At 5:30 am, people gathered in Nathan Philips Square, in front of Toronto’s iconic City Hall.
Native elder, Garry Sault, led the ceremony and Mayor John Tory read a proclamation.
Toronto has been celebrating the occasion since 2004.
Not far away, in the city’s historic Fort York, the final preparations were underway for the beginning of a four-day festival of Indigenous People’s Day and the Indigenous Arts Festival, on land that was once the home of the Mississauga people.
“For my people on the other end, it marks a lot of trauma”
On the east coast, in St. John’s, Newfoundland, the occasion was a little more sombre due to a growing controversy.
The province’s official holiday, this year on June 25th, is known as “Discovery Day“.
It honours the legendary arrival of John Cabot in 1497, which was the beginning of the end of the indigenous people known as the Beothuk.
The celebration was held in the park that holds a small and simple stone with a plaque to commemorate the death in 1829 of Shanawdithit, remembered as the last of the Beothuk.
She died of turberculosis at the age of 28. Violent struggles with the new settlers and the diseases they brought, over the centuries, eventually killed the indigenous people.
Today, Bryana Brown, an Inuk studying Business at Memorial University, rejects the notion that Indigenous people in Newfoundland and Labrador were “discovered,” and she finds the holiday upsetting.
“On one end, it might be a day of discovery, and to celebrate, but for my people on the other end, it marks a lot of trauma, a lot of terrible things,” Brown told CBC News.
There is a growing demand among the province’s native peoples, to have a larger statue of Shanawdithit to honour her, and raise awareness of the history.
“Ocean’s protection must be indigenous led”
“This is a very big day for both reconciliation and the environment for Canada.” Trudeau said at a press conference.
“Ocean’s protection must be indigenous led,” Heiltsuk Chief Marily Stett said.
Her community was devastated by the spill of over 100.000 litres of diesel when the Nathan E. Stewart ran aground on October 13, 2016.
The preservation of the salmon runs is one of the paramount concerns, and the agreement comes under the Oceans Protection Plan.
(With files from CBC)