The federal government announced Monday that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their traditional names on passports and other government IDs.
The move comes in response to a call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 that demanded governments allow survivors and their families to restore names changed by the residential school system.
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said the announcement goes a step further, as it applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Metis background, potentially affecting hundreds of thousands of people who aim to reclaim their identity on official documents.
All fees will be waived for the name-changing process, which applies to passports, citizenship certificates and permanent resident cards, said Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino.
“The traditional names given to Indigenous children carry deep cultural meaning. Yet for many First Nations, Inuit and Metis people, colonialism has robbed them of these sacred names,” Minister Mendicino said at a news conference Monday.
“At times, efforts to use traditional names have been met with everything from polite rejection to racism.”
The move to clear those barriers follows last month’s news that ground-penetrating radar detected what are believed to be the remains of 215 children at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
The new policy, effective immediately, was one of the multiple announcements that landed the same day that Ottawa heads back to the courtroom to fight a pair of rulings involving First Nations children.
In a judicial review being heard in Federal Court on Monday, the federal government is arguing against Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decisions regarding compensation for First Nations children in foster care and the expansion of Jordan’s Principle to children who live off reserves.
Indigenous Services Minister Miller said Monday the ruling ordering Ottawa to pay $40,000 each to some 50,000 First Nations children separated from their families by a chronically underfunded child-welfare regime, and to each of their parents or grandparents, “doesn’t respect basic principles of proportionality.”
Every First Nations child who has suffered discrimination “at the hands of a broken child-welfare system” will be “fairly, justly and equitably compensated,” he said.
Most of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action remain unfulfilled, though cabinet ministers pointed to a pair of bills that would incorporate Indigenous rights into the oath of citizenship and align Canada’s laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Bill C-8 on the citizenship oath has passed the Senate and awaits royal assent, while the UNDRIP provisions of C-15 continue to work their way through the upper chamber.
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