Tuesday we marked the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal Day – a day to celebrate the strong cultures of our First Nations, Inuit and Métis. It's also a day to reflect on the place of our Aboriginal people in Canada today, and honour their journey.
The declaration of National Aboriginal Day came about because the Aboriginal community pushed for it. The Assembly of First Nations and many other Indigenous groups called for a national commemorative day for over a decade before it was made official. We need to honour the path of Canada's Aboriginal people, including the strength and persistence needed to make change.
Canadians have a pathway for change laid out in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 Calls to Action. In addition to calling for National Aboriginal Day to be declared a statutory holiday, there are concrete steps to follow in the areas of child welfare, education, health, language and culture, youth programs, legislative changes and so much more. I would encourage everyone to read these recommendations, and think about what we can do to hold our institutions to account.
In celebration of National Aboriginal Day, there are so many spectacular success stories we can highlight: Melanie Mark, BC's first First Nations woman in the Legislative Assembly, Jody Wilson-Raybould, Canada's newest Minister of Justice, Ashley Callingbull, last year's Mrs. Universe, Joseph Boyden, best-selling author, Wab Kinew, national broadcaster, and so many more.
High-profile examples such as these are important to inspire us, but we also mustn't lose sight of everyday heroes, who honour their Aboriginal heritage in their own way. Seven percent of BCGEU members identify as having Aboriginal, First Nation, Metis or Inuk ancestry, and we are proud to represent members at Aboriginal Services (Community Social Services), the Native Education Centre, the Aboriginal court system and in the BC Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation. They make a positive difference in the lives of First Nations people every single day.
I wish everyone a Happy National Aboriginal Day, from the unceded Coast Salish Territory of the Xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ (Tsleil-Waututh) nations.
For the BCGEU statement on National Aboriginal Day, click here.