First Na­tions high­way signs on road to rec­on­cil­i­a­tion

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS / MANITOBA - LARRY KUSCH larry.kusch@freep­ress.mb.ca

CALL­ING it a step to­wards rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with In­dige­nous peo­ple, the fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments will be in­stalling new high­way signs rec­og­niz­ing First Na­tion com­mu­ni­ties in Man­i­toba over the next three years.

Each of the two lev­els of gov­ern­ment will con­trib­ute $200,000 to the project to pur­chase and in­stall di­rec­tional high­way and com­mu­nity-bound­ary signs that will re­flect the tra­di­tional name of each com­mu­nity.

First Na­tions will be con­sulted to en­sure the word­ing of signs is cor­rect, the gov­ern­ments said. Cur­rently, most signage does not re­flect com­mu­ni­ties’ tra­di­tional names.

“This is a unique project. I’m very proud of it. I think this is a step to­wards rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, a step to­wards rec­og­niz­ing the unique cul­ture and lan­guage of First Na­tions in Man­i­toba,” Saint Boni­face-Saint Vi­tal MP Dan Van­dal said at the an­nounce­ment Fri­day at the Man­i­toba Leg­isla­tive Build­ing.

“With these new signs, we are rec­og­niz­ing the mean­ing and sig­nif­i­cance of tra­di­tional names, as well as the cul­ture and lan­guage as­so­ci­ated with them.” In­fra­struc­ture Min­is­ter Ron Schuler, whose de­part­ment will in­stall the signs, said the prov­ince places high­way signs rec­og­niz­ing towns that don’t even ex­ist any­more, yet there are First Na­tions in Man­i­toba that are not marked on the prov­ince’s high­ways.

“Why wouldn’t we give recog­ni­tion if there’s 1,600 peo­ple liv­ing in a com­mu­nity and they’ve never even had recog­ni­tion that their com­mu­nity even ex­ists, con­sid­er­ing they were there first?” he said.

Schuler said the project will im­prove com­mu­nity vis­i­bil­ity from the prov­ince’s ma­jor high­ways.

There were no First Na­tions lead­ers at Fri­day’s an­nounce­ment. How­ever, Belinda Van­denBroeck, a mem­ber of Opaskwayak Cree Na­tion, who said a prayer be­fore the event, said it was im­por­tant cul­tur­ally cor­rect signage be in­stalled.

“Our lan­guage is so, so im­por­tant,” the res­i­den­tial school sur­vivor said. “We can’t af­ford to lose it. We need to keep speak­ing it, think­ing it, liv­ing from it.”

LARRY KUSCH / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

In­fra­struc­ture Min­is­ter Ron Schuler (from left), In­dige­nous and North­ern Re­la­tions Min­is­ter Eileen Clarke, OCN mem­ber Belinda Van­denBroeck and MP Dan Van­dal pose with one of the new First Na­tion high­way signs on Fri­day.

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