Phil Fontaine spoke at talk organized by The Walrus magazine in Saskatoon on Monday evening.
Read Phil Fontaine's full speech below.
“The 150th anniversary of Confederation is upon us. The starting point for nationwide celebrations of this very important anniversary is Canada’s origin story, namely that we are a nation founded by two founding peoples - the French and the British. Confederation is being held up as a monumental achievement forming our Canadian identity as a nation, as well as providing the foundation for the free and democratic nation we believe ourselves to be. In that constitutional framework, British and French languages, religions, systems of law, and cultures are protected for all time.
So what is missing from this story? The contributions to Canada from Indigenous peoples are missing, as we too were Founders of Canada.
Canada would not have been formed in 1867 had the Indigenous peoples not made the fur trade possible.
Our contributions sustained this part of our economy for 250years. But by far the most important contribution to the formation of our country were our Treaties. Treaties that resulted in the take up of the most valuable and richest land for settlement and resource development. The Treaty relationship underscored the idea that peaceful coexistence for the central theme in the relationship between Canada and the Indigenous peoples.
In 1876, shortly after Confederation, Parliament passed the Indian Act; a prohibitive, racist, discriminatory piece of legislation that not only ignored our contributions, it denied the integrity of our peoples. it subjugated us as wards of the state. It essentially made us non-citizens in our own country. Ever since, we have been on the outside looking in, not a part of Confederation, not even full citizens. We have no language protection no protection of our laws, no pro of our cultures.
So how do we tell the true origin story of Canada? The true origin story can only be told if Parliament formally, through legislation, recognizes that there are three founding peoples of Canada: the British, the French, and the Indigenous peoples.
So what would this accomplish? It would set the record straight. It would make Canada whole. The correct and powerful narrative of Canada’s origins will become part of the shared story of every Canadian for generations to come. It will open up possibilities for genuine and lasting reconciliation. Finally, it would be a moment for the ages that all Canadian, including our Peoples, could finally celebrate in the true sense of the word the founding of Canada, our country."
Image Credit - CBC