OTTAWA, Ontario >> Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with aboriginal activists today who set up a demonstration teepee on Parliament Hill ahead of Canada Day celebrations.
The prime minister and his wife arrived at the site as the national capital was abuzz with preparations for the Saturday event, which is expected to bring a half million people into the downtown core of Ottawa. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will also attend as part of their royal tour of Canada.
Activists from the indigenous group the Bawaating Water Protectors from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, arrived Wednesday to engage in four days of what they called a “reoccupation” to draw attention to the history of indigenous people in Canada during the country’s 150th birthday celebrations.
The group initially clashed with police, who arrested nine people and refused to allow the teepee. But all nine were eventually released and the structure was set up, then later moved to be close to the main stage for Saturday’s events.
Canada’s leader and four aboriginal activists talked for 30 minutes. A video of the session posted on YouTube showed Trudeau sitting cross-legged with shoes off and clasping a feather as he listened to a request from Candace Day Neveau that the current federal department responsible for indigenous affairs be renamed the office of honorable treaty relations. She also urged that Canada’s current Indian Act be scrapped.
The Bawaating Water Protestors are just one of many indigenous groups planning protests this weekend to draw attention to problems facing aboriginal communities across the country.