Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut June 22, 2017 - 11:00 am

PM Trudeau renames Ottawa building and National Aboriginal Day

"[This is] an important step in the path of reconciliation"

Inuit leaders attended events on Parliament Hill June 21 for the newly-renamed National Indigenous Peoples Day. (PHOTO COURTESY OF ITK)
Inuit leaders attended events on Parliament Hill June 21 for the newly-renamed National Indigenous Peoples Day. (PHOTO COURTESY OF ITK)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is responding to calls from Indigenous MPs to rename a federal government building in Ottawa, which is named after one of the architects of Canada’s residential school system.

Trudeau used June 21, National Aboriginal Day, to announce the government’s plans to rename the Langevin Block on Parliament Hill.

The building at 80 Wellington St. was named after Sir Hector-Louis Langevin, a lawyer, journalist and politician from Quebec City who served as a minister under Sir John A. Macdonald’s government and notably as superintendent of Indian Affairs.

During that period, Langevin advocated for a residential school system that would separate “savages” from their families with the goal of creating a more “civilized” people.

Now, the building will become simply the Office of the Prime Minister and the Privy Council.

“Together, we have taken the first steps in what we know will be a multi-generational journey toward reconciliation,” Trudeau said in a June 21 release. “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.”

A few doors down, Trudeau also announced that a new space will be established for Indigenous peoples at 100 Wellington St., the former site of the United States embassy.

The federal government pledged to work with representatives of the Indigenous communities in the design and redevelopment of the building to ensure it becomes “an inclusive space that reflects the vision of Indigenous Peoples.”

Trudeau also used the occasion to re-name the day National Indigenous Peoples Day to reflect a more current and inclusive term for Canada’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit.

Inuit leaders took part in celebrations on Parliament Hill June 21, many welcoming the government’s gestures.

In a public speech in front of 100 Wellington St., Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed called the new space “an important step in the path of reconciliation.”

On social media, Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna called the federal government’s announcements “meaningful and encouraging as we continue to step forward together.”

In the early 1990s, Indigenous leaders and later the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples called on the government to designate a day for First Peoples in Canada.

National Aboriginal Day was officially launched in 1996, choosing the summer solstice as the day to recognize and celebrate Canada’s Indigenous communities.

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