Two important histories behind “Canada” Day

 For more information on National Aboriginal Day visit: https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100013248/1100100013249

For more information on National Aboriginal Day visit: https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100013248/1100100013249

This year is being celebrated at Canada’s 150th birthday – but most people don’t have a clear idea of what the political and legal history is behind the “birth” of our nation.

History of Canadian Independence- In 1864, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island were three distinct colonies and were negotiating to become a union. This was primarily motivated by the pursuit of one colonial legislature. The 1864 discussions would be known as the Charlottetown accord.

The Maritime colonies invited Sir John A. McDonald, the premier of the province of Canada (Ontario and Quebec) to join the discussions. Instead of participating, Sir John A. McDonald asked if the province of Canada could join the negotiations in order to solve the political deadlock that it had experienced.

The Charlottetown accord deviated from a Maritime union and focused instead on New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the Province of Canada becoming a federation. A second meeting in Quebec was where the colonial delegates developed a constitutional framework and 72 resolutions that would become part of our founding legislation.

In February of 1867, the final conference was held in London, England. The constitutional framework and the 72 resolutions created at the Quebec conference would become the British North America Act of 1867. The Act was passed and signed by Queen Victoria on March 29th, 1867 and was proclaimed as law on July 1st, 1867, making Canada an independent federation.

Canada Day – To celebrate there are lots of family friend events planned, pancake breakfasts, festivals, the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo, fireworks, community events and free concerts. You can find more information about the schedule for Canada day in HRM on their website.

National Aboriginal Day -  Twenty-one years ago, former Governor General of Canada, Romeo LeBlanc, declared National Aboriginal Day an annual holiday. The Northwest Territories took it a step further and have declared National Aboriginal Day a statutory holiday. June 21st was chosen since it coincides with the Summer Solstice.

National Aboriginal Day is a day to celebrate the heritage and culture of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis. In Halifax, the municipality has scheduled a sunrise ceremony, storytelling, concerts and cultural performances, all happening at the between 10 am and 10 pm in downtown Halifax.

The federal government has a website with more information and you can find details on National Aboriginal Day events in Halifax here:  http://aboriginaldaylive.ca/halifax/schedule/

How do Aboriginal communities’ feel about Canada day? Indigenous people in Canada largely consider themselves Natives first and Canadians second. The 150th anniversary of Canada represents 150 years of colonialization and hardship. There is also a sentiment that Canada day ignores the history of indigenous people dating back thousands of years.  The Constitution Act of 1867 gave the federal government the power to deal with aboriginal reserves. This was during a period when the stated goal of our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, was to “do away with the tribal system, and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the inhabitants of the Dominion.”

Though we have progressed since Confederation, there still exists disparities involving health, housing and poverty that Aboriginal people face every day. As we celebrate National Aboriginal day and Canada day, let us continue to strengthen and heal the relationship between Canadians and its Aboriginal people. This begins with recognition of the historical injustices and sacrifices of the First Nations, the Inuit and the Métis people. Fortunately, the courts have made significant advances in clarifying Aboriginal rights in recent years to right the wrongs and set the conditions for dialogue and healing.  

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By Joshua Samson – Student at Law

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