PEI asks Ottawa to change the name of the Confederation Bridge to Epekwitk Crossing | The Canadian News

Members of the Prince Edward Island legislature voted unanimously Friday to ask the federal government to change the name of the Confederation Bridge to Epekwitk Crossing.

Epekwitk is the Mi’kmaw word for “something that lies in the water,” and is the traditional name that the Mi’kmaq people have long used to describe the island.

“This is a great opportunity,” said PEI Premier Dennis King, who introduced a motion seconded by Peter Bevan-Baker, leader of the Opposition Green Party. “I’m excited about the process and I’m excited about what’s to come.”

The motion says that “it is of the utmost importance that indigenous languages ​​are respected and recognized,” adding that 2022 is the International Decade of Indigenous Languages.

“The Confederation Bridge’s name change to Epekwitk Crossing is a way for Prince Edward Island and Canada to show their commitment to upholding the rights of indigenous peoples, which are protected by the Constitution.”

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The motion also cites the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which in its landmark 2015 report on the country’s residential school system, recommended that the federal government promote indigenous languages ​​as a “fundamental and valuable element of Canadian culture.” “.

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Several members of the legislature stood at the house of assembly to speak in favor of the proposed change, saying the new name would reflect the province’s commitment to reconciliation.

“In Epekwitk, we take reconciliation very seriously,” said Karla Bernard, a green member of Charlottetown-Victoria Park. “This is a really special opportunity, and I want to thank the three leaders of this house for pulling this off.”

Summerside-Wilmot green member Lynne Lund said there was once a systematic effort to erase First Nations history and language from the island.

“If you look at the history of the Mi’kmaq people in PEI and indigenous peoples across the country, you’ll see that they’ve been through a history of seeing everything change names,” he told the legislature.

“Indian agents even had the authority to change people’s names, if you can understand that… We have to remember what he took. We have to remember that the ancestral names have been lost.”

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The 12.9 kilometer bridge linking PEI to New Brunswick was completed in 1997 after four years of construction. The Mi’kmaq people have lived on the Island for 12,000 years.

In the early 1990s, a committee sought public input and recommended that the federal government name the bridge Abegweit Crossing, which is the colonial English term for Epekwitk.

But the committee also provided two alternative options, the Confederation Bridge and the Northumberland Strait Bridge. Ottawa chose the Confederation Bridge on September 27, 1996.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 29, 2022.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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