By Kristy Kirkup
THE CANADIAN PRESS
OTTAWA-The federal government is facing pressure to change the name of the building that houses the Prime Minister’s Office, the Langevin Block, located across the street from Parliament Hill.
The building is named after Hector-Louis Langevin, a politician and father of Confederation who also happens to have expressed strong support for establishing what would become Canada’s government-run residential school program.
That particular detail is a problem for Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, who points it out to the government in a letter obtained by The Canadian Press.
Bellegarde wants the government to seek out a new name for the building in consultation with indigenous peoples, something he says aboriginal communities would take as a sign of good faith in the government.
A group of indigenous MPs is also scheduled to hold a news conference today on Parliament Hill to press the government to change the name of the building.
The demand is not without precedent: last month, the City of Calgary said it would rechristen its Langevin Bridge as Reconciliation Bridge, part of its own efforts to foster reconciliation with indigenous communities.
“Canada has committed itself to launch an era of reconciliation and that important work cannot advance without facing the harsh truth’s of Canada’s colonial past,” Bellegarde writes to Public Services Minister Judy Foote.
Action would be particularly poignant in a year where the country is marking a key anniversary of Confederation, he adds.
“This is all the more important as Canada proceeds with its Canada 150 events.”
Langevin, who died in 1906, was a lawyer, newspaper editor and Conservative MP from Quebec. He spent more than 25 years in federal politics, resigning as public works minister in 1891 amid a corruption scandal.
It was in his role as minister of public works that Langevin argued for a separate school system with a specific mandate to assimilate indigenous children.
The office of Public Services Minister Judy Foote said it will respond to Bellegarde’s letter, adding that any decisions will be made in accordance with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action and in full partnership with indigenous people. It also noted a reconciliation framework is being developed for Canadian heritage.
The commission released 94 sweeping recommendations in 2015 after it spent six years documenting the long-standing impacts of Canada’s residential schools.