National Indigenous Peoples Day is a day for all Canadians to celebrate and acknowledge the distinct heritage, language, cultural practices, spiritual beliefs and valuable contributions of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.
Created in 1996 through the Proclamation Declaring June 21 of Each Year as Aboriginal Day, the day came about after consultations and statements of support from;
- The Sacred Assembly, a national conference of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people chaired by Elijah Harper, called for a national holiday to celebrate the contributions of Indigenous People
- The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommended the designation of a National First Peoples Day
- The National Indian Brotherhood (now the Assembly of First Nations) called for the creation of National Aboriginal Solidarity Day
June 21, the summer solstice, was designated as the office date. The reasoning behind this was that many Indigenous Nations traditionally celebrated their culture and heritage on or around the longest day of the year. In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau renamed the day National Indigenous Peoples Day.
There have been arguments made that National Indigenous Peoples Day should be a statutory holiday, as taking this step would send a message of national respect and action. To date only the Northwest Territories have made this a national and regional holiday. This day is important as a tool to educate non-Indigenous Canadians about Indigenous Peoples’ cultures and histories.
Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day recently made a statement supporting National Indigenous Peoples Day, and views it as an opportunity to educate Canadians on First Nations culture.