What’s In A Name?
What’s in a name? A name means everything especially when it comes to legal and historical connotations for First Nations people of Canada. With the recent renaming of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs to the department name of Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, I can’t help but wonder, what is going to happen next under Stephen Harper and his government.
The subtle name change of the former Department raises concerns because it is substituting the term ‘Indian’ which has specific legal and historical connotations for First Nations people, with the inappropriate term “Aboriginal.”
The term “Aboriginal” was first utilized by the government of Canada in the Constitution Act of 1982 to lump First Nations, Inuit and Metis People under one category. The term has been widely rejected because it fails to acknowledge the distinct cultures, histories, and rights of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples.
I find it disheartening that Stephen Harper and his government renamed the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs without any consultation whatsoever with the First Nations peoples of Canada. Last week’s departmental name change has received mixed reviews, and I don’t blame those who are questioning this recent move. Those who were previously excluded under this department may be happy, but First Nations people see their rights diluted even further by this process of renaming the former Department of Indian and Northern Affairs to what it is named now.
Our rights become diluted in the renaming of this department because according to Regional Chief Angus Toulouse in a press release statement published by NationTalk, “ It is disconcerting to have to remind the government of Canada to make the distinction between First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples.”
The government needs to rethink their position on renaming Departments especially without consultation when it comes to First Nations affairs. When they do not consult, mistrust deepens and furthers the divide that we already have.
What’s in a name, I ask? A name means everything especially when it has the legal and historical connotations it has for First Nations people. We need to have our government working with us, and not behind us like they have by renaming a department without our knowledge.
This issue is contentious and I am sure it will be for awhile. Over the next few years, we will have to continue to stand up and voice our concerns when our government without consultation makes moves against us.