, we’re making space for Indigenous peoples,” he said.
Battiste said it was a moment that everyone can learn from and admitted he thought that, at some point, his decision to wear a medallion may be questioned.
“But I knew very early in my tenure as an MP that I would be doing this,” he said. “I thought it was fitting at the time because we were talking about reconciliation, the speech I was giving was talking about changes to the oath that new Canadians do, that recognizes Aboriginal and treaty rights … I thought that was a really good time to create a space for reconciliation and showing that reconciliation is about creating space for Indigenous beading, Indigenous medallions, and this was something I was very happy to be able to showcase that day.”
Battiste added he was pleased with the response that he received from others on Parliament Hill.