The Prince Edward Island Legislative Assembly voted unanimously to urge the federal government to change the name of the Confederation Bridge to Epekwitk Crossing.
Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King introduced the motion on Friday, with the support of the leaders of the official opposition Green Party and the Liberal Party.
Epekwitk is the original Mi’kmaq name for the land now known as Prince Edward Island.
In his remarks on the motion, officially known as Motion 116, King thanked the PEI senators. Brian Francis and Percy Downe for their work on the motion, and the opposition parties for their support.
“It is of the utmost importance that Indigenous languages are respected and recognized, especially as 2022 marks the start of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, drawing attention to the devastating loss of Indigenous languages due to colonialism and other factors,” the motion reads.
In talks on next steps
When the bridge was built in the 1990s, a committee and the provincial government at the time recommended that it be named Abegweit Crossing (Abegweit is the anglicized version of Epekwitk) based on public submissions. The other choices were the Confederation Bridge and the Northumberland Strait Bridge.
King says he has had discussions with federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc about next steps.
“The renaming of the Confederation Bridge to Epektwik Crossing is a way for Prince Edward Island and Canada to show their commitment to defending the rights of Indigenous peoples, which are protected by the Constitution,” says the motion.
King said the name Abegweit is “embedded in all of our lives without us perhaps even knowing it”.
He mentioned the former Abegweit ferry, the former Charlottetown Abegweit Cub and the Charlottetown Abbies hockey team as examples.
“To think about how we can take this connection all these years into the future and put this name back on the connection we have with the continent where it is so richly deserved to be, I think it’s…a very important step to use the process we have started towards reconciliation, towards forgiveness and better understanding.”