June 21, 2016 – Today the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) calls on all Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to celebrate the rich heritage, diverse cultures and languages, and spectacular achievements of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples on the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal Day.
President Lavell-Harvard commemorated National Aboriginal Day by attending a traditional Sunrise Ceremony at dawn at the Canadian Museum of History, led by Cree Elders Raymond Ballantyne and Madonna O’Nabigon. Afterwards, President Lavell-Harvard paddled the Ottawa River in a voyageur canoe along with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.
“National Aboriginal Day is not just a day for Indigenous people to celebrate, it is a day for all Canadians to celebrate First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples’ cultures and traditions. This morning’s Sunrise Ceremony marked the beginning of a new relationship for all Canadians – a relationship of respect and unity.” said President Lavell-Harvard.
After many years of consultations with Indigenous leaders and organizations, the Government of Canada announced that National Aboriginal Day would be celebrated every year on June 21, the summer solstice. The announcement was made in 1996 by then Governor General of Canada, Roméo LeBlanc, through the Proclamation Declaring June 21 of Each Year as National Aboriginal Day.
Although many Indigenous organizations have called for the federal government to make National Aboriginal Day a federal statutory holiday, only the Northwest Territories were successful in doing so in 2001, making it the first jurisdiction in Canada to give this day the significance it merits.
The 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal Day also emphasizes the federal government’s commitment to reconciliation and a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples, namely Prime Minister Trudeau’s pledge to implement all of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, including the call for a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is founded on the collective goal to enhance, promote, and foster the social, economic, cultural and political well-being of First Nations and Métis women within First Nation, Métis and Canadian societies. As a national organization representing Aboriginal women since 1974, NWAC’s mandate is to achieve equality for all Aboriginal women in Canada.
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