Leaders of Métis Nation, First Nations and Inuit joined Prime Minister Trudeau today in a ceremony marking further steps on road to reconciliation including the transformation of the former U.S. Embassy building facing Parliament into a new space for Indigenous Peoples.
In a ceremony in front of the building on 100 Wellington Street, the Prime Minister announced the Government of Canada’s intent to work in full partnership with representatives of First Nations, Inuit, and the Métis Nation on next steps in the design and redevelopment of the property to ensure it becomes an inclusive space that reflects the vision of Indigenous Peoples and the spirit of reconciliation.
According to the Prime Minister: “Together, we have taken the first steps in what we know will be a multigenerational journey toward reconciliation. We have a lot of hard work ahead, and it is to all of our benefit that Indigenous Peoples be given a lead role in shaping the future of this country. This new space – located so close to Parliament Hill – will help ensure that the dialogue we have started is sustained and deepened as we move forward together.”
In his remarks to the gathering on Wellington Street which was closed to traffic for the ceremony, Métis Nation President Chartier stated:
“Parliament and the power it represents remains far removed from our people, their needs, their hopes, their dreams. But today’s transfer is an important step toward bridging that gap. It provides the Métis Nation with an eye on Parliament and provides Parliament and, indeed, all of Canada with an eye on us.”
Chartier was joined at the historic event by President Chartrand of the Manitoba Métis Federation, President Poitras of Métis Nation of Alberta, President Froh of Métis Nation of Ontario and recently elected President McCallum of the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan. He thanked the Prime Minister and Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett for their sincerity in establishing a Permanent Bilateral Mechanism to co-develop policies and programs that address the needs of Métis people. He concluded by saying:
“Days away from the 150th anniversary of Confederation, today’s ceremony personifies the potential for a renewed, vibrant federation that includes the Métis Nation. And we hope that by 2020, when we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the creation of the Province of Manitoba by our forebearers, the realization of that potential will be well underway.”
Minister Bennett noted in an interview that the building is a prime piece of real estate and it will send a clear signal that First Nations, Inuit and Metis people represent the most important relationship to Canada. “It looks straight to the Parliament buildings,” she said. “So it is location, location, location.”
Prime Minister Trudeau made two further announcements in the spirit of reconciliation. The Langevin Block, which sits across the street from Parliament Hill and houses the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office, will be officially renamed the Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council. Keeping the name of Sir Hector-Louis Langevin – an individual associated with the residential school system – on the Prime Minister’s Office was deemed to be inconsistent with the federal government’s vision of building a nation-to-nation, government-to-government relationship with Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
The Prime Minister also announced that National Aboriginal Day will henceforth be referred to as National Indigenous Peoples Day consistent with Canada’s compliance with the spirit and intent of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.