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National Aboriginal Day in B.C.; Vancouver mayor declares 'Year of Reconciliation'

The Kwakwaka
The Kwakwaka'wakw house and pole in Victoria's Thunderbird Park (taken in 2006).
— image credit: Photo: Wikimedia Commons

It's National Aboriginal Day in Canada and in British Columbia, although the event's news has surely been pushed down the depth chart in most newsrooms, what with floods in Calgary, southern Alberta, and eastern B.C. updated every five minutes and John Tortorella's presumed signing with the Vancouver Canucks apparently imminent.

The Day is being celebrated and discussed all across Canada, be it a slate of events scheduled for the prairie province of Manitoba – Metis and Aboriginal events in the Forks and Memorial Park, some starting at 5 a.m. this morning – or a First Nations group march on Ottawa's Parliament Hill.

National Aboriginal Day was started in 1996. Here is some news of note:

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"Vancouver proclaims a Year of Reconciliation with Aboriginal peoples" (CTV News)

Mayor Gregor Robertson made his announcement on Thursday night – the eve of National Aboriginal Day – with members of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, as well as Reconciliation Canada, the First Nations Leadership Council and the Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council.

The Year of Reconciliation will be a series of programs and events from today (June 21) to June 20, 2014, intended to spur discussion and "reconciliation" through gatherings, dialogues, public education, and the arts.

Robertson said the Year will tackle various "historic impacts" that have long left a cleft between Aboriginal communites and the rest of community.

"Among those impacts are the tragedies wrought by residential schools," reported CTV, "which the city estimates affected at least 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children who were taken from their families to be assimilated into Canadian culture."

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Premier Christy Clark posted the following statement on the Government of B.C.'s website:

"June 21, National Aboriginal Day, is a day for Canadians to come together and recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, cultures, and contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples.

"Aboriginal people play a vital role in our province's culture and economy. Through the BC Jobs Plan and the transformative opportunity presented by natural gas, we are partnering with First Nations throughout the province to strengthen their communities, and to ensure that all British Columbians share in the benefits from our natural resources.

"We must build on our successes and continue to work together toward job creation, non-treaty and revenue-sharing agreements, and negotiating final treaties with those First Nations who want them.

"I hope all British Columbians will take the opportunity to celebrate the living culture of Aboriginal Peoples. There is a huge diversity of Aboriginal traditions and experiences, each truly unique and inspiring."

Victoria also announced that new Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, John Rustad, will be at two events in northern B.C., in Prince Rupert and Burns Lake:

"In the morning, Rustad takes part in the National Aboriginal Day event at Fort George Park in Prince George. He will join Lheidli T'enneh Chief Dominic Frederick and Mary Teegee, the Carrier Sekani executive director of child and family services, at the opening of this popular event.

"In the evening, Rustad will be in Burns Lake to take part in the Memorial Powwow for Kyle Daniels, a young man from Burns Lake who passed away in 2011."

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BC NDP leader Adrian Dix released a statement on the provincial party's website.

"On this day, we remember extraordinary achievements past and present, and applaud the many aboriginal leaders who inspire their communities, both here in B.C. and across Canada," Dix said.

"We also consider the discrimination and impoverishment that Aboriginal people in B.C. still face as they strive to bring positive change in their communities, and achieve real representation in the decisions of government.

"While we have much to celebrate this year, important work remains to be done. We will continue to call for our government to engage meaningfully with B.C. First Nations to address injustices past and present, and to take real action to support positive growth and achievement in Aboriginal communities."

Click the link for the full statement.

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First Nations groups march on Ottawa's Parliament Hill (CTV News)

150 people from First Nations groups marched onto Ottawa's hill this morning, not necessarily a protest but a "walk for unity" and a "sacred journey for future generations". However, reports said tensions and frustrations were still evident during the march, with thoughts from December's and January's Idle No More protests still on the minds of those on their way up to Parliament Hill.

Those protests were in response to the Conservative government's Bill C-45, which First Nations groups say threatens their treaty rights.

Federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair told CTV, "I can tell from having talked to hundreds of representatives of First Nations that that frustration is palpable, it's growing, especially amongst the young people... We're going to see a lot of activity on this file during the summer."

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Winnipeg is one of the more active major Canadian cities on National Aboriginal Day, due largely to the province's Metis history and the Forks (the city's area at the meeting of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers), and do Winnipeg's waterways physical connection to the Mississippi River, according to this video by Visit Winnipeg:

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