On June 21st of each year Canadians celebrate the heritage, cultures and achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Metis. These three groups are recognized by the Canadian Constitution as Aboriginal/Indigenous people of Canada and while there may be some similiarities each group have their own culture, language and spiritual beliefs.
In 1996 Govenor General R Leblanc issued a proclamation declaring June 21st, (coincides with summer soltice, the longest day of the year and this is also the time of year that many Indigenous peoples traditionally celebrated their culture and heritage) of each year “National Aboriginal Day”. Events, gatherings and activities take place in various locations across Canada celebrating the achievements, contributions, culture and heritage of the Aboriginals/Indigenous peoples of Canada.
This is all good but the fact remains that while all these celebrations take place many people find it hard to get the day off work to attend. In most cases the working class need to take a personal vacation day in order to attend and/or participate and in some cases this is even declined.
In 2011 the Northwest Territories was the first province to recognize June 21st as a statutory holiday, and followed by the Yukon in May of this year. Just last week on June 15th, 2017 an MP from Northern Saskatchewan, Georgina Jolibois tabled Bill C-361 that would make National Aboriginal Day a statutory holiday across the country.
The vote for this Bill will take place later this year or early 2018, in the mean time we need to stress to the Federal Government how much this would build and strengthen relationships with all Canadians. Bill C-361 was the first official document put forward but for the past couple years this topic has been discussed, petitions are being circulated and lobbying of the Government taking place.
This year on Wednesday June 21st, 2017 there are festivities taking place in Regina’s Victoria Park, the Gathering place and Grassick Park. Please make plans to attend and help celebrate.
Chair, COPE 397 Aboriginal, Visible Minority & Equity Committee