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Toronto, June 30 (Canadian-Media): A large number of Indigenous people’s decision to boycott the celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday was fully justified, said Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Thursday and made a call to the nation that not everyone will be celebrating Canada 150 the same way and to show respect and understanding to the so-called “reoccupiers”, media reports said.
To clarify their reasons for boycoting the celebrations, indigenous people had posted on social media hashtags like #UNsettleCanada150 and #Resistance150 are all over Twitter and Facebook.
Trudeau, while speaking at an event in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Islands, said he clearly understood the messages, sent by those behind the reoccupation, implying there was nothing to celebrate.
Justin Trudeau. Image credit: Facebook page
Trudeau also said "impatience from many people after decades, centuries of a broken relationship," was understandable and added that the work of reconciliation was about "redefining a relationship and that can't be done overnight."
The indigenous group Idle No More had called upon indigenous people in May to protest on July 1 with a “National Day of Action — Unsettling Canada 150.”
“Our history predates colonization yet we are still being treated like third class citizens even though treaties were signed in good faith on our part,” stated Senator Sandra Lovelace Nicholas, an indigenous woman from the Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick, Thursday and added she would not be celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday.
“We are of the opinion that we will celebrate when all treaties are settled, all First Nations children enjoy equality in education, health care, safe drinking water, quality housing and governance in our own land,” she said.
Carolyn Bennett, Canada’s Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs and the Member of Parliament for the riding of Toronto -- with an intention of to drawing attention to the disparities between the city and life on Shoal Lake 40 First Nation -- said there would be protests on Canada Day picnic in her Toronto ridings as well as on an event in Winnipeg,.
For two decades, she said, there had been a lack of clean running water for Winnipeg community, situated on the side of the lake where Winnipeg gets its water.
There had been a clash between the police security forces in Ottawa with the Bawaating Water Protectors, an indigenous group from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, leading to arrests of a nine people when they attempted to set up a teepee on the site for Saturday’s Canada Day festivities Wednesday night on Parliament Hill.
With an estimated half a million people to descend on Parliament Hill for Canada Day this year, security is higher than usual in Ottawa.
“We just have to make sure that we deal with both what are going to be historic crowds on Canada Day on the Hill but also deal with people in a respectful and a responsible way,” Trudeau told a news conference.
“That’s what I expect of our security services and that’s what I am expecting to see.”
The arrested members were later on released, but the indigenous group decided to set up the teepee on the edge of the fenced parliamentary grounds away from the rest of the site.
Organizer Brendon Nahwegezhic tried to clarify that they were there not to protest, but to create awareness among Canadians about the historical fact of the genocide and the assimilations but the group planned to engaging in indigenous ceremonies, for the next four days, including sharing circles and sacred fires.
“We are on Algonquin territory and we do have that right to practice our traditions,” Nahwegezhic said
“When Trudeau talks about truth and reconciliation, we won’t be able to get to the reconciliation part until the truth is exposed and in the open and told properly.”
“Unfortunately, it seems to be getting misconstrued by politics and whatnot,” he said.
Jessica Bolduc, who been on a lifelong reconciliation journey, was with the Sault Ste. Marie group and said much work needed to be done before anyone can say Canada had achieved reconciliation.
“I think Canada has one sort of view and way in which they engage with the world around them and then there is the Indigenous experience,” said Bolduc.
“We talk about this smart and caring nation, but don’t acknowledge that those privileges aren’t afforded to indigenous peoples in the same way that they are to folks who have settled here, whether that was 200 years ago or to people who we are welcoming here today in a ceremony of becoming Canadian,” she said.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)