Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Canada’s most-awarded
newsroom for a reason
Stay informed for a
lot less, cancel anytime
“Exemplary reporting on
COVID-19” – Herman L
per week
for 24 weeks
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day in Ottawa on June 21, 2017.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has declared that a former U.S. embassy across from Parliament Hill will be a space for Indigenous peoples and that his own offices will no longer bear the name of one of the architects of the Indian residential school system.

The goodwill gestures announced by Mr. Trudeau at a noon-hour ceremony on National Aboriginal Day – which the Prime Minister said will henceforth be known as National Indigenous Peoples Day – are part of the Liberal government's agenda of reconciliation with First Nations, the Inuit and the Métis.

But some Algonquins say they fear the government is giving Indigenous people the building at 100 Wellington St. so it can forgo the creation of the Indigenous centre they want on Chaudière Island in the Ottawa River, which is unceded Algonquin territory and the site of a defunct paper mill that is being prepared for condominium development.

Story continues below advertisement

Andrew Cohen: Turning an embassy into 'Indigenous space' is a classic government misjudgment

Opinion: Beyond appropriation of our culture, the most important fight is for our land

Read more: On show this summer: an inclusive new approach to Indigenous art

"The grassroots are suggesting to turn 100 Wellington to the developers and let them make condos there and leave the island alone," said Albert Dumont, an elder from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, which is an Algonquin community in Quebec a short drive from Ottawa.

And Indigenous architects say the classic revival architecture of the "hand-me-down" embassy, which was vacated by the Americans 20 years ago, is identified with colonization.

"It's an existing building that is a 1930s art-deco kind of thing," said Patrick Stewart, the chair of the Indigenous Task Force of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and a member of the Nisga'a Nation in British Columbia.

The fact that the former embassy is a heritage building means it will not be possible to make significant changes to the facade, Mr. Stewart said. "What we didn't want is to have somebody else's history."

Story continues below advertisement

The concerns are not shared by all Indigenous leaders.

Chief Kirby Whiteduck from Pikwakanagan, an Algonquin community in Ontario, and two elders from Kitigan Zibi were on the podium when Mr. Trudeau made his announcement outside the embassy building. So were Perry Bellegarde, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Clément Chartier, who is president of the Métis National Council, and Natan Obed, the president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

"This is just a first step, and from my point of view it is a positive first step because of the prime location of the building. It's right across from the House of Commons," Mr. Bellegarde said.

Support for the government's plan does not mean the AFN is giving up the fight to have a cultural centre on the island, he said. "I totally support that dream becoming a reality and I will do all I can to make sure there is pressure on the public and private sector, on governments, to make sure that happens as well," Mr. Bellegarde said.

The government says the old embassy is a blank slate and it will be up to the Indigenous peoples of Canada how it will be used. There is no price tag for its renovation and it will take years to complete whatever remodelling is required.

But Mr. Trudeau told the Indigenous leaders that it is important that Indigenous peoples have a place within the Parliamentary precinct. "It is our hope that this historic building will be a powerful symbol of the foundational role of Indigenous peoples in Canada's history as well as our close relationship towards our shared future," the Prime Minister said.

Story continues below advertisement

A couple doors down from the embassy is the Langevin Block that contains Mr. Trudeau's offices. In a surprise move, the Prime Minister announced that that building would now be called the Office of the Prime Minister and the Privy Council.

It is currently named after Hector-Louis Langevin, who was a father of Confederation and the superintendent of Indian Affairs in the cabinet of Sir John A. MacDonald. In arguing that Indigenous children should be placed in the residential schools, Mr. Langevin wrote: "If you leave them in the family they may know how to read and write, but they still remain savages, whereas by separating them in the way proposed, they acquire the habits and tastes – it is to be hoped only the good tastes – of civilized people."

First Nations leaders, activists, politicians and members of Mr. Trudeau's own caucus have lobbied hard for the building's name to be changed.

"There is a deep pain in knowing that that building carries a name so closely associated with the horror of residential schools," the Prime Minister said, and it is "inconsistent with our vision of a strong partnership with Indigenous peoples in Canada."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies