For more than 20 years, Canada celebrated the heritage, culture and contributions of Indigenous peoples with National Aboriginal Day every June 21. But this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government intends to rename the day as the more appropriate National Indigenous Peoples Day.
“The 150th anniversary of Confederation this year reminds us of the legacy of the past. As we look forward to the next 150 years, we commit to move ahead together in a spirit of reconciliation and respect,” Trudeau said.
He said that the relation between the government and Indigenous Peoples is important and that they are is working to build a nation-to-nation, Inuit-Crown, government-to-government relationship.
“We are determined to make a real difference in the lives of Indigenous peoples by closing socio-economic gaps, supporting greater self-determination, and establishing opportunities to work together on shared priorities. We are also reviewing all federal laws and policies that concern Indigenous Peoples and making progress on the Calls to Action outlined in the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” Trudeau said.
Critics, however, say the government of Canada has more work to do on improving relations with indigenous people especially in light of the Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion. In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) released a report on the impact of residential school experiences in which it listed 94 recommended calls to action. Trudeau has promised before to act on all 94 of them.
One of the actions recommends adopting and implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, while another is a suggests an increase in CBC and Radio-Canada funding to include the languages and perspectives of Indigenous Peoples.
Other actions include asking the Pope for an apology, which Trudeau has acted on, establishing ways to narrow the healthcare gap between Indigenous Peoples and other Canadians, which some programs are attempting to do, and building residential-school monuments in every provincial and territorial capital.
Trudeau encouraged Canadians to take part in the #NADCanada activities in their community and to learn about the history, cultures and traditions of Indigenous Peoples.