Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut February 17, 2017 - 10:00 am

Indigenous MPs urge government to rename parliamentary building

"This kind of thinking and sentiment should not be commemorated"

Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo speaks at a Feb.16 news conference in Ottawa, when he and fellow Indigenous MPs asked the government to re-name the Langevin Block. (PHOTO COURTESY H. TOOTOO/TWITTER)
Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo speaks at a Feb.16 news conference in Ottawa, when he and fellow Indigenous MPs asked the government to re-name the Langevin Block. (PHOTO COURTESY H. TOOTOO/TWITTER)

Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo has added his voice to a group of Indigenous MPs asking the federal government to change the name of a building near Parliament Hill named after one of Canada’s original advocates of the residential school system.

The MPs made the request Feb. 16, asking Public Services minister Jody Foote to start the process of renaming Langevin Block, a building facing Parliament Hill that houses the Prime Minister’s office.

The building, 80 Wellington St., is named after Sir Hector-Louis Langevin, a lawyer, journalist and politician from Quebec City who served as a minister under Sir John A. Macdonald’s government and notably as superintendent of Indian Affairs.

During that period, Langevin advocated for a residential school system that would separate children from their families with the goal of creating a more “civilized” people.

“If you leave them in the family they may already know how to read and write, but they still remain savages,” Langevin told Parliament in 1883. “Whereas by separating them in the way proposed, they acquire the habits and tastes—it is to be hoped only the good tastes—of civilized people.”

The passage was quoted in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report.

“As Indigenous members of Parliament, we believe this kind of thinking and sentiment should not be commemorated,” Tootoo said in a Feb. 16 news release. “And we are not alone.”

Tootoo, himself a former residential school student, did not respond Nunatsiaq News’ request for an interview.

But he suggested during the Feb. 16 news conference that the building be re-named after an Indigenous Canadian.

The request extends beyond Parliament Hill; many national Indigenous groups have also made the request to see Langevin’s name removed from the building.

“This type of action that puts history in its rightful place and urges Canadians not to celebrate those who created systems that killed thousands of Indigenous children is something that we have to think about,” said Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed in the same release.

Foote’s office has yet to respond to the group’s request, though the minister’ office has said it is committed to addressing the legacy of residential schools.

It’s not the first time Canadians have attempted to remove Langevin’s name from public infrastructure; a citizens’ group in Calgary petitioned the city to rename the Langevin Bridge in 2015, following the Truth and Reconciliation’s final report.

The bridge was later named Reconciliation Bridge.

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(18) Comments:

#1. Posted by TGC on February 17, 2017

Maybe the Wenjack Commemorative Block…

#2. Posted by got my vote on February 17, 2017

great suggestion #1

something for Chanie Wenjack anyways

#3. Posted by Who's dat? on February 17, 2017

What’s this, a Tootoo sighting? Brilliant

#4. Posted by Ptarmigan on February 17, 2017

Tootoo, hurry up and rename the building, then hurry up and take care of our priorities such as cost of living/housing crisis on your table.

#5. Posted by Moral Hazard on February 17, 2017

Most useless MP in the history of the Canadian federal government!  Why is he trying so very hard to retain the seat that he does not deserve to keep after all that he did to the people of Nunavut - he wronged us and will never represent us to the best of our benefit.

#6. Posted by Knockout Ned on February 19, 2017

“In the case of politics, the phrase is used to describe the generation of public approval, not through exemplary or excellent public service or public policy, but through diversion; distraction; or the mere satisfaction of the immediate, shallow requirements of a populace, as an offered “palliative”.”

#7. Posted by Resign on February 19, 2017

I agree with Tootoo, this kind of thinking and sentiment should not be commemorated. That’s also why I choose not to support him after his innapropriate relationship which has caused significant pain to his victims.

Can you please stop pretending to be relevant? I think it’s safe for me to say that you’ll never ever get elected again because of the pain you have caused others and because you took advantage of people - repeatedly. Stop taking taxpayer money and abusing the system.

Time for you to go. All your Liberal ass kissing and towing of the party line won’t get you back in. The PM most likely doesn’t think you’re worth the risk anymore.

#8. Posted by Tulugak on February 19, 2017

Well, on the scale of genocide, John A MacDonald comes way ahead of Langevin… He starved Indigenous peoples on the Prairies to force them to the reserves where they went on starving… The purpose was to eliminate the ‘Indian’ problem from preventing settlers to occupy the Prairies and steal their lands. His way of talking with the Métis that wanted their own territory was to send the army and get rid of them. As Canadians we need to recognize the crimes that were committed in the past in an effort to decolonize our country if we want a genuine reconciliation.

