In­dige­nous MPs crit­i­cize re­nam­ing of PMO HQ

Ottawa Citizen - - NP - MAURA FOR­REST

OT­TAWA • The fed­eral gov­ern­ment is re­nam­ing the build­ing hous­ing the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice so that it no longer bears the name of a father of Con­fed­er­a­tion and an ar­chi­tect of the res­i­den­tial school sys­tem.

But two of the MPs who asked for the change says the new name isn’t good enough.

The build­ing, which is across from Par­lia­ment Hill, was known as the Langevin Block in recog­ni­tion of Hec­tor-Louis Langevin. It will now be known as the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter and Privy Coun­cil, Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau an­nounced on Wed­nes­day, National Aboriginal Day.

“We’ve heard from you ... and from many in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties in the past year that there is a deep pain in know­ing that that build­ing car­ries a name so closely as­so­ci­ated with the hor­ror of res­i­den­tial schools,” Trudeau said.

Romeo Sa­ganash, the NDP’s in­dige­nous af­fairs critic, rose in the House of Com­mons to speak in Cree to crit­i­cize the choice.

“The prime min­is­ter wants to change the name of the build­ing that houses his of­fice. But did he con­sult with the Al­go­nquin peo­ple? Or did he at least con­sult with the Penosh­way fam­ily?” he said in a trans­la­tion pro­vided to the National Post by the NDP.

Sa­ganash claims the Penosh­way fam­ily was re­moved from the land where Par­lia­ment Hill is lo­cated be­fore the Par­lia­ment build­ings were con­structed in the mid-1800s.

In­dige­nous lead­ers, in­clud­ing Sa­ganash, As­sem­bly of First Na­tions National Chief Perry Bel­le­garde, Lib­eral MPs Robert-Fal­con Ouel­lette and Don Rus­nak, and In­de­pen­dent MP Hunter Tootoo, be­gan call­ing for the name change in Fe­bru­ary.

Georgina Joli­bois, the NDP MP who tabled leg­is­la­tion this month call­ing for National Aboriginal Day to be a statu­tory hol­i­day, said Trudeau should have first con­sulted in­dige­nous MPs.

“It is just an­other build­ing say­ing the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice,” she said. “That’s fine, but it ... is still a colo­nial sys­tem. It doesn’t re­ally sig­nify an aboriginal name, an aboriginal his­tor­i­cal per­son.”

Bel­le­garde, how­ever, ap­plauded the an­nounce­ment, call­ing it “part of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.”

“That’s part of re­build­ing that na­tion-to-na­tion re­la­tion­ship” he said.

But Sa­ganash said the new name is “a reaf­fir­ma­tion of the colo­nial in­sti­tu­tion that we’ve been fac­ing for all these years.”

He ad­dressed the prime min­is­ter ex­clu­sively in Cree dur­ing ques­tion pe­riod Wed­nes­day, in protest of a re­cent Speaker’s rul­ing that the House doesn’t have the ca­pac­ity to trans­late in­dige­nous lan­guages, as it does English and French.

Trudeau was forced to an­swer with­out know­ing what he’d been asked.

“I thank the mem­ber op­po­site for his words and wish I had the ca­pac­ity to un­der­stand the strong cul­ture and lan­guage that he shared with us to­day,” he said.

Langevin, a lawyer and Con­ser­va­tive MP from Que­bec who died in 1906, was a pro­po­nent of sep­a­rat­ing in­dige­nous chil­dren from their par­ents to as­sim­i­late them.

His name has al­ready been ex­punged from a bridge in Cal­gary, which was re­cently re­named Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Bridge.

On Wed­nes­day, Trudeau also an­nounced that 100 Welling­ton St. in Ot­tawa, the site of the for­mer U.S. em­bassy across from Par­lia­ment Hill, will be con­verted into a new space for abo­rig­i­nals.

“We hope that this place in the heart of our cap­i­tal will serve as a per­ma­nent re­minder that in­dige­nous peo­ples are at the very heart of this great land,” he said.

National Aboriginal Day it­self will also be re­named National In­dige­nous Peo­ples Day, start­ing next year.

The gov­ern­ment has not in­di­cated whether it will sup­port an NDP pri­vate mem­ber’s bill to have the day de­clared a statu­tory hol­i­day.


The Langevin Block, which houses the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice, will be re­named, it was an­nounced Wed­nes­day.


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