Manitoba

Manitoba government kicks off early National Aboriginal Day celebrations

The Manitoba government celebrated National Aboriginal Day early with an event outside the provincial legislature today.

Provincial government also marks 25th anniversary of Elijah Harper's stand on Meech Lake Accord

Members of the Spirit Sands Drum Group perform at a National Aboriginal Day celebration outside the Manitoba legislature on Tuesday. (CBC)

The Manitoba government celebrated National Aboriginal Day early with an event outside the provincial legislature today.

Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Minister Eric Robinson (standing on stage) hosted the National Aboriginal Day event on Tuesday. He was joined by Attorney-General Gord Mackintosh, left, former AFN national chief Phil Fontaine and Holly and Bruce Harper, the children of Elijah Harper. (Pierre Verrière/Radio-Canada)
Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Minister Eric Robinson hosted the noon-hour celebration on Tuesday, which included performances by the Spirit Sands Drum Group and the country group C-Weed Band.

Premier Greg Selinger, Attorney General Gord Mackintosh and former AFN national chief Phil Fontaine were among the dignitaries who spoke at the event.

Robinson said in addition to marking National Aboriginal Day, which will take place Sunday, the event coincides with the 25th anniversary of the debate over the Meech Lake Accord.

In June 1990, Elijah Harper — who at the time was the only aboriginal MLA in Manitoba — rose in the provincial legislature and blocked support of the accord, which ultimately collapsed.

"His actions marked a new era of indigenous leadership.  It was soon after that historic moment when First Nation, Inuit, and Métis people took their rightful spot on the national stage of politics," Robinson said in a news release.

"All Manitobans are welcome to attend today's festivities where they can see, enjoy and celebrate indigenous culture."

June 21 was proclaimed as National Aboriginal Day by then-governor general Roméo Leblanc in 1996.

Robinson said while most Canada jurisdictions don't recognize Aboriginal Day as a statutory holiday — it's a holiday only in the Northwest Territories — it's a time for all Canadians to celebrate the heritage, cultures, achievements and contributions of Aboriginal Peoples.

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