The PEI legislature has voted unanimously to urge the federal government to change the name of the Confederation Bridge to Epekwitk Crossing.
PEI Premier Dennis King put forward the motion on Friday, with support from the leaders of the Official Opposition Green Party and the Liberal Party.
Epekwitk, pronounced ehb-uh-gwihdis the original name given by the Mi’kmaq for the land now known as Prince Edward Island.
In his remarks about the motion, formally known as Motion 116, King thanked PEI senators Brian Francis and Percy Downe for their work on the motion, as well as the opposition parties for their support.
“Prince Edward Island is recognized and celebrated as the birthplace of the Canadian Confederation. Yet few acknowledge that this project came at a great cost to Indigenous People,” Francis said in a media release. From 1867 onwards, we became the target of violent process of dispossession, displacement, exploitation and elimination, which continues to impact our lives today.
“The renaming of the bridge to ‘Epekwitk Crossing’ would serve to honor the strength and resilience of the Mi’kmaq.”
@BrianFrancisPEI & @PercyDowne add their support to a motion passed unanimously today by the Legislative Assembly of PEI urging the Government of Canada to rename “Confederation Bridge” to “Epekwitk Crossing.” #reconciliACTION #Mikmaq #Lnu a> #peipoli #cdnpoli #indigpoli pic.twitter.com/N5i5lLgvOH
The motion said it is of the “utmost importance” to recognize Indigenous languages. It coincides with the first year of the International Decade of Indigenous Language, which draws attention to their loss due to colonialism and other factors.
“The renaming of the bridge can play an important role in acknowledging the true history of our province and show that we are working together to advance lasting reconciliation between the Mi’kmaq and all Islanders and Canadians,” Downe said in the release.
In talks about next steps
When the bridge was built in the 1990s, a committee recommended it be named Abegweit Crossing (Abegweit is the anglicized version of Epekwitk) based on public submissions, but that name wasn’t selected by the federal government. The other choices were Confederation Bridge and Northumberland Strait Bridge.
King says he has been in discussions with federal Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc about next steps.
“Renaming of Confederation Bridge to Epektwik Crossing is one way for Prince Edward Island and Canada to show a commitment to upholding the rights of Indigenous People, which are protected under the Constitution,” the motion says.
King said the name Abegweit is “entrenched in all of our lives without maybe even us knowing it.”
He made reference to the old Abegweit ferry, the old Charlottetown Abegweit Club and the Charlottetown Abbies hockey team as examples.
“To think about how we can take that connection all of those years past into the future and to put that name back on to the connection we have to the mainland where it’s so richly deserved to be, I think it’s … a very important step for using the process that we’ve embarked on toward reconciliation, toward forgiveness and better understanding.”