Topic: Indigenous

Canadian prime minister renames National Aboriginal Day

By Leah Te Whata

The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced the renaming of National Aboriginal Day to National Indigenous Peoples Day. Trudeau says Canadians come together on this day to recognize contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Metis people.

Native Canadian nations are celebrating their culture and heritage today. Thousands of indigenous and non-indigenous Canadian residents have gathered in honor of National Aboriginal Day, which will soon be recognized as National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Native Canadian Centre of Toronto Cultural Advisor, Michael Etherington says, "The key factor for this particular day that has been in effect for I'd say about 21 years now and has been a pivotal role in establishing our key aspects of what we've contributed to the social fabric of Canada. Also, I think to recognize the historical past, the colonial legacy and how do we establish a reconciliation process."

National Aboriginal Day often coincides with the summer solstice, which is a significant time in many indigenous societies. This year it also coincides with the rare 'Strawberry Moon.' According to Omushkego - Cree descendant Michael Etherington, this is traditionally a time of truth and reconciliation.

"When we make reference to truth and reconciliation it's still an ongoing process. It's present but we cannot forget in those certain manners, there are still ongoing injustices within this country. in the north specifically I do share sentiments with my family. There are successes and challenges, but at times those challenges may carry more weight than those successes themselves," Etherington adds. 

Today is not a statutory holiday in Canada, though some say it should be in order to enable citizens to attend celebrations such as the Ottawa Summer Solstice Aboriginal Arts Festival which attracts more than 45,000 visitors annually.

Prime minister Trudeau addressed the public across from Parliament Hill which is expected to become a space dedicated to indigenous people. Consultations are set to take place with indigenous communities in coming weeks to help determine how the space will be used.