Idle No More supporters gathered outside the Canadian Museum of Civilization on Monday afternoon as part of a worldwide mass day of action to mark the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, a historic document that legally mandated Canada to recognize indigenous land rights.
Heavy rain dampened the event in Gatineau, Que., where 20 to 30 people gathered to mark the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation, while another 80 Idle No More supporters gathered to protest at Dundurn Castle in Hamilton.
In downtown Calgary, a small group of people gathered in Tomkins Park.
“The world is watching Canada,” said Wendy Walker, one of the Calgary organizers. “We’ve been pretty patient, I think. For 250 years we have been waiting and holding that promise that they would keep their word, that they would honour the treaties. That they would honour our land, protect our water, protect our air so that we could protect our children and our grandchildren.”
The rallies also coincide with the official visit by United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples James Anaya, who begins his nine-day visit to Canada to gauge the progress of the human rights situation of the indigenous peoples of this country.
Earlier on Monday, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt spoke at a symposium held at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Politicians, academics and aboriginal leaders were on hand to commemorate one of the most important documents in Canadian history.
"While progress is being made, we know there is much more work to be done. And that requires commitment and co-operation on all sides," Valcourt said.
"We all want results that make a real difference and we need to see those results faster."
"We can revitalize and enhance the treaty relationship to bring forward positive and practical outcomes. Together we can build a stronger and more prosperous Canada," the minister of aboriginal affairs said.
Meanwhile, speaking at a news conference in Ottawa, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo said the anniversary was an opportunity to reflect and reset the relationship between the Crown and First Nations.
"For 250 years the laws and policies of federal governments have been paternalistic at best, and assimilationist at worst…we must resolve the long-standing issues of First Nations control over our lands and our lives," Atleo said.
Atleo said he welcomed the public statements made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnston on this important day.
“On this anniversary, it is important that we honour the critical role that aboriginals have played in shaping Canada as we know it today," Harper said.
The prime minister noted that aboriginal people are the youngest and fastest growing segment of this country's population, and it is "in our collective interest to help ensure that aboriginal youth receive the education and skills training they need to secure good jobs and prosper."
Harper said he looked forward to "making further progress together."
Johnston said today's anniversary is "an important occasion for all Canadians — aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike."
The Royal Proclamation of 1763 as enshrined in our Constitution "recognizes a fundamental truth about Canada: that we are stronger when we respect one another’s differences and when we work together," Johnston said.
The Governor General encouraged all Canadians to learn about this "essential" part of our history.
Atleo and Valcourt were scheduled to spend the afternoon meeting with students in Ottawa to commemorate the importance and significance of the Royal Proclamation of 1763.