#9. Posted by TOOTOO on February 20, 2017

Anything to get some attention.

I can’t wait till the rest of the Tootoo story comes out. Hopefully he will stop thinking about his paycheque and resign for the good of Nunavut and the Liberal Party of Canada.

#scandal(s) # moretocome # croniesgonnapay

#10. Posted by Jim MacDonald on February 20, 2017

Right #8. 

Though it continues. In 2013 an Amherst N.S. federal building was renamed the Collins Building after Enos Collins. Enos in the 1800’s is noted as one of the richest men in North America and for capturing and reselling slaves. 

Sure go for it Nunavut MP, Mr. Tootoo renaming the Langevin Block building.  Though hope it’s not a deflection to not take a stand on what is happening to-day in parliament – Motion 103.

Taking us all on the road towards loss of Free speech in Canada if Motion 103 gets passed.  Sure it’s a motion and not yet a bill, but expecting Nunavut MP, Mr. Tootoo to stand strong.  To keep our right of Freedom of Speech across Canada with his No vote on the Liberal Motion 103.

#11. Posted by Human Nature on February 20, 2017

#8 Why didn’t the natives fight back?

Because you were beaten by a technologically advanced society, you still are.

#12. Posted by Human Being on February 20, 2017

#11 they may have been more advance in tech war equipment but they were never more advance than the indigenous people.
The problem is that your ancestors were driven by greed and power, still happening today and just look at how this world is turning out because of that.

#13. Posted by Jimmy on February 20, 2017

#10 Motion 103 is not to take Free speech away from Canadians it is to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear.
The government should condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.

#14. Posted by Gyges on February 20, 2017

#12 We agree that European society was more advanced technologically; they also had more advanced economic and political systems. Indigenous peoples were literally tens of thousands of years behind.

As for the greed and power narrative, yes but I also think that’s a simplistic reading of human history and psychology. The real dynamics were underpinned by a survival imperative, and they remain that way.

Either way these are not characteristics unique to my ancestors, by the way, they simply had sufficient power to shape the world in their image because of the advanced capacities they had developed to that point.

The world is changing though, these patterns have repeated themselves through history, long before our rise, and will do so again, long after we’ve been surpassed. 

You say we were never more advanced. Can you explain how this is so? And please, lets avoid romanticizing the past.

#15. Posted by Human being on February 20, 2017

Yes #14 Europeans were more advance in certain things as war equipments. That is were we agree. Your economic and political system is were your greed comes from, the way it has been growing over the generations apond generations of time and spreading around the world you see the effects today, land being destroyed, animals going extinct, pollution that is out of control, people starving when there is no need to with your so advanced technology and system in place. That is how your so called advanced technology is shaping this world today.
So with that thought before your ancestors infected this world with greed how was the balance with Mother Nature? I am sure you don’t even know how it is to be close with nature as your thoughts since you were born is with how I can further myself with the system you know.

#16. Posted by Thor on February 20, 2017

Wait in the history of mankind, we have had two world wars where millions of people died.

What was the reason for these two world wars? Also where did these wars start?

I find it funny that we think that we are more advanced and think that we are more intelligent than other cultures but fail to see how we are shaping this world in a negative way.

I believe once we really destroy ourselves first that we will finally see what is wrong with ourselves and change our ways.

#17. Posted by Emma on February 21, 2017

When are people going to realize that they are not the only ones to have
been slaughtered, colonized, and ripped off.
People have been doing this to each other for the last twenty thousand
years, and will probably be doing it for another twenty thousand.
That is the way us humans are all over the world
I have a good name for the Langevin building in Ottawa,
WELFARE helped me for a few months when I first came to Canada,
and it continues to help many people of many cultures and races today.
A very honest name in memory of the Canadian tax payer.

#18. Posted by Human Nature on February 21, 2017

#15 I don’t think greed comes from any of the social or political systems we’ve created, it comes from the deep seated human need for stability and security. Which is why I’m reluctant to label it greed. Though it’s effects are often insidious. And I don’t think Inuit are immune to these characteristics incidentally. Do you?

#16 Who said anything about being more “intelligent”? Not me. Ours was a more advanced material culture, by a wide margin. The reasons for that are not grounded in any characteristics inherent to our race; they would be explained though history and geography and conflict. But that would take volumes to address properly.

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