Soleil Steffes

Aboriginal Day statutory holiday idea gains traction

Metchosin motion to be presented at UBCM this fall

A passionate presentation by Charla Huber moved Metchosin council to endorse a motion to designate National Aboriginal Day as a national statutory holiday.

Speaking at the June 27 regular meeting of council, Huber, a former News Gazette reporter of Chipewayan ancestry, spoke about how the holiday could bridge cultures and create more understanding between native and non-native people.

“We could use June 21 as a tool to educate people and build relationships,” said Huber, who helped organize an Aboriginal Day festival that day in Langford in conjunction with the official opening of the M’akola Housing’s residential project and new M’akola head office on Goldstream Avenue.

Huber, executive assistant and communications co-ordinator for the society, was inspired by the fact close to 600 people attended, including four school groups and representatives from 10 First Nations, with traditional drum and dance groups performing.

In asking for Metchosin council’s support, Huber pointed out that although June 21 marked the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal Day, it is only considered a statutory holiday in the Northwest Territories.

“If all children were raised to celebrate that day together, there would be less divide, more understanding and acceptance,” she said. “Youth need to be proud of their roots and where they came from.”

In addition, society as a whole would benefit from a foundation that creates leaders for the future, she added.

Coun. Moralea Milne said she was moved by Huber’s presentation, adding that she was articulate and spoke from the heart.

“Most non-natives can’t attend Aboriginal Day celebrations when they fall on a week day,” she noted. “First Nations are the people who founded this nation … who deserves respect more?”

Milne also appreciated that Carmen Driechel from Fortis B.C., a major sponsor of the Aboriginal Day celebration in Langford, supported the call for a national holiday. “It’s great to see a major corporation getting behind this as well,” Milne noted.

Metchosin council had to approve the motion by the June 30 deadline to be in time for it to be brought forward and debated at the 2016 Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention, which happens in Victoria in September.

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