Remembrance Day is upon us yet again this year. Since the end of the First World War, November 11th of each year has been the traditional day for Canadians to commemorate and honour the members the armed forces who have died in the line of duty.
What is less perhaps less well-commemorated is Indigenous Veterans’ Day, which is observed annually on November 8. The sacrifices and contributions of the veterans from Indigenous communities are no less deserving of sombre reflection and appreciation by the Canadian citizenry.
Historically, it has taken some time to fully recognize the enormous contribution by Indigenous and Aboriginal peoples in Canada. The process has not been without controversy. Efforts towards Remediation have also been ongoing for years; the Government of Canada is now in its seventh year of redressing the 94 separate Calls to Action first brought to light in December of 2015 by the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
It’s all been a very slow, but hopefully meaningful and effective, process.
One relatively minor development that nonetheless deserves attention, relates to the Ontario Marriage Act, which governs the solemnization of marriages that take place in the province.
Under relatively recent changes brought into force by the Smarter and Stronger Justice Act, 2019, that Act has been amended to add a new section. It allows the Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery to expand the list of persons authorized to solemnize marriage, to now include members of Indigenous/Aboriginal communities. The full text of the new provision reads as follows:
Who may be registered — band, First Nation, Métis or Inuit organization or community or Indigenous entity
20.2 The Minister may register a person as a person authorized to solemnize marriage if it appears to the Minister that the person,
(a) belongs to,
(i) a band located in whole or in part in Ontario,
(ii) a First Nation, Métis or Inuit organization or community located in whole or in part in Ontario, or
(iii) a permanently established Indigenous entity located in whole or in part in Ontario; and
(b) is duly recognized by the band, First Nation, Métis or Inuit organization or community or Indigenous entity as entitled to solemnize marriage according to its customs and traditions.
Perhaps it’s a small change – but it’s an important one, all the same.