Montreal displays new flag with Indigenous symbol
Published Wednesday, September 13, 2017 7:28AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 13, 2017 10:53PM EDT
The city of Montreal has unfurled its new flag.
Earlier this year Mayor Denis Coderre said he wanted to modify the city's flag to include representation of Indigenous people.The flag which Montreal has hoisted since 1939 features the symbols of Montreal's "founding peoples": French, English, Scottish and Irish, represented by a fleur-de-lys, Rose of Lancaster, thistle and shamrock.
The new flag includes another founding people: the Indigenous nations that lived in the region before Montreal was founded. They are represented by a white pine tree in the centre of the red cross.
The city also updated its coat of arms with the white pine to reflect the city's origins and recognize the contribution of native people.
Christine Zachary-Deom, a Mohawk chief, said the red circle at the centre of the flag represents how Montreal was originally a meeting place for multiple tribes.
"Hochelaga means when the big conferences are held, where the big council fire is, so that circle, the red circle, means the great council fire at Montreal," said Zachary-Deom.
Mayor Denis Coderre said the decision to update the flag and coat of arms is timely as Canadians come to grips with the nation's historical treatment of Indigenous people.
"If we want to move on we need to recognize what happened in the past. We're not all proud of what happened in the past but the only way to have that healing process and to move on is to recognize it," said Coderre.
Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, said that while Montreal is celebrating its 375th anniversary, there were settlements in the area for many years before European settlers arrived.
"To have a flag over the city of Montreal that has the recognition that is due to our peoples makes me feel very proud," said Picard.
"I have been in politics for many years, many times deceived I must admit, but the ceremony today, and the raising of the flag is giving me hope."
Coderre added that the flag should be a solid step forward in having better relationships with indigenous people.
"It means to reconcile, it means to recognize it means to really build on solid ground," said Coderre.
Zachary-Deom said that is why she was overcome by emotion when the flag was presented.
"You don't really see that many symbols of reconciliation for Canada. You don't. This has been one that has really dug to the roots of the people who inhabit this area, who inhabited this area, and their principles," she said.
"The principles of the Great Law of Peace are embodied in that great white pine because it suggests that people can dig to the roots to find the way under the tree of peace."
Amherst St. to be renamed
On this tenth anniversary of this U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Coderre confirmed the city intends to rename Amherst St. as soon as possible.
Jeffery Amherst was the English military commander who defeated the French army and captured Montreal, and was later named Governor General of British North America.
In 1763, after learning of a smallpox outbreak at a military fort in what is now Pittsburgh, Amherst suggested other military leaders attempt to use blankets to spread smallpox among Indigenous peoples as a way of wiping them out.
"To have a street in Montreal with his name is, I would say, an insult to our people and their history," said Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
Coderre said the street could be named for a female indigenous leader.