Canada immigration news: Ottawa has moved to enact another recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission by allowing indigenous people to use their indigenous names, as written, on passports and other immigration documents.
“Supporting First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in reclaiming and using their indigenous names is an integral part of the shared journey of reconciliation,” said Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino in a statement.
“Traditional names are deeply connected to indigenous languages and cultures, and an individual’s identity and dignity. This change means that indigenous peoples can proudly reclaim their name, dismantling the legacy of colonialism and reflecting their true identity to the world.”
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Ottawa’s move to allow indigenous people to use their indigenous names on these documents is the latest in a series of steps take by the federal government to implement recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
The commission, whose mandate was to inform Canadians about what had happened during the time the residential schools were in operation, came back after six years with six-volume final report to Canada’s federal government. It contained 94 recommendations, or calls to action.
Statement of Respect in Oath of Citizenship
Among them is a change to the oath of citizenship recited by all those seeking to become Canadian citizens. The legislation to change the oath of citizenship, Bill C-8, An Act to Amend the Citizenship Act, has already cleared the House of Commons and the Senate and had only to receive royal assent, the final step needed to make it become the law of the land, last Thursday.
“The oath of citizenship is more than words. It’s a declaration of belonging,” tweeted Mendicino earlier this month.
“The oath will now recognize First Nations, Inuit and Métis rights and treaties, fulfilling call to action 94 and ensuring new Canadians understand their important role in our past and present.”
Under the previous oath of citizenship, new Canadians stated: “I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.”
The oath is to be changed to: “I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”
Allowing Use of Indigenous Names a Key Recommendation of TRC
In that same spirit, Ottawa is also acting to put in action the TRC’s 17th recommendation regarding passports – and even going one step further to include travel documents, citizenship certificates, and permanent resident cards. Canada is providing that for not only residential school survivors and their families but all indigenous people in Canada.
Under a new, streamlined service, the reclamation of indigenous names is supposed to be faster and more efficient – and free for five years.
“For far too long, Canada’s colonial legacy has disrupted indigenous peoples’ indigenous naming practices and family connections from being recognized,” said Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller.
“Today’s announcement creates the space for all First Nations, Inuit and Métis to reclaim their traditional identity and the dignity of their indigenous names on status cards, Canadian passports and other immigration documents, including travel documents, citizenship certificates and permanent resident cards,” he said.
“We will continue to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and renew our nation-to-nation Inuit-Crown, and government-to-government relationship with indigenous peoples in Canada.
Graves of 215 Children at Kamloops Residential School Shocked Nation
Ottawa’s move to enact the recommendations of the TRC comes in the wake of what appears to be a gruesome discovery, the bodies of 215 children allegedly found buried on the site of a residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia.
That discovery has shocked indigenous peoples and made headlines around the world.
In an attempt to provide some solace for residential school survivors at this time, Ottawa has set up a toll-free counseling line for indigenous people.
“We encourage all those who need some support at this time to reach out and know that support is always there for you through the Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310 or the online chat at hopeforwellness.ca, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” the Canadian government has stated in a release.
“Also, for immediate assistance to those who may need it, the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419.”
Carolyn Bennett, Canada’s minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, described Ottawa’s move to enact the TRC’s calls to action as important first steps in reversing colonial policies and restoring dignity and pride in the identity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.
“Supporting indigenous peoples in reclaiming their indigenous names is vital to achieving meaningful and lasting reconciliation as we work to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action,” she said.
According to the 2016 census, there are about 1.67 million people in Canada who identify themselves as indigenous, about 4.9 per cent of the Canadian population.