Canadian Press
First Nations reiterate call for unity and partnership on the 149th Canada Day, July 1, 2016.

Canada Day: Indigenous Peoples Reiterate Call for Reconciliation and Unity


July 1 is Canada’s birthday, and this year marks its 149th.

It’s a year that has seen the residential school era finally termed “cultural genocide,” the election of a Prime Minister who has vowed to work with Indigenous Peoples on an equal footing, and the announcement that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples would be made into law.

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On this day, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) reminded the rest of the country that Indigenous Peoples were integral in the founding of Canada and need to be recognized as such.

“Canada Day is an opportunity to consider the tremendous contributions of First Nations to this land and all the people who live here,” said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde in a statement. “Canada was founded on Treaties and our nation-to-nation relationship with the Crown, sacred promises based on peaceful co-existence, mutual respect and sharing.”

The role of First Nations is not just historic, Bellegarde emphasized.

“These agreements and promises are not simply part of our past. They are living agreements that are part of our present and our shared future. That relationship is the way forward,” he said.

“In this time of Truth and Reconciliation, I ask Canadians to support our efforts to work towards a new future and a new Canada, one where we close the gap in the quality of life between First Nations and others, and one where we honour and respect inherent rights, Aboriginal rights, Treaty rights, and title as envisioned in our original relationship,” Bellegarde said.

Thus, Bellegarde said, the way forward involves actually adopting and incorporating the U.N. Declaration into federal law and implement the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which are “our guide to true reconciliation and a brighter future for us all,” Bellegarde said. “This must be our goal. A stronger, more just country for all of us will ensure that all the peoples of this land have reason to celebrate when we join together next year to mark Canada’s 150th birthday.”

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