On celebrating National Aboriginal Day

The following open letter was written by Yukon NDP MLA for Mount Lorne–Southern Lakes Kevin Barr to celebrate National Aboriginal Day:

This Tuesday, all across Canada people will come together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal Day.

National Aboriginal Day was created to recognize the incredible contributions of Canadian Aboriginal peoples, their traditions, their heritage and their cultures. Yukon’s Aboriginal people are a proud bunch, and that pride will be on display throughout our communities this Tuesday.

National Aboriginal Day is a must when it comes to cultural celebrations. Expect good music, great food, dance, storytelling, sporting events and workshops across Yukon that are both a learning experience and loads of fun.

For Canada, National Aboriginal Day is as much a day of reflection as a day of celebration. In its final report, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission stated that reconciliation is not an Aboriginal responsibility, but a Canadian one. One of the TRC’s calls to action was for the creation of a new national holiday to “honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools”.

That is why my colleagues and I pushed hard to make National Aboriginal Day a statutory holiday in Yukon through a motion we proposed, and passed, in the Yukon Legislative Assembly last year. Thanks to the overwhelming support for our campaign by people from across Yukon, the government is consulting on creating a new statutory holiday on June 21st. I encourage everyone to visit the Department of Community Services website to take the survey.

Having National Aboriginal Day as a statutory holiday would signal that Yukon is ready to do its part when it comes to reconciliation. It would provide Yukoners with an opportunity to fully take part in National Aboriginal Day events. Reconciliation starts with building strong relationships; recognizing National Aboriginal Day as a statutory holiday is a great first step towards tightening the bonds between Yukon’s aboriginal and non-aboriginal people.

So make your voice heard, fill in the survey and get on down to your local National Aboriginal Day celebration!


Photo: chrishunkeler / flickr.