6 years after TRC call to action, Indigenous Peoples to use traditional names on government ID

Government also announces Indigenous language commissioner and directors.

Statue by Haida sculpture James Hart called The Three Watchmen sits in the Byward Market area of downtown Ottawa. Photo: Mark Blackburn/APTN.


The federal government announced Monday that First Nation, Inuit and Métis Peoples can now use their traditional names on passports and other forms of government identification.

The announcement comes six years after a call to action was made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that demanded governments allow survivors and their families to restore names changed by the residential school system.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says the announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background, potentially affecting hundreds of thousands of people who aim to use their identity on official documents.

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino says all fees will be waived for the process, which pertains to passports, citizenship certificates and permanent resident cards.

The move comes on the heels of 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.

Most of the 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.

The feds also announced Monday the commissioner and director of the Office of Indigenous Language.

Ronald Ignace will be the first commissioner of Indigenous languages. Robert Watt, Georgina Liberty and Joan Greyeyes were named directors.

The commissioner and directors will act as a “champion for Indigenous languages,” said the government release.

“We celebrate this day where we breathe new life into all of our Indigenous languages for the future,” said Ignace in the statement.

“Our languages will no longer stand in the shadow of other languages here in our land. Let us always honour our Indigenous languages.”

The Indigenous Languages Act received Royal Assent on June 21, 2019 and the creation of the commissioner and directors are part of the act.

“I welcome today’s announcement of the Commissioner and Directors of Indigenous Languages and the creation of this independent office entrusted to support Inuit through research and monitoring, dispute resolution services, and expert advice regarding the adequacy of funding as well as other mechanisms to ensure the protection, revitalization, maintenance and promotion of Inuktut,” said Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

According to the release, “The Commissioner and Directors will work with Indigenous peoples and their respective governments; other governing bodies, communities and organizations; the governments of Canada and the provinces and territories; and all Canadians to support the self-determined work of Indigenous peoples in reclaiming, revitalizing, maintaining and strengthening First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages.”

With files from the Canadian Press