Wikwemikong band member drums honour song to open 42nd Parliament

Wikwemikong band member David White Deer Charette of Ottawa performs an honour song before incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mr. Trudeau’s wife Sophie Gregoire and the Governor General at the opening of Parliament.

OTTAWA—As the Governor General of Canada prepared to officially open the 42nd Parliament, Wikwemikong band member David White Deer Charette performed an honour song with a hand drum in the foyer of the House of Commons.

Mr. Charette, who works for the Odawa Native Friendship Centre in Ottawa as a youth coordinator, landed the gig largely due to what he described as a serendipitous chain of events. “It was by fluke really,” he said. “I went on Facebook just after I went to Thailand.”

Mr. Charette is pretty much an old hand at ‘command performances’ before Canada’s political elite and has been drumming for 12 years. “I had performed for Laurene Harper and Sophie Grégoire (Justin Trudeau’s wife) before,” he said.

The opportunity to drum an honour song at the opening of Parliament presented Mr. Charette with an interesting conundrum. “I wondered if I should buy some fancy new shoes,” he laughed. “I normally wear Vans. I thought perhaps I should get some Calvin Klein jeans.”

Although he has lived his entire life in the nation’s capital, Mr. Charette has maintained regular connections to his home community of Wikwemikong, travelling regularly to visit.

Although he has only been performing “solo” for a short time, the 23-year-old Mr. Charette’s work can be seen online in his YouTube postings and he has performed with Ottawa hip-hop artist Cody Coyote, recently on the single ‘Hit the Town.’ “It’s an upbeat song,” he said. Music allows him to strike back at cultural appropriations in performances by artists such as David Guetta featuring totem poles and bikini clad models wearing headdresses. “Our women are not meant to be objectified like that,” he added.

Mr. Charette will be performing at the Assembly of First Nations Christmas Gala in a few days and will also be performing at Ottawa’s West Fest in 2016, sharing a stage that has featured the likes of Buffy St. Marie and A Tribe Called Red, one of his favourite groups. “I see them about once a month,” he said. He will also be releasing a CD “very, very soon” and is looking forward to performing and dancing at the One Young World Youth Summit, a gathering that attracts over 1,400 participants from 192 countries taking place next September.

The drummer is already a veteran world traveller, having visited China twice and Bangkok most recently.

“It has all come together so quickly,” he said. “When I came back from Thailand I told myself this is the year I will be making a difference for the aboriginal community.” So far, that commitment has been playing out well.

But although he has rubbed shoulders with politicians of all stripes and is gaining a presence on the global stage, politics is not currently in his radar. “Oh no,” he laughed, asserting that music will remain his medium.

The Liberal Speech from the Throne hardly lasted much longer than Mr. Charette’s song, clocking in at a very unusual 15 minutes. The speech contained few surprises, promising that the new government will “do different things and to do things differently.”

The first commitment out of the gate was to act quickly to bring in a tax cut for the middle class as the “fair thing to do” and to “provide more direct help to those who need it by giving less to those who do not,” specifically through a new Canada Child Benefit, and to increase investments in public transit, green infrastructure and social infrastructure. Among those commitments are an enhanced Canada Pension Plan, a stronger Employment Insurance Plan, more opportunities for youth, especially those from low and middle income families and to work with the provinces to make post-secondary education more affordable. The Throne Speech also committed to developing a new Health Accord.

Among the commitments were more open and transparent government, including electoral reform and reform of the Senate. Specifically, the government has committed that 2015 will be the last to be held under a first past the post system. The government has also promised to not use government ads for partisan political purposes and to avoid the use of omnibus bills to avoid scrutiny; to pursue a clean economy and a strong economy, including putting a price on carbon and greater public input. Decisions, it promises, will be informed by scientific evidence and indigenous peoples will be more fully engaged in reviewing and monitoring major resource development projects.

The Throne Speech also committed to renewing a nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples—“one based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.” The government has committed to work co-operatively to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and that it will launch an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls as well as work with First Nations so that every First Nations child receives a quality education.

Among the other commitments are to welcome 25,000 new Canadians from Syria by February 2016; do more to support veterans and their families; support the CBC and promote both official languages while investing in Canada’s cultural and creative industries; promote trade agreements; and to build a leaner and more agile military.