Nova Scotia

Halifax playing host to two major Indigenous gatherings in 2020

Next year, Halifax will play host to one of the largest gatherings of Indigenous people in Canadian history. The Assembly of First Nations will hold its annual general assembly just before the opening of the North American Indigenous Games.

Assembly of First Nations chiefs coming just before North American Indigenous Games

Eskasoni First Nation singer Kalolin Johnson performs at a news conference Monday in Halifax to announce the location of the 2020 Assembly of First Nations meeting and the North American Indigenous Games. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

First Nations chiefs from across Canada have chosen Halifax for their next annual general assembly, and they'll be in the city just before the start of the North American Indigenous Games.

Morley Googoo, the Assembly of First Nations regional chief for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, thinks it may be the largest Indigenous gathering in Canadian history.

All told, the AFN gathering will include 600 chiefs and 1,600 delegates. That's on top of the 6,000 athletes, coaches and spectators expected for the Indigenous Games.

"It's huge," Googoo told reporters Monday after the official announcement at the Halifax Convention Centre.

The AFN will hold its assembly July 7-9, while the games will run from July 12-18.

Assembly of First Nations regional Chief Morley Googoo, left, and Halifax Mayor Mike Savage at the announcement. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

Googoo said Halifax is an example of how a city can take the lead when it comes to reconciliation with Indigenous communities.

The city, he said, "didn't hesitate" to remove the statue of Halifax's controversial founder, Edward Cornwallis, from a downtown park last year. Cornwallis had issued a cash bounty to anyone who killed a Mi'kmaw person.

"The city here takes the lead, even when it's not popular or risky at the time," Googoo said. "The city has been a champion."

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage called the Indigenous Games "the biggest athletic event that has ever happened in Atlantic Canada, so that's going to be awesome in and of itself."

"If you add the fact that the Assembly of First Nations is going to have their annual general assembly here, that's a pretty big deal as well," he said.

According to an economic impact study filed as part of the bid to lure the AFN meeting to Halifax, the chiefs' meeting could generate as much as $4 million for the region.