Cap­i­tal should hon­our abo­rig­i­nals, NCC says

New plan for cap­i­tal to bet­ter re­flect in­flu­ence of First Na­tions on re­gion

Ottawa Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - MO­HAMMED ADAM

First Na­tions’ his­toric role needs to be told, says CEO Marie Lemay,

The chief ex­ec­u­tive of the National Cap­i­tal Com­mis­sion says abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple de­serve proper rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Ot­tawa, and the new plan for the cap­i­tal will see to it.

Marie Lemay told The Cit­i­zen that she sym­pa­thizes with abo­rig­i­nal lead­ers who com- plain about the lack of recog­ni­tion for First Na­tions, de­spite their his­toric role in the national cap­i­tal re­gion. She prom­ises that their con­cerns will be ad­dressed when the fi­nal blue­print is drawn up.

“One of the things we’ve been talk­ing about is that the cap­i­tal needs to tell the story of Cana­di­ans, and that in- cludes abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple,” Lemay said. “When we come back and start look­ing at the plan, that will be an ab­so­lutely im­por­tant com­po­nent, es­pe­cially when we are talk­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tion. Maybe we will be able to do a lot of things that will make a dif­fer­ence.”

At an Ot­tawa Abo­rig­i­nal Peo­ples Di­a­logue sever- al weeks ago, na­tive lead­ers said it was un­ac­cept­able that mon­u­ments cel­e­brat­ing Canada’s English and French her­itage could be found ev­ery­where in the cap­i­tal, but no statue, park or street rec­og­nized First Na­tion peo­ple.

They were crit­i­cal of what they per­ceive to be de­lib­er­ate ne­glect of Al­go­nquin cul­ture and her­itage. They see it as a de­lib­er­ate at­tempt to make abo­rig­i­nals in­vis­i­ble in their an­ces­tral land.

The sug­ges­tions from the abo­rig­i­nal gath­er­ing in­cluded de­mands that key land­marks rec­og­nize the Anishin­abeg an­ces­tral ter­ri­tory in the national cap­i­tal re­gion; an av­enue or gar­den of flags be cre­ated as a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of First Na­tions, Metis and Inuit sym­bols; the com­ple­tion of the long-pro­posed Abo­rig­i­nal Cen­tre on Vic­to­ria Is­land, and the erec­tion of mon­u­ments or com­mem­o­ra­tions to high­light the abo­rig­i­nal con­tri­bu­tion to Canada’s his­tory.

In par­tic­u­lar, many wanted a land­mark such as Vic­to­ria Is­land, Jac­ques Cartier Park or Welling­ton Street named af­ter the late Al­go­nquin spir­i­tual leader Wil­liam Com­manda.

Lemay said one of the aims of the di­a­logue ini­ti­ated by the NCC and con­sul­ta­tions held across the coun­try, was to get a sense of what needed to be done and how best to do it. She noted that the NCC of­ten cel­e­brates the abo­rig­i­nal char­ac­ter of the cap­i­tal and tries to tell that story through many of its events, pro­grams and cel­e­bra­tions. But there’s no doubt more needs to be done.

“What we are try­ing to get from that group is, how do we tell that part of the story? Is it through in­ter­pre­ta­tion, events, mon­u­ments? How do we do it?” she said.

“We’ve al­ways done it in a cer­tain way, but is it re­ally the best way? What we are say­ing is ‘tell us if there is a bet­ter way.’ ”

But Lemay said that as the ideas from around the coun­try are con­densed into a re­port that will form the ba­sis of a new plan, peo­ple should be re­al­is­tic about their de­mands be­cause there are lim­its to what the NCC can do.

The Abo­rig­i­nal Cen­tre on Vic­to­ria Is­land for in­stance, has been one of the National Cap­i­tal Com­mis­sion’s top pri­or­i­ties for years, but the fund­ing has not been there to match the am­bi­tion.

“You have to be re­al­is­tic about what we can do and can­not do, but let’s have a dis­cus­sion about what can be done,” she said.

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